CELEBRITY STYLIST: LAURA ZAPATA
Laura Zapata is a fashion editor and stylist whose creative content has been featured across an assortment of print and online media publications.
Originally from Austin, Texas, Laura moved to New York City to jumpstart her career and began by assisting A-list stylists on editorials and runway shows. Soon after, she began working at Latina Magazine and over the years ascended to the role of contributing editor.
After a stint with Topshop as their Senior Style Advisor, Laura then began consulting for brands like Calvin Klein and Mikimoto. She also held the position of Fashion Editor of Cosmopolitan for Latinas Magazine. In addition to writing and researching market trends she conceptualized and styled all the fashion editorials and celebrity features.
Currently, Laura is a freelance stylist based in in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Amuze.com had the chance to catch up with the multi-tasking power woman to discuss all things fashion, her fave brands, and current fashion obsessions.
Tell us about how you got started in the celebrity styling business…
I had moved to New York for an internship, but I needed a job to pay the bills. So I scored a bartending and barista gig at The Pink Pony, a trendy cafe on the Lower East Side. Unbeknownst to me, the cafe was a popular spot for producers to meet with actors.
When it came time for me to interview for a senior stylist job at New York’s first-ever Topshop, my boss-to-be asked how comfortable I was with working with celebrities. Because of The Pink Pony, I mentioned all of the A-listers I’d met! Once I got the Topshop job, she instantly put me in charge of working with celebrity clients that were scheduled to stop by the store.
When I made my move back into magazines, I had an editor who one day changed all of my fashion shoots with models to emerging celebrities, mainly because of my background. My portfolio drastically changed at that point to styling celebrities for high fashion editorials.
For an upcoming fashion shoot, I pitched Orange is the New Black to my Editor-in-Chief as the next big show that everyone was going to watch. She approved the concept and I was flown down to Miami for the weekend with four of the show’s leading actresses: Dascha Polanco, Diane Guerrero, Jackie Cruz, and Laura Gomez. Our editorial team totally hit it off with the girls and we all went out to a long dinner after we wrapped––we really bonded during that weekend!
About a month later once I was back in New York, I ran into Dascha and her publicist at a party. Her publicist told me how much Dascha loved the shoot we did and seizing the opportunity I said, “If you're ever in need of help dressing Dascha for events, I’d love to offer my services.” The publicist emailed me pretty quickly after that to help dress Dascha for New York Fashion Week shows and parties.
Can you tell us about your style aesthetic and what inspired you to get into styling as a full-time career?
I’ve definitely gone through some trendy phases over the years, but I now prefer to stick to darker colors, jewel tones, and timeless wardrobe basics.
I studied Fashion Merchandising at the University of Texas, Austin, and it was there that I first discovered what styling was - I didn’t even know it was a career option at that point! It was definitely an “a-ha” moment for me. I basically decided there and then that styling was what I wanted to pursue once I finished school.
There was just one problem though…in the weeks leading up to graduation, I scoured the internet for styling jobs and wasn’t landing anything with my Texas address on my résumé! I found a listing for an internship at the renowned talent agency, Art + Commerce, in New York. They represent some of the biggest stylists, photographers, and creatives in the world. I managed to get an internship interview and I flew out to New York just for the meeting. I continuously followed up and was eventually called with the good news that I was being offered one of four internship spots. I was asked to start that following Monday and I packed up my life and moved to New York by the weekend!
How would you describe your personal style?
I love dressing up for any and all occasions! If you want to go hiking, have brunch, and then hit up a club all in the same day, I can dress appropriately while still infusing my own personal style for all three –– I take a lot of pride in that! I’d say my style is very put-together, classic, and feminine. When I’m in Brooklyn or on-set, I love to wear luxe, athletic-inspired separates.
What do you splurge on?
Boutique fitness classes, international travel, adventurous experiences while traveling, and rare, one-of-a-kind vintage fashion.
What inspires you to create a killer look?
Usually it's fashion editorials or other creatives on Instagram. They often set the bar and tone for my own work. I love getting ideas and art direction and inspiration from films and music videos, too. I think it’s important to stay educated and informed in the world of art, design, and fashion history. Global street style is also a major inspiration for me.
What has been the most surreal moment for you in your styling career thus far?
When I was the Fashion Editor at Cosmo for Latinas Magazine, one of my responsibilities was styling the fashion features with emerging celebrities. We were always on the hunt for the next 'big thing' to feature in upcoming issues.
One day my editors received a screener for the CW TV show Jane the Virgin, featuring a then-unknown actress, Gina Rodriguez. My editor came over to my desk and said, “I have your next assignment. You’re flying to California to shoot Gina Rodriguez. She’s going to be huge, mark my words.” A few weeks later I’m on set with Gina, styling her for her first-ever fashion shoot. She was incredibly friendly, funny, and a dream to work with!
Success can happen incredibly fast in Hollywood, and by the time the issue with our shoot went to print, Gina had been nominated for a Golden Globe for her leading role in Jane the Virgin. The night Gina won the Golden Globe, our shoot was on newsstands and I remember thinking during her acceptance speech, “Oh my God, I’m so, so happy for her," and "Oh my goodness, I’ve styled a Golden Globe-winning actress - holy crap!” A few months later she sent me a signed photo of her favorite image from our shoot––it warms my Latina soul every time I look at it.
Who was your first celebrity client and how did you land him/her?
This was a break that also happened while I was the fashion editor at Cosmo for Latinas. Seventeen Magazine was a few floors down from our Cosmo offices at Hearst––the executive teams all knew one another––and one day, a higher-up from Seventeen asked my deputy editor for a stylist recommendation to help with an upcoming celebrity event hosted by their magazine. My editor suggested me for the gig.
