For Chiara Solloa, working in fashion doesn't seem like a career choice, but a fate that she could not resist. Growing up in Miami, Chiara was raised by her grandmother who designed clothing and her mother who was a clothing buyer. Chiara's styling career started in elementary school, as she went thrifting for dresses for her school's production of Cinderella.
With over a decade of professional styling experience, Chiara has styled some of our favorite music videos, commercials, and celebrities. She notes that her career has been a journey with many lessons learned, attesting that nothing comes easily.
During this interview, Chiara shared some of the best styling insight you'll ever find. She can teach us all a thing or two about chasing our goals and creating our own Cinderella stories.
Tell me about yourself and your career so far, how did you become a fashion stylist?
Let me start by mentioning my grandmother was a couture designer, two of my uncles master tailors, and my mother at the time was a clothing buyer. I guess you can say I grew up around fabric.
I was raised on Miami Beach by my grandmother and single mother. It was a time when seniors sunbathed on the hotel steps of Ocean Drive, Lincoln road had a trolley, and celebrities, models /photographers were rediscovering what we now call South beach.
My career began innately, I remember in elementary school asking my mother to take me to the thrift store so I can purchase dresses for the Cinderella play my class was putting on. I dressed the main cast, Cinderella, her evil step-sisters, and myself the wicked step-mother (laughs).
I grew up painting and in college, started working as a make up artist at a cosmetic counter. This led to working on sets and doing shoots outside of retail. I naturally started to gravitate away from makeup and into fashion. I began testing with photographers and building my book, making the right contacts and the rest is history. My career so far has been a journey of travel, experiences and lesson learned.
What advice would you give an up and coming fashion stylist?
Study your field. Getting a little fashion history under your belt can really help when a client is making references to a period of time, photographer or designer, this way you can understand their vision and know what they are talking about.
I would highly recommend a mentor. Assisting a seasoned stylist can really give you an insight into what this career is really about and if it's really something you want to do.
Keep your credit in good shape. Sometimes you might need to use your credit card. Always be responsible with items that are loaned to you.
Learn to sew a little. You might have to make emergency repairs and it helps to know how to explain to a seamstress what you want done.
Learn some accounting. You need to keep a budget of what you spend, and an inventory of what you spent that money on.
Save your money! Styling is not a regular fulltime job, it's freelance and seasonal.
I never really assisted anyone or had a mentor, so I learned mostly on my own, and it was a hard and costly road.
Lastly, I have always believed in the motto "fake it 'till you make it", don't say "I want to be..."
Proclaim it and it will happen.
What is the biggest misconception people not working in your field have about your job?
People often think that all I do is shop. There is a lot more to it, accounting, budgeting, mood boards, scheduling, inventory, emails, and meetings.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career, so far?
One of the most memorable moments in my career was being asked to be a part of a book project featuring some of the top international fashion stylists. I couldn't believe that moment when the book arrived in the mail.
What challenges do you have as a stylist?
There are clients that think I am a magician. They think I have a mall at home and can pull a polka dotted purple mink coat out of my pocket in the middle of summer. It might not be mink, but I will make it happen, even if I have to make it myself. There is a lot that goes on in the background as a stylist that many people can't even fathom.
What goals do you wish to achieve in the future?
I am the type of individual who is constantly evolving. Now that I am a mother, my goals have changed. I love fashion and it will always be an element in whatever I do. I just now want to include my son, who is my inspiration. Who knows, maybe I will drop a children's clothing line in the future? I also love film. I would love to direct a fashion documentary someday.
How do you choose what looks work for each individual client?
I usually like to do some research on my client. I get a feel for their personal style and what they have done in the past. Then, I like to have a meeting with them and discuss the project and direction.
Sometimes the client is a company and there are many other facets involved from branding a color to creating a custom piece.
I then take into account a person's body shape, season, and trends that I am feeling which will make my work standout and my client happy.
For me, styling is something spiritual, it comes from within.
Do the clothing choices you make at work inspire your personal style?
Sometimes it does. There are looks I put together that I think, "Hey I really love this for myself".
Also, when I am shopping or pulling for a client I like to hold the pieces up in front of a mirror, or even try them on to get a feel for it. Many things can look awful on a hanger and fabulous on the body.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is very mood inspired. Some days, I feel very rock and roll and others I feel very classic and sophisticated. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeve, I guess I literally wear mine on my body.
What is your favorite item in your closet?
A pair of Chanel satin/leather pumps with a birdcage heel; they are very rare only 350 were made.
If you could choose a celebrity closet to shop in, who's would it be and why?
Do I really have to choose one?
I would say a mash up between Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, and Anna Wintour.
Jennifer for her sexy looks, Rihanna for her funkiness, and Anna, well you already know! Can you imagine the epic pieces she has in her archive?
Everyone loves a good deal, what are some of your favorite places to find budget buys?
H&M, Zara, Forever 21, and thrift stores.
What items do you feel are worth splurging on?
Shoes, you can gain or lose weight but your shoe size will always stay the same.
You style a lot of people in the public eye, do you consider yourself to be a trendsetter?
People don't realize, but when I am styling a music video, I am touching so many people through my work. Unconsciously, I am inspiring people watching the fashion in their favorite artist's video and it becomes a trend that trickles into in the street.
What trends are you loving right now?
The classic pump, the return of the female silhouette in knee length fitted skirts,
jeweled tones like emerald and sapphire, and raw wool textures for fall.
Which trends to you want to see disappear?
For men the infamous butt sagging pants, no one wants to see your underwear. Women the ridiculously expensive designer Birkenstock, it's still a Birkenstock, even if it's Givenchy!
If you could choose anyone to give a makeover, who would it be and why?
Hilary Clinton, she looks very conservative and bland. If she is a future candidate for the first female president, I'd like for her to embrace her feminine fashion side, and show you can be in power and fashionable at the same time.
What's the best style advice you've received?
My grandmother always told me make sure things fit you properly before you wear them out. If your pants or dress is too long hem it to your height. Things don't always come in the right length and that can make you look sloppy.
Let's say you could travel back in time to one fashion era, where would you end up? What did you like about that period?
The 50's femme fatal. I love the polished look and feminine seduction of that era. The attention to detail in the tailoring of the waistline, the accentuating of the bust, the impeccable hair styles, the cat eye, and all the fabulous accessories: hats, gloves, and jewelry.
Who is your favorite designer? Why?
Again it's hard to choose just one. I really enjoyed Christian Dior when Galliano was there, the shows were always such a production and very costume inspired. I currently love Balmain and the things they do with leather, the fall/winter collection has some beautiful jackets with military inspiration I am feeling right now.
What styling advice would you give other women?
Know your body type and what colors really flatter you best.
Describe a time early in your career where you felt you could say, 'I made it'.
I would have to say when I started getting personally requested by artists, record labels, and directors.
I would get calls from London, Germany, and Los Angeles telling me that they hear I am the best stylist in Miami. On a side note, also being able to pay the bills from styling alone, that's when I could say I made it!
Follow Chiara's YouTube Channel and check out her styling choices at https://www.youtube.com/user/csolloa.