According to my mom—which, her information is suspect a lot of the time—my first word was “shoe.” In nursery school, when I would go to the library for reading group, all I wanted to do was sit in the magazine section and read Vogue and Cosmo. I wasn’t allowed to read Cosmo because it was racy, but I was allowed to read Seventeen, YM, and Vogue because they didn’t have any sex stuff. I got my first subscription to Vogue for Christmas when I was six.
I thought I wanted to be a fashion writer. I wanted to be Dorothy Parker. I got a job at Vogue because I thought I could do the exact same thing she did: become a caption writer, then write features, and then write about fashion. Once I actually had the opportunity to write something, I realized it wasn’t something that came easily to me, so I decided to move to the other side of the hall, which was where the editorial fashion shoots happened.
I don’t think the concept of selling out even occurs to twenty-somethings now.
I ended up working on all of these front-of-book things. I shot a page called People Are Talking About, which was about up-and-coming celebs. I would shoot these actresses, and they’d be like, “Oh, I love this dress. Can I wear it to my premiere?” That’s how I became a celebrity stylist. I’d just call the PR, and they’d say, “Sure.” It grew from there. Jennifer Connelly was my first client. Freelance stylists didn’t really exist back then. There were a few—Nina and Clare, L’Wren Scott, Jessica Paster—but everyone else worked at a magazine. Personal styling didn’t exist.
My decision to dress celebrities was really not cool when I started doing it. It was easy for me, and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something I felt proud of. I’m serious. It was a different time. Nobody ever admitted to doing advertising. That was deeply shameful. Instagram has changed that. I feel like twenty-somethings now have grown up with celebrities endorsing brands. They don’t see it as something embarrassing. My generation saw that as selling out. I don’t think the concept of selling out even occurs to twenty-somethings now. I read this Gen X book recently, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, and it was all about this fear of being a sellout. That’s something younger people don’t even understand. They see endorsements as a sign of success and approval. That has really changed the way the fashion industry works.
My Instagram is not personal at all. It’s a way for me to show my point of view. That’s why I do the detail shots. I do things that I hope give a little more insight into what I was thinking. That way, if people are talking about my work—which they’re going to, because they talk about celebrities all the time—they get my perspective on it. I would prefer to be behind the scenes as much as possible. I hate having my picture taken. I hate it. I don’t mind TV, because I feel confident in my choices and confident when I’m talking about fashion. If you ask me a question about any dress, designer, or choice that I’ve ever made, I can answer. But I like to be private.
Most people think my job is just hanging out with celebrities and jet-setting around the world in private planes. The reality is that it’s mostly emailing.
A lot of my clients are not super confident. Actors don’t like to be themselves, usually. That’s why they’re actors. They’d rather be someone else. I hope I provide them a little bit of a character. A little: “This is who you’re going to be. You’re going to be a supermodel.” And then they can play that part for the night.
Most people think my job is just hanging out with celebrities and jet-setting around the world in private planes. The reality is that it’s mostly emailing. I spend a lot of time emailing brands and saying, “Can I have look number 31?” Then they say, “no,” and I’m like, “32?” and they say, “no.” I say, “Okay, what do you have?” Then, they send pictures, and we get something. I’m now in a lucky position to have people who work with me and deal with the logistics, which is an incredible amount of talking to FedEx, UPS, and World Net. Also, packing suitcases and making sure they have the right bra with the right outfit.
It’s all of these really incredibly boring details where, if you don’t do them properly, your relationships are burned and you’ll never work with those designers again. There’s nothing exciting or glamorous about it. Then again, I stay in the nicest hotels in the world. My Vogue diary was a vomitorium of luxury.
I am really, really lucky. There is a high degree of pampering. I get to fly business class, I stay in these fancy hotels, and people loan me clothes to go to parties. And that’s amazing, but that’s not my actual life.
I have my own line of optical and sunglasses with Tura. They launched in 2015. It’s doing really well, and I’m so proud of it. It happened very organically. I met the people there, and we just immediately got along. It felt right. We also have a children’s eyewear line, and all the proceeds go to the Child Mind Institute, which is focused on children with mental health and learning disorders. I hope I get to do that forever, honestly. There have been times when I have been ready to do my own line, and I have certainly been approached by people to do a line, but it’s never felt entirely right. But if I could have a dream collab, it would be L.L.Bean. I’d really like to make L.L.Bean womenswear nice.
In my real life, I’m super outdoorsy. I like to camp; I like to hike; I like to go sailing. I like all these things, and I feel like I’m constantly trying to cobble together my version of a chic look. L.L.Bean should be chic. It’s an American Heritage brand, and it’s made here. Instead, it’s these pleated khakis that nobody would ever wear, and raspberry- and loden-colored fleece cardigans. It’s disappointing to me on a profound level.
