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A stylist dresses and tells

Like a creature in a director's cut of "Where the Wild Things Are," Daphne Guinness perches atop Alexander McQueen's armadillo-shaped shoes, in a nude body stocking with Elizabethan ruff around her neck, a jester's cap on her head and black silk fringe running down the back of her legs.

Shot for Italian Vogue in 2010, the image captures the brilliant "sickness" that distinguishes Lori Goldstein's work as a fashion stylist. Over the past 20 years, Goldstein has collaborated with virtuoso photographers such as Steven Meisel and Mario Testino to unsettle fashion, stirring in fantasy and churning out a new reality.

Goldstein slashed Michael Jackson's white shirtfront and undressed a pregnant Demi Moore for Vanity Fair covers. She made over Madonna for her "Take a Bow" video, a ladylike look that stuck for the next few years of the pop star's career.

Here Goldstein elaborates on "the sickness," which she defines as "the moment of individuality that transcends the pretty, the perfect." It informs her Logo clothing line sold on QVC and describes a chapter in her new coffee-table book "Lori Goldstein: Style is Instinct" (Harper Design, $80).

Q: Your credo is "everything goes with anything." How do you allow prints and textures to collide without creating a train wreck? Is it instinct or logic?

A: Like anything, it takes practice and confidence. I'm not just throwing anything on (the model). I have a room full of clothes and then I start seeing proportion and start layering, tweaking till the very end. It's not like, "I'm going to get the dress with the flowers and the cape with dots and the two-tone shoes and make a look out of it." There is logic, but it's not a planned logic.

Q: Did you have a "big break" as a stylist?

A: There were a couple great moments. I had tried a few (design) ventures and decided, this was not for me. A friend of mine was like, "You should be a stylist," which had been mentioned to me more than once. So I thought, OK, what do I need to do? Well, you need a prop kit. ... I put together a book and started testing. I had a friend who worked at Macy's, and she took me up to advertising, and Macy's became my first big account. Then I met Annie Leibovitz through a friend, a downtown performance artist who was being shot by her for Vanity Fair. Annie had just left Rolling Stone. I styled my friend. That was probably a bigger break.

Q: A lot of your work is with Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue. Why?

A: Steven and I were with the same agency and we did a shoot together one day, and we just clicked. He has done the covers for Italian Vogue for almost 30 years. It's perfect for our aesthetic together, because you definitely can push the boundaries more in Europe. Now, the great thing about being editor at large for Elle magazine is that (creative director Joe Zee) is really allowing me to play and tell those types of stories to an American audience.

Q: Steven credits you with popularizing vintage, particularly through a shoot for March 2000 Italian Vogue. Did you know you were stoking a trend?

A: I've always loved vintage. That shoot was a treat because you can't use vintage very often when you're working with magazines — you need to show clothes (that will be in stores). But the February shows hadn't happened yet. We were doing this in L.A., and I live for the vintage in L.A., and that's what I decided I was going to do. Did I know (it would spread a trend)? I think you kind of always know in the back of your head, but you don't really think about it in that way. That was a moment where you realize, OK, I have done what I set out to do. You're peaking and you just feel it, and you wake up every morning and can't wait to go to work. I still feel that way, but that was just, wow.

Q: What are you wearing right now?

A: I have a basic uniform: a pair of Logo leggings and a Rick Owens tank top — the men's ones. Then I layer. Right now, I have a Proenza Schouler tie-dye T-shirt on top, thin-thin, then a Lainey Keogh cashmere scarf, handmade in Ireland. I always have a scarf because it feels like a blankie, which I never had as a child so I guess I need one now. Then Celine sneakers, snakeskin. Or I'll have on Jimmy Choo motorcycle boots. I feel like over a certain age, if you're going to dress like you did in your 20s, then it has to be, "Oh, but it's Jimmy Choo." I'm also into layering all my Cartier bracelets because they're my children.

Q: I love the quote you cite in the book, "My work comes first, reasons for it follow." Is that sort of how all of fashion happens?

A: It's not how all of fashion happens. But I would say, yes, that's how the best fashion happens.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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