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July 31 2014

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Dressing for Fame: Emily Current and Meritt Elliott Talk Designing, Styling, and Making It Work

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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.

Emily Current and Meritt Elliot

Emily Current and Merritt Elliot You probably know stylists Emily Current and Meritt Elliott from Current/Elliott, their namesake brand that launched a million boyfriend jeans. But before they were designers, they were stylists. And after they departed the label in 2012, Current and Elliott embarked on a journey chock-full of twists and turns that have helped them fine-tune their aesthetic. The women currently work on ad campaigns, editorials, and branded partnerships (their most recent collection for PBteen launched last week), and they even released a book dedicated to denim this past March. Counting Jessica Alba, Emma Roberts, and Mandy Moore as clients, Current and Elliott further their brand appeal with each new look they create. Here, the power pair speaks with Style.com about juggling design projects and celebrity clients, the aesthetic power of the stylist, and the challenges that come with dressing a new actress.

How did you two get into styling?
Meritt Elliott: We jumped from college into different parts of this industry. We worked for magazines and clothing companies, and we saw that the stylists had the most control in terms of being able to articulate and define a trend. It’s actually the physical part of going in and manipulating a garment or a shoe, and it just felt like the most tangible way to achieve what we wanted to see. We both love that hands-on feeling—we share that passion—and we became a team. So it was like, OK, this is the look you want us to do, and this is how we want it to be worn. We felt like stylists had the most power in that respect.

Why did you decide to try your hand at design, and what was it like going from styling to designing?
Emily Current: We were always in fittings and we were always kind of coming up empty when it came to relaxed bottoms and chilled-out denim pieces. A lot of what we were pulling at the time was really dressy. I think our transition into design was organic and it came out of styling—it came out of doing fittings and realizing that there was a hole in the market and that we had the ability to fill it.

As stylists, do you think it’s important to have your own recognizable aesthetic?
ME: It’s inevitable that you develop your own signature when you’re a stylist. I think it’s fifty-fifty—you have to read off of what the client needs or wants or what they’re aiming for, but I also think you have to bring a point of view, and that’s why you’re hired for a job. You’re not there purely to execute, but to bring an opinion. Over the past decade and a half, we’ve learned that it’s important to have an opinion, to speak up, to stand for something.

EC: I do think, though, that we really pride ourselves on sociologically diving into clients and figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and how to express their personalities through what they wear. So while our point of view and aesthetic is really important, it’s more about us being able to translate it through their needs.

Is it difficult catering to varying clients’ needs?
ME: I think, organizationally, it makes us understand a little bit more the full gamut of different needs, different designers, and different proportions. But that makes us better designers and better stylists, not being so one-sided. We love working with women with all different body types, needs, insecurities, and things they like to show off.

EC: We look at each client when we’re prepping for a fitting, and we sit there and put ourselves in their position, like this is a movie we’re promoting, it’s a sexier role, it’s a racier role, and then we look at what they have just worn and what they need to balance that out. We try and get into their headspace and what they need, and it’s always something different.

Do you ever feel a sense of pressure from critics, press, or fans?
ME: We’re not totally naive to the constant commentary going on and people having an opinion on best dressed and worst dressed, but I think we’ve evolved, and at this point in our lives, we care less. The good news is that the clients we work with don’t care that much either, and we love that about our client roster. We love that our brand philosophy is that there are no rules, and whether someone likes it or not doesn’t define whether it’s cool, new, or right for the moment.

Do you find your own partnerships and ventures detract from your styling or does it enhance what you’re doing?
ME: Schedule-wise, it’s hard to juggle. We have an amazing team that helps us. I think that they all hold hands, that we spend more time running all of these projects through our brand filter than anything else, and that exercise has helped us define who we are so much that now it’s easy and it’s much less of a discussion. It’s become such a joy whether we’re writing a book or designing a lamp or a pair of jeans. We now know exactly who our girl is and how [our product] needs to look and feel.

