Arianne Phillips - Stylist
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Los Angeles
Arianne Phillips - Stylist
Kuki de Salvertes:
Arianne, tell me how you started into fashion. Was it an evidence or did it slowly grow up throughout chance encounters?
I attempted to start my fashion career in the late eighties in NYC..I was an assistant for a very short amount of time, before realized I was a very bad assistant. However, the short amount of time I was an assistant taught me volumes about how to treat people, and how important "relationships" are in this industry. My first editorial work was for Details magazine ,which at the time was THE "downtown" NYC fashion magazine. It was THE barometer of cool. Annie Flanders and Ronnie (Cooke) Newhouse gave me my first editorial assignment. I also worked for the fashion magazine "TAXI" ,which was one of the only fashion magazines that hired free-lance stylists/editors. I found the fashion world to be very intimidating,and competitive ultimately I felt I was too sensitive, so I switched my focus to music and musicians...This was the time exactly that I met Lenny Kravtiz whom I met thru mutual friends and quickly became one of my close friends,we met before his first CD was recorded .Once he recorded his first CD, he asked me to collaborate with him on his photos shoots and videos..My friendship with Lenny was the beginning of my journey as a stylist, that has brought me where I am today.
KdS: You collaborate with various magazines, work for several artists, and design costumes for movies and stage performances. The word stylist seems too simplistic to describe you. How would you define yourself?
I am a stylist when I work in fashion. When I work on a film I am credited as a costume designer, which is what I am. My work with musicians and certainly with Madonna usually embodies both aspects of my work styling & costume design. As a stylist my job is to gather,hunt, edit and generally create "a look" or "feeling" with found clothes be them from designers, vintage or shopping in boutiques or malls...When working on a film or a big tour and sometimes in music videos, we are creating characters and helping tell a "narrtive story", and our job is to not only be able "gather" but to "create and design" clothing/costumes from nothing.
KdS: You are one of the most prominent costume designers in Hollywood. How did you get into that industry?
I made the choice to move to Los Angeles from NYC 12 years ago, to pursue work as a costume designer and to work in film. At the time I was feeling that I needed to go somewhere where I could create my own "identity" / "persona" creatively . It was a blind move, scary and lonely. At the time it was very UNCOOL to live in L.A...No one could understand why I would leave the cultural sophistication and excitement of NYC for L.A...I didn't even know why, I just knew I needed to go somewhere where I could create something for myself , and it seemed right on some level. I moved here only having worked on 2 films, very small low budget films. I made some huge mistakes..the first script I read right before I moved here was Reservoir Dogs, I "passed" on it..I thought the script was stupid. Obviously ,I didn't "get it"...It took a while of trial and error to figure out exactly what a "good" script read like...Scripts are very basic ,like outlines not a lot of description...It takes some getting used to ...for example I had no idea Guy Ritchie's Swept Away would be such a disaster with the box office and critics, we had so much fun working on that film...The same could be said on the opposite side of the spectrum for Walk The Line, I had no idea so many people would react and love the film so much, and I had absolutely NO IDEA I would be nominated for an Oscar...Film is fickle and strange, you have to focus on the work , the process and not the outcome..That way you will never get your heartbroken or be disappointed !
KdS: How do you choose the movies you collaborate to?
First and foremost I have to connect with the script, the story. Then the director, the actors all that follows...And of course timing. I have had amazing opportunities to work on films , and terrible conflicts in scheduling...So , I don't get to work on every film I would like to...
KdS: I guess that your encounter with Madonna has been a key moment in your career. How did it happen?
Courtney Love and I had just finished working on The People Vs.Larry Flynt together (I designed the costumes),we became good friends...Courtney was asked to be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine THE WOMEN IN ROCK ISSUE 1997.It was Courtney, Madonna and Tina Turner...Madonna was in between stylists ,she asked Courtney for a recommendation. It was actually quite a funny situation in retrospect, since Courtney went behind my back and against my wishes and recommended me to Madonna. When Courtney asked me about working with Madonna as well as her for this shoot, I said no. Because I thought it would be enough to focus on Courtney, especially since Tina Turner had her own stylist. Courtney went behind my back contacted my agent and got my portfolio. Courtney then wrote Madonna a personal note and attached it to my portfolio, and had it sent over to Madonna's house. I was quite irritated with Courtney when I got the booking to style Madonna as well..I called Courtney and she just said to me "stop acting so below the line"...Which stopped me dead in my tracks and made me laugh...The term "below the line" is an almost derogatory term used for many years referring to the pay line between actors, producers and directors ,and everyone else. Everyone "above the line" are actors, producers, and directors, "below the line" is everyone else costume designers, cinematographers, production designers , etc....Courtney is brilliant and clever and never ceases to win an argument, and for that I can't help but love her !
