Michelle McCool is a stylist and creative consultant whose expertise has influenced fashion brands to Fortune 500 companies. With a resume that boasts former fashion director and editorial roles at Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Allure and Elle, celebrity clientele ranging from Lady Gaga to Scarlett Johansson, and collaborations with Patrick Demarchelier and Pamela Hanson, McCool is a veritable force in the art, entertainment and fashion industries.
How would you define your job?
I’m a creative consultant, creative director and fashion stylist. My magazine training gave me a wide skill set.
You were fortunate to be able to work alongside the legends: Polly Mellen, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton – what did you learn from their expertise? How have you applied this to your aesthetic and signature style?
Working for Polly Mellen and esteemed photographers taught me how to make a “story.” It’s not just about the clothing; it’s about the woman. It’s about creating a fantasy to inspire the audience. I learned restraint in styling; piling on accessories doesn’t make something better just messy!
Did you have a favorite collaborator?
I’ve been fortunate to work with the best photographers. Early in my career, Patrick Demarchelier taught me about casting the right models. We were always shooting a group of girls in St. Barth’s. It was fun and not too serious. These days I am interested in the new crop of women photographers — Sarah Silver, Jamie Nelson, Kim Myers Robertson and Hilary Walsh to name a few. They add a talented female eye to fashion and beauty. I’m tired of the misogyny that’s often portrayed in fashion.
What about an all-time favorite or memorable project?
I was styling Adele for a cover of Cosmopolitan. Some songs from her album “21” were at the top of the charts, but I wasn’t familiar with the whole album. I listened to it on the flight to London and fell in love with each song. As the shoot progressed, she became more relaxed and gave us a private concert. It was amazing to be so close that voice. She is a great talent and a wonderful self-deprecating woman.
What trends have you seen recycled over and over through the years?
Good design from the 20th century often repeats itself from Vionnet and Madame Gres, Coco Chanel, Claire McCardell, Dior’s New Look, Biba, Halston and Tom Ford. I was a history major in college and I’m fascinated by cultural movements that encompass art, literature, music and fashion. I especially love the Surrealist movement of the 1920s and London in the 1960s. Every era has its heroes.
What are your thoughts on the democratization of fashion?
I love it. I look at my assistants wearing great clothes from H&M, Zara and Uniqulo. One can try the latest trends without a financial commitment. That said, nothing feels better than a luxury garment. Anyone who works for me knows I am a quality over quantity girl!
Can you describe the role you held at J.C. Penney?
J.C. Penney changed my career. I was the creative director of the Cosmopolitan brand of lingerie, shoes and handbags. I harnessed the essence of the Cosmo brand into products. I learned about producing good products, the limitations of factories, listening to the consumer and bringing luxury design details to the mass market. Getting the sales figures each week was also a big rush!
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m consulting with fashion brands, creative directing an ad campaign, styling covers of magazines and I’m even pitching a book on interiors, a passion project.
After many years in the industry, what gets you excited?
I’m excited about the next frontier of e-commerce and digital magazines. Translating the glamour of a print image to an online platform is the assignment du juor for all image-makers.
Can you describe an average day in the life of Michelle McCool?
The great thing about running Michelle McCool Style is that every day is different. In one day we can be meeting with a CEO about products and branding, holding a fitting with a celebrity for a red-carpet appearance, and going to a magazine to pitch new cover fashion concepts. My business encompasses fashion, beauty and lifestyle, so everyday is new but grounded in good taste.