She’s the A-list celebrity stylist who works with some of the biggest names you know.
That’s not hyperbole. It’s the truth.
So, when I got word that we were both writing newsletters for Bulletin ... well, I just had to reach out.
I’ve always been fascinated with the world of celebrity red carpet styling and wanted to get a peek at what really goes into it.
We talk about that, her A-list clients and the one part of the conversation that truly surprised me: the Justin Bieber effect.
KARLA WELCH: I am very, very busy because Justin's Justice tour is finally on its way.
ALINA CHO: And to be clear, we are talking about the Justin Bieber.
KARLA WELCH: We are talking about the Justin Bieber.
ALINA CHO: You work with both Justin and his gorgeous wife, Hailey Bieber.
What is involved in getting him ready for a tour?
KARLA WELCH: It’s super involved. This year, we teamed up with Balenciaga on a lot of the looks.
Then, we're really highlighting a lot of independent designers and obviously [his own fashion line], Drew House. It’s really making sure, A, it looks amazing and B, it's functional. Because he gives an intense show. 20 some-odd songs. Almost three hours. A lot of dancing.
ALINA CHO: That’s a lot to consider.
KARLA WELCH: But then it's making sure, “Oh, here's this one tank top I love, well, we better be able to find 20 of them.” You know what I mean?
ALINA CHO: Really?
KARLA WELCH: Yeah, because you have 100 shows ahead of you, so you have to have everything ready.
ALINA CHO: So, it's duplicates of everything.
KARLA WELCH: It's 10 times everything. And then, he's not going to wear the same thing every night. So, for the entire time he's on tour, we'll be finding new things and new vibes.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
KARLA WELCH: Justin determines men's fashion.
Men's fashion really is what drives retail at the moment. Right?
ALINA CHO: Right.
KARLA WELCH: And Justin played a huge role in that.
ALINA CHO: How so?
KARLA WELCH: He was one of the very first people to wear Fear of God.
We were the first people to wear Amiri. And then, we were wearing long t-shirts and drop-crotch leather pants because we were making them ourselves.
And in six months, you saw it at retail.
ALINA CHO: You saw it everywhere.
KARLA WELCH: He has this uncanny ability and it's our work together, too, that can change [the] direction [of men’s fashion].
ALINA CHO: I never thought of that with him, but you're right.
KARLA WELCH: I know I’m right. I see it, physically. I'll be like, “Oh yeah, we made that, we made that, we made that.” He loves fashion and he loves self-expression.
ALINA CHO: And he’s not afraid to take chances.
KARLA WELCH: He's not even thinking about it. He’s so fearless and people are obsessed with him.
ALINA CHO: So, you’ve got Justin Bieber and Hailey Bieber. Then, there’s Sarah Paulson and Tracee Ellis Ross, who — by the way — you have so much fun with...
KARLA WELCH: Oh my God. How can you not? Because we love fashion so much.
She was born with style.
ALINA CHO: I mean, literally was born with it. Then, there’s one of my favorites, Sarah Paulson. Or Lady P, as you call her.
KARLA WELCH: Lady P, exactly. Lady P and I are probably the closest in personal style to each other.
ALINA CHO: I’m obsessed.
KARLA WELCH: She’ll be like, “What are you wearing?” And I'll be like, “I’m wearing this,” and she'll buy it. Or I’ll be like, “Where did you get those pants?”
ALINA CHO: I feel like she lives and breathes it, too.
KARLA WELCH: She lives and breathes fashion. 100 million percent. She and Tracy and Justin.
ALINA CHO: Awards season is upon us. What goes into red carpet dressing?
KARLA WELCH: Fortunately, for them, often deals get made. Right? So, that's where fashion and business and agents come in.
ALINA CHO: And what does that mean when you say deals get made?
KARLA WELCH: Well, it means brands are paying girls to wear dresses.
ALINA CHO: Right.
KARLA WELCH: So, they enter into an agreement, you're going to wear this dress or this dress or this. I mean, I personally don't love it because I think it takes out a lot of the opportunity to story tell and really create something. But at the same time, I'm obviously very, very close with all the designers who are making the dresses. So, it's fine.
ALINA CHO: Well, of course, because you're creating a custom look, so you're able to shape the story in a way, right?
KARLA WELCH: 100 percent. So, there's a long lead time. There are tons of fittings. We’re still in COVID. So, we have [the Screen Actors Guild Awards] this weekend.
ALINA CHO: So, who are you dressing for the SAG awards?
KARLA WELCH: I have Caitríona [Balfe, star of Belfast] for SAG.
Then, for [the Critics’ Choice Awards], hopefully, Ruth [Negga, star of Passing] will be back for that.
And Caitríona and I’m [dressing] Sarah Snook, actually.
ALINA CHO: Oh, amazing. I’m obsessed with Succession, but who isn't?
KARLA WELCH: Love. We’re going to have a fitting, a refit of a custom dress we made now that it's tailored. Then, we'll fit with the jewelry. And then, for me, it's all done before the day of [the event]. We've already decided how we're going to do the hair, how we're going to do the makeup, what shoes we're going to wear. What's the backup plan if there's an emergency?
ALINA CHO: So, you've got a full Plan B look?
KARLA WELCH: Always.
ALINA CHO: Tell me, does it always start with the dress?
KARLA WELCH: Of course.
ALINA CHO: Do you immediately and does your client immediately know when you’ve found it?
KARLA WELCH: I always know when I’ve found it. Nine out of 10 times, I know before they've come to the fitting.
ALINA CHO: And you'll give them options?
KARLA WELCH: Yeah, of course. But I've got such a rapport with the people I work with that we know, and they know. Sarah Paulson, I'll always just say, “I’ve got your dress,” and she comes in and we put it on and that's the dress.
ALINA CHO: And it's just a matter of getting it to fit just right?
KARLA WELCH: Getting it to fit just right. But, of course, there's the negotiations. New York [Fashion Week] just showed a ton of beautiful dresses. All of us are going to try to get them.
ALINA CHO: How do you negotiate that? Because if you want [a dress, another stylist] wants it, too.
KARLA WELCH: So, a lot of it comes down to the girl who's going to wear it. Listen, the talent really drives it, but what ultimately drives it is the relationships you've built for 20 years.
ALINA CHO: All things being equal, you always want to work with your friends, right?
KARLA WELCH: Yeah. But you also want to get the best impact. It’s a business. I think about when Tracee wore the big pink Valentino dress.
ALINA CHO: Oh my God. Oh my God.
KARLA WELCH: It broke the internet.
ALINA CHO: Broke the internet. Your work is your joy, right?
KARLA WELCH: 100 million percent. When you get a couture dress that comes to you in a trunk and you put on your white gloves, it's magic. Designers are my rock stars. I love to be able to take what they have made and interpret it on one of my girls. That, for me, is everything.