My Thought Process Behind Styling the Internet’s Favorite Pop Star

My preparation process for styling a shoot almost always ends with an overheated laptop. I realize there are measures I could take to prevent this outcome — like, say, not trying to do too much at once on an operating system built for mono-tasking, but I have a tendency to get tunnel vision when I’m in the styling zone (if I may be a dork and call it that). Such was the case when I started contemplating the aesthetic direction for Man Repeller shoot with the one and only Carly Rae Jepsen. Before I dive into an explanation of the resulting looks, I’ll run through the typical steps involved in styling a shoot like this for background context:

+ I begin by conducting subject research. (If it’s a model, that simplifies things, because I have more freedom to style according to my own taste. If it’s another variety of talent, like a celebrity or other [insert cool person here], I take their personal taste/level of comfort with certain styles into account.) My ultimate goal is for whoever I’m styling to look in the mirror before we get the shot and feel like a million bucks, and that starts with trying to get in their head, to some extent, while still keeping Man Repeller’s brand ethos and recognizable aesthetic in mind.

+ I meet with Man Repeller’s art team to decide on a visual concept for the shoot. We hash out everything from possible location ideas to prop styling to makeup artist options. (For Carly’s shoot, we decided that Joyface, a 70s-inspired bar on the Lower East side, would provide a rich and visually interesting backdrop — it has a disco ball and a water bed!!!!).

+ I do a huge sweep of recent runway collections and online retailers to identify pieces that would shoot well and jive with my styling direction. By the time I came across this photo of Carly wearing bright yellow tights with coordinating yellow shoes, I’d already hypothesized she’d be game for almost anything. With that in mind, I gave myself license to take a full-on, classic Man Repeller approach to the styling: unexpected pairings, distinctive silhouettes, colors that spark conversation, etc. After taking screenshots of hundreds of items, I played with them on my desktop like a mad scientist, trying out different combinations until I arrived at three outfit mood boards that felt satisfying.

+ I send Elizabeth (MR Market Strategist) links to final selection of pieces, and she reaches out to the brands and retailers to ask them to provide samples for the shoot. In this case, a few things weren’t available, which almost always happens and always crushes me (I get attached!), but we ended up finding great alts.

As a final step for this particular shoot, I emailed Carly’s team a finalized mood board. Once that was approved, my work was done. I’m fully joking. That was the easy part. At this point, the shoot itself, with all its potential, impossible-to-predict curveballs was yet to come. In addition to my general excitement, I always have butterflies before a shoot for exactly this reason, especially when shooting a celebrity. It’s hard not knowing how it will go until I get there. But such is life, and spoiler alert: This one turned out great. Keep scrolling for behind-the-scenes insights into each of Carly’s looks.

Look #1

I remember seeing this Gucci top on the runway and thinking to myself, Oh. Yeah. I need to shoot that on someone. Turned out the perfect someone was Carly Rae Jepsen, who tried it on in the bathroom at Joyface and emerged looking like an exotic bird. When styling with super high-end designer pieces, I like to intersperse them with more approachable finds when possible, so I had Carly try on a pair of pants and shoes from Zara with it. Everything fit beautifully, which almost never happens with the first look. I could tell Carly felt like herself in the outfit, too, which is always satisfying as a stylist. She also seemed to be having a lot of fun posing in ways that accentuated the top’s sleeves (who wouldn’t?). I remember letting out an exhale of relief as I watched. One down, two to go!

Look #2

The only feedback Carly’s team gave me on my initial mood board was to ensure the pieces I pulled weren’t too long or oversized, because Carly is on the more petite side. Elizabeth requested a few additional things last-minute as a result, including this amazing Miu Miu mini dress with barely-visible bike shorts. Carly immediately gravitated toward it when she saw it on the rack. When she tried it on, it elicited one of those instant “WOW” moments that only come about once every blue moon on photo shoots. Not only did it fit perfectly, but it also had a multitude of visually interesting elements (the tiny stomach cutout, the belt, the bike shorts, the knee socks). I decided to pair it with bright blue, rhinestone-encrusted shoes from Amina Muaddi for a “pop of color,” as they say in the biz.

Look #3

The third look is where we finally ran into a few hiccups (it wouldn’t be a fashion shoot without a few). I had the dreamiest outfit in mind for the last look — a Rosie Assoulin top and elbow-length gloves from this ensemble in her Spring/Summer 2019 collection, and these basketball-esque shorts from Prabal Gurung. In theory (a.k.a. in my head), it looked amazing, but in practice (a.k.a. on Carly’s body), it looked like way too much going on. Mainly because of the proportions, which were overwhelming relative to Carly’s small frame. At first I had her keep on the top and gloves and try them on with a skirt from RIXO, which complemented the color scheme nicely, but which looked too long on her. I ended up scrapping the whole thing and opting for a Plan B outfit, which Carly (bless her) was totally chill about. Plan B consisted of a No. 21 shift dress layered over a Kule T-shirt and Miu Miu wedges. It looked great. I breathed my second sigh of relief of the day, and then helped one of the world’s biggest pop stars climb on top of a water bed.

Photographed by Edith Young at JoyfaceStyled by Harling Ross. Market assistance by Elizabeth Tamkin. Makeup by Alana WrightHair by Evanie Frausto

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