When certain generations of up-and-comers flock to the same stylist, it's often easy to see who's hired whom based on a shared aesthetic. Think back to the mid-2000s, when Rachel Zoe dressed Mischa Barton, Keira Knightley, Lindsay Lohan and more in bohemian kaftans, oversize sunglasses and upper-arm bracelets — a look so signature that her clients became known as "Zoebots." Today there's Monica Rose, the woman behind the streetwear-heavy, body-con ensembles that the Jenners, Kardashians and various Insta-famous models have come to prefer; Elizabeth Sulcer is the reason Bella Hadid, Taylor Hill, Stella Maxwell and the like are always decked out in leather, denim and silhouettes that bring major '80s and '90s vibes.
However, not every stylist who's popular within the rising star set prefers this "squad" mentality, and Los Angeles-based Jamie Mizrahi falls firmly into this camp. Her varied client list boasts some of today's most promising talents — Riley Keough, Sasha Lane, Olivia Thirlby, Suki Waterhouse, Ashley Benson — along with household names like Katy Perry, Kate Upton, Nicole Richie, Eva Mendes and Britney Spears. But rather than having an instantly recognizable "look" that she's known for, Mizrahi strives to have each of her girls' personalities and tastes shine through. "I think it's really important to think of the person before you think of yourself," she says. "It's a collaboration. I'm not dressing Ashley Benson like I'm dressing Riley Keough; I'm not dressing Riley Keough like I'm dressing Suki Waterhouse."
With a personal Instagram following that's 76K strong and a handful of pals who are in the public eye (she starred alongside her friend Richie on the VH1 series "Candidly Nicole," and served as costume designer for Erin and Sara Foster's show "Barely Famous"), Mizrahi is quickly becoming a go-to stylist for the young Hollywood set. We spoke with her in the days leading up to New York Fashion Week about how she climbed the industry ranks, built her impressive client list and made a name for herself in the competitive world of celebrity styling — as well as her thoughts on the all-important world of social media and building a personal "brand." Read on for highlights from our conversation, and to see recent hits from her red-carpet portfolio.
How did you get your first paid gig out of school?
I worked for a stylist, Elizabeth Sulcer, right after I graduated college. I worked for her for maybe two months, and then a job at Vogue opened up. I always wanted to work at Vogue; I just thought it was going to be the greatest place to work. The only position available was in events, and I though I could try that for a little. I had just graduated and I really loved styling, but there was something about coming from college and not having a proper desk job lined up, where you have hours and you have steady pay. That was a little concerning at first.
I went on and worked at Vogue for a year and then I ended up meeting my husband now, who lived in Los Angeles. At the same time, my boss at Vogue was leaving and my apartment was up for the year, so I was like, "I'm going to go out to LA and figure something else out," because I didn't enjoy working in a desk job. I missed styling. That's what I wanted to do.
How did you hit the ground running with freelance gigs in LA?
Elizabeth Sulcer was more of an editorial stylist and I really enjoyed that; but when I came out to LA, I assisted Petra Flannery, Simone Harouche and some other people on different jobs that were celebrity-based, which is a totally different feat than editorial. I realized that, if I was going to stay in LA, that was what there was out here. I didn't really enjoy it at first, assisting for celebrity styling, because it has a lot to do with personality and building someone's image. When you're assisting as a celebrity stylist, you're doing a lot of running around, which I had already done in New York and for my whole life. I just got to the point where I didn't want to lug things around anymore and I knew where every showroom was. I just was over that part.
What next steps did you take to move yourself up the ladder?
I met Cassandra Grey, through a friend, who wanted to start a company which is now Violet Grey. Overall, we were trying to do creative consulting; we opened a suite during awards season that had gowns, jewelry and accessories. It wasn't really certain what the company was going to become, and it ultimately became beauty-related. She asked me to do style for the company, and she would help to get me all these clients — some that already worked with stylists.
At the time, she brought in January Jones, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Eva Mendes and Julianne Hough. I would randomly work with them on things, whether it meant doing their closets or shopping for them. Especially nowadays, with the amount of events and paparazzi... there are so many things going on in LA that even if you have a stylist, your stylist is probably busy and can't help you organize your closet and go shopping for you. I started doing that for about a year and a half.
Who was your first "big break" client who helped you to start out on your own?
Eva Mendes asked me to go with her on the "Place Behind the Pines" press tour. I was back in school taking classes at FIDM and I had already learned so much, but I really knew that styling is what I loved. It's really difficult to get your foot in the door, especially with your first client. Your first client is the one thing that ultimately makes you get everything else.
I made mistakes along the way; Eva had been in the business for a really long time, so she liked that I was young and eager. I loved everything about clothing, dressing, telling a story, sitting down and going through mood boards and reference images. It was really, really fun to me. From there, I got an agent and just slowly, slowly tried to build a good enough following.
That was a really great first client, but then how did your roster build from there?
Well, it took a really long time. My mentality was to take every opportunity and learn from it, and then as you become more established, you can pick and choose what you want to do — I just think every experience is worth it. I've learned so much from myself that I probably wouldn't learn from someone else, because when you work as a stylist, you are your business. You have assistants, but the only person who has your best interest at heart is yourself. The only person who can make the decision as far as taste is yourself, because you can't trust someone else with taste. That's a very particular thing.
