Nicola Coughlan has been one of the most exciting fashion forces to follow in recent years, as the world discovered her star power thanks to a little show called ‘Bridgerton’ and she started appearing on the red carpet regularly. It helps that the Irish actress is a huge fan and connoisseur of designers and emerging creative talent, and has built a team around her that shares that love and excitement – and, perhaps most importantly, that desire to create A Moment .
On the styling front, Coughlan tapped into Aimee Croysdill early in the Bridgerton press cycle, and the two have been fashion collaborators and co-conspirators ever since.
“To be honest, when I first met Nicola, I was pretty headstrong with her and her team, like, ‘I know you’re going to be a fashion girl.’ I knew that from the start,” she says. “Now as a collaborative team – and really, it’s the most amazing team I’ve worked on and it’s a real team where we’re all so passionately involved and invested – there’s such wonderful attention to every element. There’s the amazing synergy and environment, and it obviously works. It is such a pleasure to witness.”
Over the years, the London-based stylist has worked with clients such as Laura Haddock, Lolly Adefope and Natalie Dormer. Still, she acknowledges that her partnership with Coughlan was unique.
“I’ve had some amazing moments in my career, but it’s very rare to come across new talent that takes off so quickly in such a short space of time – and it’s very rare to work on a press tour for the biggest TV show in the world says Croysdill. “It doesn’t happen very often. And people really noticed.”
Croysdill admits timing was an important factor here: Due to the pandemic and reactions to Bridgerton season one, she and Coughlan walked straight away from a project — be it a commercial cycle, a photo shoot, a red carpet — to another, which allows them to keep pushing the actor’s style and continually evolving how they look. “The development of Nicolas Mode never came to a standstill.”
The first round of “Bridgerton” press was such a coup, largely because of Coughlan’s performance (and her character’s arc in that first season, which ended in a groundbreaking revelation) and also because of the way the actor handled the all-digital Accepted junkets and interviews, show up in full gear and share the details on social media.
There was also a clear purpose to this wardrobe, both in terms of connection to the Netflix series and in terms of highlighting UK and Irish brands. The latter was partly logistical (because of lockdown and Brexit) but also partly driven by a desire to represent Coughlan through fashion.
“We were definitely keen to celebrate emerging designers from our region and Ireland like Simone Rocha,” she says. Other highlights include a beaded JW Anderson look with fringe sleeves, a Cawley top with puff sleeves and a dress by Three Graces London with a red Emily London Headwear bow.
Throwing in brands from outside the British Isles, Coughlan and Croysdill found ways to tie the pieces back to the world of “Bridgerton” – for example by focusing on Regency-era shapes and silhouettes, and by looks looked with ruffles and other regal and decadent embellishments.
“Looking back, we were massively inspired by the first season,” says Croysdill. “Nicola and I got to know each other stylistically, and I think everyone was inspired by ‘Bridgerton’ in more ways than meets the eye. We were all locked in our house and needed that escapism. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Suddenly people wanted to dress up.”
Those two threads came together at the 2021 Golden Globes, which sort of closed that chapter of their collaboration: Coughlan wore a voluminous tulle gown by Molly Goddard in a pale yellow reminiscent of Penelope Featherington.
At the next big red carpet—the 2021 Screen Actors Guild Awards—the duo made a point of stylistically turning away from the bin, so to speak. They followed the frothy Molly Goddard in a tailored black lace dress by Christian Siriano, which was revealed on Instagram in a series of black and white pictures. The idea was “to turn around [the last look] turn it on its head and be more gothic and vampire,” says Croysdill. “We found that we could connect the two worlds and create something truly wonderful.”
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What followed was a fashion palette cleansing of sorts, as Coughlan went back on track to film both season two of Bridgerton and season three of Derry Girls. In the run-up to the BAFTAs, she wore two distinct looks – one was a gold strapless dress by Emilia Wickstead Times Portfolio and a long sleeve orange Valentino Haute Couture ankle length dress. The latter was a favorite of Croysdill as it was “all about tailoring”: “It was layers and layers of crinoline to put that on so smoothly. The work that went into it was unreal.”
