Janelle Monáe Slays the Glass Onion Red Carpet
A range of Janelle Monáe's looks in black, white, and red.
The Rack

Janelle Monáe

Queue chats with Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery star Janelle Monáe’s stylist, Alexandra Mandelkorn, about dressing the fashion icon.

21 December 20224 min read

It’s no surprise that there’s a murder at the center of writer-director Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. And while we’d never spoil the identity of the cadaver or the culprit, we can say that at the movie’s red-carpet premieres, it was star Janelle Monáe who slayed. The incredibly fashionable performer, a key member of the film’s star-studded ensemble, collaborated closely with stylist Alexandra Mandelkorn on a range of jaw-dropping looks inspired by the savvy whodunit. “Everything we do, we try to make very artful, like it belongs in a museum,” Mandelkorn says.

Setting out to make a statement at the Toronto International Film Festival, the duo turned to Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen, known for her sculptural masterpieces. Monáe and Mandelkorn landed on a gown that was an almost literal interpretation of a glass onion. “The dress had these 3D printed pieces that went around the neck and comprised the bodice, which almost looked like little glass pieces,” Mandelkorn says. “Then [there was] the beautiful banana leaf fiber fabric that sculpturally wraps around the shoulder and the trailing silk pieces — it very much felt like the peel of an onion.”

For their arrival to the London Film Festival, Monáe donned an all-black capelet look from Thom Browne, complete with an askew top hat, opting for an all-white variation on the same look for subsequent press appearances. (The move recalled Monáe’s signature palette from the early days of their career.) To create a truly showstopping moment on the carpet, though, Monáe and Mandelkorn went all in on blood red, with a Christian Siriano couture gown. “London fashion is so much about the hats and all these headwear moments,” Mandelkorn says. “There’s also a little bit of bustle energy with this dress. It felt very regal, but modern and bloody — like a play on the British phrase, bloody murder.” Monáe and Mandelkorn returned to the onion motif for the film’s Madrid premiere, with a red and black gown from London-based Hong Kong designer Robert Wun. But as Monáe made their way back stateside, their appearance at Los Angeles’s 2022 Outfest Legacy Awards introduced a new sartorial energy into the mix with an all-black look from the brand Anouki. Monáe and Mandelkorn “wanted [something] cool, sleek, kind of mysterious, a little bit of this masc-meets-femme detective energy.” 

For the CFDA Fashion Awards in New York, the duo sought drama and circled back to Browne. “We felt like, it’s a fashion event, might as well go big,” Mandelkorn says. “Big” was certainly one way to describe the wildly oversized, spectacular coat that Monáe wore, paired with Browne’s canine-inspired Hector bag. “It was this black-and-white, voluminous look,” says the stylist. “It felt very in line with what we did for the London premiere with these voluminous pieces around the midsection, but gave a totally different silhouette, as it was this major opera coat.” 

The duo might have saved one of the most stunning moments for last, however. For Netflix’s Los Angeles premiere of Glass Onion, Monáe dazzled in a fiery Elie Saab couture gown, with beautifully positioned cutouts to reveal a little skin. Mandelkorn says: “We loved it because of the feathered skirt, but then there’s this red zigzag line through it, which really felt like flames. There’s this sense of a phoenix rising.”