Adena Rohatiner is a celebrity stylist who has worked with Rachel Zoe, Estee Stanley, and Cristina Ehrlich, styling such A-list celebrities as Penélope Cruz, Jessica Biel, and Lea Michele. Most recently, Adena was the wardrobe stylist for Extra’s Maria Menounos. From red carpet to TV, Adena shares the high-glamour and “schlepping” involved celebrity styling.
One of the main misconceptions about fashion is that everyone thinks it’s all fun and glamorous, but especially as an assistant, you are working your ass off.
How did you get your start?
I’ve always been into fashion. As a kid, my mom told me I was impossible because I was only interested in wearing party dresses to the park or to a gymnastics party. As I got older, I thought that’s what I wanted to do (work in fashion), so my aunt, who [had a lot of experience] in the industry, said, “Adena, it’s important to intern as much as possible, get as many jobs as possible to get the experience, and get your name out there. It takes a lot of work.”
The summer before college I did my first internship for a clothing line, helping with manufacturing and design and just learning the industry. Then every single summer during college and during school, I had an internship. I interned at James Perse, in a showroom doing PR, worked for Teri Jon doing sales and helping with design, and worked for Glamour magazine for a semester, which I loved. And then what really got me excited is when I interned for Rachel Zoe, which is where I feel like I connected the most with what I loved the best: styling—putting clothes together, shopping, and pulling [outfits]. That’s what I enjoyed and thought I’d be best at.
When I graduated from college, I ended up getting a job with two really big stylists: Estee Stanley and Cristina Ehrlich. They styled Penélope Cruz, Jessica Biel, and the Olsen [twins]. I started with them as basically an intern and then became an assistant. For a while, I also worked on their clothing line, but I had no experience in designing, so I was kind of thrown into it: picking fabrics, working with pattern-makers, helping them in their design meetings. It was a lot of fun and then when the partners split up, I stayed on with Estee Stanley as her stylist assistant for five years. I learned so much and experienced everything; I went to shoots by myself and was able to pull all the clothes. We also had great clients like Lea Michele and Jessica Biel. It was amazing. I really fell in love with styling and just knew that’s what I wanted to keep doing.
It’s good for people to know what it takes to work in the industry. A lot of hard work!
One of the main misconceptions about fashion is that everyone thinks it’s all fun and glamorous, but especially as an assistant (and even when you’re no longer an assistant), you are working your ass off. You are schlepping racks of clothing up and down stairs, it’s just so much physical labor and is high-stress and pressure. But it also gets you high—I love it and live for it.
After I had my first baby, I decided I needed a little bit of a break because I was working until 10 PM every night, always stressed out, and glued to my Blackberry. When you’re an assistant, you don’t make your own schedule, you just have to kind of work on demand. And it’s really important to work that hard because that’s where you make all your connections and meet people in the industry, and then people know you and you make a reputation. So I definitely recommend assisting for a while.
After maternity leave, I felt the need to go back. Because in fashion, if you’re out of it for too long, it’s not the kind of thing you can just go back to—you have to be relevant. My aunt knew Maria Menounos, the host of Extra, and she was looking for a stylist, so I interviewed for the position and got it. And I did that for the past two years (and am now on maternity leave again).
How does styling for TV differ from the other celebrity styling work you’ve done?
The TV world is completely different. It’s a little bit more commercial. When I’m pulling clothes for a big celebrity, I’m not going to Bloomingdales to buy her dresses, I’m contacting the designers themselves who have their own PR companies and they’ll get me the most current things off the runway. You’re never going to find Anne Hathaway, for example, in a dress from Barney’s that’s accessible near you. It’s always something that’s more current and not available, yet. So when I was styling for celebrities, I was going to showrooms all around Los Angeles or contacting PR companies in Paris and New York to get the most current clothes.
But for TV, I had a budget to dress Maria and it doesn’t matter as much… she could repeat clothing—it’s not a red carpet like the Oscars or the Emmys. So I would go to Zara or even Forever 21 and some showrooms, but not as big lines, like Rebecca Taylor would lend me clothes. It was more ready-to-wear as opposed to couture.
My passion is red carpet, so I do red carpet styling for Maria also, like for the Emmys, the Oscars, the [Golden] Globes. To me, that’s my passion. I love completing a whole look—picking the gown—they have 150 gowns, 50 pairs of shoes, and Neil Lane and the most expensive jewelers—I love the whole red carpet experience. It’s so stressful, but I thrive off of it.
The TV world is so different: it’s very consistent, very nine-to-five.
To what extent are you creating the styles for your clients versus working the style they already have?
It really depends on the client or the person you’re working with. Maria [Menounos] definitely has [style]direction; we don’t always agree and sometimes we’ll have to work to mix our styles, and other times I’ll pull something and just say, “Maria, trust me, it’s so cool, just give it a chance.” So we work together.
For red carpet events, I talk directly to the makeup and hair people to give my vision of what I think would work with the dress.
On Extra specifically, the producers actually have a very specific image of how they want Maria to look: simple, relatable, nothing edgy or too crazy. My go-to dresses for her were very conservative.
Did you have to think about what would show up well on TV?
Definitely. Something that’s too busy [of a pattern] doesn’t always read so well [on