KdS: You work on the image and the look of Madonna and many other artists. What is exactly your role beside them? In addition to your grand sense of style and knowledge of fashion, what are your secrets to establish celebrities loyalty?
Thank you for your kind compliments!
As a stylist to musicians/artists , I see my role as not only an "editor" but also it is also important to be able to have a "point of view",and be forthright and honest about the esthetics at hand. There are so many people hired along the way in an artists career who are there to please them... I try to help expedite and make their vision come to life OR I try to translate what they are expressing with their music in a visual way.I think the most important thing is to work with like minded people. I have been extremely lucky in that I have had the privilege of working with very smart ,prolific and powerful artists...The key to long term relationships I believe is open and constant communication,and a similar sensibility .
KdS: Arianne, do you remember the first time we met? I think that, together, we kind of put our mark on fashion of the mid 90ís. How do you explain the huge impact on media that our collaboration had then generated? Could the Olivier Theyskens/Madonna stunt that we set up at that time, have the same impact today, obviously with other protagonists?
AP: Yes, of course Kuki I completely remember meeting you for the first time. I was like who is this guy KUKI with the funny name????!!! When I first came to TOTEM I was very inspired by the collection of young designers and the energy of your young and very cool & chic staff...Some of who I consider my good friends still today almost 10 years later !! It is ALL about timing for me when it comes to making artistic and cultural impact...The timing and synergy was perfect when we first met and we collaborated with Oliver. It was very exciting. I believe it is my job to seek out new designers and artists and bring them to the artists I work with. In a magazine culture where editorial is dominated by advertisers ,I feel all the more than it is my responsibility to seek out the young and independent designers...The interesting thing about working with Madonna , is that she has defnitely made significant and major impact with the fashion designers she has collaborated with.It is constantly amazing to see the translation on a retail level when Madonna wears a new designer. The difference with Olivier is that he has proved what a HUGE and major talent he is. A talent that does not come along everyday, he is an exception like Gaultier, a true talent. He cannot help it , it is part of him, not fleeting like the new "flavor of the month"...I felt his genius when I first saw his collection,and then it was confirmed at his first show that you produced. I will never forget Olivier's father waving his fingers at me and making me promise Madonna would take good care of his son's clothes...I loved how family it was,and obviously how Olivier was supported and allowed to be the artist he is.
KdS: What does Arianne Phillips schedule look like? Is it as complex as we could imagine? How much of your time do you give to magazine editorials?
Ah schedule !!! Yes, scheduling is often tricky especially when it comes to travel since I choose to live here in Los Angeles which is like living on the north pole we are so far from NYC and Europe!...Thank goodness for email, which enables me to stay in touch. I try to diversify and keep my work varied, so I don't get too stagnant and bored. I guess you could say I suffer from "attention deficient disorder", I like to switch from films, to magazine editorial to working with musicians like Madonna.I find the combination and the variety of jobs keeps my work fresh. Its nice to go from "tableau" form in print and photography work to film and video where is it more about the 3 dimensions ..To work from fashion to music to film, is also about working conceptually and well as with a narrative . I find where these different jobs meet, there is some magic for me...Often after a few months of editorial ,I am dying for character and narrative, and the same can be said that after working on a film where it is all about story to switch to editorial it is nice to be a bit more indulgent and conceptual. I feel that each job "informs" the other...Recently, in the past couple of years I have branched out consulting for a couple different brands, I find it REALLY great work and keeps me thinking "big picture" and conceptually as well as practically about the retail market...I can see myself moving more in this direction, I like it and I think I have a good perspective to offer.
KdS: Arianne, what makes you different? What are your style commandments?
I don't know what makes me different? I try not to think too much about my work or my persona in the industry as opposed to other stylists or costume designers...That is more for other people to decide.... My style "commandments"??? I would say...Creatively I try and surround myself with interested and inspiring people,and people with a sense of "fun"...Stay open to change and collaboration, be flexible and forward thinking!My favorite item are black safety pins, which I buy by the box...I love them !
KdS: What does your personal wardrobe look like?
Lots of black. Lots of shoes. Lots of t-shirts by Rick Owens, and plenty of vintage pieces I have collected over the years. Have a rule, if I haven't worn it in 2 years I get rid of it. I try to not be nostalgic or sentimental about clothes.
KdS: How do you view your future?
Hopefully, I will be able continue on the same path. Working on films, in fashion, music and consulting. I would love to work or collaborate on a book. There are many places I would like to travel to...I am lucky I have an amazing boyfriend and home life, so hopefully we will continue to grow together to love and have FUN !
Oceans of angels, oceans of stars
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