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Tessa Thompson’s Stylists Explain Her Avant-Garde Fetish Met Gala Look

“We take camp seriously,” stylist Wayman Bannerman told Variety. He means it.

To clients like Tessa Thompson and Regina King, and in larger circles in fashion and media, Bannerman and partner Micah McDonald are simply known as Wayman + Micah. Though they usually plot looks for massive press tours like “Avengers: Endgame” or create indelible moments for the Oscar stage, on this first Monday in May the men will look to fashion’s Super Bowl — the Met Gala.

The annual charity ball, co-chaired by Vogue editor Anna Wintour and an army of rotating celebrities, is known for making hundreds of famous faces adhere to an annual theme in step with curator Andrew Bolton’s exhibitions at the museum’s costume institute. This year’s theme is inspired by the Susan Sontag essay “Notes on Camp,” a glorious celebration of the artificial and over-the-top.

Variety spoke with the stylists about their interpretation of camp, how they arrived at Thompson’s final look, and why the campiest accessory of 2019 is free.

Why is camp important right now?

Wayman: Camp is important right now because it exercises a freedom of self-expression and a  freedom of self interpretation of expression. It is important to us because it allows us to really take our clients as individuals and express themselves on a larger platform in the fashion community that will be received and celebrated not amongst themselves, but amongst other women and men and brands and designers. So we take camp seriously in that aspect because we are really allowed to just push the envelope, have fun, be free, and enjoy who you are and celebrate individuality amongst everyone.

What did you turn to for camp inspiration?

Micah: We were really more than anything, inspired by heritage. We will be taking an array of African American women to the Met this year and it was just really important to highlight what camp meant to them and how they could pull references from their heritage and things that inspired them as a child so we really pulled from that. We also pulled from different elements, as you’ll see with Tessa’s look, with fetish and kind of played up that moment. I think it’s interesting for a woman to take that power back, especially an African American woman, to be seen in that dominant light.

What was Tessa inspired by for the camp theme?

Micah: She just really wanted to focus on female light as a vision of strength and a position of authority, whatever that looked like, however that could feel. She’s grown up a strong woman her entire life, she’s been surrounded by strong, independent women. She wanted to play to that and have that, but still have fun with it.

How did you merge Tessa’s personality with the theme of camp to create a look?

Wayman: Tessa in her day-to-day likes very eccentric, avant garde, abstract pieces. She likes to have a special point of view that’s very refined and eccentric. We’re working with Chanel for the red carpet and we basically went and researched through their haute couture collections from past archives and pulled some selects that we thought speak to Tessa as an individual. Think about Chanel meeting the masculinity of a dark side who’s a really intelligent, smart, young, kid but has a wild side.

Could you break down the process of how you arrived at Tessa’s final look?

Micah: From start to finish with Tessa Thompson, every look is quite the collaboration. We let the garment start to speak to us as the tailoring was coming together and you’ll see that it really plays off of extreme shape. In this dress, it almost has a contorted waist to it, it’s a very tightened waist which helped us unravel the theme of more of the dominatrix feel.

You’ve mentioned that Tessa is channeling a dominatrix, do you think that harnesses are a trend that we’ll be seeing on the carpet?

Micah: We thought it was interesting because it didn’t feel like the first thought of being campy, it just felt campy to Tessa because for us, camp is an exaggerated, altered reality and that is just something that felt so exaggerated and different specifically to her. I don’t know if it will be a heavy trend.

What are your favorite parts of her look?

Wayman: Overall her look is so conceptual. Think about shapes, think about silhouette, think about avant garde. It feels like a costume in a sense but two genres of two different eras married together.

Micah: Wayman has coined the phrase “Cha-matrix” and it’s really the best way to put it: You take Chanel couture mixed with a dominatrix, two things that you would never see coming, and it’s really blended together for the perfect look.

What is your dream Met Gala theme?

Micah: I would have a lot of fun with Motown.

Wayman: My dream theme would be ‘90s hip-hop. ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s. Those three decades would be really fun. Let it be a marriage between fashion and music.

Will Vogue go there anytime soon?

Wayman: With camp, and from what we’re hearing from our colleagues, I think they would.

Micah: I think if you really study ’90s fashion and look at the current runway, you see such an influence that it totally could be a simple throughline.

What is the campiest accessory of 2019?

Micah: Maybe the campiest accessory is someone’s speech. It’s their vernacular, it’s their mouth.

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