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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

How I Broke Into Styling: A Q&A With Celebrity Stylist Annie Ladino

Meet Annie Ladino, celebrity stylist extraordinaire and a power woman in fashion who you’ll likely be hearing a lot more about in the next year or two. After getting her start as the assistant to Joe Zee, Creative Director of Elle, Annie’s freelance career took off as a stylist to Hollywood’s biggest stars. Now, she bounces between styling for clients and editorial shoots and doing television promos on E!, on top of being Chief Stylist of personal shopping site Shop It To Me.

But, Annie’s quick to point out that her fashion career isn’t all glamour, all the time. “People have this idea of me running around in heels and going to fashion shows, and really, I’m running around in sneakers on photo shoots, unpacking 10 trunks of clothes and then repacking them!”

To learn more, we chatted with Annie about her career, her style inspirations, and her beginnings in the fashion world. Read on to get her advice for breaking into the industry, plus learn how to pull off spring’s boldest trends at the office!

How did your career within the fashion industry get started?

I’m from Chicago, and I started loving magazines around age 14. When it was time to go to college at 18, I found the Fashion Institute of Technology through a friend who had gone there. I had just started studying advertising there, and during my first semester, I called up Nylon asking if the magazine needed interns.

While at Nylon, I learned so much and met so many stylists, and I had never really thought about being a stylist at all. But the stylists there would bring me on shoots and all the different jobs that they’d do, and that was much more fun for me than doing a retail job through college.

In my last semester of school, my friend was assisting Joe Zee, who was in between Vitals and Elle, and they asked me to come in as a third person to help out with shoots. The day I graduated, both of Joe’s assistants got new jobs, and I just happened to be on a Maybelline job with him and was available full-time. Six months later, he went to Elle and brought me on with him, and I was there for many years, assisting him on styling every cover. So that’s how I started getting to know celebrities and working with publicists, just meeting people at the magazine all of the time.

Becki Newton [of Ugly Betty] was my first client ever, when I was about 25 or 26. When we first met, she told me she didn’t know of any stylists she liked, and she asked me to be hers. I was a different perspective for her, working at a magazine, and she said that no one else seemed to get it like I did.

Where do you draw your fashion inspiration?

Really, everywhere. I mostly take inspiration from designers’ collections, and I like to do a trend report every season for myself because it really helps me stay focused. Right now, black and white is a huge trend, especially for spring, and knowing that, I’m inspired to put someone’s look together.

But it’s everything—I’ll go on and look at Tommy Ton’s pictures or I see something on The Sartorialist, and I know it’s a great look. Or I’ll see an editor dressed a certain way, like Taylor Tomasi, and I’ll admire the way she did that. Sometimes I get inspired by celebrities on the red carpet, too, and I’ll make a mental note to remember it.

Who are your style muses?

I love the way Kate Bosworth, Kate Moss, and Diane Kruger put things together. And then there are certain icons that everyone knows will be in something great, but I especially love Carine Roitfeld. Sometimes when I’m working and can’t decide on something, I go, “Okay, would Carine like this?” And that kind of steers me back into place.

I’ll also reference the originals, like Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O, and my favorite is Bridget Bardot. Even though she wasn’t necessarily in fashion, there was a style she had that I always like to emulate. These women's looks were perfect and timeless, but yet, I always like to take these classic looks and modernize them.

What first drew you to Shop It To Me, and what are your favorite components of your job as Chief Stylist?

Shop It To Me is so great because it’s basically all of the shopping I can imagine! If I can’t sleep at night, I’m usually on the site, going through every single Thread. I can get carried away with it!

Just being a member is one of my favorite things about the job. The first thing that turned me on to Shop It To Me was when I started to get my SaleMail every morning with everything that was on sale that day. I’d see clothes I’d been coveting years before, but had been previously sold out in the store! I would be so excited that things I’d been searching forever on eBay for were now on sale at Outnet.

Another thing I really love about my job is being a part of the voice online. When I was growing up, we didn’t have bloggers, and being able to do that now—create editorial content online—is something I really enjoy doing.

Any advice for those looking for a career in the fashion industry?

My very first piece of advice is to reach as big as you want to. Don’t shy away or think something is impossible—never do that. When others ask me how to become a stylist, I always ask them to name their favorite stylists in the world, like Lori Goldstein, Joe Zee, or Rachel Zoe. But they always tell me that they would never get the chance to work for them. But why not? You never know until you try—the answer will always be no if you don’t try.

Get internships or apprenticeships with someone that you really admire so that you can learn. Internships are very, very valuable. I learned so much from mine—that’s where I got all of my training and where I met the same people that I continue to make connections with today.

I have a little brother who is studying at FIT to be a menswear designer. He works with me to get experience on shoots and in fashion, and I’m constantly giving him advice. The other night, for example, he had an issue with something, and I told him that if you have a problem, you can’t dwell on it—you have to keep pushing constantly. Fashion can be hard, and training for it can be very hard, but you have to keep going and be very gracious and polite. I constantly tell people who are in this industry that they’re very lucky to be here, because not many people get to do this.

And finally—we absolutely love your top fashion picks for Spring 2013! How would you incorporate these trends into the workplace?

I always recommend trying out a new trend with accessories first, before fully embracing the trend. For example, you can wear animal print—whether it’s leopard, python, or zebra stripes—but you don’t have to go and buy a full-on dress. You can just try a leopard print belt or leopard print shoes; incorporate small doses and see if those work. You don’t have to spend it on really expensive accessories, either. You can try out neon on a Rebecca Minkoff bag, but you don’t have to go get the pricey neon pants. With accessories, you’ll still make a strong statement.

To learn more, visit Annie’s site, and be sure to follow “Annie Ladino’s Picks” on Shop It To Me Threads!