Less Is More: Allison Bornstein, Stylist


When I entered the Greenpoint, Brooklyn home of stylist Allison Bornstein a few weeks ago, it was our natural inclination to want to hug and shake hands, but with a looming dispenser of hand sanitizer on the counter, we demurred. For now, bows, smiles, and head nods will have to suffice. Bornstein noticed a large, gilded Alexander McQueen ring on my index finger. I confess that the ring is over ten years old and a constant; although ostentatious, I wear it every day. 

She nods admiringly. “It’s pieces like this that are just everything,” she muses. “Take Harry Styles for instance….” She launches into a deconstruction of the British crooner’s penchant for wearing a fistful of Gucci rings – a signature-making move, according to Bornstein, which we haven’t seen since Jane Birkin. “Now, celebrities don’t have a consistent style–they wear everything. And they can, which is fun! But it’s not like you’re thinking, ‘That’s so so-and-so…’ if you see an outfit,” she bemoans. With that craving for repetition, no wonder Bornstein is our latest Less Is More feature. In just a short amount of time, repeat dressing and signature power pieces have become something of her styling tao, influencing the headline-making taste of her biggest client, Katie Holmes.


Katie Holmes’s Style Renaissance

The pair started working together late last year and the collaboration signalled a fashionable Q4 for the actress, with much talk revolving around the Khaite zebra print pony-haired boots she managed to style three ways on three separate occasions. Subtly pushing back on the tacit rules of Instagram culture that would have many of us believe that being photographed in the same thing twice is a fashion faux pas, the duo saw it as a fashion revelation. “If someone is like, ‘You already wore that!’ that’s powerful actually! ‘Yeah, this is mine and this is what I like to wear. I already wore it and I’m going to wear it again.’” There is a quiet strength in being consistent, which is why the stylist believes so heavily in building out a capsule collection.


Drilling Down to the Essentials

In her YouTube video series in collaboration with Violette, where we see Bornstein decluttering the closets of unsuspecting professional women across New York, the stylist implores upon her clients the simple genius to wearing clothes that they actually like. While it doesn’t necessarily read as groundbreaking at first glance, try thinking of your own closet and what you actually wear. According to Bornstein, what should start to emerge is your real personal style. “I want you to look in your wardrobe and love every single thing and think every single thing represents you. You shouldn’t have anything in your wardrobe that you don’t want to wear and you don’t feel comfortable in,” she explains.


The Closet Whisperer

This practicality Bornstein also impresses upon her celebrity clientele. Her thinking? While they may have a wealth of options, they don’t have to wear all of them!  “I think that’s more inspirational. I think going back to the same thing is when you build your personal style and you build your own brand.” Even when she’s on-set with her editorial styling work, Bornstein will deconstruct a head-to-toe designer look to resemble the real, everyday style she sees reflected on the corners of New York. “For me what’s inspiring is actually how women dress,” she says. While some may wonder how a stylist could take such a, well, less-is-more approach to dressing, it’s actually Bornstein’s on-the-job experience—first as an assistant to Julia Von Boehm—that has taught her the value in attainable and sustainable fashion.


A Sustainable Approach to Dressing

When fashion is finally confronting its large carbon footprint, it seems almost reckless to continue to consume with abandon and dress without purpose–even if for special occasions. ”Buying less and recycling what you have has a sustainable impact on the environment,” she says. “We often talk about ‘investment pieces’ in terms of price, but I instead like to think of an investment piece in terms of time.  Through continual care, one can develop a wardrobe that is lasting and anything but disposable.


The Real Deal

Of course, Bornstein doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks it. Her closet consists of only the essentials: blazers, flared jeans, t-shirts and tie-front blouses. She has tried replicating the aspirational wardrobe choices of Instagram influencers but it has always fallen flat on her. Instead, if the stylist wants to add a bit of an unexpected detail into the rotation, she’ll do so with accessories: a kitten heel here or a platform there, like those she chose wear throughout her Less Is More shoot.


The Thrill of the Chase

Her well-gleaned eye and a honed sense of personal style make her a deft consignor and TRR shopper, as well, as she plows through the site looking for her favorites. “I love digging. I love finding something special and unique,” she admits excitedly. “I understand that some people don’t love that, which is totally fine, but The RealReal’s edits are amazing. Even if you’re not going to dig through every single thing, it does make it easy.” Inspired by the thrill of the hunt, she constantly goes back to the well and is currently obsessing over—what else?—the classics: Hermes bags and a Chanel jacket.


Runway The Real Way

With a toss of her tresses, the hairstylist sets Bornstein free, but the stylist lingers a minute in the kitchen to finish chatting. Bornstein is willing to share her wealth of knowledge and has actually turned her Instagram into a full-fledged tutorial session. “I had this idea of, ‘What would I want my Instagram to be?’ and I decided I wanted it to be inspirational but also educational. I want somebody to look at it and feel like they came away with something they can actually apply to their real life, and that’s what I want all my work to be like that in a way.”


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