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August 29 2014

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Dressing for Fame: Kate Young on Styling the Stars

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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 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.

Kate Young

Kate Young

Compelling. Unique. Memorable. These are words that come to mind when looking through the portfolio of stylist Kate Young’s work. Groomed at Vogue, Young is behind the looks of many of today’s most-photographed Hollywood darlings, and she steps seamlessly between advertising campaigns, editorial shoots, and major red-carpet moments. Whether she’s taking Emilia Clarke beyond Khaleesi in curve-hugging creations, furthering Michelle Williams’ gamine streak in an enviable parade of Louis Vuitton, or putting Dakota Johnson on the fashion map, Young creates looks that show both artistry and ingenuity. Here, she shares exclusively with Style.com how she got her start, what informs her work, and her thoughts on the stylist-as-celebrity trend.

Was there a particular experience that really helped to launch your styling career?
Getting a job as an assistant at Vogue.

What role did your education have in your success? Do you feel that your Oxford degree has helped to set you apart?
I’m sure it helped shape who I am and my aesthetic and made me more confident in my voice. But I think that my taste is sort of what it is. It shifts and changes with time, but it’s been fundamentally the same since childhood.

How did working at Vogue mold the way you approach styling?
I didn’t style before Vogue—I started working there when I was 20! I do think of my time at Vogue as graduate school—it refined my taste and taught me so much about real fashion and what that actually is. I also learned about fantasy and what makes a good picture.

How do you find working in New York different from working in L.A.? Does each city have its own expectations or parameters?
I love working in L.A. in January and February—it’s soooooo amazing to take off your coat and leave it in the trunk till you get back on the plane. I tend to do all my pulls in NYC and then travel with the clothes. So I do fittings and shoots in L.A., but most of my prep is in New York.

Do you ever find your personal style infiltrating your styling choices or are you able to keep them separate?
My personal style is stark and simple. I always love that. But I love color and print and girlish details in my work. My taste is consistent in my clothes and my clients—but my life is extremely different from theirs and I don’t have to worry about what I look like in a picture.

Have you had any red-carpet mishaps?
Once when it was time for the actress to leave, we went to put on her dress and it was way, way too small. The tailor had overdone it. I learned to always try the dress on and check alterations before they go into hair and makeup.

Some of your clients work closely with specific fashion houses. Do you enjoy working within those relationships?
I’m lucky because my clients have affiliations with the most amazing designers. I’d honestly be requesting the same clothes for them! They’ve aligned with brands that mirror their style.

You recently created a capsule collection for Target. Do you think stylists are slowly becoming the trendsetters? Are they the real arbiters of style?
I loved working with Target. It was a dream come true. I think that my job is really interesting and fun…I love hearing about how other stylists work and what they like to wear, so I understand why people are interested. I mean, stylists usually have the best style. I recently had to stalk [stylist] Samira Nasr to find out where she got her incredible jeans (they were Acne).

Celebrity stylists have become celebrities in and of themselves. How do you manage the intense focus and scrutiny on your life and what you wear?
I don’t really pay attention to it, and honestly, “celebrity” is relative. I know a ton of famous people…and I’m not one of them! I’m flattered when people say they like my work.

Photo: Courtesy Photo 

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