Today we have Ashley Weston, who has a wonderful Youtube channel. She is a celebrity men’s wear stylist based in Hollywood and we are here at the Art of Charm man camp.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Ashley, thanks for coming!
Ashley Weston: Thanks for having me here. I love it! I love being surrounded by men everyday.
SRS: Well that leads us to a great point. You are one of the women in men’s wear in the blogosphere. You always have very interesting content, I think there’s Style Girlfriend and then there’s Ashley Weston in Youtube, you’re the only one. How did you get into this field?
AW: Well first and foremost I am a men’s wear stylist. I work with my clients on all of their red carpet appearances, their press junkets, any kind of press that they do I sell them for and so I’ve always just kind of been relegated to that whole world and styling for GQ, Vanity Fair, Esquire, all those great magazines. What I realized, actually with my fiancé, Dorian what we realized was well it would be a shame to not be able to kind of take all the information in my head and just put it out there in a space, my website, my Youtube platform and just make it more accessible to the rest of the world. Because I definitely have a ton of friends that constantly come up to me and ask me like, “Hey, how do you wear this? How do you wear that? What should I tell my tailor to do?” And so, I just wanted to be able to have it all in one place and be like, “Hey guys, I actually did a story on that. I already did a video, go watch it.”
I really just wanted to make it more accessible and break it down and show how easy it is to actually to have timeless great style. It’s not very difficult and it doesn’t cost $5,000 to make one look incredible. You can actually do it at a great price point and there are certain things you should know to splurge on and what you can kind of get away and spend only a few dollars on.
SRS: Oh, which is actually a good point. Lots of Ashley’s clients are actually featured on the covers of famous magazines so you probably have already seen it, you just didn’t know it yet.
SRS: So you mentioned these pieces, can you be more specific? What are the pieces that you think every man must have no matter how old they are, no matter what area they work in?
AW: It’s funny because the whole foundation of my Youtube channel and my website was I want to lay the table and just focus on all the essential items that every man should own regardless of your body type or your age.
SRS: So very basic every man outfits.
AW: Yes, and it is going to be able to work with all the other items in your wardrobe. I always believe, regardless if you’re wearing a suit every single day, there’s going to be a time in your life where you’re going to need to wear a suit. Whether that’s once a year or five times a week then you should have a great fitting suit. That is just something I feel like one should invest in along with a great pair of dress shoes, a great casual jacket whether it be a sport coat or maybe a leather bomber jacket. These are items that I feel like should be invested in. Items like your t-shirt or your dark washed jeans, these are items that you can get away with and spend. Maybe go with t-shirts, I absolutely love t-shirts by Armani Exchange, by H&M makes really good ones, J. Crew makes really great ones. Polo shirts, I don’t believe in spending a lot of money in polo shirts. By all means, you can spend $200 and get one of my favorite polo shirts by John Varvatos but it’s still not going to hold up as well as maybe a $10 polo shirt from H&M, which I always get like four of them at the beginning of summer for Dorian.
SRS: Ultimately it’s about how it fits you. I mean the material, some are more expensive so it’s going to cost more to reach full price. But it’s exchangeable and if you just want something a little more fresh then you can maybe not splurge on it. On the other hand, if it’s fine quality, you know it’s really great if it’s a classic piece that you can wear 5 years from now. If it’s more fashion forward, it’s a different ball game.
AW: Yes. It’s all about for me, I always look at your investment into a piece and I look at it as a cost per wear. So what does it break down to? For a nice leather jacket, there’s not really any cheap alternatives out there that are going to be great. It’s just forget about it.
SRS: They are always hard, it’s so uncomfortable, it looks cheap.
AW: It’s a buy it for life piece. You are going to need to invest in it. And if you really break it down, if you think about how many times you are going to wear it? It is really not that expensive in the end.
SRS: Absolutely. So how would you say, I mean you’re based in LA. Have you ever lived anywhere else?
AW: No. Although New York is like a second home to me at this point because I’m constantly going to New York because a lot of my clients press conference, press junkets was well as their premieres are always in New York and I have a lot of photo shoots that happen in New York. So New York is like a second home at this point.
SRS: So are you present in the photoshoot where you are there?
