In our long-running series "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion and beauty industries about how they broke in and found success.
When it comes to powerful celebrity stylists, Maeve Reilly's influence cannot be overstated.
For one, two of her clients — Hailey Bieber and Megan Fox — are among the most photographed women in the world right now. And while the celebrity gossip machine may be one reason for their popularity, the outfits she puts them in also have a lot to do with why those photographs travel like wildfire across the world wide web. Any 2021 "hot girl summer" moodboard would simply be incomplete without them.
Second, Reilly is representative of a recent evolution in celebrity styling. While many of the trade's biggest names are known for putting actors and musicians in glamorous red-carpet gowns, a new wave are establishing themselves as image makers through street style. And as it turns out, dressing models, Instagirls, TikTokers (Reilly also dresses Charli and Dixie D'Amelio) and the like in cool daytime looks for paparazzi shots and Instagram pics can be even more impactful than putting an A-lister in custom couture. And Reilly does it well: Many of the items she puts her clients in sel out immediately after the images circulate.
"I don't think red carpet is relatable," Reilly tells me. "I think it's glamorous. I think it's exciting, and fashion is a fairytale and I love that part of it. But it's not really who someone is."
Reilly has a subtly edgy, tomboy-meets-luxury sensibility that she expertly blends with her clients' personal style preferences. And while it's miles away from the boho-chic trend Rachel Zoe ushered into the zeitgeist in the mid-2000s, the impact feels similar. And like Zoe or any celebrity stylist whose profile rises, Reilly has begun building her own brand — literally.
During the pandemic, Reilly launched Local Love Club, a streetwear brand with an anti-bullying message. She's also getting tapped by other companies for collaborations, including Paypal, with which she's doing a campaign to promote its "Pay in 4" feature, which allows shoppers to pay for big-ticket items in installments. (She selected items and polled her hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers on whether they were "wants" or "needs.")
Paypal gave us some time to chat with Reilly about how she got started in fashion — she's by no means an overnight success, as some assume — as well as how she and Bieber began working together, why street style is really what moves the needle for brands, how the pandemic impacted her, the stress of losing a client and her advice for anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps. Read on.
How did you know you wanted to be a stylist?
I've always been interested in fashion. One of my first jobs was in retail when I was 16, and I didn't really know where I would land. This was way before social media — we're talking 20 years ago, before people were really talking about this profession, before Rachel Zoe. Really, the only memory I have is Pat Fields and 'Sex and the City' and just being so inspired by how clothing was a character on that show.
I went to FIT. I took these high school classes that they offered for undergrads on Saturdays and throughout the summer. I thought I would be a fashion designer, but truthfully, I couldn't draw and I couldn't sew. Not well, at least. But I had a lot of ideas. I just didn't know that [styling] was an option. I got into FIT, by some miracle, with a business degree, and stumbled into an internship. My dad was actually producing a television show on the Hallmark channel when I was 17 — it was my summer going into college and I was so mad at him, I just wanted to do nothing for the summer. I walked into the wardrobe department and totally fell in love with it.
I'll never forget, the very first day, I was asked, 'Go to Bergdorf and get every pair of beige pants in a size six.' She gave me a credit card and said, 'Save the receipt.' I was like, 'What?' I ended up staying for two years and learning so much from that stylist. It was the momentum I needed and the realization of, 'Oh my God, I cannot believe this is a real job.' And that I could maybe do this for a living.
I fell into the celebrity side of it shortly after that. I was always inspired by music and artists, and just really wanted to get into that world. I'd basically bang down [styling duo] Rob and Mariel's door until they would agree to meet with me. At the time, they were styling Rihanna — I Google searched, because, again, no social media, 'Who is Rihanna's stylist?' I was so inspired by what they were doing at the time. I got in with them and started to learn, and the rest is sort of history.
I assisted a lot and for a very long time, and I think that's always my best advice to anyone: You have to learn and you have to learn by doing, and I really suggest doing that with someone who you really love, respect, admire and look up to.
So how did you get from New York to Los Angeles?
I left New York about 11 years ago. It was just drive, passion, a dream. No real idea of where I would land. I could see that mostly everything in the celebrity world was happening out here. I didn't want to do editorial. I didn't want to work for a magazine, so I knew I needed to be out here. I just sort of packed my bags and prayed, and started assisting a lot until I got really close with a music video director. I was lucky enough to start doing background dancers on music videos. That led to people from record labels getting to know me and being able to rely on me and seeing my face all the time. We honestly shot like 200 music videos in a year. I just said yes to everything.
One day, someone called me from a record label and said, 'Do you want to style Janelle Monáe, like tomorrow?' It was for the BET Awards. She wore an Armani suit, all white. I'll never forget it. And we had like, three days to do it. I had a few smaller clients before her, but I think she was really the game-changer for me.
