Karen Kaiser is a leading New York-based stylist with an eye for fabric and a talent telling stories through fashion. After beginning her career with legendary fashion stylist Karl Templar, she worked as a Contributing Editor at Interview US magazine, Fashion Director of Interview Russia and Contributing Fashion Editor at Vogue, Dior Magazine, Flair & 25 Magazine.
Karen is currently consulting for Gabriele Colangelo and Peter Som. Her client list includes Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger, Chicca, Marchesa, David Yurman, Coach Factory, Gap Japan and Calvin Klein. In addition, she regularly shoots with photographers including Craig McDean, Patrick Demarchelier, Sebastian Kim and Andreas Sjodin.
First, let’s talk about your job. What do you do? I’m a fashion stylist, which is really multi-faceted, but my main job is to select the clothing and direct the way it’s worn, bringing the overall creative vision of the project to life.
Specifically, how does that involve cotton? For this project in particular, I paid close attention to the labels — checking fabric content and learning about where and how the garments were made. I touched each piece to ensure that it felt soft and lived-in, very “models’ own” or, on the contrary, very crisp.
What are the characteristics you look for in fabrics when styling/photographing? I focus on how the fabric feels to the touch, because even the most subtle textures often come through in an image. I also look at the structure or movement of the fabric, particularly to balance or complement the other fabrics in the story.
When you think about all the fabrics you’ve worked with, what do you like about cotton? I like that cotton can be soft like a second skin and reminiscent of a baby’s blanket. It’s soft, familiar, almost intimate at times but – it’s also extremely versatile.
What are the most memorable shoots you’ve been on where you styled/photographed cotton? This one! I also just styled Karlie Kloss for the cover of Lucky magazine, and the story had a very easy, classic American vibe, so of course we used a lot of cotton.
Who wears cotton really, really well? Everyone! It looks great on every skin color, every body shape, and fits into every lifestyle.
What are your go-to cotton pieces for a shoot? For yourself? Cotton tees, tanks, a selection of denim, and white shirting.
As for your style of cotton...
Plaid or solid? Solid.
Bright or muted? Both!
White or black? White.
Buttoned up or buttoned down? Both up and down, depending on the occasion.
V-neck or crew neck? Crew.
What cotton pieces are you wearing this fall? List the top 3. A perfect white shirt, my favorite white tee, and a classic trench.
What are 3 cotton pieces everyone should have in their wardrobe? Denim of all kinds, a classic white shirt, and a perfectly worn-in, favorite tee.
What cotton pieces can you not do without? Classic white shirt and vintage cotton tee.
What are 3 cotton pieces that would be trends for retailers to stock up on now? ‘70s wide-leg denim. Chunky knitwear. Organic cotton tees.
What kind of jeans do you wear? Boyfriend jeans — relaxed and worn-in.
What is the most significant cotton fashion image you can recall? Peter Lindberg’s ‘90s supermodels in nothing but their white shirts.
What’s the most innovative use of cotton you’ve seen/worked with? The most elaborate? Comme des Garçons, without a doubt. Every season, I’m amazed by Rei’s creations.
What is your #1 reason for choosing cotton over any other fabric? Comfort and wearability. I guess that’s two reasons, but they’re both #1.
Are you seeing cotton as more season-spanning? Cotton is seasonless, especially when you travel as much as I do. It’s great for layering, and comes in a million different weights and textures.
Fess up: How old is your favorite cotton tee? Let’s just say it definitely qualifies as vintage!