Thirty-Five Years Later, Lori Goldstein Is Still Excited
If you’ve picked up an issue of W, Vogue Italia, or Vanity Fair in the last thirty-five years, you’ve probably seen the work of Lori Goldstein. Famed for her expertly piled-on, more-is-more aesthetic (with the exception of that iconic Demi Moore cover, on which the actress appeared nude, pregnant, and accessorized only with diamonds), Goldstein has collaborated with all the greats—from Donatella Versace to Annie Leibovitz to Mario Testino. On November 1, the New York-based stylist (along with Harpers Design) will release Style Is Instinct, a retrospective tome comprising her most memorable photographs, with a heartfelt introduction from close friend Steven Meisel. “It’s kind of the crescendo of my styling career,” offered Goldstein, who currently serves as the editor at large at Elle and designs her own line for QVC. While sitting in her closet, which Goldstein told us is filled with “every Proenza tie-dye shirt, Dries Van Noten’s entire Fall collection, and plenty of print and embellishment,” the image-maker talks the art of styling, how the industry has changed, and why, “after 400 years” in the biz, she’s still excited.
In Steven Meisel’s introduction to the book, he calls you an artist. Do you feel that styling is an art?
You know, if you had asked me that ten years ago, I probably would have laughed. I do, and honestly, not to use that term loosely, but I think that I’ve learned that when you follow your heart and you do something that you love and you’re creative, that you have an artist’s mind, and that your lifestyle is very different. I think tapping into that for all of us is so important. So today, I have to say, yes.
The title of the book is Style Is Instinct. When did you first realize that you had the instinct for style? When I was born. That’s been my gift through life. I’ve just always loved beautiful things; I was always attracted to putting things together; I always loved playing with clothes; I loved, loved, loved clothes. I didn’t even call it “fashion,” because that’s a whole other thing. I was drawn to sparkly, gorgeous things. I was born in Ohio, and somehow I just saw the beauty in it all, thank God.
How do you feel that the role of the stylist has changed throughout the course of your career?
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the book. We all know how it’s changed—it’s become much more of a business. When I started going to shows, it was like Helmut Lang and Ann Demeulemeester, and this really organic, just awesome creative time; I was so lucky. I worked at Allure. We did Vogue Italia. And there was really no such thing as credits. We just did whatever we wanted, which was amazing. But I love the time now because I also love a challenge. Today there are parameters and there are rules, but within that, you’ve got to make something incredible.
Have the Internet and social media changed your approach to image making?
It has not changed my approach, but we love our Instagram, and it’s just such a fast pace. It’s ridiculous. I think that one thing that has changed is that, when you look at Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair, or Michael Jackson, you’re like, “Oh!” Those images stay with us because you had a moment to savor things back then. And now it’s, “Wait, did I see that? Because I just saw a hundred other things.” Unless something really sticks with you, it can just come and go at the speed of sound, and we could forget something really important that could be worth saving.
Speaking of the Demi Moore shoot, you’ve styled unforgettable editorials with everyone from her to Madonna to Michael Jackson. Was there any point in your career when you realized you had made it?
I think I realized it when I sublet a place for six months and was there about three nights. I was on the road all the time with Annie [Leibovitz], traveling. When I had a moment to sit back, I would think, Wow. I just knew that I was in this privileged, awesome, major place, and we were of-the-moment creating. It was this moment in time, and I knew that it was pop culture. It’s not something that I was in awe of, but I knew that I was a part of something that was going to be long-lasting, as history and time have proved.
Can you speak to the differences of styling a model or celebrity for an editorial versus styling a runway show?
I am a fashion stylist, and people don’t understand quite what a fashion stylist is as opposed to a celebrity stylist, which has gotten a lot of press because of where we are in today’s world. I love the chameleon aspect of my work. I have the privilege of working with actors and writers and artists and musicians in a world where we do editorials and create images—it’s not just styling people. I also love getting into the head of clients, so I love the runway. I love the aspect of working with the client from the inception of his next collection. At Versace, I really got to be a huge part of the creative process, and I got to work with one of my best friends, Steven Meisel, on the campaign. So that’s a very memorable time in my career. I’m not a Versace woman, but I adore [understanding] my clients, and becoming that—them. On the other side, if I get to do a great job, like shoot Cate Blanchett for W, and I get to meet an extraordinary person, I love that, too!
You’re known for mixing unexpected pieces that most people wouldn’t dream of putting together. How do you visualize that?
I have always seen clothes that way. I always say “There’s a method to the madness.” I think it’s just being fearless. I’m a rebel. It all stems from that “You can’t tell me what I can’t do” energy. I’m a very organic stylist. I don’t put my looks together beforehand. I hunt and gather, and then it just comes to me. Putting my outfits together beforehand would sort of ruin it for me. But I think there’s a beauty in the madness, and there’s a harmonious discord. That doesn’t mean it always works. It’s really this fine-tuning, and proportion is a huge part of it. There doesn’t ever have to be too much if it’s done right, and I think it’s beautiful to find the unexpected.
Steven’s intro also mentions that you stay out of the politics of fashion. How do you manage to do that, and why do you feel it’s so important?
I don’t think I have a choice—it’s who I am. I never really understood why people pay for PR. I was always from the school of “You do your work, and your work speaks for you in whatever way it speaks.” I’m an open book. Everyone who knows me knows I have no secrets.
What do you want people to take away from this book?
I want them to understand what it’s really like. You know, you see a picture and you don’t really know what happened, and everyone thinks it’s such a glamorous life. I hope that the next generation gets to see what it was like then and how it’s different now. In my career, I took a path of my own. I can’t be at a magazine. So when I started styling, stylist was kind of a dirty word—if you weren’t an editor…and I found my own way. I hope that will inspire this next generation to know that you can do whatever you want to do with that passion and hard work.
Do you think that fashion is as inspiring today as when you started your career? I think fashion, as in the clothing that people are putting out, is more extraordinary than ever. Techniques and fabrics and design are more incredible than ever. I’m in my closet right now—honey, if you could see this closet—I’m looking at all my pretty clothes, and it is art. I think fashion is exciting now because no one even knew what it was back then. And I think the world we live in where everything is out there—kids are seeing that it can be a business, and I find that really exciting. And I think it’s exciting for this next generation in a whole different way. We know the world’s changing. It’s not about magazines per se anymore, and it’s about finding that next way to express yourself. You just find the things that excite you. You gotta keep it going. I’m still styling and I’m never going to stop. And after 400 years, I’m still excited.