News & Runway

Iconic Stylist Lori Goldstein Looks Back on Her Astonishing High-Fashion Career

A good pair of eyes are only as important as you make them. The whole world can't see what each of us sees separately on our own. This is one of the many limitations of being human. It can often remind us of how separated we are from one another, and how alone we actually all are. 

My mother will often ask me to grab her "blue coat" when we are on our way out.  When I come to her seat empty handed, I say, "You don't have a blue coat." Frustrated with me, she will grab her gray coat.

I'm baffled by our absolute misunderstanding. I do see the blue undertones in the coat, but that's all she sees. 

Alice Roi Fall 2014

Alice Roi Fall 2014 / Images:

I secretly know that she knows it's gray. But to see only the undertones, is to dream. It keeps the world hopeful, open ended, and rife with possibility. The fact that she sees only the blue, allows me to understand her and this bonds us somehow. She is still a dreamer. 

There are only a handful of artists that are actually able to convey what they see with great acuity, vividness and lucidity. The best artists do so with abundant clarity, but also showcase sinister cultural undertones that tweak our emotional strings. 

stylist Lori Goldstein

Lori Goldstein, Image: Getty

Enter Lori Goldstein. She helps me understand the world: shapes, cultures, colors. Her hats are tall, her kicks — underneath ball gowns — are high. 

Her soft tulle wraps around your head so many times, you feel like you are in a cocoon. As I look from afar, the silhouettes are large and bold. The statures are tall, but bent over. The darks are inky and absorb light. And the lights are luminescent, dancing trickles of white paint, highlighting the highest peak on the shiny magazine paper. 

I can see what Lori sees!

I'm not apart from her. I'm not apart from fashion. And I'm not apart from the big, clunky, fashion spread that I'm reading. 

The boldness of her silhouettes is only the first layer that she is operating on. Bring on the colors next. The purposeful clashes of florals and plaids and sparkles and socks and sandals! I feel as if I'm watching a war between beaded dresses and enormous trousers. Giant platforms and striped socks are winking at me. 

My heart beats faster. 

Have I fallen down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole or a dirty New York City K-hole? I'm no longer sure that the two are mutually exclusive. That's where Lori takes me.

Lori Goldstein and Steven Meisel for Prada Fall 2012 / Image:

Lori Goldstein and Steven Meisel for Prada Fall 2012 / Image:

And then she brings in the important, the emotional, the agony of real life.  And somehow you are not left with just the parody of contrast, or the wink of irony, or the fashion trick of a belt cinching in an enormous coat. Here comes the eerie, the haunting, the very definition of beauty. Lori presents it to me in outstanding, gigantic gorgeousness, accompanied by awkwardness and quirk. 

And often Lori will even pepper all of these big feelings with yet another layer of visual stimulation — exaggerated cultural cliches. 

Such as the suburban Versace ladies. Or the crazy hood rats with their tacky nails and drawn-on brows. Theatrical and funny, but beautiful and important. 

Versace Fall 2000 : Amber Valletta & Georgina Grenville by Steven Meisel

Versace Fall 2000 : Amber Valletta & Georgina Grenville by Steven Meisel / Image: Forums

These fashion situations, we can now call them, which Lori has created, operate on so many different levels. They are extraordinarily pervasive and thought-provoking. These are big works of art. Bold and fresh and titillating. I'm so pleased that I can see what Lori sees. It's almost as if she places a magnifying class over a theme and makes it that much more clear and vivid and sarcastic and tall tale-ish

There are only a few people that have ever really influenced me in fashion. Or who have made me want to pursue fashion at all for that matter. I would say Lori may be one of the main reasons why I ever wanted to design. She inspired me beyond words. I thought that entering the fashion world would actually feel like jumping into one of her spreads. And although traipsing through the garment center certainly feels far more mundane, her work and her fun, unexpected freshness, keep me going. Literally keeps me going, every day. 

Lori Goldstein Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia

Lori Goldstein Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia / Image:

Alice Roi: Where did you grow up?