So, through my agent getting me jobs, through meeting people, through doing editorial shoots for free and doing test shoots with friends... things like that. Through Instagram and through social media, too. A lot of times, the publicist and people who are representing an actress [reach out to me]. Your other work definitely speaks for itself because this is the type of industry where what you do is very... it's out there. What you're providing is a service.
When you first meet a potential client, how do you get acquainted and figure out whether you'll work well together?
I do a little research on them: the roles that they're about to play, who they are as a person, what they wear in their street life and what they've worn on the red carpet. I compose a document — what the media has perceived as their best looks and what I think looks great on them as far as highlighting their best outfits and where they look the most comfortable. You can tell from a photo if someone loved what they were wearing.
Then I'll compose a mood board of press looks, day looks, inspiration; next I'll do evening, red carpet looks. Then I'll do street style, hair and makeup. I'll create a PDF file with, "This is our goal. These are the designer goals. These are the designers you've worn. These are new designers that I think you should have relationships with." Sometimes you have to build there. Sometimes you have to be like, "Okay, the goal is for Gucci to want to dress us. I think if we make sure that your hair is always on point and your makeup is always sleek and beautiful and you're always..." Even if you're not in the newest designer things, but you're working with what you're able to wear and what you have access to and making it look great and put together, you can achieve the same vibe.
I think it's really important for someone to know who they are and have an aesthetic. Something that people can be like, "Oh, that's very Suki Waterhouse," or, "That's very Riley Keough." It's important for you to build someone's persona as being like, "Oh, that's how she dresses." Of course you can play around with it. Some people are total chameleons, but I think it's really good to have a base on paper, so that when you're going into a fitting, it's just not a free-for-all. Some people tell me, "I would never wear that," so I'm like, "Okay, show me what you would wear." Then I'll get a mix of what they want to wear and what I think they should wear. Sometimes they're like, "Whoa, I've never worn a sleeveless turtleneck before. I love it." You have to push people to step outside their box a little bit. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't — and that's okay.
It also has to do with personality, too. Who you are as a person and how you communicate with people and how much you're willing to work. You know what I mean? Some people need more attention whereas others don't.
As a stylist who is established, what would you say the biggest challenges you face in your job right now are day to day?
I think something people don't understand about the business is that it's not like [a stylist] has access to any piece in the world, and you can put whatever you want on [a client]. It's the relationship you have with the brand's PR; it's the girl's relationship with the brand's PR. It's making sure the samples can get to Los Angeles in time, because there have been moments where I'm relying on one dress to get here for a premiere and it doesn't arrive. Then you have to figure out a backup situation. You're like, "That dress was the best dress but it's not possible. It's in Spain on a Vogue shoot." It's not a struggle, per se; it's just hard work and maintaining not only relationships, but making sure that you're on top of everything — that you can get the dress in time and you can make sure the tailor doesn't mess it up. It's so many little pieces that you have to put together. Once you've done it a few times, you understand the rhythm of it.
Is it difficult to find designers to dress your clients who are new on the scene?
I don't think the challenge is dressing "no-name" people, because nowadays, there are so many up-and-coming designers who just want to be creative and get their stuff out there, which is awesome — especially in LA and New York. There are tons of small brands that are direct-to-consumer; it used to be, if they were in Barneys, they were considered cool. Now, they can just have their own website, but need help to get the word out there. It's fun to find those brands and create relationships, and then to watch them grow.
How would you say that Instagram has helped your business grow and changed how it runs?
Social media to me is a blessing and a curse. I think it's a curse as far as making people feel left out and making people feel either inferior or superior. I don't like that aspect of it, but I do think it's amazing for work. It helps people to understand my aesthetic and what I'm about, because some people have way different style than I do. Why would you want me to collaborate with your brand if you don't like my style? It's just a very easy way to have a visual portfolio. You can utilize it in a way that gets extra eyes on what you're doing, meet people, connect, visually excite and inspire people. It's nice to try and give everyone a behind-the-scenes peek at this crazy world that we live in, with all of these Hollywood movie stars and actresses. It's nice to see them in their real light, before they're dressed, and how the process happens.
Do you think as a stylist it's important to have a signature "aesthetic" or "personal brand?"
It's a collaboration [with your client]. That's why when we create mood boards in the beginning, I'm like, "Oh, Sasha to me is way more chic. She doesn't really wear heels. She wears platforms. Riley can wear a skinny heel. She can wear a pencil skirt. Ashley would be someone to wear a choker; Riley would never wear that." You look at the person and who they are in their everyday life; what kind of work they're doing and what they wear on their off days. That helps me decide what they should be wearing when they're on, too. I never think that someone should be in something that they just don't look like themselves in. I think comfort — being comfortable and feeling comfortable — helps to make you feel sexy, no matter what. I don't think that it's the stylist's "aesthetic;" I think it's definitely a combination.
If you could tell your younger self something about working in fashion that you know now but didn't know then, what would it be?
It would probably be to look everyone in the eye and build relationships. Also, to take every job really seriously in the sense that it's important to learn from every mistake and not beat yourself up over things. It's not the end of the world; there's always going to be another chance to make it up. I remember when I would make mistakes in the beginning or I would put the wrong thing on someone or miss a job or lose a job, I would think, "Oh, I'm never going to work again." It's so dramatic to think like that. I wish that I had let things roll off a little easier and realized that it's not personal — you're just going to keep getting better.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.