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.
There's a shift taking place in the world of celebrity, wherein social media stars are increasingly rubbing elbows with A-list actors and musicians at high-profile events. And fashion plays an undeniable role in taking these already-popular Instagirls, vloggers and TikTokers to the next level.
Perhaps no one is more symbolic of this phenomenon than (former?) YouTuber Emma Chamberlain, who, in a few short years went from DIYing Gucci T-shirts in her teenage bedroom to attending the Met Gala as an ambassador for Louis Vuitton and Cartier.
Anyone who's watched her countless thrifting haul videos (or read our 2018 interview) knows the newly 21-year-old has always loved clothes, but there comes a time in every budding It Girl's life when a professional comes in and kicks things up a notch. For Chamberlain, that was former Garage fashion editor Jared Ellner. Over the last year and a half, they have been on a sort of symbiotic sartorial journey together, with Ellner taking Chamberlain's fashion game to the next level through a distinctive mix of vintage, under-the-radar designers and, of course, Louis Vuitton, and Chamberlain raising Ellner's profile as a stylist to watch.
After leaving Garage (where he'd styled Chamberlain for a shoot) and moving to Los Angeles during the pandemic, Ellner had Chamberlain as his first celebrity client, jumpstarting a styling career he'd never expected. A Parsons Fashion Design alumnus, Ellner had been working on a namesake clothing line that gained some momentum thanks to a few key A-list placements, including Gigi Hadid. It's been on hold as he expands his styling roster — on top of editorials, recent red-carpet dressings include Finneas, Claudia Selewski, Ben Platt, Patti Harrison and Rachel Sennott — but he hopes to return to it soon.
Below, we caught up with Ellner about climbing the editorial styling ranks, elevating Chamberlain's personal style, the ins and outs of creating a look for the Met Gala and why it's more important than ever to stand out on the red carpet.
When did you first develop an interest in fashion, and when did you start thinking about pursuing it as a career?
I feel like I've been interested in fashion since I first discovered what fashion was, from very early on. I just felt like I understood it and it understood me. I had an internship at Vogue after my freshman year at Parsons, and it just snowballed. It was my first introduction into styling. From there, I had a few more internships with different stylists or designers, and when I left [school], I ended up becoming an assistant to the editor-in-chief and fashion director of Garage Magazine. I worked there for three and a half years.
By the time I left Garage, I was fashion editor, and it was amazing. It was my full education, truly. Garage was six people, including our editor-in-chief; the fashion team was myself and our fashion director. It allowed me to grow really quickly.
One of the photo shoots that I styled alone as a fashion editor was a shoot with Emma Chamberlain — that's how the connection happened. It was definitely a blur, but I loved her and we had a blast.
I kept working at the magazine, and then I ended up moving to L.A. when the pandemic hit. My boyfriend lives here. I was like, 'I'll just quarantine there.' When I left Garage, I was finding myself just wondering what I would do next.
I'd done some styling and assisting in L.A. for celebrity stylists, and Emma's team just reached out randomly like, 'Emma is looking for a stylist. Is there any chance that you're in Los Angeles?' We chatted a little bit again, then we did a shoot together and we've just sort of been rolling from there.
I really had no clue [I would get into styling]. New York had always felt like the fashion epicenter for me. I quickly found that there were so many people out here who need to be styled, and also just creatives in general. It's kind of an amazing crew of people I fell into.
What were initial conversations with Emma like? What were your goals in working together in terms of where you wanted to take her style?
I feel like straight off the bat, we were on the same page. I think that's why it's worked. There's never really a time where we disagree. I feel like we have very similar styles. Emma has such an amazing style of her own that she's cultivated for years. For every project that we're working on, she has a really, really strong vision of what she wants. She always comes to me with great references and great mood deck. She's the queen of a mood deck, truly. She'll sort of hand that off to me and then I get to play with it more and find all the things that she's thinking of and, at the same time, supplement it with other avenues that she hasn't followed yet. We build from there.
