The Real Diehl

When Jessica Diehl’s exacting eye enters the picture, what was once an emerging story, turns into a cohesive narrative, tying all pieces together. The dénouement is an indelible collection of images, each leaving a fashionable footprint in your mind. Not only is she the Fashion and Style Director of Vanity Fair, but she also styled each of the arresting looks for the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards Journal. We caught up with the talented Ms. Diehl in commemoration of the journal’s release and the imminent CFDA Fashion Awards.

 How did you approach styling the journal differently than you would a magazine?

For the journal, it becomes less about your own interpretation of a collection and more about representing the designer’s vision. The looks chosen for it needed to be identifiable, fitting in with designer’s overall signature, and basically underlining what makes them a nominee.

What is the process like when styling a shoot – do you go in with a clear blueprint or do you think of some things impetuously?

Since Trey Laird’s concept for this journal was very definitive and very iconic, Peter Lindbergh—yes, there was a clear blueprint. But, it is never until you get the model on the set in front of the camera that you really see if there is a picture there. Thankfully, with someone like Peter, it becomes a wonderfully collaborative and open process. That process can be driven by the clothes, the model and how he or she moves, the hair and makeup, or the ever-so-slight adjusting of his signature lighting. Or in the case of a model as incredible and experienced as Kristen McMenamy, it can become about her working with the clothes. I love the image of her pulling up the sheer sweater over her face. I should, as the stylist, probably pretend it was my idea, but it wasn’t. That is precisely what is so brilliant about working with the most talented people – they can make it better than you had imagined yourself.

 What was the inspiration behind styling this shoot, in particular?

The inspiration and tone of the journal was definitely set by Trey and his concept to really celebrate Peter’s unique and intimate way of shooting people. There is always a connection between him and what is in front of the camera. He is not just recording a nice dress, he somehow always find a connection to make it more personal.

When styling, do you draw inspiration from the clothes themselves or from external sources?

For this shoot specifically, I went through nearly every image Peter has shot over the years. I had always been obsessed with his Jil Sander campaign images of Linda Evangelista – and it was important to me that every single person we shot that day would be visually reminded of all of the special, beautiful, and timeless images he has produced. We plastered an entire cardboard wall in the dressing area with all these images, and I think it inspired every designer and model alike to walk on set and know it isn’t just up to Peter, but also, them.

But in general, it is usually an external source. A mood, a film, a person – then again, a collection/the clothes set the mood and you end up looking for external sources that the tone of a show might push you toward… It’s an alchemy.

What was it like to collaborate with Peter Lindbergh?

In short…a dream.

Any specific quirks that Peter has as a photographer?

The quirkiest thing I find is the utter lack of angst and stress. The constant and genuine positivity. And generosity.

 What was your favorite part about styling the journal? Any memories you’ll take away?

My favorite part was the positive and celebratory atmosphere. And finally shooting Kristen who was always a huge favorite of mine.

 What was your favorite collection to pull from and why?

That’s like choosing a favorite child…. not going there!

 What are your top essential items when styling? (i.e. pins, double sided tape, etc.)

Black safety pins, double sided tape , and A-clamps and Binder clips for the not-so-pinable garments.

 Any words of wisdom for aspiring stylists?

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Be open minded …opinions are opinions and someone else’s might be better. Have a vision, but be open to deviate.

 Who is your dream style client?

Don’t have one… if you mean a person.

 If you were dressing someone for the CFDA Fashion Awards, what would you dress them in?

In something they look good in.


Be sure to tune into the CFDA Fashion Awards Webcast, only on beginning June 4th.