Look from Pyer Moss Couture 1 collection.

While the industry’s boldfaced names—Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Tom Ford, Oscar de la Renta, et al—still feature prominently at New York Fashion Week, a new generation of talented designers have recently been grabbing a larger share of the spotlight. And with these emerging fashion visionaries comes a new generation of stylists. The “stylist” title on show notes comes with more than just the responsibility for putting together the looks on the runway. The designer-stylist relationship is a crucial part of the creative process—and can even determine the fate of a collection.

When a good match is made, it can be long-lasting. Take Katie Grand for example—The Perfect Magazine creator works alongside designers from Marc Jacobs to Miuccia Prada to Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing and has been by Marc’s side for more than 12 years since his early days designing Louis Vuitton.

While big name designers may have big teams and big budgets to match, emerging talents often rely on their friends to act as both stylist and sounding board. Being a runway stylist means being two steps ahead of the process to solve any last-minute challenges, understanding the designer’s vision, and, perhaps most importantly, being a confidant.

“Edvin and I have been best friends since high school,” says stylist Sakinah Bashir on styling this season’s Theophilio collection with designer Edvin Thompson. “When it comes to my creative confidence, it’s at an all-time high working with him, because we both know each other inside and out.”

The relationship between New Zealand-born, NYC-based stylist Thistle Brown and designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh is not as longstanding, but the trust between them runs deep. For MNZ’s menswear debut last fall, Brown worked alongside the designer as a creative partner to bring the extension into menswear to life. Brown adds his aesthetic not only by styling the collections of the eponymous label; but also, in collaborating on the design process, too.

As we finally return to in-person shows and models march the runway once again, let’s celebrate the designers and the trusted stylists working behind to bring their vision to life. Ahead, meet the new generation of stylists you can find leading the charge backstage at your favorite new designers’ shows.

Look from Pyer Moss Couture 1 collection

SAKINAH BASHIR

SHOW STYLED: PYER MOSS COUTURE 1, 2021

Growing up on the south side of Atlanta—“the real South Side, Old National and Godby Road real ATL-iens know,” Bashir quips to Grazia Gazette—she always took a liking to clothing and outfits. However, music inspired her love of fashion more than fashion itself. Growing up watching BET’s 106 & Park and other shows on MTV helped shape her creatively. She was fascinated by the outfits donned by singers and rappers in music videos and wondered how they came to be. “Hip-hop taught me everything about fashion,” she says. “That was my foundation.”

Bashir had a clear vision of moving to New York after high school; at the age of 20, she did just that. In New York, she worked at Opening Ceremony (RIP), where she met stylists such as Jason Rembert and Matthew Henson and started her journey into styling by assisting these greats. Bashir has now moved on to styling shows on her own, including the historic Pyer Moss Couture 1 collection that debuted earlier this year.

Why did you become a stylist?

“My journey began with me being an assistant to stylist Eric McNeal since roughly 2017/2018. Assisting, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and continued overall growth on my work ethic have been the formula that has gotten me to this point,” Bashir reveals. “Pyer Moss Couture 1 was the first fashion show that I have styled as a lead. I’m extremely excited for what the future holds. It will only get bigger and better—in all aspects of life.”

Look from Christian Cowan FW20 collection

RON HARTLEBEN

SHOWS STYLED: CHRISTIAN COWAN FW20, SS22; LAQUAN SMITH FW19, SS19, SS20

A first-generation Mexican American who was born and raised in Los Angeles, Hartleben moved to New York City nearly nine years ago to study at Parsons and to get his foot in the door of the fashion industry after obsessing over Steven Meisel editorials and Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy era. After interning for a variety of stylists and fashion publications, Hartleben worked with CR Fashion Book founder and Editor in Chief Carine Roitfeld for nearly six years. During his stint with Roitfeld, he gained invaluable experience with the leading industry editor, who introduced him to a whole new world and helped him hone in on his aesthetic. Now working on his own, Hartleben focuses on maintaining a level of glamour and fantasy in his work that makes him stand out in today’s world.

Why did you become a stylist?

“I love making people feel beautiful,” Hartleben admits to Grazia Gazette. “There is no better rush than watching a person see themselves in a new light and be inspired to carry themselves in a way that unlocks their full potential.”

Look from Lionne FW21 collection

BRITTANY BRYANT

SHOW STYLED: LIONNE FW21

After moving from Baltimore to New York in 2012 to attend college at Pace University, Bryant interned for various publications and assisted lead stylists to help jump-start her styling career. Bryant styled the much-buzzed-about debut Lionne show last August—and at 28, she’s just getting started.

Why did you become a stylist?

“Becoming a stylist was very organic for me,” Bryant tells Grazia Gazette. “It’s a lane where I can be more of myself, more expressive, and bring a lot of who I am when collaborating with the clients. This is beneficial throughout the creative process because I consistently get to push myself and grow creatively with every wardrobe decision, whether I’m pulling clothes, on-set, assisting, or styling a fashion show. I’ve also learned from Matthew Henson, one of the best stylists, in my opinion. It’s been so rewarding so far.”

Look from Rui Zhou FW20 collection

RACHAEL WANG

SHOWS STYLED: RUI ZHOU SS20, FW20

New York-based Rachael Wang is a Chinese American stylist and consultant who is passionate about helping brands to develop cultural relevance and edge while maintaining the distinctive integrity of their identity.

Her fashion direction can be seen in collaborations with clients such as Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Farfetch, Levi’s, Maybelline, Nike, Olay, and Saks, and in her inspired editorials for Document Journal, Telegraph, Office, and international editions of Numéro and Vogue.

Rachael was an early champion of responsible fashion and focused on bringing ethics and thoughtful representation to her creative and fashion direction.

Why did you become a stylist?

Wang tells Grazia Gazette that the path to becoming a stylist had a clear intention: “I became a stylist to amend the imagery that I never felt like I was able to participate in growing up.”

Look from Gauntlett Cheng SS19 collection

THISTLE BROWN

SHOWS STYLED: MARYAM NASSIR ZADEH SHOW SS22; GAUNTLETT CHENG SS19, FW20, SS20

A talented stylist and photographer, Thistle Brown works with a multidisciplinary practice with a foundation in textile design. His approach to image-making balances raw sensibility with editorially inspired composition, and his themes explore aspects of identity, youth culture, and performance while simultaneously orchestrating a seamless connection between allure and ease.

Brown also contributes to publications such as Interview, Dazed & Confused, The Face, Purple, Marfa Journal, and The British Financial Times andhas worked with brands including Proenza Schouler, Marc Jacobs, Nike, and Calvin Klein along the way.

Why did you become a stylist?

“It was all by accident in a way. I moved over here from New Zealand and I didn’t really know that styling could be a career, as the industry is much smaller back home,” Brown tells Grazia Gazette. “I had a meeting with MNZ the first few months I arrived in NYC, and Maryam asked me to style for her store, and it unfolded from there.”

thoughts?