Welcome to our new podcast, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr. Think of it as your direct line to the designers, stylists, beauty experts, editors, and tastemakers who are shaping the fashion-and-beauty world. Subscribe to Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
In the world of celebrity stylists, Karla Welch needs no introduction. Her list of clients reads like a who’s who of Hollywood. She has dressed Justin Bieber, Tracee Ellis Ross, Sarah Paulson, and Busy Philipps, to name a few. When she’s not styling for the Oscars, Met Gala, Grammys, or Bieber’s trip to Paris to meet the French president, she’s running the sustainable period-underwear company Period, a brand of basics called x Karla, and a production company called Meritocracy. Oh, and she’s never too busy to connect with her fans on Instagram, where she regularly shares her political views with her 300,000 (and counting) followers.
Scroll down for a preview into Welch’s insightful conversation with Hillary Kerr on the Who What Wear podcast.
I’m hoping that you can take us back to those early days of finding your footing as a stylist and honing in on what it means to create a persona or a vibe for your clients. How did you figure that out in the beginning? And has that changed over time?
I would do kind of any job that came my way. My old assistant and I would laugh our heads off because we’d be doing these jobs that require hundreds and hundreds of pieces of clothing. And it wasn’t refined at all—it was just like 30 blue shirts. And so I think that gave me the skill of always, always, always being prepared. But then when I moved into the celebrity world, I really always considered myself a real big editor—someone who edits down the rack so that when I have a client coming in, I know what I think they’re going to wear. Even though we have tons of clothes, I want it to be really concise to not waste their time but also to make sure we have this tight vision of how it’s going to look.
I still have so many questions about your relationship with Justin Bieber. You’ve done so much incredible work together, tours, and campaigns. And we also have to think about his most recent highly Instagrammed trip to Europe. So can you tell me a little bit about why that partnership works? How your relationship has evolved over the years?
Well, we’ve almost been together eight years now.
And that’s a lifetime in music.
It really, really is. I have a kind of rule. I’m going to preface this by saying I care really deeply for all the people I work with, but I have a rule that I’m not friends with clients. I’m there to work for them and to service them. And ultimately, I have a great love for Justin. I have a great love for Tracee [Ellis Ross], a great love for Sarah [Paulson]. Busy [Philipps] and I are actually really great friends. It’s grown from that. But I don’t ever, at that moment, consider myself their equal. I consider myself their person who’s there to work for them—that level of professionalism. I think in this business, relationships can get really blurred and bite a lot of people in the ass. I don’t want to say I pride myself on that distance, but I’m really aware of it. I don’t want to take their space. They’re the star. And so maybe that’s why I’m still here.
So in addition to your vast, prolific, fantastic career as a stylist, you also have your own brand. It has been such a pleasure to watch the various collaborations and initiatives and the way that things keep growing. So tell me a little bit about why you wanted to start your own thing, how it came to life.
Well, at the time, it was a necessity. We weren’t finding a specific type of T-shirt. This is how x Karla started. And I was like, well, I’m going to make them. And I kept on making them and did it. I have Matthew, my husband, who’s a part creative partner as well. I couldn’t do anything without him, to be fully honest. He was like, yeah, we should build this. He really built the business. I don’t call myself a designer by any means. But I do know what’s missing and what I want to see and how I want to be able to afford it. And I knew that that kind of audience was out there. So I just did it.