It all started with a cover shoot for Complex back in 2007—that’s when Monica Rose crossed paths with a woman who would go on to become one of the most polarizing figures in American pop culture. Yes, we’re referring to none other than Kim Kardashian.
It was a day of firsts. Kim K. was set to make her first-ever appearance on a magazine cover. And Rose had landed a major editorial gig of her own, marking the first time the then-budding stylist got the chance to flex her creative muscle on a large scale. But while the former was smack dab in the middle of the spotlight, set to display her famous curves on the February/March issue of this beloved magazine (with the fitting header “Who Is Kim Kardashian?”), the latter played a more behind-the-scenes role that was lesser known and less appreciated by the public at the time, but one that was equally as influential within the industry. Little did we realize, Rose was well on her way to becoming one of the hottest, most sought-after celebrity stylists around.
You have to remember that this was before Keeping Up with the Kardashians took to the air, back when she referred to herself as “Princess Kim,” and well before Kimye was ever a thing. So naturally, “Kim K.” didn’t have quite the ring to it as it does today. Nonetheless, Rose worked her magic on Kim for that cover (and subsequently on numerous photo shoots thereafter), eventually building up a solid rapport with the larger-than-life celebrity on a business level that would eventually open other doors for the talented stylist.
Much like Kim herself, Monica Rose has come a long way in the years since. Today, she’s the undisputed go-to celebrity stylist for not just the Kardashian clan (Khloe, Kendall, and Kylie included), but for a long list of stars that includes Jennifer Lopez, Giuliana Rancic, and many more. Rose has taken her creativity to the next level, creating iconic looks for celebrities that will forever retain their place in the fashion archives. Here, she talks to us about how she got her start in the fashion world, and how her career has evolved working with some of the biggest names around.
You’re a stylist by trade, but how would you describe your craft?
I’ve become synonymous with mixing highs and lows in a very effortless, sexy way. I earn the trust of each of my clients, who in turn inspire me. I’ve seen them evolve as a public figure and as a brand, growing with their careers. I love that I can be a part of that.
How did your career get off the ground?
I had no idea where to start—it was a very scary feeling. I never assisted or interned for a stylist so I had to learn everything on my own. I didn’t even know what a showroom was or that you could actually borrow clothes for a shoot. I was testing and working for free so I would just borrow clothes from some of the boutiques on Robertson since I knew so many of the managers from working on the block. I was even pulling [product] out of my own closet and vintage shopping a lot to create looks for my shoots. I basically had to learn fast and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I never gave up and continued to test and do as many free jobs as I could to get experience. I eventually meet a photographer, Lionel Deluy, who gave me a chance and helped me build my portfolio. He would book me on a lot of shoots so that helped me get representation with an agency. I did not give myself a Plan B so I had to push forward even through the toughest of times.
I always push myself for more in order to curate the absolute best aesthetic possible for any given look.
It seems like fashion is all about finding the right source of inspiration. Where do you get yours from?
Being a stylist, I have to always be inspired in order to create as many looks as I do for my clients. I usually find inspiration on Tumblr, older editorials from the ’90s, and I even like digging through all of my old magazines from 10 years ago. I am constantly surfing the Internet looking for new designers to work with. Growing up, I was inspired by my mother—she was always so classy and chic. We used to watch Dynasty together when I was a kid. Until this day, I still live for a fab fur, big shoulder pads, and one-shoulder dress. Another inspiration growing up was Cindy Crawford circa the’90s MTV’s House of Style. I wanted to be her; I would paint a fake mole on my face just like hers.
Having been in this industry for as long as you have, how do you manage to take your style to the next level?
I never get comfortable. I always push myself for more in order to curate the absolute best aesthetic possible for any given look.
Who would you say is your favorite client to work with?
Is this a trick question? [Laughs] I love working with all of my clients. They inspire me and I love how they all have different styles and allow me to push fashion boundaries and never play it safe. We take risks together and have fun just like you would with your girlfriends.
If you could work with anyone in the world—dead and alive—who would it be?
I am kind of obsessed with Zoë Kravitz and Gigi Hadid right now. I would love to get my hands on those two. Marilyn Monroe and Bianca Jagger would have been pretty epic to work with back in the day as well.
You obviously have a very busy schedule. But what do you do when you’re not working?
It’s all about my family. I have a five-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, so I dedicate all my time to my family when I am not working.
Do you ever find it difficult to separate work and pleasure?
I have always been very good at separating work and pleasure. I stay focused and finish the job until I can play at the end of the day.
You basically started your career on your own, without much outside experience or help. What advice would you tell a stylist on the rise who is looking to follow your path?
If I can give some words of wisdom to a stylist on the rise, I would let them know that it’s all about timing. So be patient, work your ass off, and never give up. Always follow your intuition and if something is off or you’re not feeling good about the situation, it’s most likely not the right job—just a bad situation waiting to happen. Always ask questions and never be scared to ask for what you need in order to get the job done. Be fearless—never let your fear set you back. Surround yourself with positive people in your life who support you and believe in you. Being honest and loyal—it will take you far in this business so be sure not to burn any bridges. Be hungry but not thirsty!