MORE OF MONICA

As you may have gathered from Part One of our conversation, Monica and I could talk for hours. What was supposed to be a thirty minute interview turned into an hour and half chat chock-full of lots of laughs and even a few tears. You heard about her gritty climb to the top, but now Monica opens up about her love of dressing a pregnant Chrissy Teigen, her favorite Kendall Jenner red carpet moment, and why she wants to get her hands on Lily-Rose Depp next. Enjoy!

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C:
When you show up on best-dressed lists and you get the recognition from the world or the media or Vogue, how does that feel?

M:
It's great. I mean, honestly I don't really pay that much attention to it, but when it gets brought to my attention or people want to do interviews, it's a great feeling.  It's an amazing feeling to help my clients build their fashion sense or their style and just be able to be a part of that. I mean, with Chrissy Teigen, she was six or seven months pregnant with Luna when we first started working together. I had to learn how to work with her while she was seven months pregnant for awards season. I was like okay, first of all, I love her but I want her to look and feel her best. I feel like that whole run is my favorite. I loved every single look that we did. Every single look. I was just so happy.

C:
Remind me of some of them.

M:
It was 2016. It was the Marchesa long dress. It was a floral, custom-made dress that we did. We did this long green fitted dress for a Clive Davis Grammy party. Then we did a long white cape dress for the Grammys. I love dressing her pregnant.  When people show me pictures, because I've worked with a lot of pregnant clients, they always pull up pictures of Chrissy. I love that. Or if you Google pregnancy style, her pictures come up. Sometimes when you're pregnant, you don't feel your best. She was glowing. I'm so proud of that. Looking back that was just a really good moment.

C:
On the topic of Chrissy and because I also know that one of the talents of stylists is you really have to adapt to the fact that everybody has a different personality. Everybody has a different way they want to get dressed. What is she like other than, I'm sure, fun? What is it like to dress her?

M:
I think what I love most about Chrissy is she has so much trust in me. I just feel like, when somebody has trust in you to let you do your job, you can really create.

C:
Because that trust is just there, so-

M:
Yeah, she'll give her input on what she's into but for the most part, she has so much trust in me which I love. It’s great to be able to have that kind of relationship with a client because you can really create magical moments together.

C:
I often wonder too, and I'm sure especially emerging stylists or people who want to do what you do, wonder how do these relationships form? All the sudden, Chanel Iman shows up on your Instagram or you have these relationships, is it through a manager, a publicist or do they just seek you out or do you ever seek anyone else out? How does that come to be?

M:
Actually, I've been really fortunate. I think Chanel reached out to me. I've always loved Chanel Iman. She's just so gorgeous and just such a beautiful person.

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C:
Is there any up and coming talent or any A-list talent that you would love to dress, that you haven't, that you have eyes on, that you're like, "Let me get a hold of them. I just want to do it."

M:
Yes, there actually is.  I'm obsessed with Lily-Rose Depp. How gorgeous is she, right?

C:
Yes. You guys have a similar vibe.

M:
I would love to work with her one day. Putting it out there.  This is the first time I'm putting it out there.

C:
You know I love Johnny Depp, so-

M:
I know, I know, I know. She's definitely someone I’d love to work with at some point.

C:
Do you prefer creating street style looks or styling for the red carpet?

M:
I love both. Street style to me is great because I feel like that's more of a collaboration with me and the client and it's like what are you into?  I need to understand where your head's at.  I really need to understand so I'm not just putting clothes on you.

Red carpet style is great because it's collaborating with designers, so the designer and I can collaborate together and create something special for a red carpet moment. It's completely different. Obviously, my celebrity clients get the say on what they like and I give them options, not "This is what you're going to wear," but it's a good process because you get to collaborate with designers. It's a relationship you build and then you have that moment. For Chrissy, we did a lot of custom when she was pregnant. To this day, I'm still so close to some of the designers. You build that friendship and relationship with them.

C:
What a world that must be like that you have access to. Do they send you sketches to start?

M:
Yeah, sketches, fabric, all of it. It's very overwhelming because it's a gamble so I'm kind of stressed through the whole process. But it's always been great. There was this one time with this designer and we only had two days. They custom made the dress in two days and my client couldn't even get her hands in it. It’s also a risk that the designers are taking too because they have a team working around the clock to create the dress.

C:
What do you do in a situation like that when it's game time and the dress comes and she can't get her arms through it?