EC: I do think we split our brain into two sections. One is our own design projects, and everything goes through our brand filtering of what our point of view on design is. Then there’s a whole other side of our brain that we use for styling clients and consulting projects, where we go in and wear their hat and think, What does this brand need to build out a stronger business? or What does this client need to evolve within the fashion they’re wearing? So it’s two different hats that we wear.

What are some of the challenges that come along with being stylists?
EC: There are so many, but the one that comes to mind is when you take on a new client who is somewhat less well known, it’s a challenge to build their relationships with designers. When you’re working with someone new, it’s harder to pull the top designers and really vary who they’re wearing and how they’re wearing it.

ME: Along the same line are resources matching expectations. Sometimes a client will want something, whether it’s an advertising client or a celebrity client, and perhaps there isn’t the time or the budget or the availability. You’ve got to work with what you have. Sometimes we have a very narrow amount of resources, and we’re still expected to deliver, so we’re always challenging ourselves on how to be resourceful.

Photo: Getty Images

Karlie Kloss and Taylor Swift: Summer Style Style Twins

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Celebrity Sightings In New York City - July 14, 2014

Karlie Kloss has more in common with Taylor Swift than a new blond ‘do—it turns out the BFFs have a matching weekend uniform, too. Spotted at Sarabeth’s in Tribeca, their off-duty style seems to consist of simple T-shirts, ladylike black bags, and—what else?—denim. Swift opted for distressed cutoffs, while Kloss gave us serious white jean envy. Both looks epitomized a laid-back summer vibe. For more style inspiration, you can check out our favorite cutoff moments and today’s brand-new shopping guide dedicated to another summer favorite: chambray shirts.

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - July 14, 2014

Photo: Raymond Hall/GC Images

Dressing for Fame: Stylist and A.L.C. Designer Andrea Lieberman on What Women Want

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andrea-liebermanIf 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.

Andrea Lieberman is a rare breed of stylist. A success story at styling, no doubt (she put J.Lo on the map in that plunging Versace at the Grammys), Lieberman harnessed that success into A.L.C., her well-received contemporary collection that seems to set the standard of cool season after season. With one foot still delicately placed in the world of styling and one firmly planted in design, the stylist-slash-designer talks exclusively to Style.com about going through the Valentino archives, her friend Arianne Phillips, working with J.Lo, and more.

You’ve done a lot of work styling music artists. Is there anything about styling for music artists that you’ve found different from styling celebrities in general?
My background was always very much a music background. For me, I really enjoyed that collaborative effort and creating a whole image, like an art director. It was more about collaborating on their image and touring and costuming and just really creating a look to go along with the vibe of where the album was.

What compelled you to start designing?
I immersed myself at a young age growing up in New York in the world of fashion, whether it was internships to retail to helping out friends who were stylists. Arianne Phillips is a very dear friend and has always been a huge inspiration of mine. I remember when I met her when we were both young and hanging out in New York. She was one of the first people I knew who worked on music, so she was quite inspiring. In terms of when I made the decision, it was just organic for me, and it felt right at that time in my life. I had a great time styling for ten years, and it was time for me to start a family and shake things up.

Do you think your styling career has informed your design career and vice versa?
As a stylist, you understand women and their wardrobe needs. Whether it’s an artist or a more average person, how they take things from the runway and make it a reality is an interesting thing. That’s how people actually wear things, and I think that’s why there’s been so many street-style blogs. I understand the emotional connection of women getting dressed, what makes them feel good, and what they put on to say, “This makes me feel good, this is what makes me feel strong.” I think from dressing women who were not models, you understand this emotion.

You’re well known for certain looks that you dressed your clients in. Is there one that sticks out to you as your favorite red-carpet moment?
For me, there are quieter moments that might not have gotten attention like the other moments. I had access to the Valentino archives for the Oscars one year (when there was no red carpet) and dressed Jennifer Lopez in a beautiful mint green Valentino dress that [had been] worn by Jackie O. That was a majorly beautiful moment. And I worked with Fred Leighton, and we made these amazing maharaja-inspired earrings out of all platinum and diamonds.

