When it comes to the fashion world, there’s virtually no corner that stylist Kate Young hasn’t explored. She not only has worked behind the scenes at Vogue, she also styled the first-ever cover of Teen Vogue. She has helped once-fledgling designers—ahem, Rodarte and Jason Wu—cement their signature aesthetics by assisting with debut runway collections. Her list of celebrity clients include A-listers like Natalie Portman, Sienna Miller, Michelle Williams, and Kate Mara.
But even with all these accomplishment under her—carefully coordinated—belt, Young is still exploring new facets of an industry that’s welcomed her with open arms. As our latest Influencer, we take a closer look at Young’s personal style and what’s up next for her. Read on to learn more about her disdain for shants, why you’ll never see her in turquoise, and whose ’90s-era style inspired her career path. Then check out her edit and head over to Barneys to apply a bit of her classic-with-a-twist taste to your own spring wardrobe.
The Window: How would you sum up your own aesthetic or style?
Kate Young: That’s a really hard question—I think ‘edgy-classic’ comes closest, which is actually the name of a story that never got shot while I was at Vogue. I always liked that title, though, because I dress in pretty basic way, but always in pieces that are well-designed twists on classics. I wear a lot of button-down shirts, jackets, jeans, and flat shoes, but I like interesting ones, like Céline flats, or a Proenza Schouler biker jacket I have that’s dark grey instead of black. A twist on a classic piece is interesting to me.
Speaking of your time at Vogue—you got your start working with Anna Wintour and Tonne Goodman—what would you say was the most important thing you learned from them?
Tonne has the best manners of anyone in New York City. It was really powerful to see a woman who is so successful and busy still be gracious 100% of the time. Even if asking for something difficult, she did it in a really polite way. It’s the opposite of what people imagine a fashion editor being, and I really respect and admire that. I aspire to be that way.
You’ve become really well known for is red carpet styling. What would you say is the most important factor to take into consideration for that setting?
What it looks like in a picture. A lot of dresses look beautiful and are really interesting in person, but look terrible in photos. For instance, one thing I love in real life is black lace over a nude or pale pink lining—in real life, that’s a beautiful effect that’s feminine and pretty. But in a photo, it can look like your skin is bursting out of the lace—it can be very unflattering. Or, a dress that’s super plain from the front but has a really interesting back—it’s kind of useless to me unless you’re going to stand on the red carpet backwards the whole time like a weirdo. You lose the poetry of it in a photo—in person, that can be the most beautiful thing when you see someone in a really simple dress and they turn to walk away from you and it’s backless or has something interesting going on. But for red carpet photos, it’s boring.
This may be a Sophie’s Choice moment, but would you be able to pick your top 3 favorite looks you’ve styled over your career to date?
I really can’t. It’s often just the most recent thing I’ve worked on because it’s front of mind. It’s a lot easier for me to tell you my top three red carpet looks of all time not styled by me—dresses from before I started styling that actually made me want to do this job:
1. Nicole Kidman in the chartreuse John Galliano Dior dress. [1997 Oscars]
2. Martha Plimpton with River Phoenix at the Oscars—it’s everything you want that feels totally ‘90s. [1989 Oscars]
3. Kind of an unsung look, but Cate Blanchett in a phenomenal Gaultier Couture gown with snakes or dragons down the back.
What 5 trends or pieces are you most excited to be wearing this spring/summer?
1. I love a simple dress with a flat sandal—that’s going to be my go-to work outfit all summer long.
2. I tend to wear a lot of black or white, but this year I’m a lot more excited about patterns than I have been in a long time. Gucci really got me excited about vintage-looking dresses.
3. I really like a wide-leg pant that has the feeling of a skirt, paired with a t-shirt that looks crisp. I’m sick of really thin, washed-out t-shirts that look spring-y. There are great t-shirts this season from Acne Studios and Lemaire—these really crisp-looking, slightly oversized, cropped t-shirts. I haven’t wanted to wear a t-shirt in a while, but I have been recently thanks these ones that feel more modern.
4. I’m loving slides that are closed in the front—something that looks like a ballet flat or loafer, but that’s open in the back.
5. I like soft jackets, like soft raincoats or blazers, but that are a little less structured and without shoulder pads. Ones that are a little more drapey.
Are there any fashion rules you live by?
Don’ts: Turquoise—the color, not the jewelry. I think turquoise on a blond is horrific, just the cheapest-looking thing ever. I don’t like a pant that’s neither a pant nor a short, some kind of shants; I hate a clam-digger. I hate ‘boingy’ t-shirts, any fabric that snaps back even stronger than you pull it. And raspberry colored t-shirts. They’re the most ubiquitous ‘fast fashion’ thing—you go into any store where t-shirts cost too little, and they make these raspberry-colored t-shirts that you’ll see walking around any airport.
Dos: Button-down shirts. Crewneck sweaters. Tight jeans. Navy and black together—I wear them together nearly every single day. I like three textures in an outfit—if you wear leather boots with leather pants and just a shirt, you need a sweater or cardigan for another texture to make it feel balanced. Three textures together feels really satisfying to me.
When it comes to your career, you’ve really done it all: editorial, runway, print, celebrity. Are there any new frontiers you’re dying to explore?
I like making things. I’m working on glasses right now and in the past have done knitwear—kids sweaters and mom sweaters that matched. Up next, I really want to make evening bags. I have this thing about evening bags where there’s this missing link in that world. Most girls, for example, don’t really want to carry a box clutch. That’s fine with an evening gown, but if you’re going out with your friends or going to see a show, a box clutch is so inconvenient. There’s a missing place in the market.