Typically, the Sundance Film Festival occurs in Utah. But this year, like so many other once-in-person events, it went mostly digital—and the usual press junkets and discussion panels moved to Zoom. One of Sundance’s most talked-about movies is the biographical drama Judas and the Black Messiah, which features the one-two punch of Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield. The latter actor has earned status as one of Hollywood’s most electrically stylish men. And somehow, Stanfield has lived up to that reputation, even when floating in a tiny rectangle on a computer screen.
Looking like a well-dressed movie star through the grainy picture of corporate video conference software is no small task. It was undoubtedly a curveball for Stanfield’s stylist, Julie Ragolia, who was excited by the challenge but knew she’d have to change her usual approach. “If someone is cut within a rectangular form, you don’t have the subtlety to play with the balance of the jacket to the trouser to the shoe,” says Ragolia on the phone from her apartment in Brooklyn. “How do you style someone when you are in this unusual, chest-up format?”
For her, the answer is all about texture. “Texture becomes so important,” she says. “A print versus a solid color. The color of one’s eyes or hair or their hat becomes a central tone to play with. Styling for Zoom really becomes a study in texture rather than the overall visual.”
Stanfield is on the opposite coast, out in Los Angeles. Ragolia has an assistant out there—along with a massive rack of designer goods—who could be her hands on the ground. Ragolia would FaceTime into an iPad set up on a tripod. (She says getting to dress Stanfield remotely is just as fun as you would imagine it to be—her beaming smile in the corner of the FaceTime screenshots she sent over seems to confirm this.)
Over the last two weeks, Stanfield has cycled through everything from a black Prada kit to a silky Telfar top to a checkered Louis Vuitton jacket. One stand-out outfit is a booming Thom Browne trench, complete with knee-high boots. “No one on the Zoom is seeing that he is wearing to-the-knee boots, but it makes him feel good, and I love that,” Ragolia says. Stanfield made sure everyone saw the boots anyways, posting a short clip of the advanced-level look to his Instagram. One staple between outfits has been his beanie, tightly rolled and worn just above the ears, made by his friend’s label, Maybe Tomorrow. All of these looks were building towards his appearance last night on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. For that, Ragolia and Stanfield went for a big-time Gucci look: baby blue pants, a flowy unbuttoned white shirt, and a tan blazer.
Promoting movies from a rectangular video box isn’t something Stanfield and other actors ever expected to be doing. But that is the reality of this moment in time, and they’re all making the best of it. “At the end of the day, clothes are fun,” says Ragolia. “We’re all in a difficult situation, and it’s one that we are all sharing. Culture still matters; film and art still matter. So, why not still have fun with style?” And those of us watching are certainly glad Stanfield is still having a damn good time getting dressed—even if it’s just for Zoom.