I grew up an hour away from the city. I used to do ballet very seriously, so I’d dance at Steps on Broadway on Saturdays, take the train downtown and buy vintage clothes from this store called Unique Unique, and then take the bus back home to Pennsylvania. Liquid Sky, Milk Fed—Sofia Coppola’s clothing line—and the whole Harmony Korine thing was happening down here. Photographer Mario Sorrenti’s wife, Mary, had this snow cone cart. She would make snow cones and sell them. Mary Frey Sorrenti—she’s the chicest thing you ever saw in your fucking life. Oh my god. They were actually all right here, where Supreme is now. It was very cool. Guys were all wearing really big pants with Caesar haircuts. So cute.
I wasn’t a big pot smoker as a teenager. It gave me anxiety. But now we go to California all the time, so I’m super into all of it. My re-intro to cannabis was the Dosist Calm pen. It's the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I find it so calming in moments of anxiety and stress. Or if I can't sleep in the middle of the night, it really takes me down a notch. I don’t take any medications. Xanax feels scary to me, but cannabis, for some reason, doesn’t.
I also really like all the beauty products. Kush Queen bath bombs are insane. I use Apothecanna's Extra Strength Body Creme on my clients—on their feet—so that their high heels don't hurt. I also really like Beboe’s pens, because I feel like they don't fuck me up in a weird way, they just make me feel really good. I don't have any interest in rolling a joint. I like a pre-loaded, chic-looking pen.
If I were a brand, I’d be more concerned about Megyn Kelly wearing my clothes than someone smoking weed in them.
It’s weird to me that fashion has been so hesitant about embracing cannabis. I find the far right so much scarier than weed. If I were a brand, I’d be more concerned about Megyn Kelly wearing my clothes than someone smoking weed in them.
I don’t mind talking about weed at all. I don’t work for a corporation. I have two kids. We live in Brooklyn, so they know what weed is. If you walk down the street in Brooklyn, you will walk through clouds of pot smoke. Every day. That’s the smell of Brooklyn. They’re not old enough to point at it and know what it’s called, but I can be like, “That’s weed.”
We are not a very “traditional” family. They’re still young, but I think that we’ll approach the conversation around cannabis in a way that might be unusual for other people but is normal for us. They’re clear on what addiction is. Again: we live in Brooklyn. There’s a meth clinic a block and half from our house. They know what an addict is. When I was a little kid, people would say, “Say no to drugs.” I’d never seen a drug addict. They’d say, “It’ll ruin your life.” I never saw someone every day on the same corner, shaking and freaking out. My kids know what that looks like. That’s fucking scary.
They don’t want to be like that. They’ll say to me, “Why are they like that?” And I say, “Because they’re addicted to drugs. It’s a disease, like cancer. It’s not easy to stop. It can ruin your life.” I don’t think I’ll have to have the same conversation about drugs that I would if we were raising our kids in Greenwich. It doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of drug addicts in Greenwich, they’re just a different style. It’s more hidden.
If anybody knows of an LSD study supported by therapists, please let me know, because I want to get in on it.
I just read the Michael Pollan book, How to Change Your Mind. It’s fascinating. In the book, they talk about this blind study in which 80% of the people who actually received a psychoactive substance had what they described as profoundly life-changing experiences, where they understood how they fit into this universe. They had emotionally enlightening experiences that they ranked in the top five experiences of their life. The researchers talked to them a year later, and they still felt the same way. How do you get that? A top five experience of your life? One that profoundly alters your worldview and makes you feel like you belong? We should all have that. In this world, it’s so hard to have that feeling. I want it. I did lots of acid in high school, but I mainly listened to The Grateful Dead and danced around.
If anybody knows of an LSD study supported by therapists, please let me know, because I want to get in on it. I asked my therapist about it. I was like, “So . . .” And she was like, “I’m already on a waitlist.”
To be honest, I probably know more about books and art than I know about fashion. I’m far less into fashion for myself, because it’s what I do all day. I tend to wear jeans, a navy sweatshirt, and some sneakers all the time. If I were kidnapped and had to send a coded message to someone to let them know that something was really wrong, I’d write, “I am wearing a turquoise dress.” I like to get my creative fix from interiors and art. I just think art is actually the thing that makes you feel connected and worthwhile. I don’t go to church, and art makes me feel connected to the world. When I see something that really moves me, I understand that other people feel that too. It can be a comfort, or an inspiration, or shift my perspective. It’s essential to making life good.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Kate Young photographed by Luca Venter at her office in Manhattan. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies.