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Why Music's Top Execs Are Turning to Stylists For Help On the Red Carpet (And In the Boardroom)

Bozoma Saint John
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Billboard

Bozoma Saint John

When Negar Ali Kline began her career as a stylist in the late 1990s, her music clients included Diddy, Usher, Will Smith (for his Men in Black red carpet appearances) and Destiny’s Child (for the “Say My Name” video). But a few years ago, she began to notice a change: She would be working on a campaign, and the executives involved would inevitably fall in love with pieces she had pulled. “These were people who had incredible positions and didn’t just want to put on the corporate uniform expected of them,” she says. “We’d start talking about style, they’d come to Los Angeles, and I’d take them out for a day of shopping. From there, it grew.”

Kline is among a growing number of celebrity stylists whose roster has expanded to include music executives. “Ten years ago, we didn’t know the names of the CEOs [running] the companies we interact with on a daily basis. There was a curtain,” she says of the shift. “Now it’s sort of required that they have a forward-facing presence.” She works closely with executives including Endeavor chief marketing officer Bozoma Saint John.

It’s precisely this melding of brand and individual identities, along with the rise of social media, that is leading more executives to become fluent in the uses of color and silhouette far beyond the black power suit of years past. In the Instagram era, when photographs from events live forever on the internet, style as a mode of communicating power — and of connecting with artist clients — is becoming increasingly important (though, says Kline, most executives still prefer to remain discreet about working with a stylist).

Brendan Cannon, who has styled artists like Annie Lennox and Shirley Manson, says he tries to help music executives identify “those pieces that give them talking points with the artist.” Andrea Lublin, who worked for E! and the Style Network before building her own styling career exclusively catering to executives, focuses on getting clients “out of their box” for events. She put Caroline president Jacqueline Saturn in a turtleneck and crystal-embellished crepe pencil skirt by Alessandro Dell’Acqua for Billboard’s Women in Music event in December. “The challenge with music, specifically, is balancing the hardcore rock’n’roll world with the high-level executive one,” she says. “And Jacqueline stood out for all of the right reasons.”

Like Lublin, Kline will build out an entire working wardrobe for clients, right down to finding the jacket they wear when closing the deal. “Putting on a Tom Ford blazer can make a man feel like superman,” she says. But with someone like Saint John, who has a vibrantly distinct sense of how she wants to communicate through fashion, she is simply on hand to support the vision and, ultimately, save time. “These are people who are traveling constantly,” says Kline of her music executive clients. “Why wouldn’t you subcontract the styling out?”

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 25, 2020 issue of Billboard.


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