Interview with the STYLE HERO
LOS Magazine, ROBERT BALLEW STYLE HERO BY DANA SCHAFER
Even if you don’t work in the fashion industry, if you’ve seen the Devil Wears Prada, then you already have an idea that this industry can be extremely arrogant and snobbish (to say the least).
It’s so invigorating when you finally come across someone like Wardrobe Stylist and Fashion Editor, Robert Ballew. His exciting and fun personality brings a refreshing energy to the scene! Even the Twittersphere would not be the same without Robert’s enlivening tweets.
Robert started his career in retail setting visual standards for stores such as Armani Exchange, DKNY, and Old Navy. That path led him to interior design creating stylish furniture for wealthy clientele. Years later his eye for style and design brought him back to the fashion industry. Robert has worked on national and international print and runway projects. Some of his published work can be found in Billboard Magazine, In Touch Weekly, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Arizona Bride Magazine, Golf Digest just to name a few. Yet the most rewarding part of Robert’s profession is helping everyday people find their style and confidence. He says “I love to laugh & have fun. That tends to put my clients at ease, I make fashion fun & not so serious or scary.”
LOS: You started out in retail, then got into interior design which seems like lots of fun. How did you become interested in interior design and how did you land your first client?
Robert: I was raised in a home where the interior ambiance was very important; it silently spoke volumes of your style and character. My first real client was a friend of a friend. We spent over a year working together on their 6000 square foot new build home, from frame to finish. The jobs rolled in from there. I have been blessed to know some very wonderful clients who I still consider great friends.
LOS: You were very successful in interior design, so how did you wind up in the fashion industry as a wardrobe stylist and fashion editor?
Robert: As the housing market took a downward turn, I decided it would be a perfect time to try something new. I wanted to get back into fashion, but not looking to return to retail. I had a model friend who needed help updating his portfolio. We were about the same size, so I looked through the most current Vogue, GQ & Norstrom’s catalogue and tore out several images I thought would be great for him. All varying in look and style to show his range. Pulled the clothes from my closet, ironed them and organized them by looks (with the magazine tear) on a rack, that just so happened to be in my garage. I showed up to the photographers studio, rack in tow. The photographer said “I have been interviewing stylists for three months… where have you been?” We shot together for the next six months.
LOS: How does your love of architecture and your sense of design influence your styling?
Robert: When I look at people I see geometric shapes and lines. We all are very unique in shape, so throwing something on that the “big box” store puts on a mannequin usually leads to disappointment… even for me. So I love to take the time to get to know the client. Including their likes, dislikes, work and habits. The reason I come into the picture is because of a necessity to make a change due to life events, some good… some bad.
LOS: For someone that grew up in a Midwest small town, you have clearly engraved your place in the styling industry. How were you able to make your mark?
Robert: My Mom empowered me, by stating as a matter of fact “you can do anything you want to do.” I took her words to heart. With this confidence and my own unique style sensibility, my brand is recognized through out the style industry.
LOS: You definitely put the fun in fashion! One of my favorite shots of you is the one where you are laying in a swimming pool fully clothed. Tell us about this photo.
Robert: I believe in doing whatever it takes to get the shot. In this particular shoot, the models were floating in a pool… well supposed to float. One of the models couldn’t float… probably because he had negative body fat. Anyway, I had to support the model in between shots. The photographer would give a count… 1, 2… 3 and I would have to dart backwards out of frame. It was a HOOT.
LOS: How would you describe your own personal style?Robert: My personal style is ever evolving; I am a mix of tailored Londoner with a casual urban whimsy. I love a full Windsor knot or bow tie and tailored jacket and flat fronts and halfway laced boots. Or some pointy dress shoes with denim, tee shirt and tailored blazer.LOS: I’ve heard some stylists say that they are so busy making their clients look great, they don’t always have time to make themselves look and feel great. Staying well groomed and stylish seems to be very important to you. Why is this so important and how do you find the time to keep yourself looking great? Robert: I view myself as a walking business card or example, I better put my money where my mouth is, there is no reason otherwise. I make the time in my calendar, this may mean a jam packed day, but it is worth the effort… it is my style.LOS: A few months ago you worked on a project for Billboard Magazine. Tell us about that. Robert: That was such an amazing project. I spent 20 days in Las Vegas working with an amazing photographer Jason Blaney, production team including Makeup by Heather Wilson. We had layouts that needed to be shot at select hotels, lounges and casinos, including the HRH, The Palms and The Cosmopolitan. The talent included Keri Hilson, Naz, Incubus, Lil’ Jon and Scott Weiland. I had so much fun with each of them, they are as nice as you might think.
