Clinton Kelly: From Fashion Editor to Fashion Police
From Fashion Editor to Fashion Police, stylist Clinton Kelly has seen it all – and his eyes are burning! He sits down to discuss the current state of fashion, his Make Over America tour and the search for Worst Dressed American. Is it you?
Where does fashion currently rule & why: New York or LA?
Having just returned from a week in LA, I can tell you with absolute certainty that NY rules, fashionwise. The vast majority of American designers use NYC as their home base, and fashionable New Yorkers tend to take more chances than their LA counterparts. That’s not to say that there’s a style deficiency in LA; it’s just that I found most people in the Hollywood scene to be lacking a little in creativity. Still a lot of bleached blondes with fake boobs and hair extensions. And if I saw another guy in an Ed Hardy T-shirt, I thought I would puke. Downtown LA seems to be where it’s at as far as fashion goes.
You are about 1/2 way through to your Make Over America tour with Macys. How are things going?
You have no idea how much I’m loving this tour across America, which resumes shortly. In each city I make over 15 women — all different ages and shapes and sizes — and use them as models in a fashion show. There is nothing quite like watching a woman who came to me looking like a frump-a-dump on Friday strut her gorgeous stuff in front of a thousand cheering people on Saturday. And it looks like we’ll be extending the tour through 2010. We’re working on a list of cities for that now. In the meantime, you can go to macys.com/makeoveramerica to stay informed.
You’ve been a very positive spokesperson for Macys. How did that relationship come about?
Back when I was a magazine editor, I had made many contacts in the PR world. One day about four years ago, one of those contacts called me about hosting some style seminars for Macy’s in what are called “special sizes” in the industry, meaning pluses and petites. I jumped at the chance because I believe very strongly that every woman can look and feel beautiful with the right amount of information and a little inspiration. The Macy’s customer has obviously responded to this because I’m going on my fifth year of working with the company. I love it so much, I hope it never ends.
How did you get into this field, and on television? Was it an end goal?
Six years ago (or so) TLC was re-casting the male lead of WNTW and a casting agent named Barbara Barna contacted me. I think she had contacted every man working in the fashion industry. I was working as the executive editor of a very highly regarded men’s fashion trade magazine called DNR at the time. It has since been folded into Women’s Wear Daily. I decided to go on the audition because I figured I had nothing to lose by doing so. When it was over I thought, “Wow, I just bombed that.” But I really didn’t care because I already had a good job. The next day, they called me back for a second audition, where I met Stacy and we had chemistry from the first instant. A week later, I had quit my job and was signed on to do 45 episodes. Crazy! Was doing TV an end goal? Good question. Not really. I’m all about the experience. I wanted to try something new, so I did. Every job I ever accepted, I did so because I thought it would either be fun or I would learn a new skill. With WNTW, both have been true.
The wildly popular What Not to Wear is coming up on 250th episode. Let’s talk about the “Worst Dressed American” you are hunting down.
Well, it’s not so much that I’m hunting her down. It’s the producers really. I can’t even imagine someone who dresses worse than the people we’ve already had on the show. I feel like I’ve re-styled the worst dressed American about a hundred times already. But if you know someone, you can go to TLC.com and nominate them or yourself. It’s such an honor that the American public — and people from other countries for that matter — have embraced WNTW so wholeheartedly. It’s fun to be me! When I walk down the street, people tell me they love me or love my work. It’s hilarious. Sure, they also ask me what I think of their outfits, and believe me, if you ask, you’re gonna get the truth!
Do you ever get tired of the hot mess, or does it only motivate your mission?
I do get a little tired of the frumpy mom look, only because there are polished alternatives that are just as easy. Instead of sweatshirts and hoodies, wear a cotton jacket. Instead of faded, tapered jeans, get a dark wash trouser jean. Instead of T-shirts, wear a blouse. And instead of sneakers, wear a sandal, ballet flat or boot. This is not rocket science. I feel sometimes like I’ll be giving this advice until I’m 103.
~ Hillary Fry / solessence