Elizabeth Saltzman is a Celebrity Stylist, Fashion Editor and Consultant. Having started her career in her homeland the states, she now lives and works in London. We sat down for a chat in mid-December 2016, and discussed everything from global crises to her favourite magazines…
- What do you do, how would your friends describe you?
You’d have to ask my friends to describe me to you as I don’t know what they’d say. I hope they’d say that I am never taking and very, very giving. And what do I do? Well I try and be a fairy godmother. I am a stylist, a brand consultant, a fashion editor for magazines. I would have loved to have had a house, I don’t mean the actual building, but a house where we could entertain all sorts of brands, and people – or open a school to help designers grow… nevertheless, I do what I do, I love it and essentially I get to be all of that with what I do.
- As a child, what did you want to do when you were an adult?
Aha well, I should have wanted to be a movie star. No, I do have a good life. I am very, very, very lucky! I like when people look at me and they say ‘you’re at the top’ and it’s like, Oh no baby! I’m still at the bottom – I am climbing. That is what is important to me, you know, there is always room to learn. Always. Also, If you’re not having fun, don’t do it. Because this is fun. Obviously doesn’t mean it’s not hard work, but if you’re waking up suffering then you’re not being honest with yourself. Being honest with yourself, in saying actually this is what I want to do. Even if there is no money in it, there is a way to make money if that’s what you need, but just figure out what you truly want to do. That is probably my biggest goal for people; to feel confident in their everyday, everyday. That is what is really important, its everything. That is what I would have wanted someone to tell my younger self. Just to be honest with yourself. Even if only you know, write yourself lists of what you really want do and then what my mum and dad will accept that I do, and I always think that’s important. My dad had to lie to his parents to say he was going to dentistry school while he was being an interior designer, so I think that really sunk home with me that he couldn’t be honest because it didn’t seem like it was a smart enough job with enough money in the industry. I’m really happy he wasn’t a dentist haha. Although I would of had a whiter smile haha.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Styled by Elizabeth Saltzman (Picture source: The Wall Group)
- How did you get into the work you do now, styling?
I didn’t really get into styling, i haven’t gotten there yet haha. I guess what I did get into was solving people’s problems. The styling aspect came from being an editor at magazines, and that came from trying out every aspect of fashionland. I started folding shirts in the basement of a clothing shop, which I think was good, and I think everyone needs to work in a clothing shop or a restaurant and serve people before do anything else in life. It’s rewarding to have some sort of job where you start at the bottom, learn how to grow and how to treat people. I got into styling celebrities, when I moved to London. It was mainly for red carpets and moments, that seemed so obvious and natural to me because it wasn’t such a big thing back then. There weren’t 10 thousand stylists, and being a stylist professionally was not really spoken of or heard of it was kind of a fun natural progression and it was just really wonderful. I started working the girls that I knew over here in London and it was just really fun. I’d say I specialise in giving women confidence. That’s my goal – not only to have good taste or help designers, or brands or women finding their red carpet dresses but to give them confidence to wear those dresses to feel the best they can feel not to let the dress ever wear them.
- What would you describe as the turning point in your career?
I’d say there have been many, many, many doors to walk through. I wouldn’t really say there was a turning point but sliding doors, and making the decision to take a risk, walk through them, and work really hard. The biggest turning point was probably at the very beginning of my career when I was offered a job at American Vogue and I was probably offered quite a few jobs as an assistant there before I accepted the one, because I had a lovely job where I was working at Giorgio Armani at the time. On the 3rd or 4th time that Vogue had asked, they asked if I wanted to be Polly Mellon’s assistant. The night that I got offered the job I happened to be out for dinner with a bunch of designers, and I said oh I got offered this job with this woman named Polly Mellon and they all just turned around and they were like take it, she is one of the most amazing women in the industry, and I just thought there you go, I can learn. So I accepted the job, and I remember taking a massive pay cut, i mean like over 60% of my income to work with her because i knew it would be all the education I could hope for. It was like a dream. It was hard work and wonderful work, and that was probably one of the greatest pivotal points. Other turning points would also be leaving Vogue and growing up through Vogue, and having Anna Wintour come in. Anna really helped me by setting me back a little bit so I could grow.. she was wonderful. Graydon Carter who gave me the opportunity at Vanity Fair. Then deciding to move to London clearly changed things, and that was 17 years ago, before everyone was moving to different parts of the world. So that was a big moment in my life.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Styled by Elizabeth Saltzman (Picture source: The Wall Group)
- How would you describe your style?
