If you live in New York City and you pass someone on the street who can best be described as “visual napalm,” chances are you walked by professional spectacle Stella Rose Saint Clair. Hailing from the West Coast, the NYC-based designer and personality has amassed a substantial Internet following with her slew of eccentric clothing pieces—like her signature glitter bows— that have captivated the crowd circulating the notorious downtown scene to gracing the pages of various online and print publications. Her frequent collaborations with star-on-the-rise and close friend Melanie Martinez has kept her busy, churning out one-of-a-kind designs day and night for the pop starlet’s videos and current tour. But that hasn’t stopped her from already planning her next two collections right on the heels of launching her own line, STELLA. You might think she has a helluva group of creatives working behind-the-scenes to help her balance a multitude of creative endeavors, but her team is a party of one—herself. I sat down with the one-woman-show whose impressive work ethic makes mine look like a wet stack of newspapers to ask her how she keeps herself sane and what’s in store for her not-too-distant future.
Okay – let’s cut the crap. You and I both know that you and I together in this interview will be A Moment. You’re more of a match for me than anyone on Tinder will ever be. How have you been?!
I would describe my physical state recently as I would describe a typical Tinder relationship– quick, dirty, and better left online.
I am, and always have been, obsessed with your name. I remember when I interviewed you for my senior thesis in 2013 I would pace back and forth reciting what I thought were your possible voicemail greetings. I concluded that it was, “This is Stella Rose Saint Clair, please leave your message after the…” and instead of “the beep” you just let out a sultry sigh. Can you confirm this?
Do you think I should change my voicemail? People always tell me as a professional, my voice mail should include my full name and a polite message but instead, my greeting for the last 6 years has been a poorly recorded version of me singing “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked A Cake” by Georgia Gibbs. I’ve had a lot of people hang up after that.
I know you work around the clock and don’t have a problem keeping busy. How do you keep yourself balanced amidst the chaos? What keeps you sane?
I think it’s important to know when to take 10 minutes to yourself. Sometimes the only place this can happen is on the toilet but I prefer when it happens on the couch with my cat. Really though, if I didn’t like the work I was doing I’d lose my mind. I’ve never understood how people can devote most of their time to doing work that isn’t stimulating. Even when I’m feeling completely manic, I have to remember I’m creating something amazing and every challenge is a learning experience that I can really apply.
We’ve been internet friends for a while before we finally met in person. You were just what I expected when I met you: sweet, friendly, and (possibly literally) out of this world. What do you think it is about your web presence that makes people gravitate towards you?
I’ve always approached myself as a sort of blank canvas to paint and mold into whatever I’d like to become or inspire. Personal acceptance is important, but it’s our personal non-acceptance that, when filtered through a creative mind, can elevate us to become whatever we desire. I forget that on the outside as well as online, I have become completely my own creation because inside I still feel like the awkward 14-year-old child that I once was.
You’ve established yourself as a NYC designer with a particular aesthetic that I would describe as “whimsical doll-like vision who looks like she just played a gig with Jem and the Holograms in a chic lounge on the rings of Saturn”—and that’s just one of the countless reasons I love you. I’m curious; who are three people, fictional or non, that you would put on a mood board right now?
My aesthetic is from a distance, stagnant, but up close, forever changing. Therefore, at the moment my mood board would contain Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and Siouxie Sioux.
You left Seattle for New York. Is there anything you miss from the west? Would you ever consider identifying as bi-coastal?
I’ve never fully identified with the West Coast. I’ve always had an out of place feeling when I’m there. You know those Buzzfeed pieces that are like – “15 reasons you know you’re a native …”? And I’m reading the ones for the West Coast, and all my friends from Seattle and LA are on about how they DO secretly love rooting for the Seahawks or couldn’t live without the beach, and I’m over here like “give me asphalt and street pretzels and angry cabbies plz”. I love my West Coast friends and I love my West Coast memories, but it isn’t the place for me.
You have many loyal customers donning your pieces like your signature glitter bows and affectionately trying to mimic your look. What reaction do you want your style and clothes to elicit from your customers; how do you want them to feel when they wear Stella?
Fashion for me is transformative and I view getting dressed the same way as some might view getting into a costume. I’d like people to feel as excited when they put on my clothes as they feel come Halloween, when they can have an excuse to morph into an idea they’ve dreamt up. That excitement should be part of getting dressed everyday. I want people to wear my pieces to transform into the magical creatures they aspire to be.
Many of your looks are born up in da club—how does the NYC nightlife circuit facilitate your creative drive? Do you feel any pressure to deliver A Look when you go out?
What I love about club fashion is the “anything goes” mentality. You can truly test the limits of your creativity because a nightclub is meant to stimulate which makes you part of the stimulating experience. The only difference between club and street dressing for me is practicality– it’s something we have to consider when dressing for our day and it includes what we plan to be doing and where we plan to be going in our clothes. In the club, practicality no longer applies which means you have the freedom to wear a bodysuit made say, entirely out of glass chandeliers without worrying how to protect yourself from the rain, how to fit on a crowded subway, or how to adequately carry your laundry once you’ve picked it up. If I dressed like a normal person on a daily basis, delivering a look to the club would be much harder. However, when you don’t technically own any average clothing, putting an outfit together is rarely a challenge.
Congratulations on launching STELLA! What direction is this line going in that you haven’t explored before? Where do you want to see it go in the not-too-distant future?
This is a line I want to take very far even if it’s a slow process. STELLA designs are always wild, but surprisingly practical for day or night. I want to make my future collections very accessible and ready to wear, and one day would even like to open a retail store here in NYC. My current collection Superstisia, is a little witchy and I’m slowly releasing pieces on my site throughout the season. Being able to combine inspiration to create something wearable is endlessly fun for me, and I’ve already got my next two collections planned.
Tell me a little bit about how your friendship with pop star-on-the-rise Melanie Martinez came to fruition? How does your relationship with her propel you both further in your respective careers? Any other collaborations you can tell me about? I promise I won’t tell anyone (except our readers.)
Melanie and I had spoken years ago about collaborating on a photo shoot, but once she launched her singing career, we found ourselves instead working together on her first video Doll House which I styled as well as appeared in. It’s amazing the power of social media where both of our careers are concerned. As someone with a large following online, it’s always fun to work with people who have established their careers in a similar way because you can actually monitor the crossover. Melanie has such a strong personal style which makes creating looks for her more fun, and collaborating on her costumes more balanced.
With a following comes haters (hopefully – means you’re doing something right!). Why do you think these trolls always target those with a strong sense of self? How do you respond to that?
Hate and bullying in any situation come from a sense of misunderstanding. When I consider things that make me angry, I realize that I may not have a clear understanding of them and it’s really my confusion toward the issue that is making me feel upset. I don’t do many things in my life with the expectation that people will understand me, but what I do love to do when I experience negativity directed toward me is discuss it. I’ve actually found that through talking out what may have started as a hateful comment can end with friendly words and maybe a deeper understanding on both their side as well as my own. I guess I wish more people would talk things out in real life as well as online. We’d probably all like each other a lot more and be more supportive of the people around us.
What’s next for Stella Rose?
A long nap and a fresh manicure.
story / Greg Mania
photos / Santigo Felipe
creative director / Meurtrier NY