I really thought I would do men — I was dressing Jamie Foxx for some time and really enjoyed that. I found the women's space to be so competitive and so hard to get into. I just thought, 'I'm really good at this and I love menswear.' Essentially that's why Janelle hired me because, at the time, she was still only wearing suiting. I started working with Janelle, and that was sort of what pushed me into the women's space. And I think that's where people started to know my name. Hailey [Bieber] came a few years after that; then Halsey and Bebe Rexha. I did a lot of pop stars, like Tinashe, a lot of tours.
I did a lot of music stuff and Hailey and Janelle, so it got really busy, but it's taken a really long time. I think there's a big misconception that this stuff has happened overnight for me. This is a 16-year journey.
How did you start working with Hailey Bieber?
Hailey found me on Instagram. She was looking for a stylist. She was 19. She'd never worked with anybody before and was just sort of becoming popular and realizing she was getting photographed a lot and needed some help. We met for coffee and totally hit it off. Three days later, we were doing a fitting for Paris Fashion Week, and I got on the plane with her. We've never looked back.
Getting to be a part of her brand and what she's created over the last few years, it's been just such a pleasure, such an honor. I honestly don't think we knew what we were even starting. This concept of street style was not popular and was not something that people thought of until this group of girls came up and were being photographed all the time. I'll never forget: She was Vogue Look of the Week from just walking down the street in Soho. And I remember thinking, 'You'd have to do the Met Gala to be Vogue's look of the week previously.' Now, this little green velvet Botanica dress — I remember everything — it was just like, 'Oh, wow, this is wild. This is different.' To be on the other side of it and to really see this lane that we created is really interesting. I'm just so grateful, but it was never the intention I guess. It just happened so organically and naturally.
After Hailey started to really get the momentum that she was getting, I think that's when it becomes, like, 'Okay, I want to work with her stylist, because this is really impactful and meaningful, and what they're doing is really interesting and I want to be a part of that.'
I work with so many different women with different bodies types and different aesthetics. From Ciara to LaLa [Anthony] to Megan [Fox], they're just all different girls. I've always loved my ability to dress different shapes of women. I don't think that every stylist, truthfully, is capable of it, or I don't know if they don't want to, but I love it. I just love getting to showcase each woman as an individual and really help them establish their brand and what they're trying to convey. Obviously, I'm a tomboy and there's an edgy element behind all my looks; I'm not the bohemian girl, for sure. I think that they all look like themselves.
Right, I think that's what's unique about street style versus just putting someone in an evening gown for a red carpet.
It's how you wake up each day, right? Today, you may feel really sexy and like, 'I want to wear a tight little mini dress.' The next day, you may say, 'Ah, I'm so tired. I just want to throw on sweats,' and that's real life. I learn so much getting to be a part of people's everyday lives. We do these fittings and they have such a range of options that I can tell how someone's feeling based on what look they chose to wear that day.
Can you walk me through what the process is working with someone for street style? Like, how often are they coming in for fittings?
Everyone's different. Hailey, I definitely see the most out of anyone. She has [paparazzi] outside her house every single day, so there's no escaping it most of the time, whereas a few of my [clients] can avoid it a little better.
I see Hailey weekly, I'd say, maybe biweekly. She'll have things pop up that she just doesn't have something in her closet to wear... a birthday party or a trip — this Paris trip that they just went on was a little bit unexpected. Obviously, it's my job to make sure that she's taken care of for whatever she has going on. Someone like Megan, we typically do really big fittings where she will have at least a month's worth of looks, and then she wears them as needed and until she's run out. But if something comes up in the in-between, an event or whatever, we obviously make the time. I'm available, basically, whenever they need.
Can you share a bit about how it is working with brands on this kind of styling? Were some initially hesitant to loan for daytime looks, or are you doing more shopping?
Hailey and Megan are big shoppers...so is LaLa, truthfully. We like to have both options. There are certain pieces where you're like, 'This is something I'd really like to have in my closet forever and not just wear and give back.' But now, I would say brands that would not touch street style with a 10-foot pole are begging to do it. Couture houses who have only done gowns are trying to break into this side of fashion, because they're able to see how impactful it is. This is what moves the needle for sales. A gown is amazing and it's beautiful to look at, but most people aren't going to a store to buy a hundred-thousand-dollar ball gown. They're going to the store to buy the blazer or the bag or the crop top or the shoe from the brand that made the gown. I think they're acknowledging that this is an opportunity for all of us to be a part of the street style thing.
You mentioned how street style is what moves the needle. Are there any examples of when you were really blown away by the impact one of your looks had on an item or brand?
There was a moment where Hailey had worn new Ksubi jeans — I loved them so much, I emailed them the next day and was like, 'Hey, can I order these from you guys?' And they said, 'We wish we could send them, but they literally sold out the day that [she] wore them.' That was a few years ago, and that's when I started to realize, 'Wow, this is really impactful for brands.' Also, this Femme heel that she wears a lot, I've heard that they literally cannot keep them in stock; same at Bottega. I know it's a wide range, from affordable to luxury.
