Seasoned stylist Aya Kanai is the Fashion Director of Cosmopolitan magazine. Her current gig alongside Joanna Coles is preceded by an impressive resume that boasts positions as Head Stylist at Shopbop.com, Senior Fashion Editor at Teen Vogue, and Fashion Director at Nylon magazine. Kanai has styled celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Ashley Olsen, Kirsten Dunst and Sienna Miller, and has worked as a freelance fashion stylist and creative consultant since 2009, working with brands including Cole Hann, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.
You were recently hired as Cosmopolitan new Fashion Director. Are you excited to return to editorial full-time? Can you tell us anything about Joanna Coles’ new direction for the magazine?
Yes! The opportunity to work with Joanna Coles and the power of a brand like Cosmo is what lured me back to editorial. I am very excited and honored to be a part of her reinvention of the brand. When you go back and look at the legacy that Helen Gurley Brown left with regards to helping women take charge of their lives and empowering women to know that they can have it all, Joanna is the only editor to take those principles and apply them to where our culture is moving in the 21st century.
As a stylist for many different platforms, is it easy to transition between retail, editorial, celebrity and lookbook?
This is a great question! It is not easy, but experience helps make all things doable. The most important thing when I am entering a new project is for me to understand the needs and wants of the client. If you can tap into that, you can transition between platforms without too much trouble.
Shopbob.com has become a giant player in the e-commerce market. How did your role as their Head Stylist contribute to their success?
I am so grateful to have been at Shopbop. I wish every fashion editor could have the opportunity to understand the retail environment. It makes a big difference in grounding one in the very real matters of what women want to buy. I won’t be so bold as to say my being there contributed to their success, but in my role there as Head Stylist, I was responsible for developing and executing the Shopbop brand message through over 500 brands.
How has the stylist role evolved in the last ten years?
Apples and oranges? Day and night? The role has changed dramatically from when I started dreaming of being a stylist to what the role is now. When I started in this business, stylists were the creative people behind the scenes. Now, stylists are brands unto themselves. And yet, interestingly, the secret sauce that separates the bad from the good and the good from the best is still tough to put your finger on…. that mystery keeps it fun.
Do you attend shows and presentations in New York and Europe?
Yes. I just got back from two quick days of meetings in Milan and I am looking forward to attending Paris and Milan this fall.
With more designers out there than ever before, what is the best way for an emerging designer to get your attention?
Quality collections! Please don’t go too wacky with the hair and make up before your clothes are known and understood. Editors see so much clothing, if we don’t know who you are yet, we want to really focus on what your fashion message is and not be distracted by anything else.
Do you have a significant fashion moment, recently or historically, that has changed your point of view, personally or professionally?
Attending the McQueen show. It is magical. Sometimes, I get so deep into the business, but then something tremendous will stop you and allow you to dream again. That is the McQueen show.