This Celebrity Stylist Uses Instagram to Show Fans How Red Carpet Moments Are Made
As the stylist for stars such as Meryl Streep and Lupita Nyong'o, Micaela Erlanger's social media pages take you behind the scenes.
In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.
When you see a celebrity on the red carpet, they look impeccably put together. But those looks don’t happen overnight. They take time, planning, care and a team to actually bring it together. They don’t happen without the work of fashion stylists such as Micaela Erlanger.
Even if you don’t recognize her name, you’ve probably seen Erlanger’s elegant work. Her clients include actors including Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery, Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany and someone by the name of Meryl Streep. So, you know, super casual.
Even though she works with some of the highest wattage stars in Hollywood, Erlanger uses her Instagram to give her followers an inside look into how an iconic fashion moment -- like the Cinderella-esque blue Prada gown that Nyong’o wore to claim her Academy Award -- comes to life.
But it’s not all glitz and glam. Erlanger says that some of her most popular posts are a bit more down to earth. Every Wednesday, her #whatsonmyrack series lets fans see what kind of wardrobe has caught her eye in a given week.
“My strategy is all based on authenticity and sharing things that people otherwise wouldn’t have access to. It really is that sneak peek into my world and what I do. I hope it's inspirational,” Erlanger told Entrepreneur. “Sometimes inspirational is aspirational. But I hope more than anything that it resonates with people because that’s when you know you have something powerful, when your message is really heard and received.”
Erlanger says that she views Instagram as a community that is an integral part of her work. She uses it to not only seek out new ideas and aesthetics, but as a mentorship tool, providing advice and insight to aspiring stylists.
Entrepreneur spoke with Erlanger for her tips for Instagram success.
1. How did you get started with Instagram?
I got started years ago when it was first on the scene. It was appealing because you could tag your friends and put filters on your pictures and things just looked so much prettier. It's been an incredible experience, especially being in the fashion industry, to see how Instagram has changed so much. Now they're a resource. It's not just sort of a fun tool to have.
2. What other platforms do you use and what percentage of the time do you spend on them vs. Instagram?
I use Twitter, my Facebook and Facebook fan page, I suppose Snapchat on occasion and Tumblr back in the day, and Pinterest. But honestly I don’t use Snapchat ever, I haven’t used it in months. Twitter is more for news. I push most of my Instagrams to other outlets -- Twitter, Facebook. I’d say Instagram is the one that I use the most.
I work in a space and a field that is so visually driven. And it's such an easy and exciting way to share and digest information. There is a lot of power in a picture, you don’t have to say a whole lot with words. For me it’s a very creative medium. The power behind your social following is just extraordinary these days and how it can be so transformative.
3. What makes Instagram a better platform than other social media?
I think the user engagement is one. For me, it makes sense that I have the biggest following on Instagram because I am a fashion stylist and what I do is so visually focused. Most of my followers are on Instagram for that purpose. Not only are they interested in fashion but whatever the celebrity culture might be.
It’s a really easy way to quickly engage and interact with people who I otherwise wouldn’t have that kind of access to. And it's a one-stop shop -- you comment, like, direct message, group text, there are stories, you can go live. There is so much that can be done right there and then. There are so many things that you can do and it's simple. If you get your formula down and you’re representing your brand authentically, the power that has and how that resonates with people is exciting.
4. How much of your time do you devote to it?
Part of it at this point is second nature. Before I check the news I check Instagram each morning. It’s twofold. Do I spend time taking pictures and curating what I want to post? Yes and no. A lot of it is in the moment. It's authentic, it’s what I’m doing in my life and I think that’s what connects with people. There is fluidity in that. In general, I’m on there all day long. I’m getting inspiration, I’m checking out what my peers are doing, checking out what my followers are doing and engaging with them. It really is in some ways like a full-time job, but the good news is I take a lot of joy and pride and it's fun.
5. How do you promote your account? What's your number one way to gain followers?
I think people follow me because they like my work. There’s been an incredible rise and interest in celebrity fashion on social media. There is a lot of focus and emphasis on that. I think that people are inspired by what my clients [and I] are up to. Then of course there is the aspirational aspect to working in the entertainment and fashion industry.
I have access and a behind-the-scenes look at things that most people don’t. Being able to share that in this setting is something that draws appeal and people seek that out. My followers are followers because they care.
I feel like I have family of sorts on there. I may not know them, but there is really a shared interest. I have people from all around the world reaching out, saying, "I’m inspired by what you do." "Do you have any tips for how I could one day do what you do?" "Where do I get those shoes?" "I’m just entering college, what courses should I take?"
To have that reach and to be able to participate in those conversations is pretty inspiring. I do my darndest to get back to everybody. My boyfriend yells at me and tells me to put my phone away. It’s become a problem, it comes with me to the dinner table when it shouldn’t.
6. How do you engage with others on the platform?
I’m interacting on direct message and in the comments section. I’m curious about who is reaching out to me, so I’m exploring just like they are. That’s the beautiful thing, it's a melding of those worlds.