M:
Oh, it's awful and I hate having to call them after they’ve worked so hard on the dress and being like, "Oh, I'm sorry. Unfortunately, it didn't work." But they understand because it happens. That’s the gamble.

C:
So you always have to have a backup, obviously.  Or two?

M:
Always, always a backup or two, yeah.

C:
See, again, that’s the work. You can spend a month with a designer creating this custom dress, and meanwhile, you're still working on two other dresses just in case, that never even see the light of day. Unbelievable.  What would you say is the signature Monica Rose look?

M:
I don't know, you tell me! It depends on what mood I'm in. I would say if there's a signature Monica Rose look, I would say something simple and effortless but still sexy. I don’t know how to describe my work because I don’t overthink it. I just create.

C:
There's something about your touch that is still ... There's a relaxed vibe. It could be super couture and super fashion-forward, but I think you have a real sense of women's bodies. Nobody looks the same. A body silhouette is super important. But you have ... I don't know if it's a California thing, because you are a California girl, but you have that sexy, relaxed thing in there for sure. I don't know, but that's my take on what you do really well.

M:
Yeah, I can definitely make a t-shirt go a long way. But again, my style doesn't really change much. It's pretty consistent. It's so funny because I have this mood board that I made probably four years ago and I still have it up because it's classic and it's still my signature style of what I'm into. It's always the same thing, just timeless, mixed in different ways. I never do my job to get onto best-dressed lists and I never do my job to make trends. You know what I mean?

C:
Yeah, I do. What about the average woman, who will read this article, and I would say 99% of the people will never have a stylist in their life, will never be at an Oscars red carpet, but just want to get out the door feeling really good and confident in whatever they are wearing. Do you have any advice for them?

M:
I would just say start with the basics. I feel like you can build from there and dress for your body type. If you're not the type of person that can wear low jeans, wear higher jeans. You first and foremost have to learn how to work with your body.

C:
Accentuate the positive.

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M:
Right. Accentuate your best assets. If you have great legs, then wear your skirts a little shorter but wear an oversized blazer. A lot of people don't like to tuck in ... I feel like I always do little half tucks and little tweaks. I like to show people how to wear certain things, like just tweaking a t-shirt or how a blazer or a trench coat can go a long way. I feel like there are so many different ways you can wear a basic black dress. You can belt it or you can hire a tailor to make it shorter or wear a statement necklace with it. There's just so many different things that people don't really know how to do and I feel like maybe that's my next thing - to show people how to wear certain things and mix and match. It's funny because a lot of people will say, "I don't know what to wear and I don't know how to wear this." I'm looking and I'm like, "You can wear that ten different ways" but that's just the way my brain works.

C:
Beyond styling clients, do you have other aspirations that are in the pipeline? You have three very young kids, so I mean, I'm sure this can wait. But where are you with all that?

M:
First and foremost, my kids are my priority. Everything is for them. But yeah, I think eventually a kids’ clothing line. Eventually, a mommy-and-me line. There are so many things I want to do and I'm actually working on certain projects right now. It’s all about the right projects with the right people. I know what my value is so it’s like what's going to be the best thing for me. I’d have to be able to balance the business and being a mother to my three children, so to bring something else like that in the mix has to make sense. I don't want to go back to a place of panic. I need to mentally be there for my family and my clients and work. Everything needs to make sense with where I'm at right now.

C:
You are such a shining example of a woman who is a mother and a partner who is killing it. People always talk about ‘how do you balance it all?’ I kind of hate that question because it's very generic, but how do you feel that motherhood has served your work passions?

M:
I think for me, after having my son, I feel like I worked so much through the whole pregnancy - through all my pregnancies. I felt like I just went right back to work right after. This time around, I really had to pump the brakes and slow down and be like ... Re-evaluate. Look at what you've created. Look at what you've done. I had to just prioritize my family and be there 110% as much as I was 110% into my work. It’s a great feeling to be able to say no. I never knew how to say no. I was a yes, yes, yes person. For example, I just had a call and they're like, "We need to do a conference call on Sunday." I'm like, "Okay, not happening. Let's do it Monday morning." My weekends are for and with my kids. I never used to be able to put my phone down and shut is all down for me and my family.

C:
You're still in this phase of really balancing your business of motherhood and your business of your business. So if you design, it's going to be the perfect thing. I think that's very fair. I totally get it. Is there a woman that sticks out to you as being a mentor or the most influential or the most encouraging?  Who has been that woman for you along the way?

