When did Kate Young know that she wanted to go into fashion? "It was always," she said at our Fashionista meetup in New York City on Tuesday. "My first word was 'shoe.'"
To say that the landscape of the industry — especially in styling — has changed over the past decade would be a huge understatement. "I don't think it occurred to me that [fashion] could be a job, and then when I was 16, my friend's sister went to FIT, and I realized it was." Of course, now that "job" involves not only networking, talent and the all-important "personal brand" which (of course) has a lot to do with social media.
The stylist, whose impressive roster of clients includes Dakota Johnson, Sienna Miller, Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez, majored in English and Art History in college, but got her start in the industry as an intern at a London-based fashion PR firm, where she realized that she was in the company of people who had studied fashion for years. "I just kind of figured it out," admits Young.
Initially aspiring to work at a fashion magazine, Young got a job in Vogue's PR department before hopping around as a writer, a fashion market editor and, oh, Anna Wintour's assistant. When an opportunity to assist a stylist opened up, Young went for it — despite her boss saying that it was "hopeless" and that she "had no style." (We know. Someone actually uttered those words to Kate Young.)
Young's unique approach to celebrity styling — one that puts the wearer's needs first — has no doubt contributed to her rise to the top. "What I'm trying to do with people is not to make them into a fashion editorial," said Young. "I try to make them the best they can be, and you can't do that if they're uncomfortable... Most of the time, these events are moments, actually important times in these people's lives. I don't want it to be my fault that they're like, 'Remember that time I wore that dress and it was so uncomfortable?'"
In addition to work for her celebrity clientele's awards show appearances, press tours and red carpet premieres, Young also styles magazine editorials, advertising campaigns and runway shows for designers like Cushnie et Ochs and Jason Wu, who is a close friend. "The close relationships [with designers] let me do more custom things [for my actresses] and also makes it possible to hold things," says Young.
Young is also a mother to two sons, ages four and seven, and despite a perennially busy schedule, she tries to make it home for dinner every night. And although the nature of her job used to have her traveling multiple times a month, she admits that things are different today. "I do a lot of stuff on Skype [now] because I don't want to be on a plane all the time," says Young.
Her personal aesthetic — and a certain affinity for black — comes off as clean, cool and collected, and aligns seamlessly with her styling M.O.: "I try to make everybody look like themselves," she says. "I have a clear idea of who I am, and I think that comes with age." As far as what the stylist gravitates towards for clients, sartorially speaking? "I like weird color combinations," she confesses. "I like celery and salmon and red and pink. I like acid green. I like dirty diamonds. I like red lips. There's a certain neatness that I like. I don't like turquoise, and I don't like an asymmetrical hem. I don't like lace over nude silk or satin in a picture, but I like it in real life," she says with a knowing smile.
When it comes to the best advice she'd give to a fashion industry hopeful, she goes back to something she learned during her years at Vogue when she was first starting out in her career. "The best advice I was told when I was an assistant is that 'No' is not an answer. It is never an answer, and I think that's really good advice for anyone in an assistant position because if when she [Young's boss at the time] asked me for something and it was impossible when she checked, my answer was 'I couldn't do what you asked. Here are three remedies to the situation.' That shows forward-thinking, it shows organization, it shows motivation."
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