How Gabrielle Union’s Latest Press Tour Wardrobe Came Together

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A Gabrielle Union-Wade promo cycle is always a fun time. The actor, producer and multi-hyphenate Scorpio icon is a known lover and appreciator of fashion — she’s made that clear her entire decades-long career, building relationships with the biggest luxury houses in the world (Prada, Miu Miu and Valentino, to name a few) while also supporting emerging labels. (She’s worn Christopher John Rogers, Zankov and Puppets and Puppets, among others, in the last few weeks alone.)

For years, she’s been collaborating with stylist Thomas Christos Kikis on everything from press tours to #WadeWorldTours. Promoting multiple projects this fall, Union’s been out and about, with a dual focus on the animated Disney film “Strange World” and the A24 drama “The Inspection.” One’s a big-studio, fun-for-the-whole-family event; the other, an emotional awards season vehicle — “two very different projects,” as Christos tells me. 

Because the schedules lined up, Union and her team found themselves working on both press tours at the same time. However, there was a clear delineation between the projects when it came to her style. The challenge, according to Christos, became: “How do you not have it all feel like one?”

Gabrielle Union in custom Prada at the 2022 New York Film Festival in October.

Gabrielle Union in custom Prada at the 2022 New York Film Festival in October.

The first look Christos worked on was the custom long-sleeved Prada gown Union wore to the New York Film Festival screening of “The Inspection.”

“I was in Bellport for the month of July, taking some time off — which, of course, means overthinking,” he says. “I immediately reached out to Prada because we’ve had a really, really long history with them. We were just there in June for the show and hung out with the team.”

Christos worked with the team on a design that married the brand’s current direction with key inspiration from the archives, specifically two looks from Spring 1993. “Yes, it’s yellow and sparkly, but it’s not too over-the-top,” he says. “Nothing about ‘The Inspection’ press tour was about the fashion — it’s about Gab and her performance.”

He was able to screen the film ahead of the press tour, which helped set the tone for the red carpet wardrobe. “As a stylist, you’re so excited and so eager to get the look and show the look, but this was a performance that I’ve never seen out of many actors, let alone Gab — I was just really blown away by it,” he says. “It’s in many ways very personal. So I really wanted her clothing to be a backdrop for her voice and her performance.” 

Any appearances promoting “The Inspection,” then, were more muted — lots of black and white, tailoring and classic silhouettes. “Strange World,” however, was pretty much the opposite. 

Union promoting

Union promoting “Strangle World” in a Loewe look that sent me straight to Thomas Christos Kikis’ DMs.

“It’s hyper reality, hyper fantasy, hyper colors — a lot of purples and blues,” Christos says. “She wore a Valentino Haute Couture dress with flowers that come away from her body, this Loewe dress with floating spheres all around it and fantasy stripes and the Elie Saab dress that they were so kind to pull from the archives that felt kind of trippy. It felt nothing like ‘The Inspection,’ which was the point.”

Having to dress a celebrity to promote various projects simultaneously isn’t unheard of; even if they only have one movie or TV show coming out, they might also be launching a brand or a product. With this, though, Christos made it a point to draw a distinct visual line between the films. 

Union, wearing Valentino Haute Couture, at the L.A. premiere of

Union, wearing Valentino Haute Couture, at the L.A. premiere of “Strange World.”

“With ‘The Inspection,’ honestly, my job was to make her feel comfortable,” he says. “She’s so generous with being an advocate on so many levels and giving a performance that was beyond. It took a lot out of her, and I felt putting her in some wacky, zany look over and over and over would almost do a disservice to that. That’s not my job, to peacock over an actor’s work. It’s about the talent first.”

The tour kicked off with “The Inspection” at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Union wore black strapless Vivienne Westwood.