AW: Yes of course! 100%! If you guys knew what went into a photoshoot, it is very hard work and nothing looks that perfect that you see in the final resulting photo.
SRS: Walk us through. How does it work?
AW: Yeah, so a lot of that times, I mean if I can have my seamstress onboard, what we’ll do is we’ll already pre-style the look. Depending on the talent that comes in, they’ll try it on and we’ll pin everything and then have my seamstress work on it. if she can do it as fast as she can. It is not proper tailoring at all. It is just making it work at the back. Or, if I don’t have a seamstress on board, I’ll just have clips and pins and then they get positioned in front of the camera. Literally, depending on how they move, I’m like, “Wait! one sec, one sec.” I’m like, “Hold that pose, I’m going in.” I adjust and I make sure that every little wrinkle is out and I back away and let the photographer get the shot.
SRS: Just like in real life.
AW: Yes. just like in real life. That’s why my friends find me annoying, but they love me because every time I’m around them I’ll start adjusting things.
SRS: She adjust me.
AW: It’s like out of habit. I start touching people and smooth things out and make sure everything looks proper. Because even if it’s not a photo shoot, if it’s walking with my client right before they get to the red carpet, I’ll do last looks where I’ll literally go through and make sure everything looks perfect. Their shirt sleeves are pulled down just enough so that a quarter of an inch is exposed, the tie is perfectly straight. All these things, I’ll pull up their pants for them, tuck in their shoe laces and like, “Okay, go, go, go out there!”
SRS: Does it make them uncomfortable because it’s so natural or are they kind of grateful for you helping them out?
AW: They are so grateful because at the end of the day when men feel like, “Wow! I know I look great.” They just radiate this confidence that I absolutely love and this is why I love what I do and I really feel that clothes can make a huge difference with the confidence that men feel.
AW: When men feel like a movie star, when they feel like a leading man in terms of the way they look, their confidence — they throw their shoulder back, they are incredibly almost like a different person. It’s so great and you can really achieve that with any person. I don’t believe that you need to be an actor or a musician, or have a certain look in order to look like a leading man. I think it is very easy to do it and sometimes it can seem very difficult to kind of navigate through and figure out, “How exactly does things need to fit? What items do I need to wear?” I know it can seem overwhelming which is why I wanted to create a channel where I really just kind of broke it down and made it seem more possible.
SRS: I think one of the unique things about you is that you added the woman’s perspective. I mean, there’s a lot of men’s wear blogger out there, Youtube channels.
AW: Which is fine.
SRS: But what do you think makes you so special and why is the perspective of the woman so valuable?
AW: Yes, well at the end of the day, if you think about it most men are going to turn to their girlfriends, sisters, mothers, wives. They’re going to turn to the females in their life, especially that’s the sex that they want, the gender that they want to attract. Then having a woman’s perspective is invaluable because we know what looks great on a man. We know what is going to be attractive on a man. And so, I found that choosing very early on in my career to only focus on men’s wear that was a huge advantage because there were very few women that actually specialized in men’s styling and wanted to do that. I found that this was a great area where men feel very comfortable actually and they feel empowered to have these women around them that are very knowledgeable in what they do. At the end of the day, I know their audience the best.
SRS: Was this a conscious decision?
AW: It was a very conscious decision.
SRS: You just said that there’s an under-served niche and that is where I want to be?
AW: Yes, and also I love working with men. I love their personalities. I just think we gel better. I really love classic men styling. And yes, with each of my clients, you have to take into account their personalities and what they like and dislike. And then from there you kind of mold their image so that it feels very personal and unique to them. I love that kind of challenge with doing that. But I like being a woman in this space because, at the end of the day, men are trying to impress women or at least they want to feel like they’re female audience is finding them sexy.
AW: And I know they look sexy.
SRS: Basically when we talk about style, we try to teach men that it’s important to have a personal element that makes them different because if all wear the same t-shirt, the same bomber jacket, it quickly becomes the norm and they don’t stand out. So, you have very different clients and sometimes it’s very easy to say, “Oh, this looks great on you.” But if you go with that to all your other clients they feel like they are not special anymore. How do you handle that and how do you think men can find that special thing that works for them that makes them comfortable and therefore confident and sexier?