Right now i would say I’m in the Navy Blue phase haha. I always like navy blue, white gold, black pink and green. I think my style is just very classic – but not boring. Lots of long lines. And my style for others, is not my style for myself. I like to find things that work on the people I work with. I like to put them first. But for myself I like to put myself last, I am the last person I think about. Which is not the way it should be people, you should put yourself first and foremost.
- What were your Favourite looks the past year (2016)?
Alicia Vikander in the long white Louis Vuitton (below) was definitely one. I just loved it and I wish i’d styled it, i was just so happy as i just thought it was so great. I also loved Saoirse Ronan in Duro Oluwu, one of the girls that i am lucky enough to work with, January 2nd/8th i think she wore it in Palm Springs. I loved Brandon Maxwell on Uma Thurman. Loved, but im not sure if that was this year.
Alicia Vikander (Picture source: NY Mag)
- What is the most important part of your job?
Most exciting part of my job is helping people – I like being able to work with designers who need to get back on top… that’s my favourite thing and I also enjoy solving people’s problems. The challenging part is to keep it creative with myself and to entertain myself, and to keep figuring out a way to help others. I wake up every day and I think there are I think 20,000 people left in Aleppo, and they have no hospital, food, way out or way to stay in. I just think that I’m sitting here complaining that its cold out. I have an issue with that, why can’t I help people who can’t get a place in school because their son or daughter doesn’t ‘fit in’. Why can’t I help feed every family that needs food, why can’t I bring warmth – why cant I educate people against teen pregnancy. I fight with all of that and understanding that it’s not my business. I feel that it has to be all of our business, it has to be mandatory business to help others. And I also worry about our planet, every day of our life when I see people who don’t care about it. I don’t understand that people don’t understand that this is very real, like I might not be around but maybe if I am lucky enough to have grandchildren then they’ll be around and they’re going to see this change. It might not be in 10 years but it is definitely happening, it’s happening now, fast. I worry – that’s the most challenging part of my job, thinking how can I use my job to give back. How can I make sure that I keep all the girls in my office happy, and how do I make enough money to give enough new people jobs. And how do I continue on, cos that really matters to me – the challenging things are the frustrating things of never wanting to get too big for your boots, and sometimes I’m like urgh do I really have to lug 14 suitcases through an airport and why am I doing this – and then I think I am the luckiest person in the world to be doing this. And other people are like that’s what assistants are for and I’m like now I like to be a part of it, you know if they’re doing it I’m doing it. But that’s not always true a lot of times I’m like you guys can do it. Because I do a lot more than no one else can do. They’re not meeting with designers every night, they’re not on the phone to LA with agents and advice central, with everyone who wants to know what they should wear via facetime.
Rosamund Pike, Styled by Elizabeth Saltzman (Picture source: The Wall Group)
8. How do you go about telling a story through your styling?
We make a story board! We like to move someone from A to Z, so if we start out the season in one thing we like to finish it in a totally different thing. So you can see the person changing and evolving throughout a season, especially in an award season you can see my girls changing. Storyboard in the sense like so we’ve done short sparkly and green now let us slowly move into long chiffon, then more masculine clothes. So I like to tell a story, about the woman that is. I always talk to the person, find out what their concerns are, and what parts of their bodies they love what parts they’re worried about, who they’d like to become who they admire, things they don’t understand and I really try and listen to that person and bring out the best in them. You don’t have to be a size 2, you can be a size 42 and be just as wonderful as that person who is like perfect sample size.
