It's a pretty good bet that when stars arrive on the Oscar red carpet Sunday they'll be wearing clothes, jewelry and accessories selected with the help of a fashion stylist. And fans are more aware than ever that their idols don't create their looks alone.
It's been only half a decade since celebrity stylists really began stepping out from behind the camera to claim a piece of the spotlight generally reserved for their clients. In the short time since Rachel Zoe first appeared in her own docudrama on Bravo in 2008 and her former assistant Brad Goreski splintered off from Team Zoe to star in his own series, a slew of other stylists have launched clothing lines and major collaborations, establishing that the age of the celebrity stylist-as-brand is here to stay.
"As long as celebrities are front and center [the power of stylists] won't go away," says Susan Kaufman, editor of People StyleWatch, a publication that regularly features celebrity stylists in fashion stories and as expert voices. "People know that so much of what celebrities are wearing
starts with the stylist's eye. They've become sort of the cool girls."
In addition to Zoe, who now has her own contemporary clothing, shoe and jewelry lines, stylists Cristina Ehrlich (who works with Penélope Cruz) and Jen Rade (who dresses Angelina Jolie) have created their own collections for QVC. Stylists Emily Current and Meritt Elliott launched the successful denim-based line Current/Elliott in 2008, only recently parting ways with the company. Stylist Kate Young (responsible for the feminine looks worn by Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz) is scheduled to introduce a red-carpet-inspired collection for Target in April.
"We've been seeing celebrity stylists moving into the spotlight for some time now," says Christene Barberich, editor in chief of Refinery29.com. "It's great to see Kate Young, who is such a major influence on the industry, bring her signature aesthetic to life on a much bigger scale. I think this is just more evidence that real women with really cool lives and careers are just as influential — or even more so — to other real women as a celebrity. This is a new brand of accessible luxury that's really appealing."
Nicole Chavez, who styles Rachel Bilson, with whom she co-designs a shoe line for online retailer ShoeMint, appeared in a national commercial for the brand last year. "Nicole got equal time on air as her celebrity partner," Kaufman says. "This world of celebrity stylists is certainly not waning."
The trend shows no signs of stopping as stylists continue to influence fashion and pop culture, with reality television, clothing lines and major retailers continuing to catapult them into the mainstream. Here's a look at the new generation of stylists, soon to be at the helm of growing empires, collaborations, endorsements and memorable celebrity fashion moments.
Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio, and New York, respectively
Signature look: Eclectic. "It definitely depends on who we are dressing," Zangardi says. "We draw inspiration from so many different mediums — everything from classic mob movies to military history to '90s music videos." The duo documents its visual inspiration on Tumblr.
Career highlights: Creating the look for music videos, most notably for Rihanna's "Umbrella," and designing a line of jewelry. Recently, they outfitted Jennifer Lopez in that leg-baring Anthony Vaccarello ensemble for the Grammys.
Hometown: La Cañada Flintridge
Signature look: Feminine with a high-low twist
Career highlights: She is responsible for helping actress Rachel Bilson become a designer darling and appeared alongside the actress in a commercial for their ShoeMint collection. A standout look Chavez created was Bilson in an all-black Chanel ensemble punctuated with a vibrant green jade statement necklace at the New York premiere of "Coco Before Chanel" in 2009.
Hometown: New York City via Easton, Pa.
Clients: Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman
Signature look: Edgy classic
Career highlights: Her upcoming Kate Young for Target collection. She has also collaborated on a line for Macy's INC brand, and she styles Jason Wu's fashion shows and ad campaigns. Young's fresh and feminine approach to dressing her clients was best represented on Michelle Williams, clad in an asymmetrical, crimson Valentino dress at the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Hometown: Powell River, Canada
Signature look: Elegant, unfussy and never over-styled
Career highlights: Being seated next to journalist Tim Blanks, whom she calls her "fashion idol," at an Armani dinner party. Welch's talent for maintaining an individual look with each of her clients is most apparent in her work with "True Grit" actress Hailee Steinfeld, whom she robed in a strikingly simple ivory Prabal Gurung gown that caught the fashion world's attention at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards.
Signature look: Effortless, bold, eclectic. "I love creating big moments with lesser-known designers," Coulter says.
Career highlights: A recent collaboration with AG Jeans for the latter's Stylist Series of denim. Coulter also co-designs the JewelMint jewelry collection with longtime client Kate Bosworth. As the stylist to some of the world's most sought after fashion plates, Coulter has put together many memorable looks. Among the most head turning: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in a chartreuse and sheer black Gucci ensemble at the 2011 Moscow International Film Festival.
Signature look: Elegant with an edge.
Career highlights: "My career in and of itself has been the highlight," says Swennen, who orchestrated Kristen Stewart's attention-getting, skin-baring looks at the L.A. and London premieres of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2" last fall.
Clients: Rose Byrne, Bella Heathcote and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Signature look: Edgy, modern.
Hometown: San Francisco
Signature look: Modern, fresh, sophisticated