Secrets of the Stylish: Naomi Ackie on wearing Daniel Lee’s first bespoke Burberry to the Met Gala

·6-min read

It is Naomi Ackie’s first ever Met Gala. She may be taken aback by the screaming of fans outside her hotel (“that’s definitely not for me – who else is staying here?”) but it’s a day she has thought about often. “I’ve been working with my glam team since I was in my early twenties,” she says. “We always used to joke about what we would do if we went to the Met Gala and then I got the invitation… I literally screamed at them, 'Oh my god it’s happening! This is not a drill!'”

The award-winning British actress, who recently starred as Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance with Somebody, dazzled in one of the first custom-made red-carpet pieces by Daniel Lee for Burberry. She sat down with Bazaar just before she hit those legendary Met steps and discussed the inspiration behind her look, stripping back her style and why nothing makes her feel more beautiful than some cosy pyjamas...

Why does this look in particular feel like a good fit for you?

“I’m so pleased with what he has designed for me. I feel so confident in it. It feels like a great fit because I love a mixture of dramatic shapes but also a simple silhouette. I also like comfortable materials. This dress is a blend of all of that. It is super breathable and comfy but it drapes really gorgeously. It shows off my figure and is super chic. It’s also got these gorgeous, knitted rose details on it, which remind me of the Chanel flower. That detail is on my shoes too. All of it has a classic feel with a funky twist added in. It's a really cool look!”

How did you decide which brand you wanted to work with?

“I have been a really big fan of Daniel Lee even before Burberry. It’s also a brand I've always admired. I love how classic it is and with Daniel on board now it feels like it's moving into a really modern phase – that mixture of heritage and cool streetwear. I grew up with Burberry; as a kid in London in the nineties and early noughties it was everywhere and we all coveted it, so it feels like I already have a history with the brand, separate from even being an actress. To get to wear it now is just a dream.”

naomi ackie met gala
Mike Vitelli/

How is working on a look for the Met Gala different from your average red-carpet styling experience?

“I didn't know a lot about the process at all, but it does feel a lot more intense. For me, it was about seeing what Daniel had created, then talking to my amazing glam team about how to make the dress look its best. Sometimes, on a red carpet, we'll just wing it on the day, because I trust my team so much. But this was very much us bringing references together about hair and make-up and trying to get the feel right. The dress is so chic and simple. We wanted the glam to be feminine and clean so that the dress can really just do its thing.”

How involved do you tend to be with the styling process?

“I like to let them play because I trust them. For the Whitney press, my stylist Nicky Yates and I took inspiration from Whitney in the '80s and played with those kinds of silhouettes and colours. My team and I bond over our love of specific brands or a specific dress we saw on the runway and then we try and work around that. It is always super collaborative and really fun. Ultimately, it's just a laugh and we try not to take it too seriously and to have fun. At the end of the day, you go home and you go back to your normal everyday life. Maintaining this level of glamour is just not sustainable!”

naomi ackie
Mike Vitelli/
naomi ackie met gala
Mike Vitelli/

What kind of fashion makes you feel your most confident?

“I’m a big fan of high-low styling. I like a sleek tracksuit with a good coat and a really good pair of trainers. I just have to be comfortable. My mum always says: fashion is one thing, but if you're always adjusting and having to readjust anything it’s not worth it. So, I find things that are a good quality material that I can wear for years and years and years, that wash really well and that I’m relaxed in.”

How has your style evolved over the years?

“I definitely went through my emo phase, and my Spice Girls phase. Then I really wanted to look like, Aaliyah and Beyoncé when I was in my teens. Now I'm very comfortable in my own skin and everything has gotten really simple. Without sounding weird, I like my face, I like my body, I like my hair and I just want people to see me. The OTT stuff has gone out of the window and I'm just looking for silhouettes that allow me to move around and be me.”

Whose style have you always admired and why?

“What has always really appealed to me is the style of people who really own themselves, someone so unique it would be impossible to imitate. The best example is Rihanna. To me, she has a style that you can't put on another body. It is so her.”

naomi ackie met gala
Mike Vitelli/

What is your ideal getting-ready set up?

“Sometimes the getting-ready part is the most fun! I always start with a bath. Then I make sure I have a good solid breakfast because usually later in the day I get so nervous that I start to lose my appetite. There’s usually so many people in the room all the time, and a lot of energy, so it's just about staying really still within it, enjoying the process and letting people just do their thing. I mean, I have a lot of patience – my hair takes forever. Currently we are half way through and it’s already taken about five hours.”

the mark hotel 2023 met gala departures
Naomi with Stormzy, also in Burberry, ahead of walking the Met Gala red carpetWWD - Getty Images

When do you feel most beautiful?

“When I feel most beautiful is after I've given my face a good wash, had a nice bath and I put on my really good face cream. And then I'm like oh, you're still cute. Especially when the lighting is good in my bedroom! I put on some nice pyjamas and get cosy. That feeling that you are looking after yourself, that makes me feel beautiful.”

Fashion has a reputation for being frivolous, but why does what we wear matter?

“Because it is essential! It's actually really practical, and I think there's beauty in making something practical, beautiful. You have to go outside. You have to wear something. So why not be fucking beautiful?”

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