Carlee Wallace is a fashion and advertising stylist who was born in Canada and raised on Saltspring Island, BC. She moved to London in 2008 to get her degree in Fashion Styling from Istituto Marangoni. She began her career in the United Kingdom as a contributor to numerous international brands and publications. As she has worked alongside some of the industry’s top stylists and with world-renowned photographers, Wallace developed a unique eye for style.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Carlee about her journey and how she has become one of the world’s most sought-after stylists. We were also able to discuss her recent work with Kate Nash, some insight into her career and international assignments, and even some of the things that she looks for in employees and interns.
How old were you when you knew that you wanted to pursue a career in fashion?
I used to change my outfit five to ten times a day when I was a kid. My parents always thought it was hilarious, but I would still have a matching hat and change my outfit regularly. So, I guess I was interested in fashion at a very young age. I started to pursue fashion at the age of 14 as a model, and then I traveled to Milan at the age of 16 after signing with an agency there.
You are a graduate of Fashion Styling from Istituto Marangoni. Can tell us how the institution prepared you to be a stylist in fashion?
Istituto Marangoni is a fantastic school, and it prepared me for the industry in a lot of ways. There are so many fashion institutions out there, but I was drawn to that one. I discovered it when I was working as a model in Milan, and I heard about this program for fashion styling. At the time it was not a typical career path like it is today. The course taught me photography, art history, costume history, graphic design, sociology, and all these fantastic things – in connection with fashion and how everything links together. After the course, I was able to go into a multitude of different directions if I decided to, and ultimately picked styling and stuck with it.
You produce, direct, and style your clients. Is this something you enjoyed doing at the beginning of your career or was it because of the lack of resources?
Good question! I love working in collaboration with lots of different artists, and I think the most fantastic work comes from the partnership with a variety of individuals. That said, I also really love being in control of the project and the vision, especially if it is my own vision. So, I have been learning over the years to let that go a little bit to let other people bring projects to life. But I still produce, direct, and style a lot of my own projects.
What advice would you like to share with someone that did not take the traditional route of trying to land a position at a notable platform in the fashion industry?
I would say assist as much as you can and gain all the experience that you possibly can. Say “yes” to everything that is presented to you, and hustle. It takes a lot of work, and if anyone is willing to bring you with them on their shoots or other events in the industry, say “yes” to all of those opportunities.
Can you talk to us about your recent work with (for the cover story for Phoenix Magazine), Felix Cartal (editorial and interview for Schön Magazine) and what goes on behind the scenes?
My recent project with Kate Nash was a passion project for me. I love her music, and I saw that she was coming to Vancouver to start her North American tour a couple of months ago. I decided to reach out to her team and began the process of getting the conversation going about setting up the opportunity between her and Phoenix Magazine. I met with them a few times before in London, touching base with their Editor in Chief. We were looking to collaborate on a project for quite some time, and this project with Kate Nash presented that opportunity. She is very inspirational, and I had the chance to produce, direct, and style the whole project. We were able to coordinate someone from Phoenix to interview her, and it was perfect timing because her show “Glow” with Netflix will be premiering their new season here shortly. As for Felix, he’s from Vancouver and we have some mutual friends, and he is killing it in the music industry. He wanted to shoot something together that was a little bit different and get out of his comfort zone. I work with Schön Magazine quite frequently, and I pitched it to the editor, which led to us shooting this incredible editorial with Trevor Brady who was the photographer. The magazine interviewed him as well. It turned into a really cool piece.
You had the opportunity to freelance all over the world. If you had to pick your toughest assignment to date, what would it be and why?
That’s tough because I feel like every project that I am involved with has its own set of challenges. Freelancing has been an exciting world, and I love it very much because of that. And every time I say “yes” to a project I am learning something new. It is indeed a constant whirlwind, and I do everything from music videos to television commercials, editorials, massive campaigns, and everything has its own set of challenges.
Who are some of the people that you consider to be mentors in the industry?
I have been fortunate to come across a lot of amazing mentors in the industry. For example, a hairstylist by the name of Tania Becker. She has a ton of experience in the industry. Some of my teachers at Marangoni have been very helpful, and we still stay in touch. Friends and other stylists have been mentors as well – photographers like Trevor Brady and editors all over the world.
How has being well traveled helped your instinct regarding fashion trends?
I think traveling is the most important thing ever and if you are lucky enough to be able to do so, please get on the plane whenever you can. It has opened my eyes up to so many cultures, different people, and the way people live their lives. I can be inspired by anything really, and I feel the more that I’m exposed to, the more my work will benefit.
Throughout your career, you have worked with brands such as Nike, Lululemon, and Sport Chek. Do you plan on starting your own line of fashion at some point?
This is a question I get asked quite frequently, and my immediate answer to that would be no, but I have had a lot of friends and colleagues who have created brands. I have had a couple of ideas up my sleeve. I never say never, but I don’t have any plans for that in the immediate future.
What do you look for in interns during the interviewing process?
What I look for in my interns and assistants is someone who is exceptionally punctual – it is essential. They will also need to pay extreme attention to detail. So, for me, there is nothing more important than being on time. You cannot be late in life and your eyes must be open to every single detail because things move quickly. There is often a lot of money on the line and it is essential to be aware of your surroundings.
Have you thought about possibly teaching aspiration stylist tips through a web-based class platform?
I have not, to be completely honest. I could do it, but I am always on the fly. It is something that I have not gotten to yet – but again, never say never.
What are some of the other things that we can look forward to from Carlee this year?
I will be styling my first short film this summer that my husband is directing, and it will be an exciting year full of big campaigns, great editorials, and getting more involved into the music industry.