Mel Ottenberg is best known as Rihanna’s stylist but he has also worked with other big names in the industry like Björk and Britney Spears. His editorials have appeared in the pages of such highly-esteemed magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, i-D, and V while he serves as the current fashion director at 032c. With his 90s-inspired aesthetic and risk-taking attitude, he has proven to be the perfect partner for Rihanna and has helped to elevate the megastar’s style.
The first time he collaborated with Rihanna was for the NBA All Star Game halftime show in 2011 on what was also the singer’s 23rd birthday. He went on to style the costumes for the Loud Tour, which kicked off later that year, and their relationship was firmly cemented. Over the last four years Mel has worked with Rihanna on everything from magazine cover shoots and music videos to high fashion ad campaigns and awards show performances. He took a moment from his extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions for Haus of Rihanna.
How did you get your start in fashion?
I always wanted to be in fashion. From the time I was 11 or 12 I was totally consumed with fashion magazines and fashion history. I drew all the time and designed collections nonstop as a kid! I went to Rhode Island School of Design for fashion, and moved to NYC after school. I was quickly bored working for fashion designers and fell into styling shoots by chance. I liked it and kept at it!
Many stylists and celebrities seem to be inspired by Rihanna but where do you get your inspiration? [from @shexroar] Inspiration comes from all over. It’s always about looking at different things to keep things new and exciting. I use the library a lot for inspiration, but film and kids on the street inspire me too. When I work with Rihanna I use her as inspiration as well!
You once said that Rihanna is more daring than you are, which is hard to believe. What’s the collaborative process like?
[Rihanna] is a great collaborator. It’s fun to make her excited and inspired through fashion.
What is your favourite job that you’ve worked on with Rihanna?
My favorite fashion moments with Rihanna are the “We Found Love” video in 2011, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2012, the Grammy’s red Alaïa dress in 2013 and the CFDA Awards in 2014.
Do you think that you can ever top Adam Selman’s Swarovski crystal “naked dress” from the CFDA awards?
The CFDA Awards and the Adam Selman dress was a great moment for all involved. I was talking to a friend from Vogue the other day who reminded me how wild the sparkle of the dress was that night in the dark awards ceremony. You literally couldn’t keep your eyes off of her.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Remember, it’s just a dress, it’s not brain surgery.
Can you give us a hint about what we can expect from you two in 2015?
I’ll let you know when I know the answer to that question!
Below is some of Mel’s work with Rihanna or browse through his tag for a more in-depth look.