Do you want to be remembered or regarded as a stylist or a designer? Or both?
I just want to be present. Obviously, both. Styling was a really important part of my journey, but maybe I’ll be remembered for the next thing that I do.

Model Elettra Wiedemann Rethinks the Word “Foodie”

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elettraThe fashion set hasn’t always made room on its plate for food. (Champagne, cigarettes, and a little caviar are all an exception to the rule, if they can be counted as that.) But the tides have changed and food and fashion have never been more entwined. Credit people like Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport (formerly of GQ) or models like Karlie Kloss and her cookie collaboration with Momofuku Milk Bar for blending the two worlds together. But the focus isn’t just eating and cooking great dishes, it’s about being conscious of where and how the food was produced.

Cue model Elettra Wiedemann, who just added her own contribution to the culinary scene with her newly launched site, Impatient Foodie. The site is targeted toward people who “want to make responsible food choices but feel overwhelmed sometimes,” Wiedemann, who studied the connection between public health and sustainability at the London School of Economics, tells Style.com. That doesn’t mean she’s created a site loaded with juice recipes—every Thursday, for example, she posts cocktail recipes in the Thirsty Thursday section. We caught up with Wiedemann to hear more about being both a model and a foodie, fashion’s relationship with food, and her new site. Here’s what she had to say.

What is the new definition of a “foodie,” in your opinion?
For me, a foodie is someone who loves to eat food but also wants to be thoughtful about where their food comes from.

In the past, being a foodie and a model hasn’t been a very common pairing. How has your career as a model impacted your relationship with food?
As far as modeling and food, when I was a kid I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it, and didn’t think about health, nutrition, or size at all. Then I started modeling and I had to teach myself how to eat in a new way—namely, lighter and healthier. But I also loved experimenting in the kitchen and re-creating my favorite childhood meals with healthier ingredients. I can credit modeling with refining my palate in a lot of ways.

Fashion has always had a fickle relationship with food. How do you think that is changing right now?
In my experience, fashion is not just about clothes and accessories, but also about artisanship and stories. That is also true of food and where I see American food culture moving today. I think now there is a turn toward connecting to our food and where it comes from for the sake of our own health and the health of our families and communities. For me, excellent, fresh food that can be traced to its producer is the most luxurious and special thing. Also, food magazines have clearly been influenced by fashion magazines in their aesthetic and lifestyle angle.

Strawberry Clafoutis

Yes, food culture has definitely become more ingrained in fashion culture in recent years. Do you think food and fashion is a trend, or is it just a way of life at this point?
I think there are some food trends, but like I said before, once you try excellent food it’s very hard to turn back. I really want to make responsible food choices, but I also have a hectic professional life. We are all hooked on convenience, and in my opinion, that is what seasonal food purveyors need to start addressing. This is incredibly difficult because so much about local, seasonal, responsibly sourced food is totally incongruous with the industrial scale food model that dominates today.

What has been your greatest cooking catastrophe?
There are so many, it’s hard to know where to begin. Unlike other food sites, I share my fails on Impatient Foodie. For example, if you look on the site right now, I talk about how making homemade mozzarella totally sucks and is not “so easy,” like other food sites brag. It’s so not easy. It’s complicated and requires a lot of time and you need to buy things like a nonreactive pan. Forget it—just go buy some at the store or the farmers’ market.

What can we expect from your site in the near future?
We have a Friends section on the site where I share recipes and dishes from my fashion and film friends. My question for them is always, “What are you cooking after a long day at the office or on set?” I’ve gotten back some fantastic dishes so far. My IMO pieces will be my take on various food issues of the day, and I try to connect it to recipes. For example, I’m researching tuna right now and, because it’s so endangered, trying to create dishes that would substitute tuna for another fish. I know we all love tuna, but we have almost completely decimated the population. I think to say to “never eat tuna again” will not work, but how about just eating it once a month and figuring out other alternatives?

