Haggar Style Guide

17 Apr

This was without a doubt, one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done.  I knew it was going to be good when the producer told me the agency requested me because of my, “Quirky Wes Anderson style.”  Pinch me.  So off I went to Philadelphia Pennsylvania to create a 10 look style guide for Haggar’s new Life Khaki clothing line.

Being in a new city with only 2 days to pull for 10 looks and props without an assistant was a little bit daunting, but the job ended up being one of those wonders where it was 100% hiccup free.  I also had one of the best creative teams from the ad agency by my side to create the cardboard cutouts you see in each shot.  There was a lot of blood and sweat, but tears were replaced with cheese steak whiz, and we all ended up with something we could be proud of.

You can see more Like Khaki looks, HERE.

Haggar Life Khaki Style Guide: Styled by Courtney Rust.

Phot0grapher: John Romeo

10 Reasons I’d go back to Vietnam.

9 Apr

I thought prior to my trip to Vietnam that with all the travel forum reading and youtube travel video watching, maybe I’d know what to expect once I got there.  Vietnam ended up being a whirlwind in the the best way possible.  I’m still trying to digest all the things I saw and experienced.  Here are some of the many reasons why I’d go back in a heart beat.

1. You don’t have to sit in traffic, ever.

Watch this: I shot this from a bar looking over an intersection.  You’re also expected to cross the street through this.

2.  A name means something.

In the U.S., we tend to name things after something from the past.  For instance, calling a hiking trail, “Buffalo Trail” would be an ode to the buffalos that used to roam the land.  In Vietnam, if something is named, “Buffalo Trail,” it means, “WATCH OUT for some mother f’n BUFFALOS!”  Here’s a photo I took of our road block.

Also, this:

3.  You can eat soup for breakfast.

Pho was our cereal every morning for breakfast.  On about every street block, you can find a lady set up on the street, and when I say street, I mean just that.  She’s cooking 6 inches from the pavement, which you then enjoy 8 inches from the pavement.  Damn delicious.

4. Thatched roof bungalow on top of a mountain is an Expedia.com hotel option.

What’s not to love?

Our excitement isn’t contained.

5.  There’s no limit to what you can throw on the back of a scooter.

I always felt limited as a stylist to drive a serious mom mobile because all the crap I always have with me, (hence, the Subaru Outback I tote around), but the Vietnamese have shown me I can do it on a scooter.  We saw a guy with an industrialize size freezer chest strapped to the back.  Don’t ask me how that works, but it did.  Here’s another common example.

6. It’s easy to pretend you’re a pirate.

We took a boat (for about what it costs to stay at a Hampton Inn) around some unchartered territory.  Sadly, there were no Johnny Depp sightings.

7.  1954 Russian Jeep is a public transportation option.

Lesson learned; always say YES if someone offers you a ride.  We took this hummer down a mountain, because only helicopters and Russian tanks can do the job since the “road” is actual a trail of aligned boulders.  (Again, a surprise.  We thought we were taking a shuttle bus with a bunch of bucket hat wearing travelers down the road.)

8. Public restrooms are never alike.

There are a wide range of public restroom possibilities in Vietnam.  The one that took the cake was in a mountain village where I was forced to balance on two adjacent boulders that harnessed a rushing waterfall next to a pig pen.  Check that one off the list.  Sorry, no pictures.

9.  I’m considered a billionaire.

In Vietnamese dong (country’s currency), but I’ll take it.  Vietnam is insanely cheap.  This room costs the same as it did to board our dog for the night, AND you get a free toothbrush and sample bottle of skin whitening lotion.  I tried the lotion, but my skin is still a pale pinkish blue.  Perhaps my skin’s starting point was already off the whitening promises chart.

10. Scooters, then cars, then you.

If you were to research Vietnam, you’ll find a lot about how to cross the street, which to westerners seems elementary.  You’ll rarely see a little green guy counting down to tell you when it’s ok to enter the gas fed mosh pit.  Instead, you lead with your rice noodle filled gut… slowly.  As a pedestrian, you come last in the importance of street occupancy.  You’re never going to find a break in traffic to feel completely safe, therefore you must enter like you enter a parking lot of drunk Jimmy Buffet tailgaters: slowly with both eyes open and a serious game face.

Back to work I go.

The Returnist doesn’t return everything.

