Lori Goldstein on Style, Celebrities and Why Less (Clothes) Really Can Be More (Q&A)

The legendary fashion stylist, whose work with Demi Moore, Michael Jackson and photographer Annie Leibovitz has produced some of the most iconic images ever to grace the newsstand, shares the stories behind them in her book, "Style Is Instinct." As she recalls, "Ultimately, the clothes do come off."

When it comes to the world of fashion, legendary stylist Lori Goldstein knows a thing or two about making her models look stunning in photos. She did, after all, style the famous 1991 Vanity Fair cover featuring a completely nude and very pregnant Demi Moore. In 2009, Goldstein entered the design world and launched her own clothing line, LOGO, for QVC. Now -- having worked for 35 years in the fashion industry -- the superstar stylist has released Style Is Instinct, her new book featuring the groundbreaking and iconic images from the course of her impressive career. To promote her book, Goldstein chatted with Pret-a-Reporter while in Los Angeles to share the stories behind it all.

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Congratulations on the book -- it’s beautiful. It must have been a lot of work!

It was a lot of work. Definitely worth it. It was great to do all that work and then have something at the end to be like, right, that’s what we were doing for all these years!

Why did you decide to come out with the book now? There’s no retirement on the horizon, is there?

No. As you can see by the title, you do go by instinct. I felt like I had just done what I set out to do, sort of, that there was this body of work that I could just see in a book.

Did you have some of these images in mind already?

Some in mind, but no, if you could have seen the process, it’s really looking at everything. I always say that the clothes tell a story, or the pictures tell a story. Obviously, Demi was so important.  Michael Jackson -- meeting him was just everything. The whole American Express campaign, I mean Sammy Davis Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald. The Versace moment when Steven Meisel lived in L.A. and we were out here shooting was sort of, you know, a big highlight of my career, really doing this great work with friends.

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Looking back at all of your work, does everything feel different now than when you first started?

It really does feel different, and that’s probably part of the reason that the book came up, because I wanted to tell this story for another generation of how it was. When I started working, it was much more organic, and I wouldn’t have called it this big-business industry, especially the part that I was doing, which was high-end. There was always Seventh Avenue and the “clothing business,” but it was different than what we were doing, with these brands becoming superpowers, really. I just feel really blessed. It was this moment where people were creating incredible clothes and we were free to do whatever we wanted with them. And we still are, but there are definitely different guidelines today, it’s definitely a different world. And I’ve gone on to do different things. My LOGO line at QVC is something that I’m just loving doing, and that’s probably because that’s a different genre for me. I just love to keep things moving.

When did you launch that?

We launched about four years ago. At QVC, like anything, we’re building a brand and we’re definitely at this place where it’s real grand and it’s very exciting and I’m very hands-on with it, obviously, because that’s what I did with all my clients, Versace, Vera Wang, [Carolina] Herrera, Narciso [Rodriguez]. I love the design process, colors, fabrics, all of it. Then selling it is just wild. I feel like I have a new job, which I like.

How do you split your time between your own line and your editorial work?

Probably half and half. I’m still an editor-at-large at Elle and I love that. I’ll do something with Steven for Italian Vogue, but that’s my editorial bulk, and I still love my clients and doing my advertising work. Because each job is like its own world -- and then it’s over.

Were there any points where you felt like you had hit a wall or thought about throwing in the towel?

I am the kind of person who always goes back and forth, which is why I’ve always freelanced. I’ve never worked at a magazine full-time, so I always had that opportunity to go back and forth from advertising to editorial to styling shows and consulting with designers, so I do like to mix things up. I knew that I wanted to do something else, and that’s when this QVC opportunity came about, so I’m really happy that I have that in the mix, because I like to keep it moving and not feel tied down. I think there’s something to feeling like each day is different.

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How did the Demi cover come about, exactly? It was almost an anti-styling moment for you.

It was not the initial idea. It’s always a collaboration when you’re with Annie Leibovitz and then someone like Demi, who is very creative. You just keep shooting and you keep trying, and then ultimately, the clothes do come off. The image was just so brilliant and perfect for the time, and so perfect for Demi, and it just really was such a great time for women and for photography and Vanity Fair. I was learning that sometimes it’s just as important to not have clothing in the picture. Taking on, taking off is really the nuance, a big part of the whole process. As you can see with my work, it’s really about layering, and I love clothes so I want to get as many in as possible, but I also learned from working with Annie about photography and creating a great image, that it’s a collaboration, not just “Oh, I want to get these clothes in.” It’s different when I’m shooting editorial.

Are there any actors or models you’ve worked with a lot over the years?

I worked with Amber Valletta and Shalom Harlow in the day, and Naomi Campbell, but I probably have the closest relationship with the clothes, and you can feel that. The clothes tell the story for me. That’s my love. 

Is there a moment so far in your career that you would label as the crowning achievement?

The years in the 2000s when Steven Meisel moved to L.A. and there was this whole L.A. moment that coincided with Versace, when I was working with Donatella, and then shooting in the Lautner house. I was obsessed with Jacqueline Susann and Valley of the Dolls when I was a kid -- don’t ask why -- fantasizing in Ohio. Then I moved here from Ohio, and I worked at Fred Segal. I love L.A. I love L.A. to death. But Fred Segal took me on a buying trip to New York when I was 20 and I saw that skyline and said, “I gotta go. I gotta go.”

What advice would you give to those young girls in Ohio now who are saving up every month to buy the new issue of Vogue, or their first pair of designer shoes?

I meet so many people from Ohio. I think it’s a really great place to come from, and I think that your imagination can run wild and that’s great. But where you come from is also kind of irrelevant. You just gotta go for it, because you can always go home. You can always go back. But you go to New York and you intern and you see if it’s for you. Because you don’t even know what’s out there. There are jobs that don’t even have job descriptions. You’ve got to get in the trenches and just see, see how hard it is. People think it’s just “the fashion business,” but it’s hard, hard work and it’s passion and you gotta love it. And a lot of people do and there’s room for everybody. That’s the cool thing about what’s happening today. There’s just so much going on and there’s a lot out there. You have to just go for it.

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In the Sliding Doors version of your life, what would you be doing if it wasn’t this?

Ready for it? I was studying special education. I don’t like school, so I studied for a minute out here, but my summer jobs were at camps for special-needs kids and I love, love, love it, but I also realized I’m way too sensitive.

But you aren’t so sensitive that you can’t deal with the fashion world.

But I kind of am! The trick is to do it your own way. If we really sat down to talk about my career, never working at a magazine, doing it my way, going to shows and realizing I didn’t like how I felt and I was judging and they were judging so I just stopped going to shows … I really am too sensitive for the fashion business. I rarely go out. I’ve done it my own way. 

If your last shoot were tomorrow, which photographer, model and brand would you shoot with?

Well, it would definitely be with Steven Meisel. And I want Julianne Moore to meet Steven, so I would definitely want it to be her. I love her. And Hermes, of course. Hello!

What would the scene be?

Every accessory that Hermes has ever done, on some fabulous location, with Steven because he’s one of my best friends, and just having a great time and shooting and making incredible, memorable images that are my very last ones.

And that will go in your next book.

Exactly! That will go my in my next book.

Lori Goldstein will be signing her new book, Style Is Instinct, at the Fred Segal boutique in West Hollywood on Thursday, Dec. 12 from 5 -7 p.m.