MUSES: Stylist Amy Keller

It’s January, which means my senses are a tinglin’ with the promise of nubile spring lookbooks. Now newly ripe for my viewing pleasure and totally rife for my under-the-bed hoarding, the imaginative editorials and aspirational advertisements created by stylists, creative directors, and photographers is the sort of smut I lap up with an eagerness that, each year, remains to be matched.

“The last thing we want is for people’s eyes to glaze over,” said Amy Keller when asked about the nature of her styling work for both publicly-traded companies and her own roster of personal clients.
Catching up with Keller — she of a buoyant positivity and a rosy sort of warmth that can waft through a  phone — we compared  current surroundings. I was calling from a wood-paneled study in Minnesota wearing a Pendleton sweater coat. Keller, from seventy and sunny LA while walking her dog.

I landed upon Keller’s work two years ago, when a holiday campaign she helped style for Levi’s Mainline aroused within me two very intense — and before-then, previously un-expressed –desires. The first, for purple velvet high-waisted skinny jeans. The second — for cooler friends with a penchant for putting on way-rad basement parties.

Also personally memorable was more of Keller’s styling handiwork for the same company, (again with Wieden+Kennedy and RJ Shaughnessy) during Spring of 2012. Here, the un-fettered clothing emanated a youthful ebullience indicative of a freewheeling Big Sur day trip.

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After working together on a handful of brand-elevating projects, Keller and Shaughnessy have developed a shared visual language for getting work done with both verve and haste.

Evident in a consistent aesthetic delivery, each campaign to which Keller and Shaughnessy lend their touch feels youthful and liberated — the look is always sharp and rebelliously exuberant.

“It’s very young and very iconic to the whole Southern-California look. Shaughnessy is super collaborative and playful – he totally gets the creative process,” Keller said.

In addition to her work with talented lifestyle photographers RJ Shaughnessy and Cass Bird, Keller is no stranger to working alongside film directors and their commercials. With both Roman Coppola and David Fincher, each new partnership was an opportunity to walk away re-invigorated from the varying work energies of exacting creatives.

“[Fincher] is very particular.  But it’s also what makes him so inspiring. He’s got a complete love for detail, and always knocks it out of the park with his ability to tell a complete story in under thirty seconds. And Roman Coppola — he’s such a gentleman. He has a fantastic eye and he really loves beautiful things.”

With her self-proclaimed affinity for a tidy edit, there’s a reason Keller works alongside those who possess an arduous eye for all things aesthetic.

“To me it’s all about the details. Often when I prep for projects I will start with picking the shoe, the belt… that’s what will start to inspire me. The accessories have such an ability to elevate a look and tell a story. They’ll be what brings a unique point of view or certain moment to each campaign”

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I asked Keller what past projects she is most proud of — regardless of scope or notoriety.

“All the work I’ve done for Levi’s is something I’m actually very, very proud of. The styling is still so iconic. Those photos, a lot of them won’t ever go out of style. It’s all a mix of sexy-tomboy-girl-next-door and that’s what I absolutely love.”

I have a set of interests not dissimilar from those of Keller’s, so of course I asked for her advice on pursuing each with increased ardency in the coming year as our conversation came to a close.

“It’s the answer everyone always gives, and yet it has held so true for myself. The bottom line is to just stay passionate about whatever makes you feel tingly inside. And then don’t let anyone ever put out your fire.  Don’t buckle. If you’re doing something you love and you’re open about it — you’ll be contacted for it.” She paused, then said, “and finally, you hustle.”

“I’m from the midwest –we don’t hustle. We’re humble.”

Keller thought for a minute before answering. When she had her truth, it came out quick, and the speed at which she replied left little reason for me to doubt the self-assuredness of her answer.

“Yes, that is true. You have to be a certain type of person to have that sort of ‘hustle’ about you.  But it’s a ‘hustle’ that comes from an authentic place in your heart and head. It’s a hustle that comes from a place of authenticity.”