She’s worked with Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, Shia LaBeouf, and Cary Mulligan– just to name a few. She’s landed jobs on television, and in films, most notably Mercy, X-Men, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. In addition, her styling has been featured in countless editorials, print ads, music videos, and on the red carpet. “She” is Ali Levine– a go-to Hollywood celebrity fashion stylist… I had the pleasure of speaking with her over the phone last weekend. Read on as she talks about how she got to where she is today, who inspires her, and her favorite trends this season!
IC: So, you’re living my dream… and plenty of other girl’s dreams as well. Could you tell me a bit about how you got started with your career? Did you go to college for fashion?
Ali: I started in retail. I interned with target and ran the clothing and accessories department in New York. I did that for three years. Then I worked in the jewelry department at places like Saks and Neiman Marcus. After that I went on to design for Coach. I was a part of the test they did to change the logo from the traditional “CC.” One day I was called to work on the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps as a production assistant. Oliver stone, the director, saw my interest in fashion and gave me a position to assist the head costume designer. I found that I enjoyed the personal shopping a bit more, and that led me to fall into styling. I began print work, red carpet, and commercials and made the big move to L.A. three-and-a-half years ago. I went to school for fashion/merchandising and design at Northern Arizona University, and then FIT. I always knew I wanted to be in fashion, but it wasn’t until 4 years ago that I realized I wanted to style.
IC: Who has been your favorite celebrity to work with? Who haven’t you worked with yet, that you would like to work with in the future?
Ali:Drew Sedora from TLC ‘Crazy Sexy Cool!’ I worked with her for a few editorials and she was so open to trying new things. Joey King (White House Down) was also someone I enjoyed working with. She’s young, and down to earth. In the future I would love to work with Reese Witherspoon. She has a real classic style. Also, Katy Perry! Her fan base really respects her.
IC: How is styling for film, different from styling for red carpet?
Ali: Styling for film is more about costume design. There’s a certain look. Sometimes there has to be doubles or triples of a clothing item (i.e.3 shirts if there’s blood). In film it’s about a day to night look since there are several different scenarios, it’s about involvement. Red carpet is more glitz and glam.
IC: Take us through a day in your life. What all goes into being a celebrity stylist?
Ali: Everyday is different. There are times when I think it’s going to be a slow day, and my team goes out and makes returns. But then all of a sudden, we’ll get a call that a celebrity needs a look for the red carpet, and all the plans shift to focus on that. Other days I have to leave at 6 am to be on set. Once, a package of shoes that were a crucial part of the music video shoot, didn’t arrive on time. It was hectic! I had to make sure the clients were taken care of, all while checking on where the shoes were, and trying to finish everything on schedule.
“As I tell people who interview to be on my team, the job is about 5% glam and 95% grind.”
IC: What are the benefits, and drawbacks of your job?
Ali: It can get hectic, and like I said, no day is the same… so it’s spontaneous. The benefits are that I love fashion! I love the feeling of helping a client find looks they wouldn’t normally try, and they end up loving it. I’m rewarded from clients feeling good in a performance, or on the red carpet. Another benefit? I get to work with people in the industry, and build relationships.
IC: Okay. So now I’m going to ask you a few personal/ fun style questions. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Ali: I’m a workaholic so it’s hard for me to try to find the off button. It’s fun for me to scour shops, new boutiques, new things to use on shoots. I also enjoy hiking, going to yoga, going to brunch.. hanging out with girlfriends.
IC: Heels or flats?
Ali: Heels. If you don’t see me in heels something is wrong. It’s just a part of who I am (Note: She’s 5’0 ft tall).
IC: What’s something about you most people don’t know?
Ali: Hmm. I’ve never been asked that before! Let me think… Well my best friend is my grandmother. She inspired my eye for fashion design. She taught me how to sew. My grandmother was the first person I called when I was featured in the New York Times. She was a huge driving force in my career.
IC: How would you describe your style?
Ali: It’s mixed. I’d describe it as classic chic with an edgy/boho feel. I’ll wear a maxi dress with a leather cropped jacket, spiked earrings, and high boots or a girly dress and leather jacket. I love to accessorize!
IC: Where are your favorite places to shop?
Ali: For myself… I like Nordstrom Rack it has great versatility while still being on trend and inexpensive. I’ll go to Saks, or Neiman Marcus for certain things that I’ll wear for 2 years+. Also Topshop, Marshalls, and Ross!
IC: What are your favorite fall 2013 trends?
Ali: Prints as a full outfit. A contrasted mix and match can be gorgeous if done right. A wine or bordeaux color is so luxe for fall. You really can’t go wrong with it.
IC: Lastly, Do you have any tips for people who want to become a stylist?
Ali: Yes! A few tips:
- Read up, be an intern, do the grind, and see what it’s all about!
- Work under somebody. Find out if you enjoy high pressure.
- Fashion is a hard business, and will eat you alive if you don’t do it right. Know how to climb the ladder. Always look at the big picture.
IC: Anything else you’d like us to know?
Ali: Well, there’s this misconception that everyone in Hollywood wears things most people can’t afford. When styling my own clients for red carpet events, I’ll put someone in a $2,000 dress with shoes from Target, or bangles from Bauble Bar. I’m a huge advocate for luxe for less. The most important accessory to any outfit though is confidence! I’m always voicing that philosophy.