Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

12 May 2012

Interview #3: Tiffany La Vonne

For my third interview (here are one and two), I talk to fashion stylist Tiffany La Vonne. We chat about designers, staying sane in a difficult business, collaboration, and what we mean when we call something beautiful.

ACT: When you speak about fashion, you often use the word art to describe what you do. I certainly think of couture as art, but can you talk more about what you mean when you talk about style or fashion as art?

TLV: Although I often jokingly say I fell in love with fashion at birth, whenever anyone asks me how long I've had this love affair with fashion, it was actually at 15 years of age when I fell in love with couture, specifically Parisian couture.

At 15, my love for European Fashion developed and I was immediately drawn to this specific genre for several reasons. I fell in love with the rarity, the theatrics, the spectacle, and the over-the-top production of couture. It was at that moment that I knew I was watching art and something inside me was awakened.

And isn't that the purpose of art?

Art forces you to personally connect with its subject, it provokes you to think outside the box, it has the ability to move you mentally and spiritually, it allows you to explore possibilities, it awakens your spirit, it touches your soul. It's the very same concept with fashion and my personal style; couture touched my soul.

How much does feeling good in what we wear or feeling confident/powerful in what we wear have to do with a kind of art or creation? Would you link those two things, specifically or am I being crazy?

Yes I would definitely link the two together; absolutely. One of the things I truly love about being a celebrity stylist is the empowerment of women. This idea of feeling empowered and celebrating your beauty really excites me. At the end of the day, it's not about beautiful designer clothes and what celebrity has on the hottest fashion trend; that is a part of it, but that's not the overall goal. The process of transformation is a life-changing experience for many people.

When an individual feels amazing and that energy radiates from within, it shows. It's displayed through their style, their posture, the way they carry themselves, their overall presence. When you feel empowered and beautiful from within, you're able to freely create because your spirit is free and you're creating from a place of freedom. You're creating from your soul.

I am wondering, too, about performance. I know that you have quite a bit of training as a performer and as a dancer; how would you connect the creative work that you do now to your skill and knowledge in the realm of performance?

My B.A. in theatre arts and Minor in dance play a huge role in my creative work as a fashion stylist. Although I never went to school for styling, I have realized that all my extensive training in dance, theatre, and visual merchandising has allowed me to consistently perfect my eye as a stylist.

In my opinion, performance is all about self-expression. When an actor, dancer, painter, or any individual in the field of arts perform, they are telling the audience a story through creativity. They are writing a story from their soul, but using performance and art as the pen to write the story. It's the same concept with styling. As a fashion stylist, my skills in dance, theatre, and visual merchandising have allowed me to freely create, explore, and visually express myself. The only difference is instead of dance movement, I'm now creating the story through clothes. Through styling, I am able to visually convey my message and personal love of fashion to my audience.

Your work is intensely collaborative, of course. How do you feel about working collaboratively?

I'm very open minded about the idea of collaboration/collaborative work as an artist. I think anytime you are able to freely work with other talented individuals who are strong at what they do and are excited about the creative process, it's a recipe for success for the most part. As a true artist, I am aware that it takes a strong team to create something magical.

When you're styling a celebrity for the Oscars or the Met Ball Costume Institute gala, or any event for that matters, and you are aware of the fact that this look is going to be seen by millions of people around the world, you want to make sure the overall vision is a success. As a fashion stylist, I can't do it alone. I rely daily on the collaborative efforts of other artists to enhance my vision.

What kind of other artists inspire you the most as a collaborative artist?

I love to collaborate with artists who thinks outside the box; again going back to this motto of networking with like-minded individuals. I'm a fashion stylist who love to freely create without limitations, and I love to play with concepts that other stylists have not explored. While other stylists are styling prints with solids, I'm breaking the rule and styling prints with prints. I style from a place of there are no fashion rules and I create from the concept of thinking outside the box. Therefore I get excited anytime I'm able to create with an artist who has their own unique vision that is not considered normal or ordinary. I don't like working with people who want to do what other artists are doing. I am not a fan of ordinary. I am attracted to extraordinary and in order to be extraordinary, you have to be willing to be different. You must set your own path and never be scared to be unique. Kelly Cutrone said it the best when she said, "Normal gets you nowhere!"

You are consistently affirmative, positive, and energetic about yourself and your work whenever I connect with you. How do you stay inspired in your creative process? What are the tools you use or maybe tools is the wrong way to think about it.....

Within the fashion industry, specifically as a celebrity stylist, you're going to experience many highs and lows along your journey. There will be days when you're on top of the world and your energy is at its highest, and then you will experience those days where you feel defeated at times. I've definitely experienced both scenarios, so having a positive outlook, staying inspired, and embracing the journey is how I personally choose to experience my journey. After all, I have been blessed to do what I love. That's my positive outlook on it: I have been blessed to live out my dream and share my talent with the world. I have no choice, but to stay inspired.

It's very important for me to have daily inspiration in my life, therefore I stay inspired in different ways. I keep inspiring and positive people around me at all times because I understand the fact that positivity attracts positivity which only leads to positive rewards. I make it a point to network and associate myself with like-minded individuals who are also – like myself – striving for greatness.

I also stay inspired as an artist through research and education. Even though I have achieved a lot of accolades and I'm at this level of success, as an artist, you never stop learning. I have a major thirst for knowledge and research. I'm always researching the style of past and present fashion icons, inquiring about the latest trends and forecasts around the world, constantly keeping up with the next season's must-haves, and studying the collections of the designers. That's very important as an artist; you have to do your homework. As a fashion stylist, preparation is key.

Let's talk designers for a second. Who are you loving right now?

I have a long list of fashion designers who I love and whose designs speaks to me, but if I had to edit that detailed list, my top seven designers would be Alexander McQueen, Christian Siriano, Maggie Barry, Marc Jacobs, Mary Katrantzou, Michael Costello, and Rachel Zoe.

Just look at Alexander McQueen for example. His creative mind was extremely rare and the way he designed clothes and presented his designs to the world: it was genius. He was all about elaborate storyboards and strong creative concepts. McQueen saw life cinematically, therefore his collections were always elaborate, full of art and film references. The runway served as the vehicle where he could freely express his imagination. He pushed the boundaries with his ideas and designs.

That's what I admire and love about all of the designers I mentioned; I respect the fact that they think outside the box and they push boundaries with their designs regardless if it makes sense to people or not; they stay true to their concept. They all come from this world of fashion being a world of make-believe and a realm where one can freely create. All of these designers have a very clear vision of the concept of fashion as art and as a fashion stylist who is in love with couture, I admire that.

Okay, one last question. What does it mean to say that something is beautiful? Can you come up with a definition?

Honestly I cannot give you a definition of the word beautiful; I don't think it can be defined. In my opinion, anything or anyone who touches your soul in the most unexpected way or allows you to connect with them mentally/spiritually is beautiful. Anyone or anything that resonates with your soul is beautiful to me. Yes, physically, from a superficial perspective, we can say someone or something is beautiful, but how I see beauty goes far more beyond physical. Physical beauty only lasts so long; you need more substance than aesthesis. I relate beauty to the soul of a person because you can be the prettiest person by society's standards, but have the darkest soul. No amount of makeup can mask an ugly heart. I truly believe in the phrase beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

For more information on Tiffany, you can visit her website. She also has profiles on facebook and LinkedIn.