Stylist Cher Coulter Talks JewelMint, Humble Beginnings, and 'Kate, Rosie and Lizzie'

Cher Coulter
Photo courtesy of Cher Coulter
Cher Coulter.

Ask anyone for a list of best-dressed young stars, and it's likely that the names Kate Bosworth, Elizabeth Olsen, Nicole Richie, or Sienna Miller will make appearances. Sure, these ladies have great taste and a fabulous sense of personal style—but there's a lot more to it than that, and her name is Cher Coulter.

The Hollywood stylist (one of the power stylists of the year!) hails from England, but Los Angeles is her home base now. She works with all the aforementioned starlets, plus fellow Brits Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Sienna Miller (no slouches themselves in the style department). Coulter, who studied fashion at Central St. Martins in London, also dabbles in the design game, helming the gem line JewelMint with her buddy Bosworth.

FashionEtc caught up with Coulter to talk about not-so-glam beginnings, her dream clients, her current designer obsessions, and whether a design empire is in her future.

How did you get your start in styling?

I went to school at St. Martins, and after that I’d come out to L.A. to be a nanny. I was 21. I loved it. Loved it. I worked for a family in Los Feliz, and I loved the street culture, the skate thing, the surf thing. I went back to London and set up businesses there; I was working on designing clothing and blah blah blah. But I came back to L.A. again, when I was just about to turn 30. I was supposed to move out here with a friend, but then she had to work so I came on my own.

I ended up bumping into Orlando Bloom, who I’d known when I was younger, like 17. I ran into him at a concert, and he’d become famous. It was all very strange. Before then, I had gone into Flaunt magazine with some of my tees and started talking to the editor, so when they were going to put Orlando on the cover, they asked if I wanted to style it. I learned to work with publicists, photographers, editors—and the magazine really liked me. So it all kind of spread from that point!

Sounds like you were really in the right place at the right time.

I’d never experienced that ever before. I’d really struggled in London. Shared apartments, living on 50 quid a week—I was working really hard. All of a sudden, my fortune changed.

What would you say you wanted to be when you were younger?

A designer. Always. I had this toy called a fashion wheel when I was like twelve, and I was always sketching girls in dresses.

What’s your process like for working with each of your clients?

The longer I’ve known the client, the easier it is. I do research, figure out what direction they go in, consider their body types, their aesthetic. If it’s a new client, I’d meet them with racks of clothes. If it’s someone I’ve worked with for a while, we send pictures back and forth. With me and Kate [Bosworth], she’ll say, ‘I like Jil Sander, look seven.' It’s easy—but then that’s just the beginning. Then we start talking shoes, bags, jewelry…

How would you describe the styles of your clients?

I think Kate, Rosie [Huntington-Whiteley] and Lizzie [Olsen] have very different styles. Rosie’s more glamorous, Kate’s more eclectic—but she can be polished. Lizzie’s a bit more New York. She’s young and a little more buttoned-up. All of the girls I work with love fashion. That’s why they work with me. If they wanted to dress like a straight-up movie star, they’d have a different stylist!

What is it like working with Kate Bosworth on JewelMint?

It’s great. I’m on my way to a big design meeting now, actually. It’s a really fun process. When they went to Kate, she was kind enough to bring me on board. It’s a real creative challenge—when I was a designer, I did my high-end line, but I also did fast turnaround things for Urban Outfitters. I loved how fast it was—you can get bored otherwise really quickly! So with JewelMint, doing 20 pieces each month is really exciting.

What's Kate like as a design partner?

It’s perfect. She’ll lean on the more classic, and I’ll lean on runway. Between the two of us, we’re good!

Do you think you’ll ever design a full line again?

Who knows? Yeah, I’d love to, but it doesn’t mean I am. I have lots of things in the works, but they’re not things I can talk about yet! Styling is great, and I feel very satisfied with the clients I have. Do I want to have a lot more? Not really. Unless something is really interesting to me, I don’t see the point.

Is there anyone that you’d love to get your hands on, styling-wise?

Throw Jennifer Aniston in there and I wouldn’t complain! And Kristen Stewart—I think she’d be a really nice complement to my girls. She’s a little more rock and roll. I have Nicole Richie as well, and Sienna Miller in England, and I think they all have such different styles. And I never really want the big big girls, because big girls mean big pressure.

What do you think about red carpet culture these days? It seems like there’s not very much excitement anymore.

It’s like the opening of an envelope, isn’t it? There are so many events, so many people—what keeps any of it special anymore? Even Oscars now—there are never any real great surprises.

Photos: Getty Images

Coulter's girls: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Gucci, Elizabeth Olsen in Christian Dior, and Kate Bosworth in Alexander McQueen.

So how, as a stylist, do you try to bring that excitement back?

You just have to add an element. Wearing a new, up-and-coming designer helps. And I like to support them—I was a designer, so I know how helpful that is. You have to think outside the box a little bit. It’s a challenge.

Who’s on your radar these days as far as designers?

I support the Brits, and I always have done. I love Jonathan Saunders, Antonio Berardi, Mary Katrantzou, Erdem. In New York I love Prabal Gurung.

What would you say is the hardest part of your job?

It’s always at the beginning of a job, phoning the PRs and getting the clothes. You can’t guarantee that because you’ve seen a dress on the runway it’s yours—it could be reserved, damaged, on a shoot, worn. The challenge is getting what you want.

And the most rewarding?

The surprises are rewarding. And if you make Vogue’s best-dressed list, that mean’s I’ve done good!

What are some of your favorite looks that you've styled?

I loved Lizzie at that Vanity Fair party. Black is tough to photograph, but it was perfect. And Rosie in the Gucci with the big flower on her shoulder and the sheer skirt, for a Transformers event. I loved Kate in the Alexander McQueen for a Vanity Fair party a few years back, with her hair all twisted back—I loved that look.

Any outfits you've looked back on and regretted?

No. Everything’s about timing. Whether it stands the test of time or not, if everyone’s happy at the time, I’m happy. I’d only regret making someone do something they don’t want to do.