This month we continue G-Sync's series devoted to having insightful conversations with community members, like Kev Couture, who are making an impact upon our culture through their contributions.
If you are like me these days, undoubtedly you enjoy treating yourself to a quick break diving into the visual joys of Instagram. And if you follow a lot of folks from Grand Rapids as I do, then maybe you have stumbled upon international stylist Kev Couture, whose adventures in fashion always inspire me to think about my own personal style.
This month, we continue G-Sync's series devoted to having insightful conversations with community members, like Kev Couture, who are making an impact upon our culture through their contributions.
Kev Couture, a Queens, New York transplant to West Michigan, secured a B.A. in fashion merchandising from the International Academy of Design and Technology and quickly began assembling an impressive string of clients including his first highly visible one, 50 Cent.
Since 2010, Kev Couture has been bringing to his clients the very best in classic fashions as he styles them to appear from the red carpet to the awards show (and everything in between).
And yet, Kev Couture is so much more than just a stylist as we learn below where he shares insights on stylish living as well as what to do with one's closet full of clothes that never see the runway ... much less the light of day.
This interview is based on a style-focused conversation Publisher Tommy Allen had with Kev Couture at Grand Rapids' New Hotel Mertens. It has been edited for flow.
Tommy Allen: So when you get in an elevator and somebody while making small talk asks you what you do, how do you answer them?
Kev Couture: I usually just say I make people look good.
TA: That’s good. But what do you say after you tell them you are a stylist and they still want to know more?
KC: I say that I can make you look good with any budget. If you don't have a lot you can still look good. I can show you how to a thrift shop or [purchase] vintage. You can be dressed in all designer clothes and still not have style. There's a difference between style and fashion.
TA: Tell me more …
KC: Fashion is when you go buy everything that was on the mannequin. Style is when you take different pieces — both high and low end — and put it all together. Style is what you can put together and elevate.
TA: Is it an all-at-once thing or does it take time?
KC: As a stylist you assist them. Not all at once, but little by little. They have to trust you as to where you're taking their style. So they're not just going to give you full control at the start.
TA: So how do you approach style with your new clients?
KC: I start by asking questions. I ask that they bring me a few books or even online images of what captures their attention. There is often a celebrity that's driving one’s fashion sense whether people want to admit it or not. You know there's always someone influencing their fashion knowingly or unknowingly.
TA: Other questions?
KC: I ask them in a very relaxed setting, what is giving them the most problems, whether it is finding the right jeans or an outfit that works with my body's shape.
TA: Smart. Any other wise words that you have learned as a stylist that you freely share with your clients that I can with our audience?
KC: I always tell people that a tailor is your friend. If you find a good tailor, that is your best friend.
TA: How do you know if you have a good tailor or not?
KC: I love Kevin at Woodland Tailoring because all I have to do is take him a pair of jeans that I plan to wear at, say, New York Fashion Week, and share exactly the look I needed. He measured me and when I returned these jeans were perfectly suited to my body.
TA: I never thought about doing this but it makes sense since most off the rack clothing is standard sizing and may not be for every body.
KC: People hear the word and often think that a tailor can be expensive but it really is not that much to have your jeans taken in or moving a hem up.
TA: I know what you mean. I recently used Mr. Thanh Tailor Shop on Giddings to save a jacket I bought at the old Jacobson’s in the 1990s. Take me back to why you decided on becoming someone who works in fashion and attend the International Academy of Design and Technology. Did you have an epiphany as a child?
KC: No, I just didn’t want to get dirty. And I always liked to get dressed so that set the tone for what I would do. I knew I was going to do something in retail or with clothing. But I didn’t want to get dirty.
TA: So little Kevin’s guidance counselor asks what you want to do for a career and you replied, I don’t want to get dirty? I would have loved to be there (both laugh). But you had to have something that you liked about fashion that caught your eye?
KC: I always loved the fashions of Ralph Lauren. They are classics because he is a classic. You can have a piece by Ralph Lauren and no matter when you pull it out it is always in style. It is well made.
