The Producer: Elysha, we’ve worked together throughout the years, even before I was living in New York. Tell me about you. Where did you grow up? How did you come to be a stylist?
Elysha Lenkin: I grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC— Potomac, Maryland.
When I first moved to NYC, I worked at a fashion trade magazine as a writer. It was a small staff, the kind of place where everyone did everything. I ended up styling the in-house shoots. At the time I knew a lot of freelance photographers, and saw how they had a certain freedom in their work/life balance. I wanted that! So I immediately started assisting.
TP: What was your first job as a stylist?
EL: It was a long time ago -- I barely remember, but I think it was a low budget ad job. They asked me to make the model’s pants shorter and I cut them! I wasn’t so savvy to the set hem back then.
TP: What’s an average day like for you?
EL: There is no average day, I’m freelance!
When I’m prepping a job my day consists of shopping—I like to be super organized about what I’m pulling, so I keep track of everything I get (and how much I’m spending). On set, it’s all about coordinating outfits and making models look good. Sometimes, I feel like I’m a retail store manager with the amount of merchandise I’m in charge of.
TP: I am always so impressed by how organized and resourceful you are. I think many people don’t realize that as a lead stylist, a lot of your job entails intense research, organization and management of your team. It’s not just going out to your favorite store and shopping. What is it that you like the most about your work?
EL: The variety. It’s never the same thing twice. Even when working with a repeat client, there’s always a twist, which keeps every job feeling fresh.
TP: I feel the same way about producing! So, what’s the most challenging?
EL: The time pressure. So often, I’m under a time crunch to achieve a lot of looks in not enough time. The last-minute nature of the business can be frustrating.
TP: Do you have a highlight or success story you’d like to share?
EL: Styling 54 people (with you!) was definitely the largest number of people I’ve ever had to style. And since I like to provide a boatload of options… I had over 500 outfits on this job!
TP: I have to say, you practically installed a retail store in our studio for the shoot. But most impressive is how, although restricted to a very neutral palette and conservative style, you were able to create over 54 very unique wardrobe looks. This was no small feat! You had a few great wardrobe assistants helping you out too. Let's talk about the support you have on a project. When you have an assistant working for you, what do you look for in someone that you would hire?
EL: I definitely seek out an assistant with a great attitude…someone who is up for anything and will do it with a smile. Okay, so maybe not a smile when they’re schlepping 9 bags. But at least someone who isn’t a grump about it. Being a stylist can be tough, and I need someone who’s ready to work hard and have a good vibe.
TP: What would your advice be to an aspiring stylist?
EL: Define your style and nurture your vision. Stay active and engaged by doing test shoots where you can push yourself creatively.
TP: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from anyone?
EL: Take 3 long, deep breaths before reacting to a stressful situation.
TP: Have you ever considered getting representation?
EL: I’ve had reps in the past. Right now, I’m better on my own.
TP: Tell me about you, separate from your career.
EL: I’m a mom with 2 kids. When I’m not working, I like to pick them up from school – it’s important for me to have a close connection to them.
I’m also really into yoga. It’s how I practice keeping calm and carrying on, and hopefully this trickles into my day to day life.
TP: How do you normally get new projects?
EL: Usually it’s from the people I know and word of mouth. But occasionally I’ll get an out-of-the-blue call from someone who found me online.
TP: Through which channels do you promote yourself?
EL: I’m on all the social media channels—Instagram and Twitter are my favorite. And Pinterest, but that’s probably more for fun.
TP: From which sources do you draw your inspiration?
I am incredibly inspired by movement, and how the body (and clothes) look while moving-- it’s such a beautiful form of expression. And by living on the Lower East Side, I am exposed to such a diverse range of cool people and personal style...I’m always seeing interesting stuff down here!
TP: How would you describe your own personal style?
EL: Downtown soccer mom -- a little bit sporty, a little bit rock n roll, and always with a playful mix of color and prints.
TP: You're personality and energy certainly shows in your style. I also love the new direction you've taken with your website and work. Tell me about your focus.
EL: To inspire women to look and feel their absolute best.
With my private clients, I now include yoga (I’m certified to teach) to help ground them into their bodies before we begin our closet cleanse.
And I’ve started a lifestyle blog that explores ways to connect -- mind, body and soul. It’s styling from the inside out, and it goes way deeper than the clothes we wear.
There’s a definite trend in advertising right now to show the whole story... like what Under Armour did with their I Will What I Want campaign. I’m interested in working on jobs like this -- that are authentic in their expression and help to empower women.