Some artists had to wait all night to hear their names called, but Harry Styles walked into 2021’s Grammys a winner. The star who kicked off tonight’s ceremony with a soulful performance of ‘Watermelon Sugar.’ Joined by Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, he debuted a new mix of the hit that gave the evening an eventful start. Never one to arrive in standard-issue menswear, Styles had not one but two arresting looks ready for his first Grammys night. First a green and yellow check tweed jacket and tartan sweater combo worn with a lavender boa for the red carpet, next a black leather cropped jacket and matching pants paired with a mint boa for his performance, all designed by Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele.
After years of working with Styles and his stylist Harry Lambert, Michele finds the process has become second nature. “For me, dressing Harry is easy,” he shared via email. “We have become linked by a beautiful feeling, the result of a true friendship. There is a really natural and spontaneous connection between us, and that is why working with him and Harry [Lambert] is so much fun!”
The sentiment is shared by Lambert, who views the ongoing collaboration as an open dialogue that allows them to subvert tradition. “We always try and do something unexpected,” says Lambert. “We start by talking about a silhouette or an idea Alessandro might have and then build from there. We look at Gucci shows, the new collections; we think about silhouettes that have worked in the past and have loved. Then collaboratively, we think about what we can do to challenge people’s expectations and keep people interested. Everything always has to feel very Harry but also unique to the occasion.”
For his milestone Grammys debut, Styles honored the tradition of English individualism, a concept that has informed the wardrobes of groundbreaking musicians from Marc Bolan to David Bowie. “This is Harry’s first Grammys, and so we wanted to do something that felt British and eccentric,” says Lambert. “A little bit rock ‘n’ roll and a little bit camp. I hope we did this with the mix of the tweed and the boa, [which is] Britishness, rock’n’roll, and camp all rolled into one.” “Though they wanted to avoid rehashing the familiar, the cut of Styles’ suit served to connect his pre-show moment to the performance. “It was also important to us all that the silhouette for the stage was the same as the red carpet but that the actual looks felt polar opposites,” explains Lambert. “One being patterned and vibrant and the other being more slick and sexy.”
The starkness of Styles’ second outfit stands in contrast to the retro, colorful aesthetic he has become associated with, which is precisely what made it the right choice. “I think people could assume that, as he is performing his single ‘Watermelon Sugar,’ his look will reflect the music video,” explains Lambert. “We wanted to twist that on its head and go for something darker, sexier, and more unexpected.” Indeed, the pastel color-scheme and sweetness of the video were noticeably absent. In their place was a glam rock influenced vibe that signaled the start of a new era. “I don’t feel that anyone has seen Harry dress like this before, so the Grammys felt the perfect moment to do this,” says Lambert. “[It is] a sort of full stop after the promotion of the Fine Line album campaign. For stage, it’s sexy, minimal, a bit eccentric but still fun.”
Though the ceremony’s COVID-19 guidelines moved the award show to a mostly-virtual format, Lambert was grateful that the safety precautions allowed Styles’s performance to remain free-spirited. “We were fortunate that, even though there were strict and important Covid guidelines in place, the performance could go ahead relatively normally,” he says. “This has been the first time Harry has been able to perform on stage for people in a while, which is exciting. The most important thing for the actual performance is that Harry can move and dance as he loves to move, dance, and perform, so it’s always key that he is wearing something that isn’t restrictive and something he can have fun in and feel comfortable in. It was also great to be able to do a (socially distanced) red carpet again.”
Revisiting the red carpet and seeing a performance go off without a hitch are both thrilling, but for Lambert, the best part of the job is seeing Styles’s reaction to a truly innovative look. “When he is really happy in something, it makes me really happy,” he says. “Also, you can see it in his performance. He really enjoyed wearing this look, and I think you can really tell; I think it’s shown a different side to him.”