- What is being brave to you?
Being brave is being honest. I don’t like it when people say; I love it, you’re so great you’re amazing, and then you hear that they think the opposite from another person. I wouldn’t do that to anyone. I like to make people feel like they can’t be 100% honest and say, hey girl I’m just not feeling it, or I love it but, or this isn’t for me. I like pure honesty, in pure honesty is about being open I much prefer that. Brave is also being yourself so that has to do with honesty, but also, being brave could also be pretending, if that’s what you want to do. You can be whoever you want to be.
10. What inspires you?
The sun! Haha. I like finding my inspirations in really simple things, for example in manners, in the ocean, in art, in music, in sun-light.. I love finding them in my kids when they’re just talking and I don’t have to talk or teach, I can just listen and learn. I’d say I get my inspiration from upbeats, meaning I have gone to see an emotional movie and it is so draining – it makes you realise how much emotion you’ve been through in just an hour. And a bit, and I feel like wow – if someone can do that in 2 hours surely I can come up with something.
- Favourite new designers and shows on the London Fashion Week show schedule?
Well I have to say maybe not so new but I do love Erdem, Christopher Kane and Huishan Zhang. I’m also really interested to see what Mother of Pearl does and I love, Simone Rocha! I like what Jonathan Anderson does for Loewe, more than Jonathan Anderson for Jonathan Anderson! That’s just my opinion though.. I’ll also say Burberry is always good for a show, but I say that I crave and wouldn’t miss the above.
Gemma Arterton, Styled by Elizabeth Saltzman (Picture source: The Wall Group)
- How has the fashion industry changed?
I feel like I am on a spinning ride, like a carousel, and the swings are falling off one by one. Because the industry is changing so much that there is no same old same old. So I don’t know how the industry hasn’t changed. There is no stable anymore, which is tremendously scary and exciting and you know I guess they call the present today because it is a present, but the future is undetectable – ever since Instagram, Snapchat, iPhone’s were invented the world has changed and everything has become fast. It’s just a new way of thinking, the world has changed people used to have to wait for letters in the mail, to find news of their loved ones, and now they can facetime them 20 times a day if they want to.
- Print vs Digital?
Both. I don’t want lose either! At the moment I am into digital, but I collect prints. I don’t want to lose a magazine as I don’t want to just be looking at something on a screen. And I like paper, and I like the touch of it and its a different colour than it is on digital. But I love digital. And I get crazy when I cant see something move. So I like them both.
- Favourite exhibitions and galleries?
I like the Serpentine Gallery, because its a non-profit, is a special tiny place that reaches such a vast audience and has so much going on. When I go to NY every single time I go to 3 or 4 different galleries. I like a lot of galleries, I love the Tate Modern. I tend to go anywhere and everywhere, if there is an exhibit I want to see, I just go, and I like to just roll into places, like small galleries, where you can actually find things. Maybe even acquire something, you know that’s better than buying a throwaway sweater at a mass brand. I like to invest in young artists. Not for the sake of one day they will hit it big, just for the sake of if I like someone’s work and I can afford it it’s a nice thing to be able to do for both parties.
Gemma Arterton, Styled by Elizabeth Saltzman (Picture source: The Wall Group)
- Where is your favourite place to shop in London?
