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(Courtesy of Mark Avery)
Black and White
When dressing himself or a client, Avery thinks about the outfit photographed in black and white— is it timeless? Does the photo of Ryan Gosling look similar to a photo of James Dean? If so, he knows he’s on the mark. (Photo courtesy Mark Avery)
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(Courtesy of Mark Avery)
“Richmond informs everything I do,” Avery says. He marvels at how lucky he is to work in fashion and movie making every day— it’s obvious he doesn’t take a moment for granted. (Photo courtesy Mark Avery)
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(Courtesy of Mark Avery)
When he was getting started in the industry, Avery taught himself to sew by watching YouTube videos and learned about fashion history by reading all the books he could get his hands on. (Photo courtesy Mark Avery)
I caught Mark Avery on the phone while he was at his gate in the Green Bay airport on the way back to Los Angeles, which he calls home. The celebrity stylist and movie set costumer had taken the trip to the Midwest to help style his client, Aaron Rodgers, for a set of commercials for a healthcare company. The Richmond native’s passion and enthusiasm for his career is infectious, inspiring and so interesting. Read on to get the scoop on how he got started styling, why he loves Richmond and what Ryan Gosling is really like.
Avery’s road to fashion styling was an organic one. While he’d always been interested in clothes — specifically in vintage and thrift shopping — he hadn’t grown up considering fashion as a career option. Instead, he had fun rocking a pair of thrifted combat boots in middle school while everyone else wore the same Reebok sneakers.
While he lived in Richmond, Avery focused on music. He was in two area punk bands: River City High and Inquisition. He actually dropped out of high school to pursue his passion and moved to London. After, Avery “saw the writing on the wall” and decided that pursuing a music career
wasn’t viable. He’d always loved the play and imagination inherent in the film business but didn’t know how he fit in.
With nothing more than a strong work ethic and lots of determination (two traits he attributes to being a Richmonder), Avery moved to Los Angeles in 2005. He started “knocking on lots of doors” and worked as a production assistant, in the art department— anywhere he could score a gig.
Finally, he got assigned to a movie’s costume department with the help of an old Richmond friend who was also living and working in the City of Dreams. His first job was to unload and inventory a truck full of clothes, calling out an article’s characteristics so someone could write them down.
Avery says his spot-on descriptors, “harris tweed, double-breasted sports coat, 1940s gingham day dress” got him noticed quickly and he began working his way up to a costume assistant on bigger movies.
He says he “just clicked” with many actors on these sets and they began asking him to dress them off set as well— with guys digging Avery’s own laid back, vintage vibe and asking “hey man, where’d you get that t-shirt?” It was this genuine, organic progression that led him to personal styling.
“People may think a stylist’s job is to make celebrities look glamorous, but I think it’s to make them look like the best version of themselves,” Avery says by way of explanation of his job. He likens it to palm reading, saying that he reads an individual’s energy and how they see themselves and play to the best parts of that.
He steers clear of logos, branding or anything too fussy. Instead he prefers dressing his clients in vintage or in well-crafted pieces from small businesses, with the motto “make it timeless, make it classic” running through his head. Avery says he’ll spend his Sundays scouring California’s flea markets for perfectly worn in t-shirts, Levis and cowboy boots for his clients (and, yes, for himself too!). “I’d be doing that anyway because I love it so much, “ Avery says, so it’s a natural part of the job for him.
In addition to personal styling, Avery also works as a set costumer— which is not the same thing as a costume designer, I learned. Avery explained that a set costumer is someone who works
closely with the actor (literally close — he says there’s a lot of touching) to ensure that the actor is in the correct costume at the correct time in the correct environment. Continuity plays a crucial role here.
Avery gives the example of a scene inside a home where an actor’s sleeves may be pushed up. The very next scene in the movie may be the actor walking outside into a busy sidewalk but the scene isn’t filmed for another four months in a different location all together. It’s Avery’s job to make sure the sleeves of that shirt are exactly the same in both scenes; no pressure!
Next up for Avery is another set costumer gig that will take him to Budapest for five months while Gosling shoots the next Bladerunner movie. He says that not only will he be on set, he’ll probably also help Gosling with any of his everyday duds, too. #dreamjob much?
Try as I might, I couldn’t get any super juicy Gosling details out of the stylist; forever the consummate professional, Avery holds his client’s cards close to his chest. I think he could sense my profound disappointment, however, and fed me a this little tidbit: “Everyone says Ryan is the nicest guy— all those stories you hear about him saving kittens? That’s how he really is.” Swoon.