Freedom is defined as being absent of necessity, coercion, and constraint. With warmer weather approaching, that means restrictive wears, meticulous layers, and heavy sheaths will need to be shifted to the back of your closet, making room for lighter fare. But the freedom to dress light doesn’t come without weighted wondering. How can you maintain your sartorial savvy in a season where tees and flip flops run amok? What’s the secret to achieving a laid-back style without looking lazy? Our fashion editor Angel Lenise got these answers, and more, from celebrity stylist Carmen Lilly, whose expertise has dressed stars from Rocsi Diaz to Rihanna, and sartorialists in between.
Angel: What led you to the world of fashion?
Carmen: My background is in visual arts with specialties in painting and sculpture. Sculpture lead me into accessory design which exposed me to the world of fashion. There are many facets that go into creating a fashion collection which is similar to the art world.
A: What designers inspire you and why?
C: I enjoy discovering new designers, so currently I am into Sophia Webster. Her shoes are fun and quirky with an appropriate heel height for a working mom!
A: Which fellow stylists inspire you and why?
Annebet Duvall. Her style aesthetic is completely different than mine but she has a clear vision which comes through in her styling. I also love what Rob and Mariel do as a styling duo. Having the male and the female perspective gives a client the best of both worlds. That is what my styling partner Charles and I aspire to achieve.
A: How did Carmen and Charles come about?
C: I have known Charles since our days at Intermix. We have always worked well together. We have the same eye and vision when it comes to fashion. In lieu of us both getting assistants, we decided to pool our resources to help each other. The rest is history in the making!
A: You’ve worked with celebrities like Rocsi Diaz and Rihanna. How do you begin the styling process for such different clients?
C: I come from a retail background so I know how to figure out a client’s style pretty quickly. Each client is very different, so when you are building a relationship with someone sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss. That is all a part of the process of learning what the client likes and what works best for their body type. Once a relationship is built you can help them take their style choices to the next level.
A: Who would be your dream client to dress?
C: I work with one of the most fashionable, fun, fierce girls in the game so I am currently living my dream!
A: Moving into summer, what five wardrobe essentials should every woman have, regardless of size?
C: White Blazer, neutral pump, boyfriend jean, metallic accents, gladiator booties.
A: What are the five things you don’t think women should have in their closets?
C: I can appreciate things from each era of fashion (even the ’80s) so I don’t have any specifics for don’ts.
A: What’s the biggest mistake you see most women make in dressing themselves?
C: Not dressing for their body type and not having items tailored. Clothing is all about fit and fabric.
A: Maternity fashion has been a hot topic, especially centered around Kim Kardashian and her designer sartorial choices. What advice do you have for women who are prepping for birth but still want to be stylish?
C: I have a few clients who are pregnant and I recently had a child so I can relate to wanting to be fashionable during pregnancy. I recommend buying basic pieces that will grow with you and adding accessories. Fun shoes, jewelry, and handbags will add variety to your maternity basics. Blazer and T-shirt dressing is my go to for a pulled together look and maxi dress for those sweltering summer months.
A: Do you have any upcoming projects coming up?
C: I always have something in the works, I am blessed. Right now I am focused on building the brand for my new styling company, Carmen & Charles (#carmenandcharles).