In London, I would say my favourite place to shop is in new environments. I like new things, when I say new things I mean finding something to do at maybe 150 years old. I am a creature of habit in one sense in that I’ll go to Casa Cruz and I’ll go to wherever else I like to go for classics I’ve always had. But also if you tell me there’s a really cool food truck I’ll go to that, like I think there’s angel dumpling? Did I just make that up, haha… Angel something. That I’m really into at the moment. I like finding things because that’s how I learn. And I like finding from friends, I also like love going to people’s homes. Districts wise? What I don’t like, which is an awful thing to say… it’s not that I dislike it, it just isn’t where I chill… I don’t like Chelsea at all. And I don’t understand why I’m advert, it’s like I almost have an allergy to it. I won’t say I do or I don’t like areas, but I just seem to have a thing where I’m just like fighting against being in an area like Chelsea. I hate the fact that they’ve made great streets high streets. So like the kings road doesn’t have lots of pop shops anymore it’s all chain stores. Or like Westbourne Grove has lost a lot of its pop shops. I like places that are unique, which is probably why dover street market works so well. You shouldn’t be able to find things there which you can find at Matches or wherever else. I’m not opposed to Gucci or all the brands, but I do feel like we need to have fewer Starbucks and I don’t mean the actual coffee place, but I mean what they stand for which is taking over. So no I don’t love chain stores, or areas where they mostly exist.
- How do you relax?
Usually by chilling with my boys, I try and find a way to chat to them for an hour or so every day, if I’m lucky. I take our dog for a long walk every Saturday and Sunday, lie 2 or 3 hours and that’s how we discover areas! I usually start off walking and then figure an area we want to go to and walk around. Not usually around the obvious parks like, Regents, Hyde, Holland I just kind of walk until we find something and I love that. As a matter of fact my favourite walk was along the river and I didn’t even know it existed and one as I was walking home from one of my sons schools, and I saw someone on a bike turn down this little dirt path and I was like oh lets explore, and this whole wooded area was there and I didn’t know it existed as I don’t live on that side of the river. And I think that most exploring has to happen on foot.
- Favourite magazines?
Obviously Vanity Fair is number One! But I’m bias on that one. Apart from the obvious I’d definitely say The Gentlewoman! I love it! I am also into Another Magazine, and read American Vogue. You know what my favourite magazine is and I’m not even joking and people laugh at me for it, all the time. The Week – people think it’s just ridiculous. But I always tell them, that’s my guilty pleasure because I get to catch up with the news, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to read it, it’s super quick and I love it. It comes on Fridays and I just catch up. And it seems so silly that I’m saying that I do but I just love it, and it’s not a fashion magazine. I read it and I make my kids read it. Which is why I think I really like it as I have to read it and they have to read it. Oh and I also love the turtle, another one of my favourites. It’s not really like a magazine it’s like something that’s put out by the turtle conservancy, I think it’s so interesting. I like interesting magazines, like Herself or Lula. They’re fun, but I don’t read them regularly.
- Favourite Instagram accounts?
Well I love my baby, my son Derek Blasberg. I like funny ones like, Angela Hicks because i think she’s witty, I love Donald Robertson cos I think he’s interesting, and witty and smart and talented. And I like his career story. I love, like I really like my genuine friends’ accounts that are usually private, not for publication, not for likes, just for the simplicity that they are actually sharing a moment that might be important to them. I do enjoy quite a few.
- Favourite way to bring in the new year.
I don’t have it.. Used to be to travel to a warm weather destination and to sleep outside, and start the day by running into the ocean. That’s my favourite way, my most dream like way… then my second favourite way when I’d started bringing my kids home to my family in NYC was to do the midnight run. I’d just cheer them on but they would do a 5k run, dressed up as ridiculous things, it takes place in central park and the run starts at about 11:45/midnight, and as the whole thing happens, a band plays and fireworks go off its so great to start out the new year healthy. And then last year we were in NYC, we didn’t do the run but we did go to central park. Oh it was spontaneous, we flew to NY to see my mom as a surprise, what I loved was that we woke up on the first really early, and we all went to the tallest part of NYC, looked down and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, and just spent the day exploring and doing things you don’t have the time to do. So more than ending my year, I like celebrating the start of my year, and starting it with positive vibes. Not making any promises I cannot keep like I will lose the 40 pounds of flubber, but more that I like to be thankful. And just make everyone upbeat.