Photos: Kevin Sinclair; Davide Luciano with food styling by Claudia Ficca

Q&A: Lanvin’s Elie Top Is Launching High Jewelry, Was Bottle-Fed Chanel

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Elie TopElie Top, the fashion jewelry designer behind Lanvin’s remarkable baubles, announced today that he would launch a line of precious and semi-precious jewelry during the Couture shows in January. In an exclusive interview, Top spoke with Style.com about his lifelong influences, his friendships with Alber Elbaz and Loulou de la Falaise, and how he intends to handle high fashion as he ventures into the ever-expanding “haute jo” [high jewelry] category.

Finally! What convinced you to take the leap?
I’ve always had the idea of doing my own jewelry, but it was really about meeting the right people at the right time, ¬plus I’m not sure I was creatively mature enough before. And then there came a time to decide, and that’s when I met all the right people at the right time. They all complement each other. It was a good match. I’m really happy about it.

How do you envision your own brand?
I consider it sort of haute fantasy jewelry based on my experience in
costume jewelry. I want to take advantage of all the sophisticated techniques and possibilities high jewelry offers. For me, it’s a natural extension of my aesthetic and my taste for couture and costume jewelry, recast through the prism of high jewelry. I’m very French, so it will be a French brand, entirely. We’ll have a little salon where I can receive clients and design exclusive pieces. I’m obsessed with doing things myself from beginning to end. The point is to remain exclusive without being elitist.

Who do you look to from the past to define that style?
There are my basic-basics: I was practically bottle-fed on Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, who are the foundation of fashion jewelry in the noblest sense. There are so many things I love: Art Deco, Despres, Fouquet; then Boivin and Belperron are always hovering in the background.

But a lot is about what I feel like now and the season, because I live in the world of fashion. It could be Belle Époque garlands one minute, or something very Baroque the next. And it’s not just jewelry—earlier this year I saw Einstein on the Beach in Paris and it was phenomenal, just extraordinary. But architecture, especially Art Deco, has always been important to me. I am always torn between that and things I loved as a child.

Which were?
Versailles, Vaux le Vicomte, Venice, Rome, and churches in general. From a young age I was crazy for Baroque. I would spend hours drawing my own meticulously detailed churches and castles that were a total mash-up of Italian Baroque and French classicism. My parents were kind of post-68 hippies—they had no idea what to do with that. Later I discovered the more radical, pure modern art of the inter-war period, which influenced me in terms of line and is much more mechanical, industrial, and constructed. So my aesthetic centers on two contradictory codes. It’s like a morganatic marriage between fantasy and nobility. At some point, much later, it dawned on me that I’m still doing what I was doing when I was 8 years old. Right now I’m calling it futuristico-Baroque. It’s an improbable fusion of two worlds.

What’s the storyline for your first collection?
There are many stories that compose the same story, about twenty pieces in all. I’m not obsessed by the value of the stone itself; for me, it’s more about design, conception, volumes, etc. If the stone is very important, that’s great, but I hope the value will be in the work itself. I’m totally not interested in doing just a diamond necklace. I love the
possibilities of mixing things up.

What did Alber Elbaz say about your decision?
He’s always been supportive; it’s a conversation we’d had for a long time. That was liberating, because he always told me I should be thinking about that, that it was important. I was just starting as an assistant when we met, when he joined Yves Saint Laurent. He’s the one who put me to work on accessories and jewelry fifteen years ago. I consider myself very lucky to have met him when I did. The same goes for Loulou.

What was your relationship with Loulou de la Falaise?
Love and admiration. She and Alber were the biggest influences in my life
between the ages of 20 and 30, and she was very intuitive. When it came to jewelry, among other things, she was so un-bourgeois; there was no snobbery, just a love of beauty. She didn’t overthink fashion, she just threw pieces together and it came out great. Precious things are not always what the world says they are. It can come in all sorts of shapes.

How will you juggle Lanvin and Top?
It’s easy for me, because its not the same story. What I do for Lanvin is for Alber—it’s guided by his collection, and it’s about the clothes and his world. But it’s costume jewelry, and it’s subject to the fashion calendar. High jewelry is based on other techniques, so I wind up doing something completely different. But I’m used to working a lot—I love it. Eventually I’d like to do other lifestyle objects, too. I’m only just getting started!

Photos: François Goizé