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How Former Lead Stylist at Charlotte Russe Approaches Styling


Candace is the former lead in-house stylist at Charlotte Russe HQ and was in charge of the editorial campaigns on the Charlotte Russe site. With over 7 years of styling experience and a background in fashion design, her work is absolutely stunning (check out her site here). We sat down with Candace to chat more about how she got into styling, the process of styling a successful shoot, and her advice for breaking into the industry.

Tell me a little about yourself and your journey into styling. How did you get into styling?

Hi! I’m Candace. I’m the lead in-house stylist at Charlotte Russe now and freelance on the side. My main job as a stylist is to determine the editorial direction of the shoot, and on the actual day, to control the pace of the set and work with the photographer, makeup/hair stylists, and styling assistants to make the editorial I have in mind come to life.

The funny thing about my journey into styling is that I didn’t even know styling was a real job when I was growing up. I actually wanted to be a fashion designer, so I went to school for fashion design. After I graduated, I knew I didn’t want to work in corporate, so I did a design internship with a local graphic tee designer where I was exposed to styling for the first time. I saw someone directing the photoshoot and thought to myself, THAT’S SO COOL. After that moment, I basically made it my mission to become a stylist.

Example of Candace's work

That’s incredible. What’s the first step you took towards your mission of becoming a stylist?

I partnered with local Academy of Art school students and photography students in SF to experiment with my editorial ideas. I quickly realized styling was all the parts of design that I liked without the technical parts of it, and that I was good at it. At the end of the day, styling and fashion is really all about presenting something beautiful.

Take me behind the scenes of a photoshoot you did recently! What does a shoot day look like?

My most recent photoshoot was with the Charlotte Russe Kids collection, which was super fun because they’re such characters to work with compared to the adults I typically work with.

A shoot day typically starts with an early call time before 9AM. I arrive at least an hour before to get settled, know where things are, layout all the pieces, and debrief the objective of the shoot with everyone. As photos are being taken, I usually keep one eye on the computer monitor to check the composition of the images and suggest different art direction as needed. For example, if a top is particularly tricky, I’ll ask the model to pose differently so it blows out more. I often get to experiment with different lighting and shots too, which is the most fun part.

On shoot day, what does your morning routine look like? How do you prepare for a shoot? How do you get dressed for a shoot?

Behind the Scenes at a Photoshoot

I’m not a morning person, so honestly it’s pretty dramatic. I do my skin/makeup, take about 20 minutes deciding what to wear, then usually rushing out the door with all my bags. My bags contain my styling kit (scissors, underwear, pins, bra, etc), and a ton of vintage pieces and accessories I’ve collected over the years that can be added as layers or backups. I personally love adding vintage pieces as a nice touch to the modern editorial shots.

Dressing was something I always looked forward to because it made me excited to wear clothes I felt good in.

I dress pretty functionally for shoot days. I like to look cute even though I’m often schlepping a lot of things or bending down to tie shoes at the shoot. My go-to outfit is typically a one piece jumpsuit and comfortable shoes.

You have an amazing style yourself. How would you describe your style?

Thank you! Recently, I’ve been really into Scandinavian style with a mix of streetwear, so a long shirt or dress with clogs or cute, uncomfortable shoes (because I don’t know need to walk around too much!). I’ve always loved fashion since I was a kid. Dressing was something I always looked forward to because it made me excited to wear clothes I felt good in.

How would you describe your styling perspective?

I would say it’s very feminine - 70s is my spirit decade. I love strong women and love using color, to pop it where I can - in shoes, lipstick, or accessories. I also love to celebrate different body shapes in my work. i’m personally really into warmer shades in shots.

Be persistent. I started styling in 2009, but wasn’t being paid to style until 2013. 

Where do you get your fashion inspiration?

I love watching recaps of runway fashion - I think it’s so interesting to see how high fashion trickles down to mainstream. I also love Karla Welch, Tracee Ellis Ross’s stylist, and Solange, who always has really interesting style.  

What practical advice would you have for someone looking to become a stylist?

1) Be persistent. I started styling in 2009, but wasn’t being paid to style until 2013. 2) Define your point of view and how it’s different from the next stylist. Practice your craft by actually building looks to understand composition, layout, light, and color.