Interview: Kat Typaldos on Style Trends

Interview: Kat Typaldos on Style Trends

"The standard of beauty that was, unfortunately, I think, institutionalized in a lot of ways, is being questioned, so I'm noticing that in my industry particularly."

Kat Typaldos is a New York-based stylist and consultant who has worked with everyone from musicians to actresses (like Alicia Keys and Elisabeth Moss) in both editorial (like Elle and New York Times Magazine) and commercial work (like Nike and Gucci).

We spoke with Kat while she was on the set of a new project, about what inspires her, the changes she's seeing in the fashion industry, and her favorite Halloween costumes.

How did you get started as a stylist, and what does the job involve?

My background comes from editorial. I assisted an amazing and pretty iconic fashion director of W Magazine ages ago when I came out of college.

But, at this stage of my career, I'm a freelance stylist. I work primarily with musicians, that's kind of like my joie de vivre, my passion. It's super fun and very collaborative. But I also do a lot of advertising work. That ranges from sportswear brands, some as big as Nike and Reebok, to more emerging brands and consulting. With brands in general and musicians, I do a lot of concepting of ideas as a vehicle to get across certain messages for a campaign or an album. So it's not just outsourcing or shopping for clothing, which is obviously a big part of the job, but it's working very closely with a team of people that come together to create an image of something cool. So, I would say I'm a part of an image-making community.

Do you have brainstorming sessions with clients?

There are often meetings upon meetings upon meetings, especially when you work with a big brand, but when I work with clients who are musicians or artists, they always start with a fledgling idea, be it a song or something that's on the runway, and we start exchanging ideas, primarily visual ones, over email or text, or even songs, so it's a very tactile experience. It's not so formal — I can say "I found this furry mohair pink thing" and we can make a whole outfit or vibe or editorial from that. So, I am dependent on working with partners, with a lot of communication and a lot of back and forth, before reaching the end result. So, you see one image at the end, but it's a lot of steps behind the scenes and process to get to something more realized, or more articulated.

Where do you go to get inspiration?

Everybody says this, but I live in New York, so just walking down the street, and just going to different neighborhoods, traveling, that to me is my first-hand way of experiencing and seeing things, and I like to work a lot with color and texture, so that's my primary inspiration. If I get on an airplane and see like a grandma who is there with her husband, that can be an inspiration. It comes in all forms, but I also love watching movies, and again, I find a lot of inspiration in color.

Are there any movies that come to mind that have inspired you recently?

I'd never seen Casino, which is shocking because it's such an iconic movie and it's such a style-y movie, but I actually loved the styling, and the color palette is amazing. There's a crazy scene with Robert de Niro sitting in this office with a powder blue shirt, and a powder blue tie, drinking, and the setting was kind of monochromatic and pastel and it just was super intentional and I really liked that.

I also recently watched Showgirls and I thought that was more fun and whimsical and had so much '90s Versace. And then I have the classics that I’ve always loved, like, In the Mood for Love is a great styling reference, True Romance is another good styling reference. It just depends on what I'm in the mood for. Right now I'm kinda doing early '90s American movies.

Do you have an organizational system for your ideas?

Not as much as I should. My organization for visuals sits on my computer or on my phone. I have a ton of books at home but at this point, it's organized chaos.

Are you a collector?

I am, unfortunately. I'm trying to be more pared down and minimalistic, but I collect everything. I have a huge rock collection — I go to Greece and collect rocks every year. I have a massive denim collection and leopard print collection, a massive leather, patent leather, kinda goth collection. That's just from a clothing perspective, but when I'm collecting things for me, it's always my rocks and crystals.

If you had to wear the same uniform every day, what would it be?

White tee shirt, high-waisted Levi's, probably a classic flat. I'm really into a loafer right now, too. Very easy and classic, like the French.

What good trends are you seeing in your industry?

Trend isn't the right word, but I think what's happening in the industry is sort of cultivating an awareness of diversity that wasn't as prominent before, so I don't want to call that a trend, because it shouldn't be just a trend. But I'm noticing that people are opening their eyes and trying to be more sensitive to what is going on in the world and have more accountability.

