Celebrity stylist Tara Swennen has worked with everyone from Gwen Stefani to Emily Ratakojwski, but has perhaps gotten the most attention for her collaboration with rule-breaking actress Kristen Stewart, who most recently was the reigning dare-devil of the Cannes red carpet. And that’s exactly what Swennen loves about her. “One of my greatest goals as a stylist is to create a balance of what my clients would like to wear, what styles are trending, and how I envision their fashion evolution,” she explains. Here, the stylist opens up about how she introduced Stewart to Chanel, what she thinks of the actress’s new buzz cut, and why sustainability is more important now than ever.
How did you get started in the business? I studied fashion design at Cornell University. Once I graduated, I moved to New York and worked in the studio services at Barneys NY, where I met my first stylist, Andrea Lieberman. I started my styling career with her… and then rest is history. I moved to Los Angeles right after 9/11, and began working for Rachel Zoe. It was great as it was the during the Lindsey Lohan, Mischa Barton red-carpet era. After about five years I branched out on my own, and that’s when I began working with Kristen Stewart.
How did you first meet? Her publicist of 15 years, Ruth Bernstein, put us together when she was only 14 years old for Into The Wild. We have remained tried and true ever since. Kristen was one of my first clients I got within the first year I started styling. It’s funny because the first look I dressed her in happened to be Chanel.
Kristen Stewart has great personal style. How do you take that into consideration with your work? One of my greatest goals as a stylist is to create a balance of what my clients would like to wear, what styles are trending, and how I envision their fashion evolution. It is paramount to me to showcase their personalities, so the end goal is to refine and elevate whatever their own tastes may be. Kristen’s fashion sense has evolved as she has grown into an ever-expanding repertoire, so it makes it that much more fun for me!
How does a new beauty look, for example Kristen’s buzz cut, influences the styling of their look? A new beauty look can have an enormous effect on the styling. I welcome this new bleached buzz cut on Kristen. It suits her perfectly and allows us to go in a new direction. I feel my part in it is to facilitate their evolution as its coming.
The Cannes Film Festival is known for having super strict dress codes. How have you been able to work with the rules and maintain a look that feels appropriate? Kristen simply happens to not really be a gown person, so we have adapted her unique style to the event by keeping her dressy yet with her own unique twist on it.
What is your day-to-day like as a stylist? There is no set day to day in this business, which is one of the reasons I love it! Some days I am researching online, others I am pulling and fitting, and others I am on set… it’s ever changing, but yes, I am always planning.
What are some of your goals? I would really like to become more of a spokesperson for ethical fashion. I became a vegan last year and feel that we need to be more conscious. Fashion is not a necessity. If you want a fur stole, you can achieve that look just in a more responsible way.
How does this more conscious way of styling work when you’re dealing with a client? Lately, I will just reach out to vegan brands I see on Instagram or hear about and will ask them to send me things to dress my clients in. Most of my clients share the same thinking, which is great. For example, Kristen won’t wear fur or wear snakeskin, but sometimes will wear leather – so we can be more responsible and shape the look. We are in an age where we need to become more responsible on all fronts and as a passionate fashionista- I think it’s part of my job to help from within now.
What else are you working on now? Tons of things! Kristen is launching a new project with Chanel, so tons of stuff for that. I also just picked up a few new clients like Ashley Benson and Bella Thorne!
Who is your dream client? My girls are my dream clients. I am a very lucky woman.
Style icons: The Hepburns – Katharine and Audrey.
Okay, let’s get personal. What are three words to describe your own style? Classic, elegant, and fun.
Favorite vintage stores in the world? I love flea markets worldwide. That’s where you can find the best and most unique treasures!
Style pet peeve: Bad tailoring and not leaving anything to the imagination.
Best recent discovery: PreHeels.
Last purchase: A pet pig named Sprinkles 😉
Any other plans down the line? I would love to get back into men’s styling!
