How Styling’s Most Successful Duos Make Their Partnerships Work - Fashionista

How Styling’s Most Successful Duos Make Their Partnerships Work

Two heads really are better than one.
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Emily Current (left) and Meritt Elliott (right) with Jessica Alba. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Emily Current (left) and Meritt Elliott (right) with Jessica Alba. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Behind every red carpet moment, well-dressed celebrity or fashion editorial, there's a stylist at work. Or, sometimes, two stylists at work. While some established names have launched their styling careers as a solo act, others have decided to join forces and collaborate on fashion gigs and clients as a team. Partnering up with like-minded creatives might sound intimidating at first, but it's achievable and, better yet, very rewarding. Read on to learn how stylists team up, overcome challenges and their best advice for those who want to start their own careers as a duo.

Emily Current and Meritt Elliott

Photo: Meritt Elliott (left) and Emily Current (right)

Photo: Meritt Elliott (left) and Emily Current (right)

Clients: Jessica Alba, Emma Roberts, Nikki Reed, Minka Kelly, Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler on her new Netflix show "Chelsea"

Instagram: @emilyandmeritt

How they met: In college at UCLA over the pairs of vintage jeans they were both wearing.

Why they teamed up: Although the two took on different jobs after college, within a few months they started to build a styling book together as a side project. After deciding that they could turn it into a real business, Current and Elliott quit their jobs and started up a styling and consulting team. "Teams weren't the norm," says Current. "It was very strange." Despite their unconventional circumstances, they managed to nab an agent anyway.

The challenges: Becoming a team and figuring out an infrastructure. Once Current and Elliott figured that out, calendar coordination now takes up a good chunk of their day, especially between juggling projects, clients and motherly duties. (Current has two kids, and so does Elliott with one more on the way.)

The rewards: "We're better together and we realized that," says Current. "There's a lot more of collective decision making that I think at the end of the day helped make us more successful."

Their best advice: Have a shared viewpoint on approaching challenges and success, along with a shared goal of where you want your dual business to go. Communication is key, too. "Our husbands laugh because Emily and I have better communication with each other than [with] them," says Elliott. "If you can refine [your communication process], the rest is easy."

What's next: The duo recently launched their content-driven site, thisisemilyandmeritt.com, and are in the thick of designing for Pottery Barn and their clothing line The Great. (It's not their first foray into design: they launched denim brand Current/Elliott, owned by Serge Azria, in 2008 but departed four years later.)

Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn

Photo: Mariel Haenn and Rob Zangardi

Photo: Mariel Haenn and Rob Zangardi

Clients: Jennifer Lopez, Rachel McAdams, Gwen Stefani, Ciara, Shakira, Lily Collins and Cara Delevingne

Instagram: @robzangardi and @marielwashere

How they met: After college, Zangardi worked for MTV's wardrobe department for two years until he decided to go freelance. Eventually, he was hired onto "Last Call with Carson Daly" and while visiting then-VJ SuChin Pak at the MTV studios, he met Haenn on set — she took his old job — and they instantly became friends.

Why they teamed up: When Haenn left her role at MTV, Rihanna became her client, along with a packed schedule of music video, photo and campaign shoots — in just one week. She called up Zangardi for help and their first job together was for Rihanna's "Umbrella" video. "After that, we figured we have the same exact taste and sensibilities, so why not just make this a consistent thing?" says Haenn. "Ten years later, here we are."

The challenges: Because of their large clientele roster of extremely busy people, Zangardi and Haenn often have to split up for the actual events to dress their clients.

The rewards: The ability to bounce ideas off of one another and the feeling of getting twice the amount of work done at once. "It's basically having your best friend at work with you every day giving you a second opinion," says Zangardi.

Their best advice: Have a similar style philosophy. Plus, figure out what you both can offer as a team that would be different from working individually. "Have fun with it!" adds Haenn. "It's exciting to have twice the creative capacity to experiment with new ideas and see what sticks before presenting to a client."

