The Styley

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April 2, 2013

My Styley Friend: Jessie Cohan

I met stylist Jessie Cohan way back in September. We were both at the Alex Olsen opening at Lisa Cooley, and we chatted about the madness of Fashion Week (it was my first time shooting streetstyle there.) At the time, Jessie was sporting printed shorts and a chambray shirt, and I liked how casual, cool, and comfortable she looked. I believe that real style means dressing appropriately for a given situation, and Jessie was doing just that.

What do you do?

I’m a stylist.

How long have you done that?

I started as an assistant seven years ago, but I’ve been on my own for the past several years.

What does assisting mean?

You do all the grunt work of the whole operation: running around to showrooms, picking up bags, packing bags, transporting bags, steaming clothes, unpacking everything, laying everything out, organizing it by designer, packing it back up at the end, returning it to the showroom…You're a glorified mule.

Were you doing something else before, or was styling something you always wanted to do?

I was working at an art gallery, a new media nonprofit where I was teaching the artists in residence how to incorporate new media into their work. I got really sick of working at a desk in being a basement. I knew I liked collaborating with artists and other creative people, and it just happened that someone knew a stylist who needed an assistant. The qualifications were all things that I had. I tried it out and ended up loving it.

What were the qualifications?

Problem-solving. I’ve always loved shopping, knowing where to go for what. It’s the same visual and aesthetic creative eye, but it’s clothing. I’ve always been interested in fashion, helping people find the perfect thing to wear and what looks good on them. I’ve always found obscure things that I like that end up being major trends years later.

For me, clogs, ponchos and bell-bottoms are three things that never go out of style. I don’t care if no one else is wearing them. I want to wear them anyway. Do you have things like that?

Slim, kind of fitted jeans. Skinny-ish but not skinny skinny. I love exposed ankles. Cute schoolgirl dresses. Cardigan sweaters. Leather jackets. Black ankle boots—I have at least ten different versions.

I also feel like plaid never goes out of style.

I agree with that. I feel like it’s kind of a New England/Seattle grunge thing.

What are the best things and worst things about owning your own business?

The best thing is making your own schedule, being your own boss. It makes me more motivated. I’m much more efficient than I would be working for someone else. You have to be business minded about it. New York is a very difficult place—it’s very competitive. You just have to keep going for it, even if you feel like it’s not working.

I’ve always been curious about personal styling. Tell me a little bit about how that works.

For me, the job is very psychological, getting inside the mind of the person or project I’m working with. What are they like, what do they want to express, what are they comfortable with? I just worked with someone who I had hoped would go kind of avant-garde, wear a harness, or Rick Owens, but he wasn’t having it. He found those things too "Zesty." That was fine, and we went a much safer route.

When need inspiration for your job and for life in general, what kinds of things do you look to?

Websites, magazines, blogs, museums, art galleries. I watch a lot of films. Music, concerts. New York is just amazing. You walk on the street and you’re inspired by outfits people are wearing.

What is some advice you would give somebody who wanted to do what you do?

The best way is to apprentice. Find someone whose work you like, whose portfolio you like, and whose working style you like, and start out as an intern. There’s a real etiquette to working on set and collaborating with everyone in the most professional way possible. The only way to learn that is to see it happen.

What is that etiquette?

You deal with a lot of strong personalities. You have to know when to listen and when to give your opinion, know when to push something and know when to say to the creative director, “okay, let’s do it your way.”

Do you like collaborating?

I love collaborating. That’s my favorite part of the whole process. I love working with other creative people who are good at what they do. On a really good shoot, the outcome is greater than the parts. I like the back-and-forth, that everybody is working toward this one objective. Together you get better results than any one person would get on their own.

Do you have any tips for people who are a little bit lost with their style?

I think the biggest mistake people make is trying to be “in style.” I think it’s more important to develop your own personal style. Even if you’re wearing the same thing every day, you know that that blazer, those jeans, and that shirt are what looks best on you. Another piece of advice I have is to invest in something well made, a classic piece that you can use for the next ten years instead of a bunch of disposable things that won’t last. Buy something less often but buy something nicer.

What are three things you don’t leave the house without?  

iPhone and charger, hand sanitizer, safety pins, and Fresh tinted lip balm in rose.

If you had a life philosophy what would it be?

I try to be positive and optimistic and try to look at the glass half full. So I would say: Don’t worry be happy.