TA: And looking at your active Instagram account, you are clearly a classics guy in how you dress but also we see it in the clients you serve. Where should someone start if they want to shake up their style a bit?
KC: Usually the shoes, pocket squares, or if doing a tuxedo, a lapel pin is roaring back in style. A good lapel pin will get you noticed.
TA: And the label pin is really a male brooch (both laugh again). Seriously, I saw the ones you had with you on your recent trip to work the Oscars this last week. They are beautiful but I am guessing very expensive.
KC: Wearing it last week everyone was gravitating to it asking me where I got it. It is a simple beauty but it only cost me seven dollars.
TA: Speaking of tuxes and making a splash on the runway, which is every stylist's dream, Christian Soriano’s outfit for Billy Porter at the 2019 Oscars clearly owned the runway.
KC: You know who that outfit is based on, right?
TA: Yes, it was inspired by drag ball legend Hector Xtravaganza, in which Porter’s FX series “Pose” is rooted. Thanks for bringing that up since attribution is very important. And the goal when dressing the runway …
KC: … to get their client noticed. I saw some amazing pantsuits like Jennifer Hudson
who was wearing a Pamela Roland. I told her congratulations on Instagram. She is my new buddy now.
TA: How long have you been a stylist?
KC: I started in 2010 but it takes a long time. I recall having to do a lot of free projects at the start.
TA: But not anymore. And in the early days?
KC: I loved going to the shows during fashion week in New York. You cannot buy a ticket to the runway shows — you have to be invited. So in the early days, I would try and sneak in or have a friend bring me along until I was able to get my own invites.
TA: So when you are not dressing celebrities or athletes for the red carpet, galas, or awards shows, what else can a stylist do?
KC: I'll do a closet re-styling session for clients. Everybody wants their closet cleaned.
TA: What are we talking about here?
KC: My opinion is that if you have a neat closet, you can get dressed quicker. You can see everything. I help you move stuff out and help you build a list of the stuff you will want to add or purchase to tie your clothes together.
TA: How does it work? You are not like Marie Condo and make me cry if I call you because I have a large t-shirt collection that I never really wear?
KC: (Laughs) it is really easy. You just have to call me and say, “Kev, I need my closet cleaned out.” It takes only about an average of five hours to complete it. I give quotes in advance, too.
TA: Besides cleaning, what happens?
KC: Well, we can drink wine.
TA: I might need to purge my clothes-holding gene (both laugh).
KC: The clothes I have set aside, I, as your stylist, can lay out your fashions and remix what you have to create new ways of dressing yourself. And as mentioned earlier, I give you a list of those items you should add to tie it all together.
TA: How often should one clean out their closet or hire someone like a stylist to help them rework their outfits?
KC: At least once a year. We, as people, tend to accumulate stuff. But if you get in that closet you might be shocked at how long you have had something. I mean, you could have an item that you have had for 30 years, but if you have not worn it over the last couple years, then you will probably never wear it. Get rid of it.
TA: Good advice, because my jean collection has a few that match this description. Any closing words about the work you do and why taking time to consider one’s personal style is important?
KC: If you dress good, you feel good about yourself. And since off-the-rack items are standardized sizes and fit some body types, they are not for every body type. That is why I believe that personal style begins with your tailor. The right tailor will make you look and feel great.
TA: Ok, one last question. What is on the horizon for Kev Couture moving forward and how can people follow your career?
KC: I would love to design a men’s accessories line that includes socks, glasses, cufflinks, lapel pins. Men nowadays are paying more attention to their accessories as that part of the industry has really shot up over the years.
As to following me, my Instagram account has become my business card that shows exactly what I do. You can’t fake the funk. Your Instagram shows a timeline of your work and what you are capable of doing.
To keep up with Kev Couture’s adventures, follow his Instagram account
. To contract with him on closet restyling, please use his email: [email protected]
. An earlier Rapid Growth article on Kev Couture was captured in 2012 here