He’s a super stylist – you’ve seen his work whether you’re a Teen Vogue kind of girl or a Purple kind of boy because he’s all over the place.
He’s also one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met in this crazy mixed up industry and since I’ve wanted to know just what a stylist does all day since the moment I learned styling was a career, I asked if I could follow him around.
We started out listening to Hole at his office/apartment in Chelsea before heading uptown to pull jewelry from Eddie Borgo for a shoot. Then we skipped downtown to KCD’s press preview and were about to go to Dossier’s party at the Tribeca Grand when we realized, wait, that’s tomorrow – because when you’ve got this much going on and your assistant’s on spring break, it’s kind of hard to keep up.
How’s it going?
Great! I just got back from California.
Which is why you’re glowing.
Hah. Yes. Exactly. Welcome to my house? Apartment.
Thanks! I like it.
I went crazy one day and painted everything white. I wanted a white Gothic apartment – though there’s black now, too. This is me [pointing to a wall plastered in images above his desk].
A peek at Keegan’s inspiration board
Does it ever change?
No. Sometimes I make additions around the edges but it’s pretty solid. And then over here is my inspiration board specifically for Fall. I’m really into capes right now, white witch, Kenny Kenny’s really relevant right now. Of course I’ve got the rock n’ roll. I’m really inspired by the psychedelic girl from Midnight Cowboy – she’s so cool. And of course my stack of le mode which is totally bizarre.
That’s going to fall soon.
I know, it’s totally freaking me out. It’s going to be me in tears and like, “Ah!” Ok and then over here is my styling kit.
Ok, so walk me through what you do. Someone calls you and is like, “Hey, style my shoot.”
Yeah, totally. I’m a freelance stylist so I don’t work at a magazine, for one magazine, I work for whoever calls me.
Which is ideal right?
Yeah. It’s the perfect job. Right now it’s a bit slow because everyone’s shooting campaigns and coming up with story ideas. I mostly work for American Vogue, Teen Vogue, Purple, V, V Man, The Last Magazine, Dossier – I’m in a lot of places right now. I love it. I can pop in and pop out, it’s not like I go into an office all day. Everyday’s exciting. I’m always with new people, new photographers, editors who give me direction and inspire me.
So let’s start on one end of the spectrum. You’re doing a shoot for Teen Vogue. What happens?
They call my agency and book me. So then I go and have a meeting with one of my best friends, Jane Keltner and she gives me the idea. For Teen Vogue it’s very formulaic. The last thing I did was Jason Wu, a look for less. So the one look was his skirt and then I put all this stuff together with it that cost a lot less. And I’m very much a team player so I work with Taylor [Tomasi] on the shoes and Joanna and then I’m working with Jane the whole time, too. They pull a rack of clothes together for me and I edit through it and decide I want to do this and this and this. And for Vogue I usually do three options and then Amy or Anna chooses one.
One of his many, many books
Ok, so now on the other end, what’s it like doing a shoot for The Last Magazine – because that’s kind of what I picture being most different.
Yeah totally. For The Last Magazine I come up with the concept and I’m like “Maggie, Magnus, which concept do you like best?” And he says let’s do this and then I pull all the clothes which is totally different because I don’t have a market editor so I sit here and go through look books and call and ask for you know, Azzedine Alaia look number four. And George [Keegan's assistant] and I, I wish he was here because he’s just as important as I am – the assistants are the unsung heroes of styling. He’s like my market editor. I mean I direct him, but he works really hard.
Is it harder for you, as a freelance stylist, to get the looks you want from the showrooms?
It used to be, yeah. They always want to know what it’s for and need explanations but I’ve nurtured these relationships through the years because you know, I started in press. My first job was at KCD.
Yeah. Well I moved here, from northern California, at seventeen. I was a model, not a very good one, but it was an excuse to get off the ranch, which I’m sure you totally understand.
I wasn’t on a ranch but I was just a few miles away in a really small town!
Exactly. You know, I was just home last week and I was going through all this old stuff and I realized I’ve been obsessed with luxury my entire life. Like I have binders – do you remember going to San Francisco, going shopping and getting those little perfume papers? I saved them. All of them. And I’d call Chanel and be like, “Can you send me your look book please?”
How old were you?
I was like an eight-year-old little boy.
And my mom was an artist, so the magazines on the coffee table were like National Geographic, Smithsonian and American Vogue and I either wanted to work in fashion or be an archaeologist, but I was obviously obsessed with fashion. I mean I still had all the Versace ads on my wall. I finally threw it all out but it was really funny when realizing how much I wanted off that ranch and into luxury even back then. So anyway, I got to New York and started going to fashion parties which is how I started at KCD – everyone was like you go to all the parties anyway you may as well make a job of it. And stylists would come in and I was like, “Wait, you go shopping all day? I could do that.”
So how’d you start?
