I have always been fascinated with the legion of creative folks that call themselves stylists and often think that if I came back and did it all over again, maybe I would be one too! Creating a world for a photo shoot is not that dissimilar from the worlds we create for events, and I see so many parallels in our universes.
I met Raina Kattelson a couple of years back when we did a photo shoot together for Issue 4 of RUE Magazine [see page 204]. It was a really beautiful story, shot by William Brinson, and the photos situated our David Stark for west elm summer collection within the context of an afternoon “tea” at Matisse or Picasso’s studio. We all packed into William’s small studio, and created this entire stage set of magic together – theater for the camera!
Since then, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Raina more, I enjoy her blog www.astylistslife.com tremendously, and she was kind enough to sit down with me and answer some questions . . .
All photography by John Gruen, unless otherwise noted.
Photo by William Brinson
David Stark: Did you always know that you wanted to be a stylist? How did you start?
Raina Kattelson: At 21 I started my own high end kids clothing line, very japanese/european inspired and sold it across the country to dept. stores and boutiques. It was in Bendel's in the "Street of Shops" when Bendel's was run by Geraldine Stutz and they really promoted young designers. After a few years I needed an influx of cash plus someone who could really handle the business side of things and had trouble finding the right fit so I closed the business. At that time I started thinking about the aspects of fashion that I was drawn to and realized it was more about making the image happen. I started cold calling stylist's whose work I admired and asking of they needed an assistant. I learned the business that way and eventually built up my portfolo and started getting jobs on my own. In the last few years I have moved away from fashion and more towards prop and interior styling which I love.
DS: What is your background? What did you study in school?
RK: I always loved magazines and changing around my room, sewing clothes etc. I didn't know that styling as a job existed. I went to F.I.T and Parsons where my major was fashion design but I kept taking display and interior design classes as well. At the time it seemed unfocused but in retrospect it all helped me do what I do today.
DS: If you had to site 3 of your all times favorite projects, what would they be and why?
RK: The books I styled for Matthew Patrick Smyth and Thom Filicia were great- both of them are such talented people and such wicked senses of humor. I love collaborative projects with super talented people, so the shoot you and I did was pretty great in that way -- you were such a calm presence despite the constraints we were up against. You were able to adjust so easily to the obstacles we encountered.
Photo by Eric Piasecki
DS: Your world is so interconnected with the photographers that you work with. Who are some that inspire you?
RK: I just shot with Eric Piasecki -- he is a master with light. We had bad weather one day and were shooting in almost dark, yet the pictures came out looking like the sun was out. He makes beautiful pictures and makes it look effortless. William Brinson is another light master and so easy to work with. Lately I've been looking at a lot of food photographers and find Chris Court's work inspiring. Bernice Abbot, Bill Brandt, Imogen Cunnigham, Lee Friedlander, Andre Kertesz- that whole generation of photographers was amazing. My father, Sy Kattelson is a renowned photographer and continually inspires me.
DS: What is the dream project that you have not done yet?
RK: An Anthropologie catalog would be pretty cool. Living Etc, Elle- both UK and US magazines would be top of my list as well. Anything involving travel to far off lands.
DS: Have you ever had a styling disaster?
RK: I've been pretty lucky and not had anything major. Props not showing up, weather problems, models booked to shoot fur and showing up refusing to wear fur, but all par for the course. Nothing horribly disastrous.
DS: If you only had three resources that you had to get everything you need for a shoot in NYC, what would they be? Money is not an issue (ha!), procurement is not an issue (double ha!), it’s simply about what you love!
RK: Can I nab a few pieces from the Museum of Natural History, The Met. How about Simon Doonan's prop warehouse at Barney's.
DS: What’s next for you?
RK: I'm finishing up styling a garden book and I have a cookbook for Chelsea Market I'm about to start styling, I've been doing much more food prop styling and really enjoying that. I'm headed to London with Modenus for London Design Week in September with some of my favorite bloggers- that should be great fun. I'm also working on a couple of interesting projects that are still hush.....
DS: Mmmmmm . . . interest officially piqued!