M:
I'm just going to go back to my roots. My mother had me at 18, and all she knew how to do was work. She and my father divorced when my brother and I were young. She worked a lot and it was hard for me and my brother because we pretty much raised ourselves besides her providing. But she's always been there supporting me through thick and thin, as my number one supporter. To this day she still works as hard as she did when we were kids, just on a different scale. She built her own business and she has her own salon and she still works hard. She calls me at 10 PM when she's driving home and I feel like she instilled that in us.

C:
You're going to make me cry! Your mother is so lovely.

M:
It's true though. She's definitely somebody who just has never let me give up.

C:
You've been following her example and what an example.

M:
I know. You're going to make me cry now. I'm trying to be strong here. She's definitely great. But she's worked hard and she did the best she could.

C:
She must be so proud of you.

M:
Oh my God. So proud. Sometimes on a level like okay, easy Mom. She is definitely someone I look up to because things weren't easy for her but she did the best that she could and she never gave up. I've always admired her hard work ethic and her overall support and even when I wanted to give up, she wouldn't let me. She really instilled in me that while I went through some incredibly hard times, I was always going to be okay. God, it's such a blessing now to be able to have my kids and be able to provide and give them what I didn't have. It's an incredible feeling and pushes me to want to work even harder for them and not for myself anymore. That's just where my head is right now, working for my family. It's all for them now.

C:
But it sounds like your mom's work ethic was instilled in you and look at what a force you are for your children. I know that's something we grapple with as moms - the guilt of being away and all that. But you have to step back and go ‘my kids are also going to take away from this - when they are finding their passion and their purpose - and they're not going to be lazy asses because look how hard their mother works to provide, to achieve. You're doing something you love and that you can be proud of and not something that you sold your soul for. How cool is that? That is the definition of success, right?

M:
Yeah. It's an incredible feeling.

C:
Oh, I'm so happy for you.

M:
Thank you, Catt. Thank you. Appreciate that.

C:
Those are the stories people need to hear because it's real work. I know what you're saying. You could have been borderline hungry at times. That's how much you sacrifice to do what you love. Now that we're crying. I mean, you've styled looks now for more than a decade. But is there one look, one moment, one dress, one photo that stands out to you that you're most attached to, most proud of ... If you had to frame it, put it on the wall-

M:
There’s a few. It's hard to say one. In my new studio, we're doing a “Monica Rose wall.” My assistants got me this sign for Christmas that says, "Styled by Monica Rose". So I have all my work since 2014. Seeing that, I was like, "Oh my gosh." Sometimes you forget all the amazing work you've done. It brought on so many tears because I just remembered every single one of those moments.  There was one that I absolutely loved of Kendall Jenner which was at Cannes in a Versace dress. I remember the people that I was working with at the time questioning the dress and they're like, "No, we need more options." I said, "No, I really love this dress!"  It was the most stunning image and I thought, "Wow, that's beautiful."   It was Versace.  Just the hair, the makeup, everything. It was so pretty, every angle of that dress was stunning.

C:
It looked like it was made for her.

M:
Yeah, I know. Right?  Everything was perfection. That definitely was one of my favorites. The 2017 Grammy dress I put on Chrissy, it wasn't supposed to be the dress. We were supposed to do another dress but John's stylist sent us a picture of his outfit and it was a coral shirt he was wearing and the dress we'd picked was orange, so they clashed. So we didn't have a dress! We tried it on the day of and it just ended up working. It was a Roberto Cavalli and to this day, it's still one of my favorites. We've had a lot of great moments, but I loved it. It hit her in the right place on her waist and it was edgy and it was cool. It was effortless.

C:
That's sick! That's everything. People don't realize, you're not just dressing her. You're coordinating with the spouse and it's a whole thing.

M:
Oh yeah, his stylist and I coordinate all looks. So after fitting, I send them photos if I go first, and he sends me photos if he goes first, so we make sure we don't clash. I loved that dress. I just thought it looked like it's kind of tattooed on her body. It hit her all in the right places. No alterations were needed. It just fit, so that was a really good one. I really love our red carpet moments. Seriously, she's so much fun.

C:
What a muse.

M:
Yeah, she's great and I just love everything about her.

C:
Pregnant or not.
Isn't life interesting? I feel so happy. Thank you, friend.

Catt Sadler