Kate Young: From Assisting Anna Wintour to Dressing Margot Robbie For the Oscars

by Eddie Roche

She’s one of the most sought-after stylists in Hollywood, but Kate Young doesn’t have any plans to settle on the West Coast. We stopped by her New York office just days before the Oscars to unearth what’s keeping her up at night. Here, the bicoastal fashion arbiter — and our FLA pick for Women’s Stylist of the Year — talks Selena, Margot, and Dakota. Oh my!

You’ve had quite a year. Highlights?
I’m really proud of the awards run with Margot [Robbie]. She’s worn so many young designers, and so many important designers, and unexpected things. It’s been creatively satisfying—and overwhelming! It was also fun to do Fifty Shades Darker with Dakota [Johnson] in Paris. Sienna [Miller] is always fun to work with. It’s fun to have Rachel [Weisz] do movies again, too. I was super happy with the Vampire’s Wife look she wore to the BAFTAs.

Margot Robbie in Chanel haute couture at the 2018 Academy Awards (Getty Images)

And don’t forget Selena Gomez!
Yes! The cowboy Versace look she wore for the Billboard Music Awards was really great. I have an incredibly soft spot for Versace. I came to New York and started working in fashion around 1998, and a lot of [today’s] Versace revival references looks from that period. Those were the first clothes that I knew professionally. I was Anna [Wintour’s] assistant during the Versace Met Gala, and stood behind her while she was wearing the chain-mail dress. As you grow older, you have all these sentimental feelings toward clothes. Some people have them about their mother’s party dress or their grandmother’s coat; I have that about those Versace dresses.

What’s a typical day like for Kate Young?
It changes a lot! I try to do a lot of appointments. It’s not easy for me to just pull off [seeing] pictures from the Internet. I need to touch and see clothes in person to know if they will work or not. We do a lot of fittings where we take pictures and create wardrobe plans for the girls. I do fittings in an easy pair of Miu Miu shoes that fit with everything, and then do accessory fittings on my own. I spend a lot of time with my clients on FaceTime. I have a really big team now. It’s been a crazy season. I’ve never had so many clients doing so much stuff at the same time.

Selena Gomez in Valentino couture at a Harper’s Bazaar party during NYFW (Getty Images)

Would it be easier to be based in Los Angeles?
I’ve thought about it a few times, but I’m a New Yorker. I can’t live anywhere else! I’ve been working in fashion in New York for years, so I have personal relationships with a lot of publicists and designers. It’s an important part of my process.

How do you follow fashion?
On the Vogue Runway app. I’m a morning person, especially when I’m stressed, and I get up and drink lots of coffee, look on Instagram, and send e-mails.

What’s the earliest you send an e-mail?
I save them as drafts, and wait to send them. Today, I didn’t send one until 7:05.

That’s early! What time do you wake up?
I can’t sleep during this time of the year. The Oscars are in four days. Everything is done. The custom dress has been designed; the embroideries have been approved; the backup dress has been tried on. All I’m doing now is sitting around and waiting. We haven’t yet seen the dress on a human body—I’ve only seen weird pictures on a mannequin. On [Oscar] Sunday, there will be a lot of energy and space devoted to either praising or critiquing my work. It’s a really anxious cycle!

How do you stay in good spirits?
I watch silly YouTube videos. We have a friend who is the world’s leading BTS photographer—and also the funniest human being on earth—so we text him and he sends us insane 1980s Tampax commercials.

What do you do when the Oscars are over?
I fly home! I try not to work in March. It’s a weird transition. I get a little depressed. After I drop off my kids at school, I have coffee with my friends and tell them, “Of course I’m going to get depressed!” I’m addicted to my phone at this time of year. In the time between drop-off and getting coffee, I get 22 e-mails! A lot of people interview me and care what I think, and that validation is good for my ego. The day after the Oscars, it stops. I get e-mails about a sale at Patagonia. I have to learn how to be a normal person again.

Sienna Miller in Proenza Schouler at the New York premiere of “Phantom Thread” (Getty Images)

Which dress has earned you the most attention?
Michelle Williams’ Vera Wang dress [at the 2006 Oscars]. It was her moment. She had just had a baby, she had done an epic movie [Brokeback Mountain], Heath [Ledger] was such a heartthrob, and she looked so pretty. It was exciting to see somebody with an alternative style at the Oscars. The red carpet at that time had gotten a little pristine. I say this and nobody believes me, but while I was watching the red carpet, the commentary was like, “Oh, my God! A yellow dress and red lips? It’s like McDonald’s.” It didn’t immediately strike people as gorgeous. But when they liked it, they loved it.

You got your start in magazines. Are people curious to know what it was like to work with Anna Wintour?
They always ask about it. I had a different experience from the author of “The Devil Wears Prada”. When I saw that movie, I felt a little shell-shocked because my experience there was so different. I loved Vogue. I couldn’t wait to get to work every day. When [Anna] put her coat on my desk, my reaction was, “Oh, my God! It’s Fendi and it’s chinchilla!” I wasn’t like, “How humiliating!” When I got to do her dry cleaning, I was psyched that I could hold the Spring/Summer 1998 collection. I didn’t feel victimized at all. It was a privilege to do those things. Maybe that’s a sign of who I am as a person, but I loved it. I have enormous respect for Anna. She’s really supportive of my career. She introduced me to Sienna Miller. I still have a good relationship with her.

How did you come into your own as a stylist?
My first clients were Jennifer Connelly and Salma Hayek, and then Hilary Swank, Natalie Portman, and then Michelle and Rachel.

Michelle Williams in Louis Vuiton at this year’s BAFTAs (Getty Images)

How has your job changed?
People care a lot more about it now. For a long time, nobody really noticed what I did. Social media changed that.

Who is your most opinionated client?
Everyone has opinions. That’s like being asked which of your friends talks the most!

Sienna?
Weirdly, no. We have similar tastes, so we barely talk about clothes.

What’s next for you?
I would love to do an accessory line. I love doing my eyeglass line for Tura. I’d love to do costume jewelry, too—I like making things. I’m much more interested in collaborating with people who have the skills and knowledge to make and sell things. We’re not doing anything serious. We’re making interesting girls look pretty and cool. It’s not a bad gig!

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