NEW YORK, United States — “There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.... Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion."
So wrote E.B. White in his elegant ode to the city Here Is New York. And, indeed, more often that not, New York is the stage where professional quests play out for ambitious and passionate young fashion creatives from all over the world who have come here to settle.
Compared to other major fashion capitals, New York has a robust ecosystem that prizes commerce as well as creativity, which means career opportunities are plentiful. Some find personal success swiftly, while others work alongside some of fashion's biggest legends, patiently honing their skills for many years before striking out on their own.
Over the past few weeks, BoF spoke to 10 of New York's most promising young fashion creatives — many who were born outside the city — to learn about their personal passions and professional trajectories.
Gordon von Steiner, Filmmaker, 26, Williamsburg
I really want to further my craft and make new things so I try to approach every time a little bit differently.
In today’s new, digitally-led media landscape, momentum continues to shift away from static photography towards online video. But the combination of skills required to create compelling moving fashion content remains rare. Enter Gordon von Steiner.
The Toronto-born von Steiner, who frequently works with iconic lensman Steven Meisel, blends a fashion photographer's eye for beautiful images with a film director’s sense for compelling narratives. And, while he is only 26, many of fashion’s biggest brands have recognised his talent. With Meisel, he has filmed and edited winning films for Prada and Lanvin, while, on his own, he has directed films for Barney’s New York, Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Vera Wang and, most recently, Zara.
A precocious, creative child, von Steiner made “a ton” of videos when he was growing up. By the time he was 12, he had become somewhat of a sophisticated cinephile, voraciously watching the cerebral and visually arresting films of David Lynch, Pedro Almodovar and Woody Allen. These “cinema masters” inspired von Steiner to study experimental film making at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. It was there that he discovered the works of legendary fashion photographers Richard Avedon, David LaChapelle and Steven Meisel. “I became really interested in that aspect of this super, super beautiful aesthetic transferred onto film,” says von Steiner, who cites Meisel as an influence.
Working with Meisel, von Steiner has learned the importance of detail. “It’s not just about light or location but having such knowledge of hair and make-up… even paying close attention to the colour of the models’ eyelids,” says von Steiner. “Most importantly, he has such an appreciation for each member of the team as well.”
For his part, von Steiner still works with the same core team who initially worked together (for free) when he opened his studio a few years ago in Bushwick, where the closest form of 'catering' was a nearby gas station. “It was always things like bananas and tuna fish sandwiches,” reminisces von Steiner of his studio’s humble beginnings.
Now, in a capacious Williamsburg studio, von Steiner and his team have built up a diverse body of work. Like most perfectionists, he oversees most of the projects himself, from shooting films to post production — even editing them himself. Aesthetically, his films are, by design, hard to define. “The one thing I’m always trying to avoid is having everything look the same, but of course there are some things that are always common in every film,” he explains. “I want the viewer to feel something.”
Tom Van Dorpe, Stylist, 30, Chelsea
Never forget that it’s about hard work and most of all teamwork, but try to have fun along the way. It’s gonna make it a lot easier.
As a 16-year-old studying in an art school in Ghent, Belgium, stylist Tom Van Dorpe was cast in Discotheque — a KIDS-like play — with models that included An Oost and Delfine Bafort, both of whom were were at the top of their careers. While touring, Van Dorpe met the owner of a local modelling agency who gave him his first job — as a model scout. He discovered Hanne Gaby Odiele, Cesar Casier and Pauline Van der Crusse and, in some cases, styled their first looks. “I was very comfortable being on these shoots,” says Van Dorpe. Naturally, he became a stylist.
Van Dorpe moved to Paris. But after a year, he knew that New York was the place to be. “I didn’t know what job I could get back then, but I always wanted to come to New York and work in fashion since I was nine years old,” says Van Dorpe. Indeed, the transatlantic move, in 2008, has served him well.
Initially, Van Dorpe planned to stay for only three months, but was encouraged to stay by make-up artist Peter Philips, whom he met on a shoot while assisting stylist David Vandewal. Soon after, Van Dorpe began assisting Marie Chaix, whom he credits for teaching him how to be fearless with his work. He then became a full-time fashion and market editor for V and V Man magazines (he’s a contributor today), where he quickly built a reputation for visually arresting, streamlined editorials that made models look like iconic statues by dressing them in sharp silhouettes and graphic colour combinations.
“I like images that are upbeat and make people think, ‘I wanna be that person,’” says Van Dorpe. He was instrumental in defining Tim Coppens’s signature aesthetic — the clean, streetwear-meets-luxury look that is now having a huge fashion moment. Today, the in-demand Van Dorpe has attracted an enviable list of clients, including Harper's Bazaar, Interview Germany, Vogue China, Peter Pilotto, Hugo Boss and Iceberg.