AW: Well at the end of the day though, when I am dealing with my clients and each client has a different personality, has a different sense of style, but there is an underlying theme where there are elements of just classic timeless look within their styles, just tweaked. They are all tweaked to make it — maybe one of my clients has more of a kind of urban street style, more geared towards sportswear items and then I have a client who loves to just be really bold. The bolder the tie, the bolder the suit is, the better. It’s taking all those elements and refining it and breaking it down so that when they’re in front of the camera it doesn’t translate into something so loud of a statement.
So really, what I’m doing with my channel is yes, you want to make sure that men are feeling like they have an individualism in their outfits. It’s very personal to them but they also need to understand that you have to understand the foundation first and understand essential pieces do play into your wardrobe. And then from there you’re starting once you really nail down just how to dress well with basic pieces and really understanding proportions and how things are tailored. Because with men’s wear, dressing is all about the small little minute details that come into play to really present an amazing image of that person. So men need to really understand the basic elements first and then from there they are going to start to realize, “Oh I actually really love mixing these kind of colors or these kind of patterns into it.” or “I’m really loving this kind of jacket but I really want it in a bolder color.” And then they just start mixing that in slowly where it is still looking and not where it’s still looking sharp and not where it’s like you know, I think a big — I’m going to go a little off topic.
AW: I think a big thing, a big problem that I see with men, just something that is very common, my brother does this all the time and I actually have a couple of friends that do this. They go into a store and they just start seeing pieces that they like. They just grab these pieces that are attracting them and usually they’re fun bold pieces and they just grab a bunch of items, they go and buy it. This one a couple hundred dollars and they go by and bring it home and then they look at it on their bed and they’re like, “I don’t know how to wear these.” They don’t even know how to put these together into a cohesive nice outfit. And that’s where if they understood and had all those essential pieces, then you have a plan of action where you know if you grab this kind of crazy kind of bomber jacket or this crazy kind of sport coat or pants…
SRS: You tone on the other elements so that it works.
AW: Yeah so we have a solid more basic elements to kind of tone it down where you now have this sharp cool looking outfit that is very stylish, that’s far from boring but it’s not pattern-statement overload.
SRS: Okay, I think you mentioned a very good point especially your brother picking things that he likes. Do you think men should kind of get outside of their comfort zone to develop that signature item or should it be something that they’re inherently comfortable with?
AW: That is a very good question. Well, I’m so used to pushing my clients outside of their comfort zone.
AW: But, very slowly. What I will do is I always say, “At least just try it on. Try something on that you wouldn’t normally try on and just see. See if it will work.” Because a lot of times men are actually very surprised. My clients are very surprised when they try something on. They are alike, “Oh, that is actually not that bad.” or I’ll be, “Just try this on, don’t even look in the mirror yet.” And I’ll take a picture and I’ll show them in the picture what it looks like.
I think that it’s very important after you feel like you kind of nailed down your style but you’re feeling kind of something is missing that you want to make something a little different in your everyday look, I think that’s when it’s really important to maybe start looking at a single item that maybe you wouldn’t normally wear and just try it on with your outfit, with the outfit you would envision it with and see if it works.
AW: But you will eventually need to push out of your comfort zone but I don’t think that’s a requirement if you’re just perfectly fine with your outfits and what you’re currently wearing. I know with Dorian, he’s my fiancé, he’s so classic and timeless that he just has this formula down and I’m very happy with it. I think it’s far from boring and I think a lot of men just get bored sometimes and think that their look is boring when it’s just classic.
SRS: So they want something to spice it up.
AW: Yeah, and I don’t think that you should think of it that way, but I get it. Sometimes we just get into this headspace where like, “Now, I want something different.”
AW: But taking small elements first and mixing it up. Don’t do big, bold moves because they tend to for the most part not work out.
SRS: Absolutely. Basically, at the Oscar’s, we see a lot of black tie and tuxedos. And that’s traditionally a dress code that’s very much formed by classic style rules. In recent years, we covered just the Oscar’s and tuxedo outfits and it seems like sometimes it’s very hard to find guys who are dressed to the tee head to toe. You know, they bend certain rules. I think last year, there were a lot of long black regular neck ties. This year, there were more bow ties. But also very strange looks, the fit is sometimes off. It seems like people just get shoes from brands that they don’t wear and they just don’t fit very properly. What’s your take on this? Why do you think Hollywood is dressed so poorly when in fact they have the money to do otherwise especially with people like you.
