Behind the bows, stylists set tone on NY catwalks

Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:08pm EST
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Waiting in the wings as designers take a celebratory bow at the end of a fashion show, stylists are increasingly shaping the looks sent down the runway.

Once relegated to suggesting what shoes or jewelry would help create a cohesive look for shows, stylists are now influencing designers more than ever, affecting what garments are put together for individual looks, industry experts say.

The rise of celebrity stylists such as Rachel Zoe, who has her own TV reality show, and Joe Zee, has helped raise the profiles of runway stylists.

The stylists' growing impact on fashion shows has divided the industry over whether they detract from a designer's creativity or breathe new life into looks and broaden a collection's appeal.

"The fashion community is very polarized on this issue," U.S. television personality and fashion guru Tim Gunn said at New York fashion week, which features 89 designers showing fall and winter collections for 2011.

Gunn said while some feel stylists are invaluable, he considers them "buttinskis," or people who intrude in other people's affairs. He added: "I would never surrender a fashion show to a stylist. Never."

Stylists, mostly self-employed, create images for everything from magazine shoots to celebrity looks to runway shows. But in helping create a runway show, stylists now play a "more dominant role" from the start, said Kathryn Neale, a stylist for the Luca Luca fashion label.

"Typically the stylists would come out and put the clothes together, but nowadays as a stylist you are called in at the very beginning of the season," she said.   Continued...

<p>A stylist applies some last-minute hairspray to a model before the Tommy Hilfiger Fall/Winter 2011 collection show during New York Fashion Week February 13, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Thayer</p>