The session stylist reveals the military-grade planning necessary for the iconic first Monday in May event.

Halley Brisker

Halley Brisker

We’ve all cooed and dissected the looks from this year’s Met Gala, the most photographed red carpet in the world, second only to The Oscars. But what is it like to work it as a session stylist? Halley Brisker – on hand to style Lily James and Eve Hewson for the 2024 Garden of Time-themed event – lifts the lid… 

“Traditionally a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume institute in New York, the Met Gala has now morphed into a global fashion event headed up by Anna Wintour, who supposedly oversees personally every single outfit worn by the attendees. What does such a night mean for the attendees and the hair, make-up and styling teams that take part? 

“This was my third year and each one tends to play out much the same – my job is often done with little time for organisation. Sometimes I know what I’m doing several weeks in advance; sometimes I can have as little as 24 hours to prepare! However, the Met Gala is the exception to the rule. 

“I often know six months or more in advance if any of my clients will attend. For an event that demands the attendance of the world’s most influential and well-known faces, military precision is required if one is hoping to get them all in one building, in one city, on one night of the year. 

Hair, make-up and styling are also appreciative of this long lead time as there are not enough of us to go around on Met Monday in New York! This is a night that the attending talent hope to be able to have their most trusted teams; often a scuffle can ensue in terms of making sure you can secure the people that make you look and feel your best on such an important night. 

Preparation begins months in advance, with first sketches of outfits. This helps start a conversation among the team and talent once everybody is confirmed. The more open to idea sharing, creative direction and progression of ideas you can be with one another, the more exciting the creative journey will be. It tends to be a busy WhatsApp thread 

Halley Brisker's moodboard

Halley’s mood board and final look for Eve Hewson

Fittings will take place as outfits are brought to life. Directions can and usually will change, but I like to begin my prep with large format mood boarding based on the theme of the year and the initial idea references that the team have put forward. Sometimes it can just be a feeling that my client wants to embody or bring to life. This moodboarding comprises searches for fairly abstract references across multiple mediums, and everybody on the team takes a look and asks for things that stand out. Once I get a feeling for that, I can begin narrowing down my final board which I use on Met Monday.   

“Most teams will make their way to New York (if they aren’t already based there) on the Friday or Saturday. This gives everybody time to settle in and leaves Sunday for some final prep. If possible, I love to squeeze in a hair test on the Sunday night. Going into The Met having had a quick run-through pays huge dividends – I’m somebody who likes to be organised, otherwise I can’t relax. There are two well-established hotels that host most of the talent, literally across the road from one another – very handy if you have more than one client at separate locations.  

Victoria Panting working

Halley working with Lily James

“This is a night that the attending talent hope to be able to have their most trusted teams; often a scuffle can ensue in terms of making sure you can secure the people that make you look and feel your best on such an important night.”

Halley Brisker

“This year I was getting both Lily James and Eve Hewson ready, which if scheduling is executed well is achievable with a good assistant. There are some artists that will attempt more than two people… If your cortisol levels are manageable and you have a fetish for stress, then this might be for you, but it isn’t for the faint of heart!  

Content is king, so you can expect a constant stream of brand partners in the get ready suite along with publications like Vogue and Vanity Fair dropping in, all to create content. That is why for The Met we will always allow at least double the prep time of any other event – four or five hours is not uncommon. We’re creating the most immaculate finishes, if not the most creative looks, so time to do this while everybody involved is able to work their magic and collect their content is vital. It also helps to reduce that rush to the finish line talent often need to be sewn into custom couture before final touches and pictures… Trust me, time flies on Met Monday!

Military precision of production doesn’t end at the hotel suite door. A cavalcade of sprinter vans line up around the block for specific timeslots for each talent attending and a sea of paparazzi wait outside the two hotels, backed by screaming fans. Usually, the team and I enjoy a celebratory drink while we wait for our clients to return – we can hang out and debrief a little before sending off the talent to the after parties, sometimes with a change of hair and makeup look. Once the kit chaos is finally packed up and Im in a taxi looking forward to crawling into my hotel bed in the small hours 

Halley backstage with Lily James