“The reason Nicola is so fun is because she looks good in everything,” says Croysdill. “Your style has so many sides, but there is always a common thread. You always feel like it’s Nicola’s style.”
As the promo cycle for “Bridgerton” resumed – and Regencycore was arguably at its peak – they decided to take a different approach to their credentials and strayed further from the source material.
“It was really important that we didn’t mirror the costumes on ‘Bridgerton’ just because, ‘How can you top what they’re doing on the show?'” says Croysdill. “It’s so magical, this world, and Penelope has such a distinct theme throughout… Penelope sees this real growth in her fashion and it’s been really important for us to keep Penelope and Nicola really separate.” (That doesn’t mean though, that yellow is off the table: “I’ll never give up on making yellow again because it’s such a great color. And we always pay our dues to Penelope.”)
No matter what they’re working on, the pair send each other pictures on WhatsApp — Coughlan from the film, Croysdill from the fashion — to identify references to weave into their fashion story. The starting point for the actor’s Bridgerton premiere look was Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, coupled with the itch to try a shape they hadn’t done before. Always wanting to up their fashion game, they called none other than Ms. Miuccia Prada’s Miu Miu.
“Obviously, Miu Miu is pretty pastel colored and has regular embroidery — quite a lot of his clothes and aesthetic are like that,” says Croysdill. The stylist sent in some ideas for the silhouette and the team came back to her with a few options, many of which had “the pastels we know we love about Nic, then embroidery we love about Miu Miu.” However, it was the lone all-black runaway who stood out from the crowd: “We were like, ‘Oh shit! We love that. We love all black.’”
From there, Croysdill and Coughlan doubled down on the Breakfast at Tiffany’s theme by adding a bow detail to the dress and hiring Awon Golding Millinery to create a matching headband. Halley Brisker was on the Old Hollywood-inspired hair, while Neil Young created a Tiffany Blue Eye look with a retro cat-eye liner using all Pat McGrath Labs products. (Coughlan was recently named the brand’s “muse.”)
“Everything came alive when we saw this black sketch,” says Croysdill. “We took that idea and ran with it, and it morphed into this other world.”
Unfortunately, you may recall that Coughlan was absent from the season 2 premiere in London – that’s because she tested positive for Covid-19. Though she had to sit out the red carpet, the look still had its moment: After Coughlan recovered, the actress and her team got together to shoot an editorial about the Hepburn-inspired ensemble in London Lanesborough Hotel which was published in ell United Kingdom
“When we got over the fact that we weren’t at the premiere, we leaned into the fact that we can actually fit this ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ inspired dress into this ‘Bridgerton’ world of the Lanesborough, which is insanely decadent ,” says Croysdill. “It was really something special.”
Although the primary inspiration wasn’t rooted in Shondaland, Coughlan and Croysdill were careful to honor the world of “Bridgerton” with the look: Her Mejuri accessories included a bee ring and “L” and “W” earrings for Lady Whistledown . “We really wanted to give a subtle nod to all these little things because Nicola is such a fan,” she says. “She’s so behind it.” They are also still careful to highlight emerging local talent, such as Lia Cowan having a red and pink dress designed for Coughlan to wear to interviews, and sourcing pieces from Galway jewelery designer Richard Murphy.
There’s a lot to look forward to from Croysdill and Coughlan in the near future. (At the time of our call, the stylist was “desperately trying to nail down a Valentino look.”) However, so much of the magic of this partnership is happening behind the scenes — “to see a team work in such an incredible way, [where] they all harmonize with each other,” says Croysdill: “Everyone comes to work and wants to create something iconic. I have not felt this level of energy and excitement from every single person, even my tailor who I have worked with for years and years and years. Everyone is so good at bringing their piece in, but also taking it back. It’s really something special.”
Ultimately, Croysdill says she’s grown working with a client like Coughlan, who “[given] me the opportunity to create these looks and [trusted] me to do things that I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “Everyone has their own style and I’ve always had a fervor to do something like that and Nicola got that out of me. It doesn’t happen often, this trajectory and the rate at which it has decreased. It’s given me an amazing platform to do really exciting things.”
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