No matter who Van Dorpe works with, he has cultivated an identifiable style that’s all his own. However, “in styling, there is no ‘right’ and there is no ‘wrong,’” maintains Van Dorpe. “But for your team, and everybody you work with, you need to be sure and be confident enough to say whatever you want to say.”
Robert Storey, Set Designer, 28, Greenwich Village (and London)
I think it’s really important for everyone to know that the only way to make it is to work really hard.
Rising set designer Robert Storey hails from West Berkshire, England, and grew up in an artistic family. His grandfather, a carpenter, and his father, a furniture design hobbyist, were both highly skilled at making objects with their hands. “It was always kind of inherent that I was always going to be quite creative,” notes Storey.
Storey studied sculpture at London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. After university, he moved to Brooklyn and eventually began assisting artists and filmmakers the Neistat brothers and working with talented set designers (and London expats) Janine Trott and Piers Hanmer. Storey admits that coming to New York fresh out of school with limited experience was challenging. “When I was in New York in the beginning, it was a lot more about who you were or what you had done and there wasn’t a lot of scope for people that hadn’t already made it in some way,” says Storey. At the time, “there was a very young creative scene in London with people who were very encouraging.” So he returned and cut his teeth with another talented set designer, Shona Heath. But after 9 months, he struck out on his own, opening Robert Storey Studio.
In London, Storey, who is inspired by modernist architecture and art, was able to nurture his conceptual yet effortless aesthetic, characterised by sharp geometric angles, graphic colours and strong lines. “I like to take complicated things and make them look as simple as possible,” explains Storey, who also has another trademark: perseverance and diligence. In Paris, after a gruelling two-and-a-half days on the set building a giant paper origami for Vionnet, “we were falling asleep on the scaffolding five-and-a-half meters high,” recalls Storey. “But, in the end, it doesn’t seem so bad because it’s always worth it.”
After ten years in London, having built a strong body of work, including editorials for i-D, Wallpaper and Vogue as well as working on Christopher Kane's upcoming show at London Fashion Week, Storey is ready to give New York another try. “Coming back to New York now, people kind of welcome you with open arms because, ‘Oh you’ve done this amazing work,’” Storey observes.
With a well-received Nike presentation on Mulberry Street in New York’s Nolita under his belt and a New York Fashion Week collaboration with Patrik Ervell that’s poised to be an Instagram sensation, Storey is set to continue his rise. “There are a lot of opportunities in New York that aren’t in London.” This fall, Storey will debut a project for Uniqlo.
Dorian Grinspan, Editor, 22, Gramercy
I’d like people to buy Out of Order not because you recognise the name, but because you are attracted to it as an object.
Out of Order may be the name of the fashion, art, and culture magazine founded by Dorian Grinspan, but the recent Yale graduate is anything but out of order.
An editorial talent who is clearly in complete control, Grinspan has gathered a stellar list of contributors in just four short issues. In the current issue, called “The Unknown,” there are photographs from designer Prabal Gurung’s trip to his native Nepal and striking images from American artist Matthew Barney’s latest oeuvre, River of Fundament — as well as advertising from luxury heavyweights such as Stella McCartney, Bulgari, Cartier and Chanel.
Surprisingly, the Paris-born, New York transplant did not launch his magazine with a clear cut plan. Its conception was more “trial and error” than Grinspan’s methodical nature would suggest. Grinspan, then 19, and several other staffers decamped from another Yale University publication because they found themselves wanting to “do their own thing.”
Three months into the project, Grinspan and his team still lacked a name. So like any enterprising and digitally-savvy millennial, Grinspan started a Facebook thread. “Every day we'd post names that we'd come up with. At the end of the week, we would close it and have our name — Out of Order came up.” The publication’s clean and directional visual look was also unplanned, according to Grinspan. “It sort of happened.”
But what’s certain is the strength of the editor’s sharp, erudite curatorial taste. The magazine is currently distributed in 10 countries and has worked with collaborators like Woody Allen, Maria Abramovich, Ryan McGinley and Larry Clark.
Brian Buenaventura, Hair Stylist, 37, Chelsea
In fashion, starting out as a hairstylist was hard and was scary. But at the end of the day, I knew I was doing what I wanted to do. I had a choice.
Rising hair stylist Brian Buenaventura has long indulged his creative impulses. Growing up in Queens, New York, Buenaventura styled his family members — his sister were his main muses — for photo shoots. His mother owned a number of salons and spas and Buenaventura spent years as a massage therapist. His roster of clients included all-star fashion industry heavyweight like Donatella Versace and Mario Testino. But after several years of travelling the world with his well-heeled customers, he returned to his first love — styling hair — and completed his training at the Aveda Institute.
As luck would have it, Buenaventura got a big break when Mario Testino made a well-timed phone call to legendary hair stylist Orlando Pita. Pita's assistant had just quit that morning and a glowing recommendation from Testino landed Buenaventura the position.
