Amanda Ross earned her stripes as market director of Harper’s Bazaar where she drove content for every inch of its glossy pages. She started her career at Self magazine and she is currently a consulting fashion director at Anne Klein among many other things. Amanda is the in-house stylist for Chadwick Bell and Gregory Parkinson. Two very different lines, the first definitively "glamorous and regal" the latter "chic and bohemian," both aspects capture the stylist's duel personality. This fashion leader’s style is matched only by her intense work ethic. Ms. Ross multi-tasks as a costume designer, styling characters for the cult fashion show Lipstick Jungle, Meryl Streep in 'It's Complicated' and is currently styling the women of the acclaimed new TV series Smash. She was the Global Fashion Director of W Hotels, while her celebrity client list that she styles is diverse and miles long some of the highlights include Mariska Hargitay, Vera Farmiga and Steve Martin. While shopping at Barneys for upcoming jobs including a Vogue Italia video shoot we were able to catch up with the busy stylist.
What is the most important thing you keep in your kit?
Clips and clamps, but it’s a toss up with safety pins.
How did you get your start?
I followed in my cousin’s footsteps; she was working at Vogue when I left my home in Michigan to move to New York in 1988. I started my career as an assistant at Conde Nast and worked my way up. At the time I didn’t know the specifics of the industry so I did not know exactly what I wanted to do. I came to New York because it inspired me and knew this industry was for me. I grew up around style and glamour, my grandmother was a model, fashion was around me constantly. From the time I was a young girl, around nine or ten-years old I knew fashion was the right fit for me. I was encouraged to follow my dream and be the best at what I wanted to be.
What are you pulling from Barney’s today?
I’m looking for jewelry for a celebrity client and searching for dresses for Smash Star's Kat McPhee and Megan Hilty for NBC May Upfronts. [Note to the reader, I had no idea what 'upfronts' were, in case you are also in dark on this one they are meetings hosted at the start of important advertising sales periods by television network executives with their advertisers.]
How are styling costumes for the screen different from styling fashion for print, how do the two translate?
In many ways the mediums are quite similar. Print can be more magical while film is more literal but the thought process is the same; you have to have an imagination. On screen you’re creating a look for a character could live in real life. You have to be mindful of logistics like "walking and talking and to look good while moving." The characters that I’ve styled for the screen are women that I might know in my life, so I can connect with them and get inside their head. I have to make the director or writer know that I understand the character, how they live, what they eat, where they go about their day then how they dress. For print you have the freedom to be more whimsical and fantastical.
How much prep goes into a runway show, what is your involvement from the beginning?
Every stylist works differently, every designer works differently. I prefer to work from a collections inception to the finish line. Working with designers is one of my favorite jobs. Last month, I was sitting in my apartment writing my column ‘Uptown Girl’ for Departures magazine and it just hit me who the muse for a designer’s next collection would be. Inspiration is around me all the time. The designers I work with have all become really good friends and it’s a process I work on with them year-round. They ask about fabric choices and silhouette, then they move on to shoes and hair and make up and it’s an on going process. It’s very stressful because a designer’s life and business rides on the twenty minutes to perform during fashion week. There’s so much pressure for the designer. Almost right after the show finishes, we start on the next one. I prefer to work that way. I have worked at the finish line as well, I edit the collection and help to create their vision then run out the door. I dont mind and get excited to work under pressure. I perform very well that way because I know at the end of the day it all gets done. Even with craziness that can often ensue, for example if a model doesn’t show. One time I styled a group of designers from Argentina, there were 10 looks for each designer. They didn’t have a big budget to get the models they wanted, each designer had about a minute to tell their story and many models bailed that day for higher paying jobs but we still made a beautiful presentation.
How has the industry changed since you first started?
The sheer volume of choice and how globally interconnected the world is. There’s a shortage of retail space and the Internet has changed retail entirely. It forces people to focus, to be more decisive and to take risk. It’s a lot of pressure to take a risk, but at the end of the day it’s a business and they want to make money.
How has fashion changed?
The high-low relationship of clothes has changed. It has become more about style and more democratic. When I started the fashion world was like a country club, you had to be invited in. Today the public has been invited in with movies like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘The September Issue.’
For me, I like tactile things and I still do not shop on the Internet. I don’t have a doorman, I’m old school. Yes, I use my computer every day but I love to write things down, I like to go into stores, I read books.
What advice do you have for anyone that is interested in getting into styling?
There’s a lot to learn, and the best way to do that is to start at a magazine. It’s a great training ground like no other. And no matter whom you work for, always think of it in context of what else is going on.
Photos provided by Cinamon Projects