29 Mar

For those who are scratching your heads at where I came up with the name, The Returnist, it is a hybrid from the famous fashion blog, The Sartorialist, and the famous back end of all styling assignments, having to do an insane amount of returns.  For those who don’t work in the industry find it really shocking that we return everything that we don’t use.  Here’s where the name, The Returnist is getting me in trouble, and getting all stylists in trouble; now with scrunched down budgets, everyone thinks that since we have tag guns we can return EVERYTHING.  Sure, we can.  You can also steal jewelry easily from Macy’s too if you wanted to, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.  Wardrobe budgets are getting silly small, UNREALISTICALLY small for the needs of the project.  If we kept everything that touched skin, meaning smelly crotches (pants) and boderific odor smelling shirts, we’d be limited to shopping at discount stores like KMart and Target.    The thing is, we all know that you can’t show up with only options from these stores when presenting to the client.  Of course, it all depends on what you’re doing, but with things like business attire, you can’t cheat a good looking suit or ladies button down shirt.  It’s true that things are probably OK if the model only wore it for a couple of minutes, but not all pores are the same when nervous and in front of the camera.

I’m writing this post to bring some awareness to the fact that putting stylist in a position to have to return soiled garments (ew), puts us in jeopardy of having bad relationships with the stores we rely on, or for having bad karma for the rest of our lives to ensure that we’ll catch bed bugs when we least expect it at Neiman Marcus.   My suggestion is that if you’re unsure what wardrobe and props will cost for a job, you should contact the stylist you’re thinking about using to give you an estimate.  Remember, if you can’t afford solid gold, you can’t wipe your armpits on solid gold.

Trendsetters speak at Stylelikeu.com

26 Mar

Stylelikeu.com goes into trendsetters homes and asks them to explain what is in their closets.  All the subjects come from a creative place: whether they’re fashion designers, stylists, editors, musicians or artists, they all have strong feelings about why they wear what they do, and a story behind how each article of clothing made it to their rack.  Some interviews are better than others; I went from feeling truly inspired, to feeling like I’m watching a monologue outtake from an alternative 90’s movie.  Either way, this website makes you rethink why you buy what you do, and maybe will inspire you to put a little more oomph into your wardrobe.

Here are a couple of my favorite interviews:

Christene Barberich, Editor -in-Chief at Refinery29.com

Kim Hastreiter, Founder of Paper Magazine.  (I first started stalking this woman when I saw her interview in Bill Cunningham NEW YORK.  She’s amazing.)

Tavi Gevinson, Editor-in-Chief of Rookie Mag, Style Rookie, and local Chicago native.  As you know, she’s my favorite.

Video

Unilock Spot

20 Mar

Backyard grilling action?  Now here’s something I know a lot about propping.  Here’s a Unilock commercial that we filmed last October that I art directed and propped.  I was so excited to see this because I never get to see any of the ads I work on.  You’d think I’d be better at digging stuff up to present on my blog, but honestly, blogs that only show your work are really just portfolios.

Some interesting outtakes from the filming of this would be the crew rolling into this suburban house at 5 am, trying to remove a tarp from the Unilock patio that had collected a pond full of rainwater the night before, and then proceeding to dump it all over ourselves.  I worked the first hour without any shoes and wet feet.  Thanks again Melanie (super duper producer who keeps extra socks on hand) for your festive socks.  Shockingly, the mostly Canadian crew showed no empathy for cold feet.

Other fun obstacles were creating a new patio cushion color by pinning loose fabric, making a yard that looked like late fall in Chicago look like June by filling it with out of season flowers, and propping a french door to look like we were still in the house, while in fact the door was rigged outside in the middle of the patio.  Oh art department and the challenges you present.  As usual, a crazy amount of work for a quick splice of advertising, but that’s how these things roll.

Gold Motel – Chicago Magazine

22 Feb

Here’s a recent portrait I styled with photographer, Brian Kuhlmann of Chicago’s own Gold Motel.  I’m usually not a big fan of using black because it creates a hole in the frame, but when you’re working in an old bank vault with walls of gold safety boxes, black is your friend, especially some good ol’ black leather (singer’s dress, although you can’t really tell.  It looked AMAZING on her!  Dress is by Elizabeth and James.)

Hair and make up done by the great Carley Martin.

Check out Gold Motel’s summer time jams, HERE.

My 5 Year Goal

17 Feb

I’m always amazed at what people can get away with when they’re really good at something.  For instance, I had got a reservation for my husband as a Christmas gift to go to the impossible to get into restaurant, Schwa.  The reason why it is so hard to score a reservation is not only because of chef Michael Carlson’s legacy for being a mind blowing amazing cook, but also because he’s a terrible business man.  When you call, there is about a 95% chance you’re going to get a voice mail box telling you it can no longer take messages because it is full.  If for some crazy reason you’re able to get someone on the phone and make a reservation, there is about a 95% chance they’ll cancel on you and make you reschedule.  This not only happened to me once, but TWICE!  The thing was, I wasn’t mad, because I understood it was part of the experience.  As much as his cooking, his otherwise known to be shoddy behavior, is part of his claim to fame.  Chef Carlson will only open if everything is absolutely perfect and he can present his best work to his guests.  Dang, I wish I could get away with that… I’ve worked while having food poisoning.