“[Orlando Pita] loved to teach technique... no matter how long it took,” says Buenaventura of the invaluable experience. Pita’s faith in his protégée meant Buenaventura soon found himself in the frenzy of the 60th anniversary Dior Couture show at Versailles, doing supermodel Naomi Campbell’s hair, where he learned to work under pressure and think on his feet.
After six years of working with Pita, whom he considers his mentor, Buenaventura began carving his own path and has gone on to work for 032C, Vogue, Elle, Interview, CR Fashion Book, Oscar De La Renta, Public School and Gucci. “Put in the work. It’s not gonna happen overnight," advises Buenaventura. "You have to sacrifice.”
Naomi Yasuda, Nail Artist, 30, Lower East Side
Get inspired and practice a lot.
Growing up in Nagoya, Japan, nail artist Naomi Yasuda has been giving her nails outlandish makeovers since she was 10 years old, when her family and friends were already amazed at her flamboyant work.
When Yasuda moved to New York at the age of 23, she got her first job at Hello Beautiful — a salon in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — when a stylist noticed her nails at a Japanese bar. Later, Yasuda was at a Dunkin Donuts in the East Village when her nails caught the attention of Sharon Gault, known as Mama Make Up in Madonna’s infamous movie, Truth Or Dare. Gault “grabbed [my] hand and was like, ‘Where did you get this?’” Again, her eclectic nail art got her the job. The next day, Yasuda was introduced to singer/songwriter Keri Hilson and has since worked with Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Madonna and FKA Twigs.
It can often be difficult for creatives to transition from working with musicians and celebrities to doing fashion editorial. But thanks to her bold work, which favors a gel application, vivid hues and the use of 3-D materials like stones, studs and chains, Yasuda has done this seamlessly, working with publications including Vogue (US), Elle (US), V and Vogue China. She has also done campaigns for brands including Revlon, Chanel and Barneys New York. But Yasuda’s flamboyant work really shines in Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari's cool and artistic campaigns for Kenzo. And, this season, Yasuda’s nails will be on display at both the Opening Ceremony and Kenzo shows.
Although Yasuda chalks up her rise to a healthy dose of luck, she also acknowledges that to be a successful nail artist, you need to pay your dues. “You need to see as many clients as you can,” advised Yasuda. “You need to practice.”
Piergiorgio Del Moro and Samuel Ellis Scheinman, Casting Directors, 37 and 23, Chelsea
When thinking of models who have potential for success, there’s something about them that transcends just beauty.
For casting directors Piergiorgio Del Moro and Sam Scheinman, selecting the right models for editorial, a campaign or a runway show is like conducting a chemistry experiment — the formula only works when you have the right ingredients.
To build a compelling fashion story, “you need to mix people in the right way,” explains Del Moro, who hails from just outside of Rome, Italy. “Sometimes you can get the best girls that everyone is using in a particular season, but if they don’t all gel together, they don’t add anything to the collection [or story].”
Del Moro, who studied international law and owned a fashion production company back in Italy, has an approach that transcends fleeting fashion trends. It’s not always about beauty. “It’s about personality,” says Del Moro, sounding like a veteran. But in fact, he only started DM Fashion Studio four years ago when he moved to New York at the encouragement of his friend, the stylist Patti Wilson.
Eight months in, Del Moro — who likes iconic beauties from the past like Oriana Fallaci, Maria Callas and Florinda Bolkan — began casting for Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book, which effectively launched his career. Then, roughly two years later, he met Samuel Ellis Scheinman, 23, a born-and-raised New Yorker who had been working in fashion since the tender age of 16, while doing a job for the CFDA. Although Scheinman was working as a stylist, Del Moro invited him to work with him on the Milan menswear shows. Initially, Scheinman wasn’t keen on casting, but Del Moro asked him to take a chance. Scheinman loved the experience, finding it “a mix of different things that I find fascinating,” and joined DM Fashion Studio as a senior associate, though he continues to work on independent projects for the likes of V, V Man and Document Journal and has built strong relationships with model agents, developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of established and rising faces.
Today, the duo count Vogue China, Vogue Japan and Mary Katrantzou as clients and worked on this season's Public School and Versus shows. Starting your own company is a risk, but as Del Moro says, “This city can give you the chance to be what you really want to be [because when] you knock the door, somebody’s gonna open.”
Lauren Boyle, Marco Roso, David Toro, Solomon Chase, Creative Collective, 31, 41, 34, 30, Lower East Side
We’ve always tried to strike a critical tone and create questions to confront things that makes us uncomfortable.
