As it has been preached to me in the past, stylists are the unsung heroes of the fashion industry. Designers, hair and makeup artists, even the models get far more attention and praise than many stylists do—which is ironic, as this is the position that often ties everything together, coordinating the many elements that make up a fashion show or photo shoot to bring out the best in everyone. So with that said, this blog is going to make an effort to feature more of these individuals going forward, and we'll start with Laura Kiechle. A returning SLC native, Kiechle has already had an impressive freelance career working with dozens of magazines, award shows, musicians and various showcases across parts of the U.S. and Spain. She recently returned to Utah and took part in last month's Art Meets Fashion showcase, and is currently in the process of furthering her career here. Today we chat with Kiechle about her career and the work she does. (All pictures courtesy of Kiechle.
Gavin: Hey Laura, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Laura Kiechle styling the Punk-themed UMOCA Vicious Gala Fashion Show in Salt Lake City at The Complex on 6/6/15.
I’m a Salt Lake City native who moved around for 10 years after high school and ended up for the last few as a wardrobe stylist in Los Angeles. After living in New York, Spain, Portland, Oregon and, of course, California, I decided Salt Lake was where I wanted and needed to be. Now I’m represented by Agency EOS as a Key Stylist in Salt Lake and love the diversity of styling work here and am enjoying all that Utah has to offer.
Gavin: What first got you interested in fashion and what were some early influences on you?
My sister and I got a Vogue
subscription for Christmas when we were very young. We would pore through it and cut each issue to pieces. I’m really visual, so the idea of editorial styling was so alien and intriguing to me. I love literature as well, so telling a story or creating characters with fashion was something that interested me instantly from a very young age. And playing dress up. Always dress up.
Gavin: Prior to education in the field, what was it like for you figuring out how the fashion industry worked?
Before entering that world I knew nothing. I had a degree in literature. My scheme for breaking into the business was just to see whose work I aspired to, then email them and offer to work for free as an intern. I got really lucky with timing. I would email someone I really admired the day an assistant quit or right as an extra hand was needed. Once I got a response, I would work hard and never complain. The paid assistant work came later once the stylists learned to trust me and depend on me.
Gavin: What made you decide to attend Sarah Lawrence, and what was your time like there?
Sarah Lawrence was a dream. I studied art history and read Proust and went into Manhattan on the weekends to people watch and walk the museums. I didn't decide to become a stylist until I moved to Los Angeles, but New York held so much inspiration. I loved walking up and down Fifth Avenue looking at what the huge fashion designers were doing, but I also loved how people expressed themselves just through their clothing riding the subway.
Gavin: What motivated you toward being a stylist? And for those unaware, what does that job entail?
I started work at a sales job in a showroom in Los Angeles. Part of my duties included lending
clothing to stylists. I became curious about where all the clothing was going and had to find out for myself. Sales never really interested me anyway. Being a wardrobe stylist means bringing all the options possible to a photo shoot or fitting. It's all about trying different options until the perfect outfit is reached. This includes not only clothing, but undergarments, shoes, accessories, hats, and jewelry. It even requires costumes and sports uniforms depending on the assignment. It's a lot to keep track of, and more goes on behind the scenes than anyone realizes. It’s bringing an entire customized pop-up store to the site of the shoot, and then returning everything afterward to all the different places it came from.
Gavin: I read you attended the School Of Style and were mentored by Maeve Reilly for a few years. What was your time like working with her and learning the ropes?
I recommend doing School of Style in New York or L.A. to anyone who is interested in pursuing styling. The classes are only a few days, and the information is invaluable; they go over the ins and outs of the business in full detail with no sugar-coating. It’s an eye-opening experience,
and gave me the skills needed to keep up on set in a situation where there isn’t time to ask questions. Working with Maeve Reilly was my first big break, she is so tenacious and so talented. Working with someone as consistently as I worked with her dressing Janelle Monae, Demi Lovato, Kat Graham, and Rumer Willis was what taught me a lot of what I know about fittings, tailoring, brand relationships, body type, and even about how to put together a look. Her love of diamonds was a constant source of anxiety as her assistant, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of working with her for the world.
Gavin: What was it like for you finally setting out on your own and getting new gigs?
If you're an experienced assistant stylist, you are able to handle the prep work of an entire job by yourself, with the help of an intern or two. You can spend days requesting pieces from different brands both here in the United States and internationally. You bring everything to set, then the Key Stylist arrives and makes the final calls, using their creativity and knowledge to put together the looks. The transition to Key Stylist means you get to call the shots. In Los Angeles, it’s impossible for one person to do it all themselves because of traffic and distance. In Salt Lake City, I can prep to my heart’s content and then I get to call the shots, too. I must say, it feels really good.
Gavin: What's the process like for you when you get a new client or assignment?
Usually a job has a mood board, which is just a collage of images that serves to create the feeling of the shoot. From a mood board, I focus on what the feeling is that the client wants and shop from there. Good stylists meet expectations, but can also predict from the mood board what a client might like that they didn’t even think was possible. This is why bringing as many good options as you can is the whole name of the game, to exceed the expectations.
Gavin: How much pre-planning do you take into account before you start a new project compared to what you do on-the-fly when you get there?
Prep work is everything. You need all the pieces ready to combine, try on, look at, re-arrange, like having a tool kit in front of you. Styling is a job that requires equal parts creativity and organization. If you have prepped well, the creativity on set is the fun part. It’s like playing dress up all the time with life-sized Barbie Dolls.
Gavin: What were your first couple years like working on your own and building both your name and reputation?
Los Angeles is a lot of driving, traffic, coffee, 14 hour days, hefting endless garment bags in and out of cars, setting up and breaking down fittings, rolling racks, and last-minute changes and early call times—a lot of excitement. The intensity is a big part of the motivation. Good assistants become in-demand. When you work hard and impress one stylist, a lot of times they will recommend you to their friends.
Gavin: Who are some of the celebrities and clients you've had a chance to work with?
I have definitely worked with some of the best stylists in the business. As an assistant, I helped dress Jessica Alba for the cover of NYLON Magazine
, Janelle Monae for the 2014 Met Ball, (The Superbowl of fashion) and Miley Cyrus for the Bangerz Tour. I was on set for music videos with Kanye West, Big Sean, Usher, Tinashe, Demi Lovato, and Chris Brown. I have assisted for Magazines like GQ
with Will Ferrell and Robert Pattinson. I got to work for brands Nike, Starbucks, Hugo Boss and assisted on an Old Navy Commercial with Amy Poehler, etc. etc. All were incredible one-of-a-kind experiences.
Gavin: What gave you the itch to return to SLC and how has it been transitioning back?
Salt Lake City is the perfect city. Moving back, I wasn’t sure how styling would be, but I knew I wanted to continue doing it. Lucky for me it has been one fun project after the next.
Gavin: Having been gone so long, what are your thoughts on the way our fashion scene currently works?
Even walking around Salt Lake City, I have been so impressed with the way people are expressing themselves through fashion. This city has grown so much in the time I have been away and only continues to get better. I know that the thrift shopping here adds to the unique aesthetic of the scene. I credit how affordable and diverse the clothing at Deseret Industries is as being a major influence when it comes to my personal choices in fashion.
Gavin: What are some events you'll be working on coming up over the next few months? What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Expect me to be as involved as possible with the community in any way I can, especially having to do with fashion. Most wardrobe styling is a surprise until it is unveiled, so just keep an eye out on my Instagram