Q&A: Celebrity Stylist Karla Welch on Activism & Her Favorite Red Carpet Looks

Words by Jody Hume | 2.4.19
Sarah Paulson in spiky neon Prada at the Ocean’s 8 premiere. Tracee Ellis Ross in voluminous, shocking pink poufs of Michael Kors at the Met Gala. Elisabeth Moss in a white, tulle Oscar de la Renta confection topped with a moto jacket at Cannes. Stylist Karla Welch’s offbeat-but-just-right looks enshrine her clients in an aura of coolness that’s near impossible to duplicate. One of Hollywood’s most powerful stylists (so named by both the Hollywood Reporter and the New York Times), Welch works with an impressive roster of clients on red carpet looks and has collaborated with brands like Levi’s and Hanes, turning out her own spin on cool-girl (and guy) staples from denim to white t-shirts. On top of all of her creative projects, Welch is a clarion voice for the resistance and causes that call her. We caught up with her for a quick Q&A on everything from Time’s Up and #MeToo to how to pull off a red carpet-worthy suit.
What’s a red carpet styling tip people can use for every day?
Make sure you wear the right underpinnings. Sounds basic but that is usually the last thing we all spend money on — but it really helps!
What’s that thing that really lets you know a certain piece is right for a certain client?
Their confidence! I can say all day why I KNOW it is the right look, but they are the ones who have to wear it.
What are some of your favorite throwback red carpet looks?
OMG literally every look I LOVE, I really do! Olivia pregnant in Gucci was pretty epic. Tracee in billowing pink Valentino couture, Sarah in neon Prada, Justin in a Nirvana tee … Lorde in Céline and baby’s breath (before it was a mega trend).
You’re known for your activism and speaking out on behalf of causes you believe in. Last year, many celebrities chose to wear black to the Golden Globes and pins and other signifiers of support for the Time’s Up and the #MeToo movements at the Oscars. Celebrities may not be wearing black this year, but do you think these movements have influenced what they wear on the red carpet in other ways? Do they influence your choices as a stylist?
I think getting dressed is a political act and I have very politically powerful clients — AMEN! So it does have influence but that is more because of where we are in terms of a movement rather than just using these moments. I hope many more talent use their collective voices. That truly is our power!
A lot of people are recognizing the importance of changing the way the fashion industry operates to ensure it’s more sustainable. Does consignment play into your choices as a stylist? Is it important to you and/or your clients?
YES. I have always been a thrifter, consignor, vintage (and not so vintage) shopper. It truly is sustainable and a great way to get special looks.
You’ve styled so many outstanding suit looks. What’s your advice for pulling off this look without erring into stuffy territory?
Haha for SO LONG I have been into suits. It’s all about the fit. If it’s oversized, make sure the waist is tight and the hem is perfect. I generally always want the shoulders to fit perfectly. Again, it’s attitude but let me tell you, nothing feels or looks cooler!
On the one hand you work with your clients to create major, fantasy red carpet moments. On the other, your collaborations with Hanes and Levi’s for your x karla line focus on the most classic, everyday basics: t-shirts and jeans. How do you find these two sides of the fashion coin relate to one another?
I am all about a classic. A perfect tee, the best fitting jeans — those are my uniform. Of course, I can dress them up but for me, nothing makes me feel better. I wanted to explore my knowledge of fit and materials, and team up with brands that really know how to perfect them at an affordable price. It’s also about the high/low mix!

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