I was given the amazing opportunity to style Troian Bellisario (Pretty Little Liars), for her Seventeen Magazine cover signing event where she’d be doing a meet-and-greet with all her fans. When you pull clothing for a fashion shoot, you need racks and racks of options, so when I rolled up to Troian’s hotel room for a fitting, she was initially overwhelmed by how many options I’d brought! We quickly found an outfit for her Seventeen event, and then she began telling me how many more appearances she had on her agenda while she was in New York. She told me me, “I was either going to wear what I brought or go shopping, although since I loved so many of these options you have, do you think you can help dress me for my next two appearances?” Next thing I know, I’m editing and accessorizing her looks for her Live with Kelly and Michael TV appearance the next day, and a red carpet outfit for the Pretty Little Liars clothing line launch party she was co-hosting the following evening!
What are some of your favorite fashion brands and why?
Delpozo –– everything is so immaculately constructed and legitimately looks like a piece of wearable art. I love the designer’s bold use of color!
Proenza Schouler –– season after season, I always want every single thing (head-to-toe) that I see from their runway show. I imagine my closet would be filled with Proenza Schouler if money was no object.
Oscar de la Renta –– I adore all of the Latin inspiration infused in his designs. I also love the delicate balance of being exquisite and feminine, yet fitting for a major power figure.
Brandon Maxwell –– as a fellow born-and-raised Texan, I love how Brandon never forgot his roots and has the same level of pride as I do (#TexasForever)! His designs are gorgeous, iconic, and timeless.
Favorite fashion magazine?
I’m a magazine fanatic and am currently building a personal library of my favorites, including so many that have sadly gone out of print. My love for Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, and Elle has never faded over the years.
What are some of your current fashion obsessions?
Glitter booties, fanny packs, colorful power suits for women, the fact that purple and teal are having a major moment, lucite, and fun 90s-inspired fashion. I’m also excited that major brands are collaborating with unexpected lifestyle brands –– it keeps the industry fresh and exciting.
What was your first job?
My fashion obsession started in my early teens and I was constantly bugging my mom for cash for clothes. I scored a seasonal retail job at The Gap when I was 16, back in the 90s when the brand was in its heyday.
Best fashion tip?
Don’t dress for anybody else but yourself. And always dress for the occasion.
What is your must-have beauty product?
Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m all about moisture and combating the signs of aging. I’ve been using Body Merry Breakthrough Night Cream Moisturizer religiously – once when I get out of the shower in the morning, and another application right before I go to bed. I’m happy to say that I’ve been getting compliments on my skin!
The gorge @luizascandelari wearing @danielsilverstain styled by me! These amaze beauty shots may not highlight the full head-to-toe fashion that I style, but they’re just so fab, so...I created a new “BEAUTY” section on my website, b/c these ahh-maze shots deserve their moment too (& b/c Beauty, so hot RN). Check it out 👉🏽👉🏽LauraZapataNYC.com/beauty & of course, shoutout to the team 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽 Photo: @juliamartinsmiranda MUA: @cylersays Hair: @juliastyleshair #vulkan #stylist #beauty #hair #makeup #photo #model #fashion #styling
What’s the worst fashion trend of all time?
The aughts have got to be, hands-down, one of the worst decades of fashion. So many painful fashion memories there! All of those tacky, super low-rise flared jeans with bedazzling paired with a visible thong were THE WORST. Also, I was never a fan of lettering or words on the butt––it literally makes me shudder.
Do you have a secret beauty/make-up tip?
Sunscreen worn daily, lots of water, and intense moisturizers.
Do you have a hobby?
I mentioned splurging on boutique fitness because these classes really do add up! I’m obsessed with SoulCycle, dance cardio, and HIIT workouts. I try to get to a gym or studio at least twice a week so that I feel sane. I really enjoy going out dancing with friends, too.
What’s your favorite piece of clothing in your closet?
When I was in college, I was invited to this ritzy gala and didn’t have a fancy dress to wear. I still can’t believe this, but I found a gorgeous, vintage, designer ball gown from the 50s in the window of a Buffalo Exchange for…$45! It’s an all-black, belted, taffeta gown with bubblegum pink tulle underneath (think Carrie Bradshaw). The thick straps criss-cross up and around my neck. I’ve seen people gasp when I’ve worn it out and I will cherish it forever.
Can you describe your style in one word?
Feminine. One of my former bosses use to call me ‘Lady Laura’ because they said I’d always gear towards something ladylike. A former roommate of mine once said to me, “Laura, you realize your closet is made up of 80% dresses, right? You’re obsessed!” And here I was this entire time thinking I was an edgy New Yorker!
Who’s your style icon?
In terms of attitude, Kate Moss. For originality, Bianca Jagger. For iconic style, Jackie O. I also love Solange Knowles, Zoe Kravitz, Yara Shahidi, and Zendaya.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
“Read 48 Laws of Power, it’ll change your life.” And it did!
“The universe was never something she feared, but an endless road she would travel, carrying a pocket full of promises to herself, she intended to keep.” –– Mark Anthony.
What is one thing our readers would be surprised to hear?
This month is my 14-year anniversary of living in Brooklyn! I’ve lived in Williamsburg the entire time (I’m OG!). I can still remember when I had to beg people to come to my neighborhood. Now tourists from all over the globe are here on the weekends and everyone that once made fun of Brooklyn, lives here!
If you could style one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Right now, I can’t get enough of Yara Shahidi (Black-ish). I think she’s so adorable, intelligent, and fearless in her fashion choices. She’s definitely one-to-watch. She’d be fantastic to dress and I think our personalities would totally mesh.
THE QUICK FIVE:
Ice cream of Frozen Yoghurt?
Vegan Ice Cream!
Beach or Ski Slopes?
Red or White Wine?
Rosé all day!
Metallics or Pastels?
Heels or Flats?