What's next: The duo are working on styling Jennifer Lopez's show residency in Las Vegas and are also in the midst of costuming Gwen Stefani's upcoming tour. 

Wendi and Nicole Ferreira

Photo: Wendi and Nicole Ferreira

Photo: Wendi and Nicole Ferreira

Clients: Tom Cruise, Elizabeth Banks, Channing Tatum, Anna Faris, Josh Hutcherson, Chris Pine and Shia Labouf

Instagram: @wendiandnicole

How they met: Easy. They're sisters!

Why they teamed up: Nicole interned for stylists while attending design school and eventually got a full-time job for one of them. When that stylist needed extra help, Wendi pitched in. After two years of doing their own styling gigs — Wendi for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and Nicole for Sheryl Crow's tour — the duo decided to join forces as a team.

The challenges: Leaving egos at the door.

The rewards: Collaborating and bouncing ideas off of someone they both implicitly trust is invaluable to their job.

Their best advice: Even as sisters, it took the Ferreiras time to settle in and find their groove working with one another. "It's a give-and-take relationship, trust in your partnership and listen to one another," they say. "And lastly, value each other's strengths and opinions."

What's next: They're prepping looks for Chris Pine before he goes on a premiere and press tour for "Star Trek: Beyond," out on July 22.

Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald

Photo: Wayman + Micah

Photo: Wayman + Micah

Clients: Tessa Thompson, Serayah McNeill, Anika Noni Rose, Justine Skye, Mercedes Mason, Paris Berelec, Brandy Norwood, Jerry Ferrara and Forest Whitaker

Instagram: @waymanandmicah

How they met: Both were already stylists when they crossed paths at a party in Harlem in 2008. They clicked immediately and started doing side projects here and there. Five years later, they teamed up to start a business.

Why they teamed up: While working on vision boards together, they noticed that their goals surrounding styling and celebrity clients were the same. "We came to the conclusion that it's better to put our resources, knowledge and backgrounds together as a duo as opposed to competing with each other," says McDonald.

The challenges: It's inevitable for obstacles and problems to arise, so the two quickly overcome them by always having an open dialogue, which is easy considering that they're close friends. "We're able to talk about things more casually," says Bannerman. 

The rewards: Creative collaboration and having a shoulder to lean on. "When things don't go well, like a seam rips before a premiere, you can work together and find a resolution," says Bannerman. For them, the companionship that goes on behind red carpet moments makes them so much more enjoyable.

Their best advice: Have a clear-cut understanding of what your business model is and make sure everyone is on the same page. "We can't stress communication enough," says McDonald.

What's next: "Everything is evolving and moving," says Bannerman. Stay tuned!

Jessica Loria and Kelly Williams (also known as JAK)

Photo: JAK

Photo: JAK

Clients: A slew of editorial, commercial and music names, including Nylon, Adidas and a little something called "Lemonade" by Beyoncé

Instagram: @jaktherippers

How they met: Through a mutual friend. Loria was already assisting established stylists in the industry and Williams was working for a magazine. They dove right in and started collaborating on projects.

Why they teamed up: With Loria's styling background and Williams's experience in fashion editorials, the two were a perfect match. "As a solo stylist, sometimes you do double or triple the work," says Williams. "It's lucrative to be a team." They've been working together for 10 years.

The challenges: Running into creative differences, which are always resolved through compromise.

The rewards: The emotional support and sisterhood that comes with working together. "It's a very stressful job with a lot of responsibility," says Loria. "I know a lot of single stylists who crumble easily. There's nobody else that that I can talk to like Kelly because she knows exactly what my day is like."

Their best advice: Loria and Williams make it a point to split their entire business equally in half, from workload to vacation days, which makes things run much more smoothly for them. Trust and not becoming competitive is important, too. And they're always keeping up with each other's inspirations and references for styling gigs. For example, if Williams hasn’t seen a film that really speaks to Loria, best believe she has it queued up on her Netflix.

What's next: Having just wrapped up work on a top secret television series, Loria and Williams have their sights set on more costume design projects. 

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