When you recount Amber Valletta’s electric green, feathered Saint Laurent Met Gala look or Beyonce’s iconic “Formation” music video, seldom do you think of the stylists behind the scenes.
If I were to say the names “Karla Welch” and “Shiona Turini,” you’d probably reply “Who?” in bewilderment, but these two ladies have had their skin in the game for years, setting the trends that you yourself have likely sported at one point or another.
If you’ve ever seen Justin Bieber flaunting a Hawaiian-print t-shirt with torn, baggy denim shorts, you can thank Karla Welch. She’s been styling Bieber since 2011 and is responsible for his shift from boy to man… in regards to his vogue decisions, that is. But she does more than just sample pieces and lay out clothes for her celebrity clients; she’s also an avid advocate for change.
During the 2018 Golden Globes ceremony, Welch adorned many of her female clients in all-black attire. Rather than wearing a statement piece, they simply made a statement: Time’s Up. Despite being advised to quiet her public opinion, Welch has been a fervent activist in women’s lib, climate change, and political upheaval since long before she started posting sometimes satirical (but always wholly serious) anti-Trump content on social media. In a 2018 interview with the Vancouver Sun, Welch was quoted saying “I’d rather my legacy be that I was someone who stood up for something than (someone) who zipped up a dress.”
And it looks like her off-the-cuff progressiveness has paid off. Today, Karla co-owns a clothing line, x karla, and recently launched a personal styling app called Wishi, giving the masses access to hand-picked stylists who share the tricks of the trade that only they could know. Despite the increase in her workload, she can still be relied upon to provide brutally blunt commentary on her social feeds that keeps us coming back for more.
Shiona Turini is similarly outspoken. When asked on Instagram how she networks and makes all of those coveted industry contacts, she remarked that networking just isn’t her thing. This doesn’t seem to have cost her much success though. A Bermuda-transplant, Turini has made big strides all throughout the fashion industry, first as a PR intern at YSL, then holding a number of titles for W! Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, and CR Fashion Book, until ultimately settling as a stylist.
If you’ve followed any of Turini’s career, you’d know that she is also an impassioned advocate for women’s equality and black rights and recognition. She has worked with American royalty (both of the Knowles sisters) and has made her debut in film by being the on-set costume designer for the HBO series, Insecure, and the soon-to-be-released drama, Queen & Slim (2019).
All of these professional accolades have one thing in common: they all showcase strong, African-American female leads and storylines. Just recently in mid-October, Turini attended the ELLE Women In Hollywood event where she celebrated both the inimitable female pioneers in the industry as well as the 2 covers she styled for the event, both for women of color.
The occupation of “Stylist” no longer comes with the understanding that you’re the unsung hero of celebrity sartorial statements. It’s now accepted – and expected – that, if you’re in a position of power, no matter how big or small, you need to use it to make a change, and not just of the wardrobe variety. Karla Welch and Shiona Turini are just a few of these fashion forerunners. They show us that taking on the world’s woes is (finally) also very much in vogue.
words Kate Macchi