How I got here
Cher Coulter, 41, is one of Hollywood’s foremost stylists – her clients currently include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Kate Bosworth, Elizabeth Olsen and Nicole Richie. She resides in Los Angeles.
My love of fashion has been lifelong and began at around the age of eight or nine years old when I discovered the color wheel. My first ‘job’ in fashion was earning work experience by colouring in the sketches of a local illustrator around the age of 14. From there, I worked at magazines, PR companies and designers in London, including Joe Casely-Hayford and Katharine Hamnett. I was young but super keen to learn, gaining any experience I could. It was my experiences helping with shoots at Dazed and Confused in the very early days that made me want to be a stylist.
I started my education at St. Albans College of Art followed by Southend where I studied fashion. I got my degree in fashion design at Central Saint Martins where I set up AKA, a menswear brand, with my classmate and fellow graduate, Anne Marie. Although we mainly designed for men we also designed womenswear for girl group All Saints and were stocked in Colette and Browns Focus.
An education in fashion is more than studying books and memorising information; it’s a personal journey. An education is important for your artistic growth. The freedom afforded to me at Southend and Saint Martins is what allowed me to be me. Both schools, especially Saint Martins, encouraged individuality. Competition was fierce, but I loved it because it made you work harder. I think if I’d been tucked away in some countryside town ‘studying’ fashion I wouldn’t be where I am today.
The skills I gained during my education were way beyond pattern cutting. I learnt how to live and socialise within the industry. What I learnt most was that fashion is about fun and experimentation, and not being scared to be different – this is what I carry with me as a mantra.
Moving to Los Angeles happened by fate. I’d gone there to take a break from running my clothing line, AKA and while there I randomly ran into and reconnected with my old friend, Orlando Bloom. It turned out he was covering Flaunt Magazine and I was asked to style him. From there it started and the rest is history.
To be a red carpet stylist you have to know how to listen to clients and actually hear them. It’s very important you recognize their likes and dislikes – and then you have to know fashion inside and out and be living on style.com and visiting showrooms all the time.
Success in any industry takes hard work. In the early days of a stylist’s career, they’ll often find themselves breaking their back and doing a lot of favours. You do what you have to do to gain experience and get you and your work in front of the people making the hiring decisions.
Katie Grand has been a mentor to me. I met her backstage dressing at shows, she is such a pro and so good with people. She’s so brave and not afraid to make strong choices. In my teens, I was mentored by a local designer called Sarah Leete, who introduced me to the industry.
The greatest risk I’ve ever taken was moving to LA. I left behind a career in London – my label AKA – I’d worked so hard for. But I was fearless in my Twenties and didn’t really consider the ‘what if’s’. I’m so happy I made the move. Too much of life is controlled by fear.
Work experience is invaluable. Take your spare time to work as much as possible for free, because this is what opens doors. In fashion, it’s more than a grade on a piece of paper and competition is fierce – don’t ever forget that. In London especially, there are a ton of talented people, hungry to learn.
The best advice I’ve ever been given is ‘work hard’, by my dad.