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Dressing for Fame: Karla Welch on Styling Hollywood’s Elite

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If celebrity status is conferred in red-carpet appearances, then no actress today can compete without the help of just the right stylist. As Kerry Washington once told Glamour after she noticeably upped the sartorial ante, “There were a couple of actresses whom I felt were having the upper hand careerwise—because they knew how to work that red carpet.” A carefully crafted collaboration between stylist and client, the perfect look can create an indelible impact on agents, casting directors, and those of us watching from the sidelines. Straight from the epicenter of all things celebrity, we’ve asked some of the industry’s top stylists to share their experiences and impressions from their perch above Tinseltown. With our new Dressing for Fame series, we bring you an exclusive, insider look at everything it takes to create those iconic moments captured by a million photo flashes.

Karla Welch

Karla WelchAs one-half of the bicoastal styling team Kemal & Karla, Karla Welch holds down the proverbial fort in Los Angeles (her partner does the same in New York), tending to her coterie of clients. Those “girls,” as she affectionately calls them, include an array of talents, such as Amy Poehler, Zooey Deschanel, Olivia Wilde, Robin Wright, and Hailee Steinfeld. Bringing a relaxed California vibe to the partnership, Welch’s résumé spans an impressive list of advertising campaigns, editorials, commercials, and those always-prescient red-carpet appearances. With a keen sense of individuality and an astute awareness of her clients’ singular needs, Welch delivers looks that are fitting for the wearer, and breathtaking for us watching at home. Here, Welch reveals exclusively to Style.com how she juggles her busy schedule, what it takes to find the perfect red-carpet look, and the most important thing she’s learned along the way.

How did you originally break into styling?
I made my husband [photographer Matthew Welch] hire me.

What was your pivotal “I made it” moment?
Ha, I’m not sure. I’ve never thought about it—though my trip to Dallas this year for the Chanel show was pretty epic. I’m forever excited to keep growing.

Mad Men just premiered and Elisabeth Moss has had quite the red-carpet run. How has her style evolved over the show’s many seasons?

Lizzie and I have just been working together for the last year and a half. It’s been fun to work our way into these great fashion moments and having designers wanting to lend. Her talent is huge—we came together at a wonderful point.

You worked with Amy Poehler on her Golden Globes wardrobe. How does styling an awards show host differ from styling a single red-carpet look?
Well, the main thing is that she is working up there. She has to be able to move, look great on camera, do a quick change, win! But the process is similar to anyone attending. We just times it by four.

Do you think a dress should be able to stand on its own, or do you sometimes want the accessories to really shine?
The dress is the cake. The rest is the icing.

Do you ever have a typical day? If so, what does it look like?
Coffee. Team meeting. E-mails. Showroom pulls. Store pulls. Fitting. Home. Sleep. Repeat.

Where can we usually find you—and what are you doing—at the end of awards season?
Moving on to the next.

How do you manage all of your numerous clients and their disparate personalities, aesthetics, and tastes?
Whenever I start with a new client or a press tour for one of my girls, I try to really clear my mind and think, Where are we going with our look? What story are we telling? From there, I do market work for each client every season and keep a bible of what I will request for specific events. You know with each client what will work, who will like what. We keep notes, but I’ve worked with the majority of my clients for many years, so it’s all in my brain.

If you weren’t styling, what would you be doing?
Fighting for girls and women’s rights. Professionally.

What have you learned from red-carpet mishaps?

Always have a backup dress.

How do you manage your own style when you’re working so feverishly on other people’s looks?
I can dress in ten minutes and I always have a red lip!

Photo: Joe Schildhorn /BFAnyc.comĀ 

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