7. How often do you post?
I don’t post daily, though I probably should. There are times when I’m better at it than others. I try not to post anything that is repetitive, so I really like to give diversity in the subjects. I do have one regular [post]. Every Wednesday I post What’s on My Rack. That’s my signature. It’s just an edit of the beautiful things we have in the office, like a little editorial story.
My little rolling rack is curated and it's a real peek of what I have. It’s a natural, authentic thing and that’s what I think resonates with people. There’s always behind-the-scenes pictures of what’s happening in our styling studio in L.A. or New York, wherever we might be, in a hotel room in Barcelona, whatever.
In addition there is my personal life that I share as well. I would say that I’m posting a couple of times a week and my Insta-stories is pretty regular -- I have fun with that. At one point I was posting three to four times a day, but for me, the way I curate my page, it's about quality and access to what I’m doing over quantity.
8. What's your content strategy?
I have a couple of things that I do pretty regularly, What's on My Rack is one and I’m always doing shoutouts and thank you in my stories. And I post my client’s red carpet appearances regularly. And that varies, I could have six clients on a carpet in one night.
For the Met Ball, I felt like I was posting every 10 minutes. Going from one post a day to six posts in a night is a lot. You want your followers to know what to expect from you. They know to check in on Wednesdays because they’re going to see what my rack is. You want that engagement. I try to make sure I have a healthy balance of what’s happening in my work life, with my team and in my personal life.
9. How has your content strategy evolved as Instagram has added features?
I think Instagram stories are really important. Not only is it fun, it's nice to have the diversity of video so you’re not oversaturating your channel with pictures. You can be more curated on your page and still get content out through stories. You can have a dialogue with people. it allows account holders to have more of a voice.
10. What's your best storytelling trick?
Real life. People love a sneak peek and then seeing the final product. It builds anticipation. People are excited to see what it's going to be. Is it going to be the pair of earrings on the left or the right? Which one should we choose? Engaging people that way too. If you go on my handle, you’ll see I capture the process of the giant wardrobe trunks that arrive in the studio and the grit and then the glamour on the flip side. People don’t know what goes into it.
It allows them to see how red carpet moments happen. I’m unpacking boxes of boxes of clothes and the not-so-glamorous side of it. But then you can share your client on the best dressed list, or me on a jewelry appointment taking a video of the museum pieces I have access to. This is content that you wouldn’t be able to get any other way and it’s access to a world that a lot of people haven’t really seen.
11. How do you set yourself apart from others on the platform?
I have my own way of telling my story and sharing my world, whether it's my signature things or the way I choose to shoot my photos. Everything’s done on my iPhone, mind you. The way I run my business and what happens in my world isn't going to be the same as anybody else. We each have our own voice. My peers and I, we’re working with different clients, on different projects in different parts of the world. Our bases are different and so is our aesthetic. My aesthetic is known for being full of color, print, femininity and playfulness.
12. How do you leverage your Instagram and to what extent do you monetize it?
It's certainly something that I think is a really interesting conversation and certainly something that as stylists are looked at as influencers now. And more so in this digital media space it's becoming more common. I'm focused on my job and my job is to be a stylist and to be a creator. And if that has benefits in other platforms, fantastic, but it's not something that I really spend time focusing on. For me it's a pleasant perk if it ever comes up. But it's different for stylists.
I do think it's nice that we're respected authorities on fashion. Because of that we have a certain appeal and cachet and it's not to take away from anybody else in the digital space. But it's different. As a result like brand partnerships and things like that are also different for us is a very interesting and exciting place to be. And I think ultimately there's going to be increasing opportunity for people that have the access and followers and reach that we have.
13. What advice do you have for other Instagram influencers or people who want to build brands on the platform?
You have to find your voice. That's really important. I think finding consistency and visual appeal is important too. That 100 percent still means being authentic. I think authenticity is by far and large the most important thing -- that is your voice. I think consistency and having an aesthetic is important and that's the kind of thing that I think will come with time.
So whether you have a little signature photo or you do the same thing every Monday or or your photos are cropped the same way so it's consistent across your grid. Or you use the same filter every time or you don't use a filter. I think the engagement with the people that reply and respond or like your pictures is also really important. I think interacting with folks builds loyalty and ultimately will really help with the longevity of all that.
14. What's a misconception many people have about Instagram?
I think Instagram has the power of being a very strategic marketing tool. And I think a lot of people don't know what to make of that. I think when executed correctly it can have a lot of impact, and if not it can look just like a paid ad. But it is really an incredible platform to show your creativity. There's nothing else like it. I would encourage people to really find their niche.
I'm in an industry with a lot of other stylists and I'm proud to have a voice and to have a direction for my Instagram and I think those that are successful and that have strong followings are because they do too. And it isn't going to grow overnight. This takes time. I've been on Instagram since the early days. In fact I even closed one account and reopened another because you couldn't switch your name at the time. I definitely lost a lot of followers when that happened too. It's taken me time and I'm really proud of that.
Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.