I had the challenge of propping each location for whatever insane, last minute ideas that could pop into the photographer’s head and styling the talent. Keri Hilson did bring her own wardrobe stylist; she was super nice to work with. Incubus was a blast from beginning to end. I had to hire Showgirls, fake fish and beg Heather Wilson to steal the marlin from her husband’s office… and she did. The band loved it; they each had their picture taken with “Marlin.”
Lil’ Jon was the craziest. He is notorious for his antics and love for tequila, that day was no exception. He exhausted my clothing budget; his manager said “…that is a compliment because he never likes anything that is brought for him.” His shoot was the fastest, because he was “on.” He was very gracious afterwards and took pictures with all of us on our phones.
LOS: You recently styled Holly Madison for In Touch Magazine. Tell us how it was working with Holly and give us a few details about the shoot.
Robert: I was hired to prop Miss Madison’s home; including flowers, fruit glassware and also to arrange her furniture to the angles the photographer Richard Reinsdorf wanted. I did assist Holly with her apparel she had meticulously selected for each shot, out of her closet. She has a FANTASTIC shoe collection, many Christian Louboutins. She also collects luggage, mainly Louis Vuitton. She also had the Pucci lounge pajama ensemble worn by “Ginger McKenna” (Sharon Stone) in the gangster epic “Casino” starring Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. After we wrapped, Holly invited the photographer and I to see her show at planet Hollywood, “Peep Show.” It was SUPER cute and entertaining. We spoke with her and her manger after the show before her scheduled meet and greet. She is as nice and genuine as she seems on her show Holly’s World.
LOS: RobertBallew.com is not a typical portfolio website. You have branded yourself as “STYLE HERO FOR REAL PEOPLE”. Tell us more about your website and what inspired you to take it in that direction.
Robert: I style for real life men and women, celebrities and high profile individuals, who desire AUTHENTIC, PRACTICAL, MODERN and FASHION FORWARD signature styling. When I am on assignment styling for magazine editorials, I execute the same rules… well maybe I push it a little more, but I want to share my aspirations to inspire everyone. Along with my active portfolio, I write about finding and developing ones personal style and confidence. I also write about my personal experiences at New York Fashion Week (this will be my fifth season next week) or epiphanies resulting from an everyday event or my Bikram Yoga practice. Style is NOT only about fashion but also in how you choose to live your life.
LOS: In a field that’s “fierce, fast and ferocious” (as Rosemary from Rosemary Ponzo Designs describes the fashion industry), how do you manage to stay so upbeat, positive and fun when “the going gets tough”?
Robert: That is just me, I find it easier to be positive than negative. As a personal fashion stylist my task description is not only creative but “problem solver.” Solving for style, silhouette and confidence. I get so excited as I see the enlightenment come across my clients face, as they acknowledge their transformation and how beautiful they look and feel. This totally puts a smile on my face. At that moment they become my hero.
LOS: What can we expect from you in the future?
Robert: I will continue to reach for the stars everyday, more editorials, more national and international publications… TV or maybe even a book. I am setting no limits and everyone is invited along for the ride, it will be FANTASTIC.
LOS: What words of advice can you give for aspiring stylists and stylists in general looking to succeed in this business?
Robert: I am asked this almost daily… here is what I tell them- Be willing, on time, detailed, tenacious and most importantly… honorable.
LOS: I could ask you questions all day but I don’t want to take up anymore of your time. So one last question for now…what do you think of Lots of Style?
Robert: I love Lots of Style, it is just for wardrobe stylist only. As members we can celebrate our accomplishments and be encouragement to fellow stylists. LOS also is a super resource for the industry to source spectacular talent from.
To keep up with Robert and view more of his work visit:
To read more by Dana Schafer of LOS Magazine click here http://losmag.com/robert-ballew-style-hero/