From ‘Twilight’ to Chanel: Kristen Stewart Grows Up
“It shouldn’t be embarrassing because I was so young,” Stewart told Marie Claire UK of photos that remain from her child-star days. And yet, she says, it is.
Kristen Stewart at the premiere of Panic Room in Los Angeles, California, March 18, 2002. Photo by SGranitz/WireImage.
Three years later, Stewart starts to work with her hair but still keeps her wardrobe choices fairly neutral. Kristen Stewart at a screening of Fierce People at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, New York, April 2005. Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images.
With the premiere of Into the Wild, Stewart starts to dabble in high fashion — here, with an ultra-feminine Rodarte frock.
Kristen Stewart in Rodarte at the Los Angeles premiere of Into the Wild in Los Angeles, California, September 2007. Photo by Toby Canham/Getty Images.
Newly brunette, Stewart arrives at the VMAs in Derek Lam to present alongside her Twilight cast mates.
Kristen Stewart in Derek Lam at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, California, September 2008. Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage.
Stewart makes a rare foray into color with this bright teal and green Proenza sweater and skirt, showing off a freshly bobbed hair style.
Kristen Stewart in Proenza Schouler at a Twilight Saga: New Moon event in London, England, November 2009. Photo by Eamonn McCormack/WireImage.
Stewart plays up the Hollywood glam look with a red lip and smoky eye at a Cinema Society screening.
Kristen Stewart in Valentino at the Cinema Society’s Welcome to the Rileys screening in New York, New York, October 2010. Photo by Getty Images.
Stewart’s red carpet looks become more dramatic, and more sophisticated, as she neared the end of her Twilight tenure — often favoring black and dark neutrals. Kristen Stewart in Roberto Cavalli at the U.K. premiere of Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 in London, England, November 2011. Photo by Getty Images.
Here, the gilt detailing and two-piece silhouette mark a departure from Stewart’s previous, more classically inspired looks.
Kristen Stewart in Balmain at the Australian premiere of Snow White and the Huntsman in Sydney, Australia, June 2012. Photo by Getty Images.
In recent years, Stewart has been known to favor menswear-inspired looks, but this 2012 ensemble is one of its first appearances.
Kristen Stewart in Balenciaga at the AFI premiere of On the Road in Hollywood, California, November 2012. Photo by Getty Images.
Prior to her fashionable friendship with Karl Lagerfeld, Stewart briefly favored Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad.
Kristen Stewart in Zuhair Murad at the premiere of Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 in Los Angeles, California, November 2012. Photo by Getty Images.
The jumpsuit makes another appearance, albeit this time with a jewel-toned overhaul.
Kristen Stewart in Stella McCartney at the Costume Institute Gala in New York, New York, May 2013. Photo by Rabani and Solimene Photography/WireImage.
Since signing on as a face of Chanel, Stewart has started to wear Lagerfeld’s designs to nearly all her premieres and screenings — and the occasional posh luncheon.
Kristen Stewart in Chanel at the premiere of Equals in Venice, Italy, September 2015. Photo by John Rasimus/Barcroft Media.
Lagerfeld has recruited Stewart for campaigns — and to fill his front row.
Kristen Stewart in Chanel at the Chanel Metiers d’Art Fashion Show in Rom, Italy, December 2015. Photo by Getty Images.
Sometimes, the occasion just calls for “Ladies Who Lunch” — and when that look calls, Lagerfeld delivers.
Kristen Stewart in Chanel at the Film Society of Lincoln Center luncheon in New York, New York, January 2015. Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage.
And even after all these years, Stewart knows how to take it back to where it all started. Her look at this year’s Sundance festival nearly echoed her self-professed awkward phase of 15 years prior.
Kristen Stewart at the Sundance Film Festival’s Certain Women premiere in Park City, Utah, January 2016. Photo by Getty Images.
Watch: Kristen Stewart Takes W’s Screen Test