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The New Way Celebrity Stylists Are Paying the Bills

Stylists best-known for working with celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Matthew McConaughey are signing onto an app where they dole out wardrobe advice to the public.
Stylists speaking at a GlamHive event | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Melissa Magsaysay

LOS ANGELES, United States — In the spring of 2018, some of the most in-demand celebrity stylists gathered at the Sunset Tower Hotel to hear a pitch that in some cases would take their careers in a radical new direction.

The stylists were the creative forces behind some of Hollywood's most famous looks, from Kristen Stewart's Chanel ensemble for the 2019 Met Gala to Angelina Jolie's memorable leg-baring black Versace gown at the 2012 Oscars. But prepping celebrities for movie premieres and awards shows wasn't paying the bills anymore. Rates were on the decline, and studios had in some cases stopped paying for basic expenses like tailoring and shipping.

The pitch, from Seattle entrepreneur Stephanie Sprangers, was to join Glamhive, an app she was developing where anyone with a few hundred dollars to spare could hire a stylist to the stars for a wardrobe overhaul or a pre-event glow-up. Several quickly signed on, including Tara Swennen (Kristen Stewart and Matthew McConaughey), Nicole Chavez (Kristen Bell) and Jennifer Rade (Angelina Jolie). Glamhive officially launched earlier this year.

The platform is a radical departure from the exclusive world of celebrity styling, where jobs are typically booked through agencies and top names rarely venture outside their network of star clients and luxury brands. But as red carpet rates have waned, many stylists have begun to rethink how they approach their jobs.

Aside from a movie press tour, you never really know what you're going to do week to week.

“Celebrity hair stylists see personal clients in a salon when they’re not on set, this is kind of a way for us to do that,” said Lindsey Dupuis who works with Nikki Reed, Sharon Stone and Meagan Good, and signed up with Glamhive last year. “You get paid more and you get paid well. It’s due time we start taking advantage of personal clients on the side, because everyone else does it.”

Fees are plunging because studios, which are pumping out movies and shows by the dozen for Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services, see styling as an easy way to keep down costs. The field has also gotten more competitive with aspiring stylists pitching themselves on social media. A “per look” rate might fetch $500, even on a major project — a fraction of the typical rate even a few years ago and barely enough to cover expenses, stylists say.

Though a step down from the exclusive world of actors and musicians, stylists say they like being able to work by the hour from home, without the multiple days of preparations and expense that can go into pulling together a red carpet look.

About 200 stylists have signed onto Glamhive, with customers typically spending between $500 and $5000, Sprangers said.

Dupuis has worked with several clients through the platform via video chat and messaging, charging $225 for a one-hour styling session up to $1,350 for a full makeover. She said she sets her rates high so it “warrants jobs worth the time.” Others charge even more; Janelle Miller, stylist to Khloe Kardashian, lists her rate for a makeover at $2600 (Glamhive also offers non-celebrity stylists for rates as low as $45 an hour).

The main difference between personal and celebrity clients is time, Dupuis said. A celebrity look is for one-time use and requires a fitting, where personal clients generally want a closet clean-out and wardrobe building suggestions that can require multiple sessions.

Diversifying revenue streams is increasingly the norm.

Dupuis builds each of her personal styling clients a mood board with links to suggested items. Glamhive offers stylists a commission on clothing sold through any of the 80 brand partners affiliated with Glamhive, including Farfetch, Shopbop and Matchesfashion.com.

Jamie Hantman, a Washington DC based author, began using Glamhive earlier this month after she saw that celebrity stylist Gaelle Paul, who works with Adele, was on the platform. 
“I became aware of her before she was on Glamhive,” said Hantman who was looking for a wardrobe for her first book tour in October. “I have a curvy figure and just always knew that if I ever needed a stylist this is who I would contact. She put together four different outfits for me to wear during book promo and gave me a framework of silhouettes and designers that work for me.”

Glamhive isn't the first styling service to hit the market. Stitch Fix and Trunk Club promise personalised clothing boxes, while Glam Squad, Armarium and Rent the Runway offer high-end gown rentals. The barriers between celebrities and their fans have also grown more porous, with stars sharing their lives on Instagram and even offering to record for-pay messages on the Cameo app.

Still, some in the industry feel that maintaining an exclusive client list is part of a stylist’s job. Getting credited with a star’s look — and even better, having that star tag their stylist on Instagram — unlocks relationships with brands and work on advertising campaigns. Being so available to the public might cause celebrity publicists to pass them over for jobs, one publicist said.

“A platform like [Glamhive] is good for a stylist who already has a very established career and long-term clients,” the publicist said. “But for a stylist who is on the verge of breaking through, I might advise them to stay off an app like this.”

But at a time when working with stars no longer guarantees a big income, diversifying revenue streams is increasingly the norm.

“As I started working with more stylists, I would listen to them talk and was flabbergasted,” said Sprangers. “You would never imagine that an industry would be suppressing their rate. It’s like having a Michelin star chef or, imagine a rock star in any industry, making less money.”

It's due time we start taking advantage of personal clients on the side, because everyone else does it.

For many stylists on the app, the predictability of working with apps like Glamhive outweighs other considerations.

“Aside from a movie press tour, you never really know what you’re going to do week to week,” said Swennen. “[Glamhive] is a way you can use that down time or dead zones during the summer months once award season has wrapped.”

Some said they also liked the sense of community the app fostered in a profession where stylists are usually working on their own.

“We have so few opportunities to work together,” said Chavez. “That first meeting at Sunset Tower with a bunch of us was so funny. We all started sharing our stories and frustrations. It’s nice to come together as a community and support one another especially as the industry is changing so much.”

Swennen echoes the sentiment and states that the timing of Glamhive helps many celebrity stylists in a variety of ways.

“The styling community is tight and we sort of collectively spearheaded this,” she said. “We’ve been trying to find roads to be more entrepreneurial. This gives so much added value in those in between times.”

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