The industry has had a terrible history of appropriation and having a kind of single-mindedness of beauty. I'm noticing in certain creative industries that there's an acknowledgment that there's a world bigger than the one that they're used to, which is great because there's starting to be inclusivity in terms of people of color, different body types, etc. The standard of beauty that was, unfortunately, I think, institutionalized in a lot of ways, is being questioned, so I'm noticing that in my industry particularly.

What do you need in your environment to be the most productive?

I need a very clean working space. Clear surface areas, ultimate feng shui. Good music and an efficient team. And instead of flailing all over the place, I always like to have meetings — morning, mid-day — just to figure out how to improve, how to be productive, because a lot of projects require you to run like a well-oiled machine and there is a systemic way of doing that, it's just figuring out with your team members how to get into a good rhythm. I work with a lot of different people, whether it's assistants, or makeup artists, photographers. Just figure out how to celebrate your skill set, and if you're not good at one thing, figure out somebody else on the team that is good at that thing and just create that cadence.

What fashion trend do you think should go away and never come back?

I don't believe that any trend should go away and never come back — they're like timestamps. Honestly, whatever it is, it's gonna be re-purposed regardless. People in the '90s were really into wearing stuff from the '70s and rejecting the '80s, and people in the 2000's were kind of like, I don't even know, the 2000's is like a whole new trend set of a certain kind of denim and Paris Hilton and then that got rejected and that's getting re-appropriated now, so I'm open to all of it just because it's, nostalgic and interesting to see how younger people are always re-interpreting it. For me, I'm just more classic.

Who is someone you would love to dress?

Chloë Sevigny. She's just iconic.

Do you dress up in costume for Halloween? What are some of your favorite costumes?

Yeah, I do the same thing every year. I'm always like a dead version of something, but I'm weird, I'm always like Winona Ryder — I've been Lydia from Beetlejuice, the dead Heathers, the dead Ramones, a dead Peg Bundy. I feel great being dead, so it doesn't really matter what I do! I was dead Freddie Mercury. Last year I dressed up like the Matrix and I went out for spaghetti.

If you give advice, what's an advice that you find yourself giving over and over?

Just in terms of the industry, I think just, being really kind, and also gracious about working in the field that we work in. I think a lot of times, it's easy to lose perspective. This industry is flooded with talent and money and opportunities, and a lot of the time, you're taught to be very competitive with your peers and your colleagues and that feels like not enough food at the table, so I always try to tell my assistants just to support one another and just be really gracious about things, and look at somebody else's success as just an addition to your life, not as a subtraction. So that's kind of been my mantra.

What are some things you wish, generally, professionally, that more people were taught how to do?

I think that you can take your work seriously because it's your profession or your career, but I don't think it gives you the right to treat people poorly, or beneath you. Obviously, there's a structure and a hierarchy but I think that it's a trickle-down effect and just like, take a moment and have a second to chill, and just figure out a way to problem solve that doesn't involve yelling or being abusive towards someone that you work with. Nobody responds well to that and it shouldn't be part of the system to get abused or treated like crap because you're an assistant or an intern.

Is there some advice that you've ignored and you're happy you did?

There are some people that I really do trust that I tend to go to with professional advice and seek them out. But for the most part, I think there's a lot of noise, and you just have to filter it out and give yourself time and space to figure out what's right for you, because I think that's part of it. What's right for somebody else may not be right for you and your path and your career and your profession. It's not one single trajectory, there's not a right way to be successful.

Do you have anything, in particular, that you look for when you're hiring someone or deciding to work with someone?

People who are smart, sharp thinkers, problem solvers, somebody who's resourceful, somebody who's proactive. And somebody who gets the bigger picture and is existing in the world and understands references but is curious and out in the world and is not ride-or-die fashion. I don't need you to know the last ten things happening on the runway. I like people who are a bit scrappy, too.