Andrew Mukamal: From Fashion to Style

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Anna Wintour didn’t roll out of bed with a perfectly coiffed bob, slide into the backseat of a town car, and arrive at the Conde Nast building with the miraculous ability to decide the fate of a designer’s career in the blink of an eye. In reality, Wintour worked her way to the top of the industry with old fashioned blood, sweat, and tears — however, today it seems like all it takes is a semi-creative idea, a well-designed website, and outreach to transform yourself into the toast of the fashion world overnight.

He may have worked harder than that, but Andrew Mukamal seems to fit the bill of an overnight fashion celebrity. He put himself on the map as Kelly Cutrone’s longhaired, openly gay assistant with a propensity for Rick-Owens-everything and bulky goth (but usually Hermes) jewelry on the Bravo reality show Kell on Earth. Since then, he has parlayed his fame into a full-blown styling career, and cemented himself as somewhat of a style icon.

Looking at the current state of the fashion industry (and, well, media in general), it is impossible to avoid the truth: the Internet is taking over. But what exactly does this mean for arguably the most celebrated form of modern art? I thought Andrew would be a great person to chat with about the subject. Almost immediately after Kell on Earth premiered, he began to gain a large web following, specifically on Twitter. After “twitpic-ing” himself in a “crazy hat” in the People’s Revolution offices, people requested that he photograph himself everyday and share his daily outfits online. He still continues to do so, and I wondered if posting his eccentric, always high fashion looks had any career benefits. “Yes,” Andrew told me, “Twitter became like a living editorial, like a portfolio. Agencies have contacted me, and I’ve met with them regarding representation. Sometimes, they’ve never even seen my work, just my looks, which is crazy, but initially, it was the only thing they had to go off of.”

Clearly, the evolution of fashion has served him well, but it’s no secret that the influx of Internet content has not been kind to magazines. I inquired about the status of American Vogue, long regarded as the fashion bible, and how he thought it would fare in the future.  “Everybody I know who’s working at those publications no longer work for a magazine, they work for a brand. Things are no longer one-dimensional, everything is a brand, everything is a platform, and everything must exist on multiple levels in order to survive. What it will come down to is what brands will be able to become the strongest and really survive through this digital massacre.” He feels that a brand like Vogue isn’t going anywhere, as they have done an exceptional job beefing up online content and retaining readership.

The platforms he speaks of have become increasingly accessible to the point that, he says,  “Kids into fashion don’t have an excuse but to know everything about what they say they’re into.” And he’s completely right. Style.com’s near immediate release of runway show images has been revolutionary, unlike ten years ago, where you would wait a month after fashion week, and “see, like, a single Balenciaga look in a magazine.”  What’s significant is the way people are viewing these images. The Internet has allowed for a personal style renaissance. Blogs like The Sartorialist, which depicts fashionable city dwellers throughout the world, and StyleLikeU, which provides an inside look into some insane closets, have become huge favorites, and truly represent the transition from “fashion” to “style” that the industry is taking. “Outside of New York and Paris, everybody hates fashion because the fashion industry has been notoriously snobby and exclusive, but that’s changing,” Andrew says, “People who look at ready to wear aren’t necessarily thinking that they want to buy the clothes they see, they are thinking about how they want to look like that. They are paying attention to the styling. Styling is accessible to everyone and everything, regardless of price point.”

In the past, the role of the stylist was somewhat of a mystery. Sure, everyone knew that Rachel Zoe was peddling the bohemian-chic look throughout young Hollywood, but people were unaware of the direct influence of the stylist on a runway show and fashion editorial. “Styling is the future of fashion. For decades, stylists were on the back burner, nobody really knew their name, nobody paid attention, and suddenly, stylists are becoming insta-celebrities,” Andrew states. The next step, he feels, will be that people will begin to the follow the stylist as opposed to the model or designer, which has become possible due to the availability of information.

As the exclusivity that once surrounded fashion diminishes, more and more people are getting involved. I certainly can’t imagine everyone is thrilled about this, but it is a testament to fashion’s unparalleled influence on culture. Andrew is at the helm of the developing field, balancing his love for couture and pricey items with the need and ability to uniquely express himself. Currently, he is working full-time at Seventeen Magazine, while also contributing to cutting edge fashion publication Mykromag. Additionally, this fashion week, he is styling runway shows for Asher Levine and Katie Ermilio. Not too shabby for a former supporting player on a reality show.

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