Tara Swennen on Styling Kristen Stewart for the Met Gala and Spencer Press Tour
Plus, how she landed her first clients after going out on her own.
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If you've been following Kristen Stewart's press tour for the upcoming Princess Diana biopic, Spencer, you've definitely seen Tara Swennen's work.
The Los Angeles–based stylist has worked with Stewart for over 15 years and is responsible for her recent Met Gala look. Outside of her work with Stewart, Swennen's client roster includes Idina Menzel, Allison Janney, and Lana Condor just to name a few. Beyond red carpet looks and press tours, Swennen's work has been seen in publications such as Vogue, InStyle, and Teen Vogue.
Not only is Swennen an incredible stylist, but she also strives to do good for the planet with her work by advocating for eco-friendly, ethical, and sustainable practices in fashion. In fact, Swennen was even awarded the first-ever Best Vegan Fashion Stylist award at Vegan Fashion Week in 2019.
Listen to Swennen discuss her incredible career, including her process of working with Stewart, how she pulls inspiration, and so much more on the latest episode of Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr.
How did you get clients in the beginning?
Most were word of mouth. People know you as an assistant when you have assisted for that long.
The designers know you. The showrooms know you. They put you forth for things. You start getting to know publicists. It's all about networking on your own these days. We're all with agents, but at the end of the day, so much of the work that comes to you is on your shoulders.
I was really good when I was young and could stay out into the wee hours of the morning, making sure I did just that. And then luckily, once you get a good enough roster, they just come.
Do you have a virtual pinboard? How do you keep everything on track so that you're not repeating yourself, so that you're not having something back-to-back… but are still tracking in a way that makes sense? Like if someone's gonna create a slideshow… how do you organize yourself?
I mean, that aspect is mental for me. I think it's part of our sickness as stylists. … I can't tell you what happened last week in the news, but I can tell you something that my client wore 10 years ago. So that is a great tool to have. ... That is something that's always just in my brain.
So you just keep that in your head?
Yeah, because the whole point is you want to keep creating fresh things. So you don't want to repeat yourself. You want to keep it fun. So that is something that I have in my head. But then, you know, as far as inspiration, it's constant. I grab stuff from Instagram. I grab stuff from Vogue.com, whatever it is. I'm a huge screenshotter. I think, as you and I both know, we were raised in between analog and digital, so for me, I'm very old school. I still rip the tears out of the magazines and have it all organized—because I'm a Virgo—in my attic. I mean, it's wild. So yes, the inspiration is pulled from everywhere.
I also want to ask about the Met Gala because I loved it so much. I felt like it was also playful in a way that just gave me so much joy. I want to talk about the glam piece of it, too, and how all of it comes together. I'm curious about that creative process, and the Met is the Met, so sometimes, it seems like it comes together really quickly for folks. Other times, it seems to be a long process. What was it like for you?
Well obviously, we get the theme pretty far out. And on this one, when I spoke to the Chanel team about it, I thought that it could be cool to go back into their Paris-Dallas collection, which happened I believe in 2014. So we took a look at some of those archive pieces, had some of those flown in. But in the end, we really, really loved the idea of the rockabilly vibe, especially for her.
Kristen has never been one to really wear the exuberant gown to the Met Ball. The past couple years, we've done pants. She's done cocktail. She's done a jumpsuit. So for me, it's nice, because I know that she's just going to go feeling her best in whatever she wants, but it doesn't need to bring all that drama. So we were able to figure out a fun concept that really fit her and her vibe, which was that. And of course, so much of it was dependent on the glam.
How does that work?
Well, you know, I had an idea. We fit prior, and we fell in love with that one outfit. Then it was, How do we make it into that? How do we elevate it to that whole vibe? I remember we were in Telluride driving to the airport. And we were just ideating. Adir is really, really great about the same thing, grabbing imagery. We all just talk about it, see what we're thinking. So that's how the process comes along. And it was one of those things where immediately it was like, "Let's do a high pony. Let's do the whole, you know, I don't even know what you call that in the front!" And that was how it evolved, and I thought it came quite beautifully.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Next up, check out our previous episode featuring Jessica Simpson's stylist, Nicole Chavez.