My first assisting job ever was with Lori Goldstein and we shot Italian Vogue with Steven Meisel. I think it was Charlotte Gainsbourg. I was like the third assistant – I may as well have been sweeping the decks – and it was intense. Then I started working with Tabitha Simmons – I met her through a friend who knew Craig [McDean], they’d just started dating and Tabitha’d just finished with Karl Templar so I started helping her and then she farmed me out to Katie Grand.
A favorite image
What’s Katie like?
Amazing. She’s actually the reason I wanted to stay in this whole thing. She’s so inspiring, like a super human fashion person and it’s insane how much fun she has doing this without being stressed. We had the best times – the English stylists are amazing.
Tell me about your references – like when you’re coming up with a concept for a shoot, where do you start? Are there specific things you return to over and over?
I love books. And I’m a huge art and architecture person. I’m obsessed with Charles Peterson. I’m a huge Mick Rock fan. All the Ziggy stuff, Bowie, Iggy Pop. It’s what I’m all about. But I love doing a preppy look, too. And I”m really good at it! It’s like with this different eyeball I can make it so much better. It doesn’t have to be boring. I mean look at French Vogue. They do preppy. Emmanuelle Alt does it and it turns me on.
I love her.
She’s amazing. Want to go see Eddie?
At this point we get in cab and head uptown to see jewelry designer Eddie Borgo. Keegan needs jewels for an upcoming editorial in which he’s shooting Marc’s menswear on women for OWN , a Japanese magazine. In the car a Vogue-ette texts, “Know of anything new and cool happening now?” He’s constantly being asked, “What’s new? What’s in? What should I be caring about?”
It’s always about what’s new and New York’s such an exciting place to be right now. So many things are happening, so many new designers to choose from. Joseph Altazurra is amazing. Do you know him? He’s so so talented and so young – I constantly have all these things on my radar so that they can be referenced depending on who/what I’m shooting/styling, you know?
Would you ever live anywhere else?
I’d live in Paris. I mean, French fashion is it. But I’m super happy in New York right now. I could live in LA and have this big house and a nice car and dress celebrities but where’s the Fashion in that? You know? I need real fashion, creativity. That’s what really gets me going.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
Anna and Carine are my heroes. French Vogue is just the most inspirational and Anna’s done more for young American designers than anyone ever. Also, I love Coco Chanel. I’ve been obsessed with quotes by her lately. There’s this great one – she said, “It’s not fashion unless it’s on the street.”
Really though? I mean your fashion isn’t exactly on the street.
It does trickle down though! Balmain’s sexy little dresses are everywhere and in a minute we’ll be bombarded with short dresses and shoulder pads – even in midtown.
Are you giving me a cerulean speech?
We get to Eddie’s and talk Beetlejuice and Andy Warhol. Eddie and I bond while Keegan tries on jewels and decides what he wants for himself and what he needs for the shoot. Eddie gives me huge earrings and Keegan says I need smaller ones. Then we debate shiny versus dull silver bracelets. He automatically knows what looks best, talks about the importance of balancing the metals and I begin to understand how he’s so successful at what he does. We leave to go to KCD’s press preview and talk models in the elevator.
I had these girls over the other day, trying to cast a shoot.
Do all stylists work with models?
Hmm, I don’t know. I should ask. The agencies want their girls shot and they always send me these great girls and I’m always like, “Wow, this really amazing girl is in my apartment.”
Megan C[ollison] came over the other day and I’m kind of obsessed with her.
I love models.
Me too. Who’s your favorite model?
I love Tanya D on the runway.
On the runway she kind of rules, right? I just shot her. We just did an Alaia special for the Last Magazine but it was a video at the Plaza Athenee, it’s so cool. I just did a video for ShowStudio with Poltock & Walsh, too. We did that one in London and it should be up this week.
Are you ever not working?
Well I just went on vacation! But I like being busy! Especially in New York and working in London and Paris is great because I love going to shows but it’s nice to break it up. When you’re going to shows for a month straight you need something else to do, too.
So we get in a cab and head downtown. When we get to the KCD press preview we head straight for the Balmain & Givenchy, conveniently hanging opposite each other, and run into Keegan’s good friend Kate Lanphear.
Keegan to Balmain, “I almost peed my pants.”
Have you seen the new Paper?
Kate and I are in it. Beautiful people.
Hah! That’s awesome.
They called and I was like, “I’ll do it if Kate does it,” and Kate was like, “I’ll do it if he does it,” and then we were like, “Fine, we’ll do it but only if we can be in the picture together.”
You guys look great.
Thanks! It’s totally random – it was fun.
I can only imagine. Want to answer our random list questions now?
Favorite designer? Too political.
Favorite drink? Bellinis from Le Meurice, Paris.
Favorite store? Trash & Vaudeville – they’re the only jeans I wear.
Favorite music? Rock n’ roll. Bauhaus.
Favorite place? Santa Barbara.
Favorite noise? Rock n’ roll.
Favorite word? We work on this one all day. Grateful. I’m a very lucky boy – man, I guess.