Christian Siriano Talks Authenticity & Mental Health Ahead of Fashion’s Biggest Night

Updated: May 07, 2024

The designer, 38, premieres an unexpected campaign at this year's Met Gala.

The Met Gala is one of the most iconic fashion events of the year—but perhaps the only task more tiring than donning that costume couture all night is to be one of the designers responsible for making sure the A-listers serve camera-worthy looks.

Christian Siriano is one of those fashion masters who’s grown to be a Met Gala fixture. Siriano tells us that just like the stars he dresses, when the night is over a designer needs his beauty sleep. Ahead of this year’s Met Gala, he partnered with sleep aid brand Unisom to tie in with this year’s Met Gala theme, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” Siriano is showcasing a custom creation, along with a few archival designs, which models will wear while “falling asleep” at famous landmarks throughout Manhattan.

Does the greatest height of fashion on the biggest night of fashion energize or exhaust this young legend? Here’s what Christian says.

 Christian Siriano and Lili Reinhart head to The 2021 Met Gala with Audi, the official electric vehicle sponsorEugene Gologursky/getty images
Christian Siriano and Lili Reinhart head to the 2021 Met Gala.

The Healthy: Christian, is there any better look than the look of someone who’s well rested? I’m even thinking of how when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, I have more energy to pick an outfit I’ll feel really good in. How does sleep affect your confidence?

Christian Siriano: Yeah, it’s funny, because actually why I wanted to do this and why I wanted to work with Unisom is because I feel like it’s something that we don’t talk about enough and we forget that it is the most important thing, especially for me as a creative. If I don’t really sleep, I can’t be up at that 8 a.m. fitting or I can’t really focus on whatever I’m trying to create because I’m mentally blocked. So for me it’s super important. It’s something that me and my team really try to focus on. I’m like, “We are not staying in the office until 1 a.m. working on a dress.” We just don’t do it, and I think that’s because we’re more productive when we have sleep and we focus. I hope people think about that.

The Healthy: Fashion is clearly a way to embrace our most authentic selves, no doubt among LGBTQ+ people. One great example of how you’ve illustrated this was your iconic tuxedo gown for Billy Porter. Can you talk a bit about how aligning fashion with identity can help someone’s mental wellness?

Billy Porter in a dressSantiago Felipe/getty images

Christian Siriano: I really do think that clothes are emotional—they can be very emotional—and I think it’s sometimes more important than we think. With Billy that night, Billy really wanted to be authentically Billy. I think being in something that was feminine and masculine—Is it a gown, is it a tuxedo? What is it?—really, really kicked off a global conversation since obviously it was at the Oscars and the first time any kind of man had ever worn a dress [there].

But I think it was very important for our culture and our world to see that there are no rules. We should be able to wear what we want to wear, and how we present. We should be able to wear what is comfortable or feels good on our skin or our body. I don’t think there is this higher power saying what we should be doing. I’m glad that this generation now is changing that, and I’m trying to do that. I love that it can be anyone and anything and you can wear whatever you want to wear. That’s kind of why I’m still loving fashion more so than ever. 

The Healthy: How do you prep for the Met Gala…and how do you unwind after?

Christian Siriano: I really actually do focus on the person I’m working with. That’s kind of what’s funny. I feel like that’s usually my goal. I want to make sure that they feel as confident as possible because really it’s them that everyone’s looking at and not really as much about me, but it’s more about my work and how we present it to the world.

Christian Fitting ModelsShane LaVancher/Courtesy Unisom

Even this shoot that we’re doing with Unisom that’s on such an important fashion day and we’re going to be shooting all over the streets of New York and on all the steps of these iconic places, and we want it to feel fashion and beautiful and romantic, but also so powerful. Then at the end of the night, honestly, I hope that we get to just have a little bit of fun because it is a lot of pressure and stress too, and you really want to unwind. And then I will be sleeping very much. As much as possible. 

Unisom Christian siriano Group of modelsShane LaVancher/Courtesy Unisom

The Healthy: So important! Would you agree that our collective aesthetic, even in traditionally polished settings, has grown more relaxed post-pandemic? We think it’s kind of fun to see people making choices, like pairing sneakers with business clothes. We’re curious what you think this says about the time we’re living in and if there are any looks that you’re particularly loving. 

Christian Siriano: I definitely see that world, but I think in my world, what happened in the pandemic for us was we got the total opposite shift afterward. People wanted to go so glamorous because they felt, I think, a bit trapped. It has been really fun, we’ve been making so many amazing things for people. Even red carpets, things that I’ve done in the last couple years have been more over the top than I’ve done in the past. That’s been really fun to see and kind of nice to play around with. And it’s definitely inspiring for us, at least in our studio. I feel like, listen, we’re not making jeans in a T-shirt. We’re making something a bit more. 

The Healthy: We know you travel a ton. In the past, we’ve covered some of the locations where science shows people can really de-stress. Are there any specific places you’re planning to spend some downtime this year? 

Christian Siriano: I’m definitely going to be in Paris a little bit more this year, which has been really something that I just wanted to do, and feel kind of inspired there. That’s kind of it. Then I go to my house in Connecticut and honestly, that’s where I can completely unwind and take a chill. 

The Healthy: Is there a self-care ritual that you can’t skip? 

Christian Siriano: Oh God, I wish. No, you know what it is? Honestly, the best part of my day is literally when I get into bed. We don’t have TVs in our bedroom, me and my boyfriend, and I sketch a lot at night, and it’s something I do before I go to sleep. It’s something that I actually have to do every night. Yeah, that’s kind of my own little self-care thing.