This is a lot of the why we post to thank brands for their support, because it takes a lot for brands to be able to come up with marketing budgets and send us stuff. I often am posting and thanking people because I own a brand now. I know how much work can go into that, giving someone a gift, how expensive it is for the person who owns that brand.
I had the owner of a showroom here in L.A. tell me — and I mean this very, very humbly — 'I can't tell you how much this meant to me. If it wasn't for you and your clients, I don't think we would have made it through Covid. Your support really kept the doors open.' That was really touching and really special and important for me to hear, because this isn't just about clothes. This is far deeper.
Where do you tend to find inspiration or discover new brands?
Social media is such a great tool. I look at my explore page on Instagram a lot. I always look up to Rihanna and the way that she can put a cool twist on a classic look. I'm also inspired by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley — I think she is one of the most beautiful, chic women. I also am looking at e-comm. I'm looking at a Farfetch. What are the brands that they are selling that are new, that I've never heard of?
What kinds of opportunities have come out of social media for you?
It's been such an incredible tool and asset for me in growing my business — not just as a stylist, but as someone that people look to as an influencer, being able to have brand deals. This partnership with PayPal is a perfect example. It was something that I definitely jumped more into during the pandemic. I obviously had more time on my hands and saw an opportunity to work with more brands on my own, as Maeve Reilly the brand, not just as someone's stylist.
I have a love/hate with social media. I created my own clothing line in the middle of this pandemic called the Local Love Club, which is athleisure that has a message of love and kindness. I have been a victim of such negativity, harassment, bullying, hatred — so have every single one of my clients. I saw this opportunity to try and bring more love and light into a platform that can get really dark. It's probably the most important thing that I'm doing. And again, it was born on social media and lives on social media so... it's a complicated issue. But the bottom line is I'm grateful for it, because I think it's an amazing tool, an amazing platform.
Was there anything else you delved more into during the pandemic, when events were on pause?
I created a Zoom sort of masterclass series. I get so many questions on Instagram from people, 'How do I become you? How did you get started?' I just thought it would be such a great opportunity to be of service to the next generation who look up to me. I've enjoyed it so much. We're going to actually do it in person and on Zoom at the end of the year. I literally had people from Australia, Qatar, Europe, all over the world.
And my clients kept working. We figured out how to do things remotely, with shipping and FaceTime fittings. Rather quickly, I think my industry figured out a way to come back together, with Covid testing on-site.
What are you focused on now? What's next for your brand?
The Local Love Club is growing. I'm restocking our current collection that sold out, and then we have two new collections throughout the summer. All of it is new fabrics, some new fits. I've been working really hard to make some adjustments to things that I didn't like. Starting a brand and production, things can go wrong. I'm a total perfectionist.
I have another collection coming out that I can't talk about yet, but there's a lot of things coming from me towards the end of this year that I think people will be excited to have in their wardrobe. I'm just excited to keep building with my girls and just so grateful for all of them.
What about longer-term goals? Are their people you dream of working with?
There are certainly girls out there that I would love to work with. I feel like I have my dream clients, but there's always room for more and definitely manifesting that. I just love the styling element of my career and never ever want to stop doing it.
What advice would you give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps as a celebrity stylist?
I was talking to Ciara about this the other day — I think the bottom line is never giving up. That's really what separates the people who last from the people who don't. I've had so many setbacks and so many challenges, most of which no one will ever even know or hear about, but it's the stuff that's gut-wrenching and heartbreaking and so hard to get through, and you just got to get through it.
I also think talent gets you in the door, but your character is going to keep you there. There's a lot of talented people doing this. There's a lot of people who could do what I do, but it's who you are as a person, how you make people feel, the light that you bring to a room, the ability to make the room better than before you came into it. Those are all really important for me, to really support the people that I work for, make them feel great. That comes from the inside.
Could you share an example of a challenge or hurdle that was maybe a little bit discouraging that you had to overcome?
Any time a client moves on, it really challenges your sense of security, your self-esteem or your ego or whatever. We get really close to these people and sometimes that doesn't work for someone, or they want to have a new experience — whatever the case may be. It's often, I've had to learn over the years, not personal. It's just really about them, and it's my responsibility to love and support people through that and whatever experience they need to have, whether that be with me or with someone else. But that took me a very long time to understand, that there's enough for everyone to win, there's enough work for everyone. But, you give your life, your personal time away from your friends and family to be with people and then sometimes it doesn't work out. It's hard.
Conversely, what would you say are the most rewarding moments?
Being a part of really special moments in people's lives is such an honor. It's not easy for, you know, famous people to let someone into their life, into their circle of trust. I mean, I think Hailey's wedding was for sure my favorite moment.
The energy that you bring to the room is really important. This is what I mean about your character keeping you there. How you make people feel is the bottom line. The clothes are cool — it's icing on the cake — but it's really about the experience you're having with your client and the love and the security that you're bringing them and the way that they feel from the inside. That's what matters.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.