I came into her life consistently at a real upswing for her. I've selfishly benefited from all of the years that she's spent and put into building herself and her brand, and I feel like when we met, she was ready to go to the next level, and that was like a dream because she was just as excited to push things and expand as I was. I have the pleasure of coming in for a magazine shoot or carpet or something that allows for a little more imagination and playfulness than what I dress her in for her everyday life. When we're doing her personal styling, usually the goal is to really elevate where she's at currently, and then have these bigger projects with themes and narratives. My job feels like taking her to that space while still keeping it rooted in who she is.
How does Emma's Louis Vuitton deal impact the way you work with her?
Whenever we're working with Louis Vuitton, sometimes they'll supply all the clothing for a magazine editorial, or we know that she's going to wear them to a red carpet or for larger events. It's always a collaboration, really. They'll come together and discuss the creative and the vision for the project, the carpet, the shoot, and then they very graciously open up their archives and collections and a variety of things. We've done archive, we've done current season, we've done custom things — they're the most incredible collaborators, and really allow us to have access to such historically rich pieces that are so well crafted. Whenever we get to work with Louis Vuitton, the garments are just so gorgeous, so it's always something that's really special.
You've worked with Emma on two Met Galas now. Can you share a bit about what that's been like and what you've learned from those experiences?
It's definitely still shocking to even talk about or discuss. It's truly such a privilege and a dream — the biggest. It's completely different than any other type of red carpet. I thought of styling sometimes as working to fulfill a creative vision within a time frame. There's very much a time frame for the Met, but it's a lot more planning and plotting; it's really like stewing over something for months. It's really exciting and it definitely allows us to take fashion steps that I don't think we would be able to otherwise, because there just is so much more grandeur and creativity put into something like the Met.
Each time, we've kept trying to bring it back to — at least for the first Met Gala — a sense of timelessness and also maturity for her. We wanted it to look young, but we were really really hoping that it would be a moment where she elevated to a totally new fashion persona. We were just trying to make sure at every step that it felt like it reflected Emma and Louis Vuitton, and we were, as much as we could, hoping to make it on-theme. I feel like the second year, we had the ability to do that much more so, at least in the clothing, because we were aware of that and it was a big priority.
There are so many layers of individuals that make up a final look, from the person who's sketching the design to the tailor to hair and makeup. Having clarity on the process itself allows so much more space for being creative and stepping it up. Even just collaborating with the designer, knowing we have had the honor of working with Louis Vuitton, who has such great archives and figuring out how to reference the designer itself, and look ahead towards something new, is a very delicate balance. Just having practice with that makes it easier and more intuitive.
Who else do you now work with regularly? How do clients typically come to you?
Shortly after [Emma and I] started working together, I found myself in the comedic actress scene of L.A. I started working with Rachel Sennott, Patti Harrison and just great comedy actresses. They're so fun to work with. They just have killer style, and I feel like specifically actresses who are funny, they just have fun with fashion. I love leaning into the theatrics of fashion.
I've worked with some of the 'Euphoria' girls, like Maude Apatow and once with Sydney Sweeney. I worked with Ben Platt. I've worked with Finneas and his girlfriend, Claudia Sulewski. L.A. just kind of spirals. Once [the city] opened up, everybody just came out from the woodwork; now you're just out and the people that you're meeting and running into all mesh and meld into one.
I see your clients wearing things that feel a bit more individualistic and unique than what we traditionally see on the red carpet, whether it's vintage designer or a new, under-the-radar brand. How would you describe the perspective or approach you bring to styling?
