This year, Daniela Vega became the first openly transgender presenter at the Academy Awards. An FIT alumnus, working with W magazine, dressed her for the red carpet.
Vega, star of A Fantastic Woman, the Chilean winner for Best Foreign Language Film, was invited to introduce a performance by Sufjan Stevens. W had arranged to style her and produce an article and video about it, and they hired contributing editor William Graper, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’08, to work with her onsite in Los Angeles.
Graper had been affiliated with W since he was a student—he landed a paid internship that evolved into an editorial assistant position under the fashion director.
“I took interning as seriously as my classes,” Graper says. “Just going to school is not enough. Being in New York gives you the opportunity to meet people while you’re still in school.” He assisted on photo shoots for W, Vogue Russia, Vogue Italia and V magazine for nearly six years, working with some of the biggest stylists in the industry, many of whom became his mentors. Armed with a solid portfolio, he struck out on his own as a freelance editor, working for Harper’s Bazaar, W, Elle and The Cut. He has also styled celebrities including Katy Perry, Jared Leto, and Lorde.
A week before the Oscars, Vega tried on a dozen of the 40 dresses picked for her and chose a fuchsia chiffon with a high neck and a ruffled hem by Maria Lucia Hohan.
“When she put it on, she started dancing in it—she came alive,” Graper says. “I knew that was the dress.”
He paired it with Chopard emerald earrings and a shoe with a stacked heel, which provided extra stability and comfort for the high-pressure night.
“I just want to help women feel beautiful,” Graper says. “I don’t want to get my name out there by doing something crazy. In styling photographs, it’s a different story—I can play there. But not when you’re dealing with real people.”
Until the LGBT news outlets picked up the story, Graper didn’t realize quite how important Vega’s appearance was for trans visibility. “I don’t get caught up in that stuff. That’s about everyone else—I try to stay with the task at hand: to make someone as beautiful as possible with the resources I have in front of me.”
See more of Graper on Instagram (@william_graper) and his web series for Harper’s Bazaar, WTFashion?!, in which he takes viewers thrift-store shopping and plans a chic funeral for himself. “The future of styling is not necessarily being on set and dressing for the red carpet,” he says. “You have to build out your brand.”