Next case and point, I recently got to wardrobe style for probably the most well known photographer I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with thus far.  I went to look at his website prior to the shoot, as I always do even though I’m very familiar with his work, to find that there isn’t one single image on his website, just a bunch of contact numbers to his agents.  Now that’s when you know you have made it; a photographer that doesn’t need to show any pictures.  “You know what I do,” must be a pretty comfortable place to reside.  He doesn’t need a website because you can see his work everywhere.  Awesome.

Last example and one you’re all familiar with; the artist formerly known as Prince.  Shit, screw names.  I’ll have an ugly tattoo represent me.  I don’t need to explain why this is amazing.

Now for my goal, and feel free to contact me if you’d like to collaborate on this.  I want a portfolio exclusively consisting of “real” people, butt ass naked, posing with no props, on a white sweep.  Use your imagination people.  Let my legacy as a wardrobe and prop stylist paint the picture for you.*  If you want to book me, you’ll have to get my address off of my contact page because I now only accept letters.  My 3rd grade dream can now be fulfilled of having the most pen pals.

*I feel I need a disclaimer out of fear for those who may read this that don’t already know my sarcasm.

Best Soft Good Styling EVER!

15 Feb

And I had no part in it, but I did style the cute girl sitting on the top of this pile of fabric goodness.

If you’re wondering who did this colossal masterpiece of squishy fabric, you’ll have to thank the prop crew for the Land of Nod Spring catalog.  The prop team consists of Dane Holweger from LA, and Chicago locals, Melissa Elias and Justin Vandenberg.  You’d be surprised how to tough it is to stack that many unmade beds and make it look that inviting.

As for the doll sitting at the top, her outfit came from a scary expensive to destroy Anthropologie nightgown, which I cut the sleeves off.  I then sliced my personal polka dot scarf that I got at Walgreens 8 years ago into strips to adorn the sleeves.

Here’s a couple of other highlights of the wardrobe I did for the Land of Nod Spring catalog.

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Personal Shopper Confusion.

6 Feb

A weird thing happened the other day; I was parked outside of Target at the beginning of a hefty return day, pulling out a couple of Ikea bags and a woman stopped me and asked, “Are you a designer?”  I did a shady, “Um, uh… no,” without making any eye contact.  I then proceeded to do my routine return and the woman followed me in while accompanying me during my awkward moment at the customer service desk and said, “Have you ever thought about personal shopping?  I’m a really busy mom who’s also a massage therapist who would love to have someone shop for me.”  To be honest, there were a number of asshole responses that ran through my head.  First, and probably the least offensive, “I’m a busy wardrobe stylist that would also love to have someone do my ‘shopping.'”

I feel like I should first preface my explanation as to how my job is different, and why I would never be a personal shopper by saying, I have absolutely nothing against being a personal shopper nor do I think I’m better than someone who is a personal shopper/closet organizer type.  It’s a great career that I’m sure is challenging, and allows you to make people feel good about themselves and their surroundings.  Here’s how my job is different and why I wouldn’t take on personal shopping/closet organizer onto my roster.  I do what I do, not because I like to shop, not because I like to see the people surrounding me in clothes that they’ve worn within the last six months from their perfectly edited and sensible closet, and not because I feel like I need to fix the sometimes sensitive to the eye outfits I see on a daily basis.  I actually enjoy a hoarder, a wrinkle, an outdated capelet from Ann Taylor, and a pair of cargo pants that with a tug of a zipper becomes a breathable pair of shorts.  It’s telling of your personality, and it tells a little story, which brings me to the reason of why I spend a crazy amount of time filling my car with things from shopping establishments… I like to tell a story.

The reason why some stylists do both on set work and personal shopping is that styling is a mix of traits that lend itself to personal shopping; knowledge of everything current in every single stores, resourcefulness, ability to listen to your client to make a strong guess as to what they might like, knowing what is in style and works for someone’s body, and working within a budget.  Why being a set and wardrobe stylist is different is that you’re one single part of big team.   You’re shopping for the agency, the client, and the photographer, as well as all the variables you might run into on set, which will likely change  your original intentions.  What works in person, or what we thought worked during the pre-production conference call may not hold true once you’re on set, which in the end is the bottom line.  It all has to make sense and tell the intended agency and client’s story.  It’s a much different mind set when shopping; one that I personally think is tough to mix with a personal shopping client, or even my own shopping list.   Therefore, please e-mail me if you want to pick up my dog’s food.

Which wardrobe/and or prop stylist should I contact to assist?

20 Jan

Some people may disagree with me on this, but I personally don’t think you should be choosey on what wardrobe and/or prop stylists you want to assist.  You can learn from everyone, even if you think someone isn’t as talented or has a different personality.  Sometimes learning what not to do is just as valuable as learning the seemingly right way to do things.  It is best to team up with as many stylists as you can in order to pick up as many different techniques as possible.  We all do it a little differently.