The writing and film world’s loss is the fashion industry’s gain. Stylist-to-the-stars Erin Walsh had ambitions of being an actress and a writer, but when she got hired as a fashion assistant at Vogue early in her career, she fell in love being on-set. One of the industry’s leading stylists, she is regularly listed as one of Hollywood Reporter’s Power Stylists, her clients include fashion’s notorious risk takers Kerry Washington and Sarah Jessica Parker. When your client is known for pushing the boundaries it also means you have a strong and confident stylist behind you helping you define the mood. In addition to Walsh’s incredible eye, her kindness and humble demeanor help her stand out in an industry where personalities can get over the top. She lets her work stand for itself, and with clients who consistently appear on ‘Best Dressed’ lists – she’s doing just that.
How did you get started in the fashion industry? What was your first job?
I got started by deciding that I was too scared to be an actress! So I thought I would get into writing, and I started temping at Condé Nast, and ended up pretty quickly with a job as an assistant in the fashion department at Vogue.
Was styling always the goal?
Styling was never the goal. I didn’t even realize it was an actual job. I wanted to be a writer after I wanted to be an actress – but after my first time on set of a photo shoot, I was sold.
What is your styling motto?
I always trying to find something surprising. There should always be an element of the product, whether its a photo or a look for an event, that makes you step back and think for a second – those ones typically stand the test of time.
Stylists become known for their styling style, so to speak, what sort of statement do your clients want to make when they hire you?
I think probably the people I have the opportunity to work with know that I am a collaborator, and that my job is to help them share the best version of themselves, not to merely super-impose mine or anyone else’s notions of what is best. It is a shared experience and job – that’s the joy in it, really. You always find better results when you listen.
What is your busiest time of year?
Awards season is always busy, and it’s definitely always a scramble before the holidays.
Do you attend all of the fashion weeks?
I don’t. I would love to be going to more shows and events, but I always find that my actual work gets in the way. I usually have fittings and shoots going on the the same time- I go to the ones I can, and I always try to support the designers I love. I love the theatricality of shows. It is fun.
Who are your go-to designers? Do you have much overlap among clients?
So many! It depends on for what…there is overlap of designers for some clients, but not typically of actual looks- but of course the same designers work with many of my clients.
I’ve always wondered, how do stylists dress multiple people for the same event?
It’s just a matter of juggling and logistics. And planning ahead. And most importantly, have an extensive team as your backbone; I could not do this alone.
Do you have a styling nightmare story? Or a crisis averted story?
So many! Things never happen the way you think they will. I have had to sew people out the door, I have had to do shoots with none of my trunks arriving- I actually think one of my best talents is maintaining grace under fire. Especially when you are trying to get things done, there is just no time for losing your cool or freaking out. There is always a way to solve things.
How does your personal style influence your styling decisions for your clients?
I think taste can be infectious-its give and take. I also get ideas about style from the people I work with as well! Not to mention street style, and movies, and art…Probably my personal style most enters in a fitting with regards to fit- I do have a preference for certain silhouettes and the way things should hang on the shoulders, or the crop of a hem, or the shape of a shoe. I am sure I definitely lean in certain directions, but I am endlessly surprised by what can and does work. I try to stay open.
Who do you admire in this business?
I admire the people who manage to be kind and efficient. I tend to have romantic visions and ideals, so always adore people who surprise and continue to dream- especially given the disconcerting pace we have become expected to adhere to. I admire the visionaries.
If you had the opportunity to speak to a graduating class of fashion students – what would you hope to impart?
It doesn’t come easy! Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, and to say yes to everything in the beginning. Things will happen, it just takes plenty of persistence – and kindness. Make sure to always be the kindest person on set. You can be assertive and kind. It is much more efficient. And always remember that it’s not all about you! Even if you don’t adhere to all the feedback, you must listen to all of it so you know what works. Think of operating in this business consciously. It does help.