Lori Goldstein: Columbus, Ohio…  I'm Midwestern at heart!

AR: Did you always like fashion?

LG: Always, always, always. Since my very first polka dot bikini and the admiration of my chic Grandma (Gaga Gladys)…

AR: How did you break into the high fashion world?

LG: It was always in my blood and I knew from a very young age that was what I wanted to do… The role of stylist didn't exist quite the way it does now. I moved to L.A. and met Fred Segal, who brought me to New York and the budding downtown scene of the 80s, which was so rich with inspiration and amazing people. This scene brought me to Anna Sui who introduced me to Steven Meisel. We've cultivated a major friendship and created some of my favorite editorial work ever. He is very close to my heart.

One of my earliest and longstanding working relationships has been with Annie Leibovitz. We shot quite a bit for Vanity Fair. Our work on our AmEx and Gap campaigns stand out for me. These campaigns basically showed me the world. Literally. We shot in every corner of the planet. My work with both Annie and Steven really showed me two vital parts of fashion, the business and the art. Our work together really developed my process as it stands today. My roommate was Mario Testino at one point too, so we worked together quite a bit in the early days. Love Mario… But this is only a snippet of the amazing people I have had the opportunity to work with in these defining times of the industry.

AR: What is your process for styling?

LG: It's all about hunting and gathering, nothing is off-limits… I love finding new undiscovered designers and artists. That's a huge inspiring piece for me and then the vital edit. It truly is about the live experience — I style everything on set. I never style my looks in advance. I truly rely on my instinct and a great team. 

AR: What was your favorite story that you ever worked on?

LG: My Italian Vogues with Steven Meisel and our collaborations with Versace, that was really the crescendo in my career. I then felt… I did what I set out to do!!! I adore them to this day. Every last tiny detail considered to the utmost. I'm always inspired by these works. 

Versace Fall 2000 : Amber Valletta & Georgina Grenville by Steven Meisel

Versace Fall 2000: Amber Valletta & Georgina Grenville by Steven Meisel / Image: Forums

AR: What is your go-to era or theme that you consistently gravitate towards?

LG: I don't think in those terms. I love mixing and never being too literal. I feel lucky that I grew up in the 70s… which was about being an individual, experimenting and wanting to look different from everyone… it was such a free time and a rebellious time. And then there was the 80s. So fabulous and outrageous. I guess I like to mix those to decades together the most.

AR: What painting, film, or muse, etc, has been most inspiring for you?

LG: There of course isn't just one. Art has always inspired me. I love to just look and dream and contemplate…love love love getting lost in a movie. I'm a huge Woody Allen fan…I love an amazing documentary. I can't begin to choose one!

AR: Do you prefer working with one model in a spread or a group of models, In which they have to work off one another's mood?

LG: I love working with one girl and getting to know all sides of her. I love to see someone be smart and intuitive and be in touch with what she is doing. I just finished a job with Antonina Petkovic. She embodies the perfect model for me. Cool, nonchalant, smart, intuitive and gorgeous!

AR: What was the most dangerous place you ever shot?

LG: Let's see…I've been to Bogota, Colombia at the height of the drug wars there, so that was a bit scary. 

AR: What perfume do you wear, if any?

LG: That's the one thing I've stopped telling people. Since I found this oil, I decided to keep it mine. 🙂

AR: Hobbies outside fashion?

LG: Interiors, I love styling the home as much as styling a shoot and I love being in nature. That makes me so happy.

Lori Goldstein Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia

Lori Goldstein Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia / Image:

AR: What do you think is the strongest part of your work. What component(s) do you think makes your work so powerful? 

LG: I think that it comes from inside my head. I don't really reference things that have already been done…I just think, Why? It's been done. I strive and love to do things that haven't been done and finding new creatives, designers and artists is so gratifying. So many people are afraid to be the first. They're scared to use a new girl or a new anything. That doesn't turn me on. I love love love clothes and they are what inspire me and drive the picture and the story. You have to learn to become fearless, that's when the best work happens in my world.