Liz Peters interviews co-op stylist, Carrie Capaldi.
Carrie Capaldi is not only an incredibly talented stylist, she is a dear friend and one of the most enjoyable people to spend time with. Her laugh is infectious and her caring demeanor makes you feel lucky to know her. On set Carrie is a pleasure to work with; joyful, hard working, she makes the day fly by. Her work is clean and composed, with a sense of ease and delight to it. Everything in its right place but at the same time relaxed and fluid.
Many years ago, I was Carrie’s assistant and she generously taught me so much of what I do today. Her experience shows in her work, so effortless, and her long history in styling has prepared her for anything on set. One of the many things I have always admired about Carrie is her ability to do a million things at once. I am in awe of how much she can get done in a day; with work, friends, family, her home in Asbury Park, raising three wonderful children, yet she always has a calming disposition and an attentiveness for the present moment. Carrie is a superstar and can do it all!
Did you always want to be a stylist?
I knew I always wanted to work in fashion. After graduating from NYU, I went to F.I.T. for a few semesters and realized that I did not have the drafting skills to be a designer. So, styling was the next best thing!
How did you get your start as a stylist?
My beginning is a classic NYC story. Just out of college, I was working as a “Girl-Friday” (similar to a studio assistant). The photographer I worked for was a complete 80s throw-back; a wealthy, hot-headed, narcissist whose cocaine habit and penchant for extra-marital prostitutes often made the job unbearable. My responsibilities included frequenting the flower district, entertaining the clients, assisting the producer, the stylist, the secretary and the chef and, my least favorite, cleaning the studio toilets.
One day, the photographer and the stylist had an altercation and he fired her on the spot. As the clients trickled into the studio, the producer, in a panic, asked him “What are we going to do now?” The photographer, knowing that I wanted to be a stylist, said, “Carrie will do it!” and stormed off.
And that is how I became a stylist.
From there, I moved to another much nicer studio with respectable colleagues and honed the skills of tabletop and soft goods styling as well as All things studio-related. Working at this studio was a turning point for me. The photographer/owner, James Murray, was the exact opposite; charming, talented, generous and amazing. He taught me so much and introduced me to the world of high-end styling, fashion, digital photography, photoshop and client management.
You have several different disciplines: Still-Life, Fashion, Props. Which is your favorite and why?
After several years at this studio, I decided to venture into fashion styling. I loved it. I was immediately hooked! I spent most of my 20s traveling and assisting amazing stylists on amazing shoots for Italian Vogue, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair and V Magazine. In my 30s I struck out on my own, working in Editorial, Advertising and Celebrity Fashion. I really love the travel and the excitement and spontaneity of fashion styling. I love working with people.
And I LOVE clothing as art.
But, still-life styling is my favorite. It allows me to work with my hands. And I really love to work with my hands. Still-life styling is a bit like sculpture and a bit like engineering. I Love to figure out and create new tools and tricks to rig objects. I love to manipulate fabric to create the perfect folds. I love to spend days searching for just the right props and objects. I love to build and create worlds for objects. I come from a family of creative people, many who work with their hands. It’s satisfying to make something beautiful with objects. And it’s satisfying to create those beautiful worlds using your hands.
As a Stylist, what inspires you?
I Love NYC street style, I love NYC street art, I love the energy in the streets. The fast-pace of the city matches my own energy. There’s so much to do and see and be inspired by. I love sneakers and jewelry and music and color and murals and dance and art. I love the constant stimulation and chaos of just walking down the street taking it all in. I love to see how different people from different parts of the city or different parts of the world interpret fashion trends (or don’t at all).
I love to look at people’s outfits; hundreds, thousands of different outfits coming at you, at all times, from all directions! I love “dressed-up” sweatshirts and torn jeans, fabulous heels and trench coats. I love tattoos and piercings and fringe and hair-dos and boots and printed coats. I love to witness how people adorn themselves to express themselves. It’s my fantastic hobby!
Name three of the best things about being a Fashion/Still-Life Stylist.
I love the creative collaboration that happens on set with the photographer, the stylist and the art director. The creative momentum that swirls around the set when creative people get together to create and brainstorm and solve problems in creative ways is definitely one of the highlights of my job.
#2 Owning my own business.
Since I began styling right out of college, I have been a freelance, self-proprietor of my own business for a long time. The flexibility it allows me is unparalleled. I have three children. Styling allows me to create my own schedule, choose my own projects, prioritize important events in my kid’s lives, as well as continue to build a thriving, creative career that I love.
#3 Creative Potential
I love that every day is different. Each project is different. Each project uses different aspects of my skill set. It is fun to change it up from day to day. One day I’m dressing a model in the desert. Another day I’m balancing shoes on a pineapple. Oftentimes one client leads you to another client via word-of-mouth, so it’s exciting NOT always knowing what client or what challenge is around the corner. There’s always a new client, a new assignment. There’s always a new puzzle to solve. That keeps things fresh and keeps you on your toes!
If you were not a stylist, what do you think you’d be doing?
I love interior design. My husband and I own a beach house in Asbury Park, NJ. We bought it as a fixer-upper 15 years ago and have been fixing it up ever since. I designed the kitchen and together we designed several custom furniture pieces in the house as well as the backyard garden. I love lighting fixtures and knobs, window treatments and upholstery, rugs, tile, shiny lamps, shelves, desks, ottomans and luxurious bedding. I have been known to deliberate over paint colors for months or just give up and create my own. Similar to styling, it’s all about creating different worlds; quirky, beautiful habitats where objects live, so I think it all ties in together.