Lauren Boyle, Marco Roso, David Toro and Solomon Chase founded DIS with the goal of establishing a multidisciplinary creative collective more concerned with the culture of ubiquity than the culture of exclusivity. Indeed, when shooting photo stories, the group looks to mass-market department stores — the place where trends reach their apex — rather than the runway. “We weren’t going to Prada. We were going to Burlington Coat Factory. We were really into this materiality that’s mass-produced,” says Boyle.
Born in the midst of the financial crisis and the ensuing 'Great Recession,' DIS began as a simple email thread between friends. It was a reaction to the dwindling freelance market and the rise of Internet culture, which the group embraced aesthetically and conceptually.
At DISown, an online store that's art disguised as retail, they sell limited-stock products made in collaboration with artists, such as Simon Fujiwara’s Gay Wedding Ring and a bag by K-HOLE, a trend forecasting agency which has been credited with coining the term “normcore." Fittingly, to premiere DISown, the group created a classic mass-market infomercial.
Working outside the DIS umbrella, the collective created Kenzo's Autumn/Winter 2012 menswear “Watermarked” video, depicting an unsettling stock-photo-esque world that quickly went viral. Chase, Boyle and Toro also oversee editorial content for VFiles.com, a fashion entertainment platform that’s part publisher and part social media site.
“I think people expect us to push boundaries, make them uncomfortable, and question things. That’s what we’ve always done and what we want to continue doing,” says Boyle.
Maurizio Bavutti, Photographer, 34, Lower East Side
The beauty of being an artist is to see what you actually experienced, to see what you feel as an emotion, to put it in a picture.
Maurizio Bavutti found his way to photography by way of film school. Originally from Modena, Italy, Bavutti spent time in Spain before moving to London, where he did a post-graduate degree in photography at London College of Communication — and got his big break. While working as a runner at Spring Studios, he met the Mert and Marcus team, which, a few months later, he was asked to join as a full-time assistant.
Working with Mert and Marcus, Bavutti learned not only technique but, most importantly, how the fashion system works. Though after five years with the duo, Bavutti moved to New York to find his own voice. “New York is freedom... There’s a chance to actually produce what you’re thinking," he says.
”As an Italian, I’m a romantic, I’m traditional,” he continues. And, indeed, Bavutti can skillfully shoot with a manual camera. But he also uses digital equipment. “They let me introduce colours that you couldn’t reach before,”explains Bavutti. This hybrid of old and new gives Bavutti’s work a recognisable look that’s classic in composition and modern in hue. But his ultimate intention is to evoke “an emotion,” he says.
One of the first people to take notice was Carine Roitfeld, who has something of a knack for finding fresh new fashion talent. Almost instantly, Bavutti shot the editorial called “Waiting in the Wings” with the leading French editor and stylist for the second issue of CR Fashion Book. Soon after, Bavutti racked up editorials in Interview Russia, Harpers Bazaar China, Bon, V, British Vogue, i-D, Dazed & Confused, Elle (US) and Vogue Japan.
Marla Belt, Makeup Artist, 42, Hell's Kitchen
I always like the skin to look really beautiful. I like the skin to look like a Dutch Master painting.
In fashion, sometimes what seems like an overnight success story can actually turn out to have been 15 years in the making. Marla Belt, a supremely skilled makeup artist, found her career taking off just last year, on her own terms, at 42.
As a kid growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Marla Belt began experimenting with fashion at an early age, using makeup to create characters. Inevitably, she made the migration to New York to study fashion design at FIT. After a year, Belt left to complete an illustration degree at Parsons the New School for Design.
While at Parsons, Belt started doing shoots with photography students and realised that makeup was what she really wanted to pursue. Before graduating, Belt was hired as a makeup artist at MAC Cosmetics, where she worked for 11 years.
Belt’s big break came, in 2005, when she started working with the legendary Pat McGrath. “In makeup, it was the highest pinnacle – you can’t really get higher than that,” says Belt. While working with McGrath for a total of seven years, she took away a few tricks of trade and realised that constant visual research is absolutely critical. “For me, in my downtime, I’m always looking and always storing images in my head of what I want to do in the future,” explains Belt.
Last year, Belt decided to strike out on her own — and she’s quickly carving her own path. To date, she has worked for Vogue Japan, Vogue Germany, Interview, Teen Vogue and Numero. Above all, Belt loves pure beauty stories that give her a chance to showcase her signature, graphic sensibility. The strongest example? Her work with photographer Ben Hasset for Vogue Germany. “It’s very colourful and mixed-medium-looking.”
Though Belt has shown early signs of success, she knows that it takes time to make it. To aspiring makeup artists, she says, don't focus on becoming a Youtube sensation, but hone your skills. “Know about art or drawing or colour theory,” says Belt. “It’s always nice to have some dimension – a different framework – to your skills.”
Editor's Note: This article was edited on 8 September. An earlier version of this article misstated that Robert Storey's father was a furniture designer. He was not. He was a furniture design hobbyist.