I do have a lot of great relationships with young designers. My favorite part of styling always has been working with designers who are up and coming or haven't been discovered, so I feel like part of my appeal is that. Stylists who exclusively work with big fashion houses make gorgeous work, and I appreciate it so much and I hope to continue working with big fashion houses, but there's something really exciting about giving a moment to a young designer. When there's extreme talent there — which there often times is — it's so rewarding for everyone involved. But also because I was raised in editorial, I really try to create cohesive, maybe more whimsical or over-the-top looks than normal. I think I try to keep it timeless, but I do really feel styling, especially now, has to be more impactful than ever to actually make any type of impression, because you see so much fashion all the time.
As someone who styles one of the biggest social media stars ever, what are your thoughts on the evolution of celebrity dressing?
I think honestly the biggest change is the speed at which people have to work. The people who are really coming out on top as fashion icons or It Girls or just people with great style are [those] who are finding the designers before anyone else and wearing interesting looks and not being afraid to take things one step further and into something new. You have to be a detective and scavenger, and be quicker than everybody else. I could spend every hour of every day looking through fashion and still not be up to date because there are so many incredible talents to keep up with. I think it's forced people to be a lot more creative — in a great way — if they want to truly have some success and stand out.
I started working with Saint Sintra, and I had them make a custom corset and miniskirt for Sydney Sweeney. They did a gorgeous job. It blew me away. And on Sydney, she's so illuminating and captivating that she looked gorgeous in it. I feel like they've had such a great trajectory since then.
Do you have plans to return to design?
I went to Parsons for fashion design, so the dream was always design. I honestly didn't consider or think about being a stylist. I genuinely found myself here and it's made me grow so much, but I've always wanted to be a designer. I had to put that on hold while styling was growing, but I feel like I'm at a place where now... I'm working on a project and I have a corset but no skirt, so I'm designing skirt options to match. It's starting to trickle back into styling, and I'd love to at some point to make clothes again. That's my first love.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
I think it's pretty all-consuming. It really doesn't stop. There are shoots happening any day of the week, and at any point you could be brought onto something, whether it's a week away or two days away. And there are so many logistics. It feels like a big machine to keep moving. But anytime that it feels too much or too overwhelming, I just have to look up and it's, like, a rack of miniskirts. It's not that deep. It's really okay.
What's the most rewarding part of your job?
Definitely seeing the final product, whether it's a photo shoot or red carpet photos or someone wearing a personal styling outfit — that's always the best. The designers we're working with all get to join in on the experience at that point, and they're just always so excited and appreciative, and I love that — especially when it's a younger designer. When I was first out of school, I was making samples and giving them to stylists, and I've had a few placements on good people, and those moments I can remember so vividly. I love to give that to anybody else.
What do you look for in a potential assistant?
Dedication. When I was 18, 19, trying to break in, I just did anything I needed to, no matter how difficult. I really tried to put myself out there as much as possible, so I'm always looking for somebody who's passionate and dedicated and takes this as seriously as I do. I feel like a lot of people do. I've had amazing help and assistance along the way.
Is there any other advice you would give to someone who wants to become a stylist?
I think it's important to put yourself out there as much as possible. If you really want to be a stylist, there's a lot of information and systems and ways of working that are very non-traditional to know, that you just need hands-on experience to learn. Getting on as many sets as you possibly can is the most important thing, because you really never know what set is going to lead to the next big thing — as the stylist assistant, as the stylist, it's just a bunch of projects that hopefully lead to the next thing. The more sets you're on, the more people you can meet and the more it can all snowball.
What are you focused on now, and what goals do you have for the next stage of your career?
I'm focused on really rooting myself in the clients that I have. I started styling officially in L.A. a year and a half ago, so I feel like I'm now in a groove.
Beyond that, I feel like I haven't had the opportunity to do music videos or album photo shoots as much. I've always loved music and musicians, and I feel like if there was anywhere I would expand, I would want it to be in music. There's such a vision that goes way beyond everyday dressing, and it's about creating whole planet at times. That's my favorite type of thing, removing all tediousness and normalcy to dressing and going crazy.
I also do really hope to be making clothes soon. We'll see how that trickles back in.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.