With New York Fashion Week wrapping up, I was thinking it is a great occasion to introduce you guys to the profession of a fashion stylist and talk about those people that stand behind glamorous celebrity looks and incredible outfits of NYFW attendees. Today, I am chatting with a good friend of mine, a wardrobe expert and style coach Carmen Adriana. She has worked with such A-List celebrities as Christie Brinkley, Mariah Carey, Carmen Electra and (!) Michael Jackson. In this exclusive interview for the StyleSprinter blog Carmen tells about her path to success and provides helpful advice for up and coming stylists.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far. What path did you take to become a professional fashion stylist?
Well, I actually studied music therapy in college but I always loved fashion, and even more personal style. I came to NYC for an internship at a hospital and was immediately starry eyed with all the amazing clothes and boutiques. When I was done with my degree a very close friend suggested that since I loved fashion so much, why don’t I try to get a job on Madison Avenue? So I landed a sales job at the Nicole Miller boutique. From there I went to Bloomingdales, Henri Bendel and finally Carmen Marc Valvo where I was an account executive for the line. I had a layoff after September 11 and decided that I wanted to try styling. I was referred to Phillip Bloch, who needed an assistant one day for a fitting with Halle Berry and I never looked back. I put in my time assisting other stylists, working at a live morning television show for ESPN and finally starting my own business helping women everywhere rule their world in style!
Today is the last day of New York Fashion Week, and I know that you were extremely busy working for various fashion shows. Tell us more about how the work of a fashion stylist looks like over the fashion week?
I love Fashion Week! Typically, I’m invited to lots of shows at Lincoln Center and fashion presentations elsewhere during the week. I try to go to as many as possible so see new styles and get ideas for my clients. I also work with Carmen Marc Valvo to direct is show—getting the timing right is key. It’s unbelievable the amount of manpower and the coordination effort that goes into just one 12 minutes show!
How does your typical workday look like over the “normal” not fashion weekday? What is the first business-related thing you do in the morning?
My days very greatly and that is one reason I love what I do. I’ll tell you my most recent.
5:30 AM | Wake up and get ready for the day.
7:00 AM | Jitney to the city from East Hampton. While on the bus I catch up on emails: follow up with designers, confirm closet and shopping appointments for next week, make wardrobe plans for clients, put the finishing touches on a presentation I will be giving to a group of real estate professionals next week.
10:00 AM | I arrive in the city, grab a coffee and head to Lord and Taylor to choose jewelry to show to a client later in the day.
11: 30 AM | I walk to Saks where my afternoon appointment with Betty Liu from Bloomberg News will take place. On the way I take a few phone calls.
Noon | I arrive at Saks, order lunch in the personal shopping department and head out on the sales floor to choose Betty’s Fall/Winter wardrobe. I have room full of clothes for her to look at by the time she arrives.
2:00 AM | Betty arrives and we get down to business. First I have her go through the rack and edit anything she doesn’t really like. We have been working together for almost five years so I have a keen understanding of what with work for her. She edits maybe five pieces. Over the next hour and a half she tries everything on. She has a particular budget so the challenge becomes what to leave out. She has an amazing wardrobe now because we have been working together so long. We no longer need to shop for basics because she has them all. We can now look for super special pieces and higher price points that she can work in with her basics.
4:30 PM | Betty and I finish up and the amazing team at Saks rings us up and ships out Betty’s wardrobe. I head to grab a quick bite.
5:45 PM | I’m back on the Jitney for the ride home. I do some social media around my day and then read a few fashion magazines I have on my iPad.
8:30 PM | I’m home.
What are the five must-have items that you always carry in your bag?
Topstick, black safety pins, my phone and charger, small notebook and pen, and bright lipstick or gloss.
Over your career, you worked with such icons as Christie Brinkley, Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson, and styled projects for the NFL, White Collar, and Full Frontal Fashion. Which celebrity collaboration did you enjoy the most and why?
I’d have to say that working with Michael Jackson was the most amazing experience. It was impossible not to be starstruck. Pretty much everyone has some type of Michael Jackson story. His music was the background for many lives. I never thought as a little girl listening to Thriller that I would ever be helping him pick out clothes. It was mind boggling to watch him transform from shy guy to MICHAEL JACKSON when he stepped in front of the camera. Truly a King of Pop!
You are working with private clients both in New York and the Hamptons. Did you notice that tastes of the clients in both areas differ? Are there any style preferences that they share?
Both New York and the Hamptons clients are very sophisticated. They love shopping and style and are always looking for great pieces. The Hamptons lifestyle is much more relaxed so our challenge is to make sure it doesn’t cross the line into sloppiness. The lines are blurred a little stylewise since you could easily wear the same dress to walk on the beach, go to a winery and then out to dinner. The trick is knowing how to identify that piece. Sometimes looking effortless requires a lot of effort!
In the city, things are more structured and there are more distinct compartments in style. An afternoon at the flea market, lunch at a café and dinner downtown all require different looks. And let’s not forget what you would wear to work!
How can you describe your own style?
I usually describe my style as classic, vintage and edgy. When I’m out shopping for myself I’m very emotional. A piece has to make me feel a certain way or I won’t buy it. I have a lot of vintage clothes in my closet because I feel a bit like I’m in a movie when I wear them. I love bright colors mostly but am not against wearing all black as well.
What are the three biggest styling lessons that you’ve learned?
- Make sure the fit is perfect | Not only does it simply look better, you will feel better because the item will lie on your body the way it is supposed to. There is nothing worse than tugging on something all day because it doesn’t fit right.
- Proportion is key | Make sure everything in your outfit is balanced. If you have a loose top, balance it with a tighter bottom or vice versa.
- Wear good underwear | A bra that doesn’t fit right can ruin your whole outfit.
What would you recommend to someone who wants to become a fashion stylist?
I say go for it! The first thing I would recommend is to find someone to assist or to intern with. You can really learn so much this way. Be prepared to work hard—the job is also very physical. You have to be on your feet for a really long time carrying heavy shopping bags. You also must be very organized—working with budgets, receipts, negotiating with designers and stores. An entrepreneurial attitude is key!
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