A Feel For Fashion: Nicole Chapoteau

Interviews, Inspirations

Given her steady rise through fashion editorial and styling, it may come as a surprise that Nicole Chapoteau initially pursued architecture, working for Rafael Viñoly Architects upon graduating from New York University. Her current role as fashion director at Vanity Fair means she is constantly interfacing with a wide range of talent, styling the likes of Bad Bunny, Regina King, Simone Biles, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Evan Mock, while working with world-renowned photographers such as Mickalene Thomas, Annie Leibovitz, Ruth Ossai, and the ever-audacious duo, Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. Prior to joining the masthead at the megawatt magazine, Chapoteau worked as a freelance stylist and brand consultant, contributing to Elle, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, The Cut, Out and Ebony.

How does your role at the magazine shape your instincts, your eye? 

For me, the fashion at Vanity Fair needs to play a part in expressing the talent’s personality and/or telling a more in-depth story.  I find, when I am styling a shoot or coming up with the fashion concept, that I am thinking much deeper. I want the fashion to be a little nerdy! For example, I want someone to say, ‘Oh I see what she did here – that Rick Owens dress mirrored Simon Biles’s muscle definition, while the blush colour shows how delicate she is.” I don’t know, maybe I get too into it, but that is always my thinking. 


What excites you in fashion right now?

Every single one of Rafael Pavarotti’s shoots! The last shoot he did of Rihanna is all I see when I close my eyes! 


We often hear couture designers refer to their ateliers as laboratories. Can Haute Couture still define new ideas in design?

Of course, couture still defines new ideas in design. Couture is one of the highest art forms of fashion. It’s the place to dream; to show off craftsmanship; to be innovative in design – from fabrications to construction, even to beauty. Look at the impact of Pat McGrath’s makeup from the last Maison Margiela couture show. We were all spiralling trying to figure out how to recreate her porcelain doll skin effect!  

What would you like or hope to see more of from brands or the industry more generally?

Actual sustainable practices! 


In what ways do you think AI might benefit fashion?

At this point, the only thing I like relating to AI in fashion is seeing young people use it to dream up looks their favourite celebs would have worn to The Met Gala. To me, fashion is an art form that still needs human touch and realness. 


Who or what will drive the greatest change in fashion this year?

Is it sad to say the elections?! And I am speaking of globally, not just the US.  


What impact might you hope to have on fashion this year? 

My goal is always to bring attention to BIPOC talent. Whether it’s stylists, designers or creative agencies. If anyone recognises that I do so, cool; but my goal remains to open doors and bring recognition as best as I can.  


Can you suggest a fashion mantra for ’24?

Wear your clothes! 


This interview has been lightly edited.