November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Sarah Ellison Lewis/Fashion

Russ Harrington Photo


Photo Perfect

It’s All About Style

 Ok, so one day I find myself surfing photographers and photography sites and come across this really beautiful fashion portfolio and follow a bunch of links until I discover by accident because I wasn’t looking for it the agent’s address of the photo stylist who handled the shoot and quickly got in touch. I don’t know anyone who makes a living as a photo stylist and thought it might be interesting to find out what makes a person tick who sets up shots and coordinates the parties to it, when all the pictures I ever take are on the run and there’s no one around to make sure the makeup is just right, there aren’t any wrinkles in the blouse, no hair blowing the wrong way, no scuffed shoes, no … well, you get the picture.  That’s how we happened to get in touch with Sarah Ellison Lewis, the New Yorker from Anderson, a small town in Texas near Houston, who works with some of the top photographers in the business, and whose client roster includes Helm Handmade Boots, Nizoni Handbags, Intermix, Barney’s, Pepsi, Target ….

Helm Catalogue

It’s Sarah’s job to make sure that after you’ve read enough magazines and seen enough advertising and fashion shots to make your eyes tear up, her photos are not the ones that turn the spigot on. Think about it. What’s it take to make everyone look good, from the fashion designer to the model to the photographer and set designer? Well, imagine pulling a Blanc de Bouscat out of a pill box hat.

Lewis’ target market for her services are “as a key consultant, styling, producing and art-directing fashion and accessory editorial and commercial stories and campaigns with exciting teams.” Sounds like standard resumé fare, but in this case backed up with a track record of accomplishments from the Music business to Fashion to Television and Film. Is this a sales pitch? Maybe. But seeing is believing, so have a look.

Q&A with Sarah E. Lewis:

Q: Do you have formal training?

SEL: No, all self-taught and experience. I do have a journalism degree, which has helped me immensely to manage magazine wells.

Q: When did you move to NY?

SEL: 2002

Q: How old were you when you started?

SEL: 25


Russ Harrington Photo

 Q: What got you into styling?

SEL: It’s all I ever dreamed of doing. My mom is this amazing creative, always collecting weird, beautiful, dramatic things. I remember she put me in pantaloons for church. And her hats were so huge, completely out of the ordinary for our little Texas town in 1980. She instilled this incredible sense of connection with clothing and accessories in me. I started collecting VOGUE around age 6, and was pasting pictures of Linda Evangelista on my walls. I remembered these little credits on-page like “sittings editor.” I just couldn’t believe someone got to dress the models up. It was my greatest dream for myself, and still is.

Q: Who was/is your mentor/person you most look up to?

SEL: My father was my greatest personal influence. He’s sort of this cross between John Wayne and Clark Kent. He is this incredible self-made Texas rancher. His virtues, value system, and sense of family make up my every fiber. I was raised getting up with the sun, taking care of animals. To this day, my work ethic influences my ability to do a great job, and that’s because he demanded it from me. He’s the guy who insists upon opening doors for women, he’s always picking up tabs, seeing what’s important, and striving to be generous. He’s the greatest person I’ve ever known. There’s nothing I treasure more about myself, than my roots.

Marcia Gay Harden, Thaddeus Harden Photo

Q: What was your big break?

SEL: I styled Marcia Gay Harden for a feature story, and we fell for each other. A year later I was following her to Portugal, dressing her onstage with Morgan Freeman. She’s probably the most remarkable, strongest, larger-than-life woman I have ever known. She’s truly a movie star, in life, with her family, and with her heart. We are great friends, though she’s incredibly busy and has a big, growing family

Q: What is your favorite style/era of hair/makeup/clothes?

SEL: Absolutely a cross between the Victorian era / turn of the century, and the roaring 20’s and 30’s, swing era. When patina and grandiose details were a daily way of life. That to me was when time stopped. I always twist it a little to have a little macabre touch. The darkness and swaying shadowy time of the Victorian women I still can’t believe happened one hundred years ago.

Q: How would you describe your personal/professional aesthetic?

SEL: Everyone has an equation for getting dressed, whether they know it or not. Mine is what I call a reverse triangle – dramatic sleeves and silhouettes weighted on the top, usually a very slim leg, a very odd tall shoe. Some would say it’s modern 40’s. For me its simply comfortable. I wear more black than I am proud of. But I surprisingly don’t keep a lot of clothes or stuff in my life. I like very select, pristine pieces. I am completely obsessed with being an editor. I can’t even have an extra glass in my cupboard that I don’t adore or need.

Intermix, Photo by Trevor Owsley


Q: What are your biggest strengths?

SEL: Strengths – well, I am very strong. I simply can endure a lot. I can communicate well. I am haunted by my skillset – by colors and textures. I think this is a strength. And I think I am very thoughtful and compassionate, almost to a fault. I put others first and sometimes forget about what “fair” means, in a lot of relationships. I overdo it for the people I work for a care about. Typical Scorpio.

Q: Why do you love what you do?

SEL: There’s nothing more wonderful than making a person feel amazing, and having them come to life, via the editorial concepts we can create with garments and accessories. These mediums are an incredible tool to enrich life. They are truly an art form, and I am elated I am an artist in this medium.

Q: What five words best describe you?

SEL: Passionate, Intense, Dramatic, Transparent, Fearless.

Q: What/who inspires you?

SEL: My favorite revolutionaries are people who are communicative, kind, visionaries. They strive to be aware of those around them, to have a strong moral fiber, and they love what they do. Johnny Depp, and Tim Burton. Anything they do. Grace Coddington, Artists including Marlene Dumas and Julie Speed. The photographs of Paolo Raversi and Ellen von Unwerth. Designers like Rick Owens, Miuccia Prada, anything by Givency and Gianfranco Ferre.

Angela Kohler, copyright Allison Moorer


Q: Where do you live now?

SEL: The West Village, and I keep an amazing little pied a terre in Austin, Texas, where I catch my breath, and connect with God and family.

Q: Family?

SEL: I am plenty to handle in this lifetime, so far. My immediate family in Texas includes my brother and sister and their five babies, and my Godchild, Ellison.

Q: And in your spare time?

SEL: I also take pictures, very simple black and white photography. And I work in the darkroom a lot, printing my own images, just for me.

Q: How would you put it all together?

SEL: Stylists physically choose, gather and put clothing on models, actors and celebrities. We are truly market editors – we wade through tons of product everyday and match our clients’ needs with what’s in the market.

Jeffrey Westbrook Photo


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