AW: So the really challenging thing with a stylist during award season, because there are so many black tie award shows, is how can we make it different? How can we make each outfit different for our clients so that they can stand out? The biggest thing is that you have you black and you’ve got your navy tuxedos and then outside of there is like, “Well what else can we do?” That’s when some designers especially if we do custom where I really like to play with colors and patterns. So, I’ll do maybe a really beautiful dark brown tuxedo. There was a moment 2 years ago where burgundy tuxedos were all over the carpet. This year was navy tuxedos and the white dinner jacket was all over the carpet, just trying to mix it up. But dinner jackets I think are really a great way to mix up black tie and to really stand out in a great way to stand out in a sea of all of these penguins. It’s always challenging to find different ways to be different when the dress code is very specific and very strict and kind of narrow with what you can do.
SRS: What I sometimes take issue with is that there is actually lots of details, right? You can have a different silk. You can have a Moire silk, a grosgrain, a wide ribbed grosgrain. You can have different bow ties, different shirts. You can have a colorful pocket square or a velvet dinner jacket that we saw too at the last Oscar’s show and they can really look great even in bottle green or brown or burgundy as you said.
So why do we see so many three buttoned tuxedos with a notched lapel and flat pockets? When really it’s a small detail and they could make it right and still go with a different color or subtle pattern. What do you think is that? They just don’t care?
AW: I don’t think they don’t care. I think that sometimes you don’t have stylist there and sometimes maybe it’s just a designer or just the tailor. Because again, with us stylist, we are trained to look at every single little piece of an outfit. So all of that detail that goes into tailoring an outfit whether it be even just taking up a hem a quarter of an inch, we know all of these things. And so, a lot of times if you don’t have someone there that is that detail oriented, it could be very easy to not look sharp. That’s why I always address in all my videos in my channel it’s really important to nail down an outfit. And I try to take as much knowledge that I have in in my head that I use with my clients and really put it out there on my channel and on my platform.
SRS: Do you think it also has to do with the fact that maybe you know, items are provided to them? Obviously, it’s a huge photo opportunity, lots of photographers, people see it in magazines, on TV and brands know that and so they provide a lot of free goods you choose to those people. Is that maybe an impact or would you say not at all?
AW: I don’t think at all. I don’t think that’s an impact. I mean a lot of brands obviously want to get exposure during these red carpet moments and we also want those brands on our clients. It’s a nice relationship that we’ve got going. I think a lot of times though sometimes it just comes down to an individual like some men are just stubborn. Some men are really stubborn and they think a three buttoned tuxedo, a three-buttoned suit looks great on them or they love a really relaxed looking pants and they can’t fathom it being any slimmer than super wide on them. It’s trying to get men out of this mind frame that, “No, that doesn’t look good on you.” And you wearing really loose baggy clothing actually makes you look even bigger and sloppier than you are and what a difference it would make if you just got your items tailored in a little bit more to fit and complement your body type. A lot of times it is just stubbornness from men. We know men are stubborn creatures so that’s why I think I have a huge advantage with some of my client and just people that I deal with on an everyday basis because I can smile a little and I’m like, “No, no, no. Trust me, trust me. Let me just do this once.”
SRS: I’ve experienced.
AW: Yes, I have a very gentle hand where I seem to be able to persuade people to just let show you how it could look and let me take a picture and show you. If you don’t like it, fine. Then I will go back to what you’re comfortable with and slowly I will just take up that hem or slim up those pants a little bit more until you get comfortable.
SRS: At least be open, try new things, look at them and then decide.
SRS: Well thank you so much, Ashley. I really enjoyed it.
If you want to learn more with Ashley’s videos. You want to watch them and see what basics she recommends which are different from what we do, please check out her channel at Ashley Weston on Youtube. As well as her website which has a more in-depth guide.
SRS: Thank you, Ashley!
AW: Thanks for having me! Hope you guys enjoyed. Great talking with you all!