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Union kicked off the press tour wearing Vivienne Westwood at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Union kicked off the press tour wearing Vivienne Westwood at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

“She’s there not only as an actor, but as a collaborator on the film. [Editor’s note: Union is an executive producer on ‘The Inspection.’] I put her in that gown because I wanted her to feel beautiful,” Christos says. “It was really about her standing up there with the most talented creatives that she spent time with and went to a really dramatic place with. That was that feeling I wanted to evoke.” 

A string of appearances in New York City followed, culminating in the custom Prada moment at the New York Film Festival. Then, there was a break (during which Union was filming, and Christos was accompanying Zaya Wade to her first solo Paris Fashion Week), before picking back up in mid-November. This time, “Strange World” promotion was in full swing, beginning with the aforementioned Valentino Haute Couture dress at its L.A. premiere.

The Disney film then headed to London, and Union had the Internet abuzz with her look: a trippy black-and-white archival Elie Saab gown, her hair transformed into a “braid flower” by Issac Poleon.

Union in archival Elie Saab at the

Union in archival Elie Saab at the “Strange World” L.A. premiere

“I really wanted to continue the pattern and the excitement of the dress to glam and not have the dress come off as too formal or precious. I wanted it to be much more theatrical,” Christos says. “I suggested maybe doing something a bit more over-the-top and exciting with the hair. I showed a few references, and Gab and Isaac were like, ‘Oh, a hundred percent, let’s do it.’ Isaac took my seed of an idea and really brought it to another level.”

Typically, Christos will be on a group chat with the rest of the glam team for any given event. Usually, he doesn’t pitch ideas for hair and makeup “unless I have something specific in mind”; the group will collectively discuss and pick a favorite together. London was an exception. 

“Gab is such a collaborator. She gives me the freedom to do what I think is right for that moment. She doesn’t really push back — she wants to share the vision together,” he says. “Hair, makeup and wardrobe really do their job, work together and are all in sync. She’s such an amazing supporter of artists on every level.”

Following the London red carpet, Union began bouncing back and forth sartorially between projects: a screening for “The Inspector” in Proenza Schouler followed by a custom Prada lace look (inspired by the house’s Fall 2008 collection) at the Governors Awards; a candy cane-striped bouncy Loewe dress and playful Batsheva LBD for “Strange World” promo; then back again with a Theory suit for late-night shows and a black Fendi Haute Couture gown at the 2022 Gotham Awards. There was also some Tibi, some Christopher John Rogers, some The Row, even some of her own line for New York and Company, which Christos works on as well. 

Union wearing a look from her collection for New York and Company — in New York, appropriately. 

Union wearing a look from her collection for New York and Company — in New York, appropriately. 

“The thing with Gabrielle is — when she wears a Valentino dress, she’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so excited.’ Her and Pierpaolo [Piccioli] have had dinner together at Sunset Tower. It’s not like she’s wearing a dress by someone she doesn’t know or it’s a very anonymous experience. It’s quite personal,” Christos says. “She has a relationship with Mrs. Prada. Christopher [John Rogers] is probably going to DM her like, ‘You look amazing.’ The less anonymous or transactional the experience is, the more you wear it with a different sense of nuance and confidence. You really want to celebrate it.” 

Beyond that, Union also seems eager to give credit where it’s due. “She’s always going to say, ‘Who designed it? I want to give them love,'” he continues. “She knows that if her 20 million-plus followers can in any way, big or small, impact a designer, she’s more than happy to do it. She loves fashion and she loves the industry.”

Union at the 2022 Governors Awards wearing a custom Prada look inspired by the brand's Fall 2008 collection.

Union at the 2022 Governors Awards wearing a custom Prada look inspired by the brand’s Fall 2008 collection.

The two-in-one promotional schedule may have wrapped, but the fun’s not over for Christos. 

“Every time a garment bag arrives, if I’m in the office, I’m the one that unzips it. I’m the one that’s so excited,” Christos says. “I love the product so much. I genuinely love the job. I’m lucky that we have access to all of this.” 

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