An all-star panel of celebrity stylists spoke at the Museum at FIT last night. Moderated by Valerie Steele, the group brought June Ambrose, Mary Alice Stephenson, Freddie Leiba, Kathryn Neale and Irene Albright together to discuss the craft of being stylist.
Do you think this is a glamorous profession? June Ambrose had her own reality show and is famous for transforming grungy hip hop artists to fashion role models. Mary Alice Stephenson’s dream closet gets almost as much press as her work with CNN, E! and Harper’s Bazaar. Irene Albright has created the looks for characters of many of your favorite movies and now the curator of the Albright fashionlibrary. Freddie Leiba and Kathryn Neale have received accolades throughout their careers for dressing the stars in magazines, red carpet and onscreen.
Glamour? When host Valerie Steele asked the panel to define what being a stylist is, the answers ranged from babysitter, therapist, butler to ringmaster.
Freddie said his stylist beginnings involved picking up pins. Irene said she spent the first 6 months doing nothing but return clothes. June Ambrose started in this industry as a costume maker because she initially did not have the influence to convince designers to lend her clothes. Mary Alice Stephenson stressed the importance of paying your dues; getting an internship and making sure your dream boss understand how you can make their life easier.
Being a stylist is such a broad title in the fashion industry. The panel defined the differences in dressing a celebrity for a red carpet, actors for a movie, a fashion spread in a magazine. June explained that styling a celebrity for a public appearance is about building their personal brand. Mary Alice explained that all stylists are very protective of their clients as they are entrusted with their most intimate details and play therapist to making them look and feel their best.
An editorial spread in a magazine, the models you dress are hired to execute your vision, as opposed to the celebrity promoting themselves. Freddie Leiba described it as the photographer is the conductor of the orchestra and the stylist is there to play and serve the composition.
Irene Albright described dressing actors in a movie as part of creating the character themselves. Every piece should serve some aspect to who the character or person is in the film.
Many of the fans of this panel were here because they had hopes of becoming a designer or stylist themselves. The panel made very clear that it takes a lot of 18 hour days, frustration and rejection, then perseverance just to survive in this business. They were also very supportive, suggesting helpful tips like making yourself available in any free time you have, trading your volunteer services for access to learning, sending direct messages and being yourself.
The best advice I heard to a budding stylist was Mary Alice Stephenson’s invitation to help out her wonderful Glam For Good organization. She spoke of an upcoming event at the end of May where underprivileged ladies would get the opportunity to be dressed for the upcoming Met Gala where she could help out. Bringing style and glamour to better the world? Genius.