User Stories: Claudine & Valerie, Stylists to the Stars

Today the Bunchcut bloggers took a trip to Caravan Stylist Studio, a fashion oasis nestled in the chic quarters of The Gregory Hotel. We got a chance to talk to Claudine DeSola, a celebrity go-to fashionista, and Valerie Star, her resident hair and makeup artist. Caravan Stylist Studio originally started as a mobile store and then morphed into several stores throughout Manhattan and today is a stylist studio. The stores were visited by celebrities such as Eva Mendes, Olivia Wilde, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens — to name a few during the years. Now Caravan Stylist Studio is the style squad for actresses from hit TV shows like Orange is the New Black, Gotham, Jane the Virgin, The Americans, The Affair, and many others.

Tell us a bit about how you got started in the fashion industry? When did you know you wanted to be a stylist?

I studied at Marist as a commerce and fashion merchandising major. Since it’s located right outside of NYC, a major fashion hub, I was able to get a lot of great fashion internships. I interned at J. Crew and many other cool places.

One of my first jobs out of college was a PR role at Yeohlee, a CFDA member who currently has a store next door to the Ace Hotel in the Nomad area of NYC. I was able to work on the first ever fashion show at a subway station in conjunction with the MTA where we had all sorts of models from top chefs to news reporters to actresses such as Farrah Fawcett. Through my Yeohlee years I was able to learn about fashion show production and styling as she put her shows together using models like Jamie King, Frankie Rayder, LING and working with stylists like Lori Goldstein. After my time at Yeohlee,

I did some more PR with fabulous brands like Anthropologie and then decided to start my own PR agency. I worked on a lot of different lifestyle accounts ranging from W Hotels to the Humane Society of the United States. I worked at the PR company by day and worked on my store by night. I would work with several event companies to produce all sorts of events at the store. We did a lot of out of the box ideas that sometimes even made the New York Times. One of our fun projects was having two designers make dresses out of tin foil in front of our window displays at the stores with a crowd of 250 people cheering them on. We even had Salt N Pepa host a party during fashion week one time. Another time we celebrated Earth Day with FEED — the amazing company Lauren Bush created. That was the nice thing about the store we were able to meet so many creatives and support so many great events. I loved having the stores but it is very difficult working in retail and buying and dealing with building a constant customer base. Helping run a PR company by day and a mobile store and 2 other stores was taxing. The stores became really popular amongst celebrities even Meryl Streep stopped by my store one time because her daughter was doing an event with us which was so cool. The busy times between my PR agency and stores became a lot to handle so I decided to close my stores. By 2010 all the Caravan stores were closed. In 2011, I took my PR skills and my time with the stores and transition it all into Caravan Stylist Studio.. When you’re working in PR you have barriers to creativity because failure is sometimes unacceptable. In life some of the best ideas stem from the biggest failures.

How would you describe your aesthetic style?

Back when I worked PR I wore mainly black. Now that I’m out of the corporate world I love wearing bold colors and patterns. I also love trying out new designers. Today I’m wearing custom shoes from Shoes of Prey, a cool company out of Australia. I love custom designed apparel because it gives people the opportunity to really show their style. I did an event with Piol a while ago where some of the TV celebrities I work with got to design their own dresses for an event. It was a blast.

How do you currently share style ideas with clients for their approval?

I typically use Pinterest, or email them to check out an item on style.com. Sometimes I will just send them jpeg attachments of possible looks. But it’s a cumbersome process and Pinterest doesn’t allow bulk uploads and is not built to edit a board collaboratively with a group of people who need to weigh-in on decisions.

Have you ever had to make last minute changes to a client’s outfit right before a red carpet event?

Yes! We’ve had plenty of busted zipper crises. We also work with a lot young actresses who we realize last minute can’t walk in the heels we’ve chosen for them. I like to give the celebrities I work with a lot of options so their style is shining through in their look. I’ll show them multiple rings or earrings that all work with their outfit and let them pick which one they like best.

What is the biggest fashion faux pas you’ve seen on the runway this year?

I dislike any “fashion” that was designed just to shock people. I think the essence of true fashion is ruined when the sex element is pushed to a certain degree. There are ways to look sexy without looking inappropriate.

Some runway looks are taken too far and when the general public tries to imitate them it looks ridiculous. For example, I think the new thick eyebrow trend is pushed too far by the general public. It is one thing to go with a more pronounced brow but going all out “Frida Khalo-style” just looks crazy. The same goes for the metallic lip trend.

What is your go-to look next season?

I love the 70s style boho-chic look with a lot of layers and jewelery. I’ll probably be wearing flower printed maxi dresses and lots of necklaces.

I also love that sneakers are back in. They’re perfect for me because it’s impractical to be running around the city in heels carrying garment bags. I think sneakers will be in style for a while since New Balance has a great line, the new Chuck Taylor,and the Brooklyn Museum even has a display called the Rise of Sneaker Culture. My favorite sneakers right now are Inkkas. Inkkas come in a large variety of styles and patterns so your individual style will really shine through!

What fashion advice would you give the average woman?

Be comfortable with what you’re wearing and wear it with confidence. Have fun with fashion but don’t try to push it. Relying on shock usually does not end well…

Would a digital design sharing tool like Bunchcut make communication easier between you and your clients?

Yes, I’m currently working on a fashion show with a client who, along with her team, is located outside of the country. Bunchcut is an easy way to allow my client and her team of agents and publicists to weigh-in on important decisions and styling directions after the casting session.

I style shoots for a lot of TV show actors and actresses. Pictures from their shoots need to be sent to the actor, manager, TV show PR team, and a lot of other people to “greenlight.” Bunchcut is a great tool as it bypasses the hassle of back-and-forth emailing and finding files in Dropbox folders.

How do you think innovative digital design sharing technology is going to impact the fashion world?

New technology is going to make sharing visual content so much more efficient in my industry. I’m often given a 2 hour window to get approvals for photos before they need to go live. I’ve also experienced working with publishing companies where I’m initially told they just need enough images for one page in a magazine and then they end up making it three pages but still want it ready in the same amount of time. Bunchcut reduces collaboration time, which is perfect for such a time sensitive industry like fashion and beauty.

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Find out more about Caravan Stylist Studio here.