Celebrity Stylist Karla Welch Explains Why “The Right Clothes Open Doors”

My personal style signifier is a great haircut, either a pixie or a tight little cut with curled bangs on my face. I’ve always had an unconventional haircut. I go to Pamela Neal at the Benjamin Salon in West Hollywood, whose haircuts last six months because she’s so precise. She used to cut David Bowie’s hair and continues to cut Tilda Swinton’s. benjaminsalon.com

My first fashion memory is my birthday dress, when I was four, which was a pale yellow knit sweater dress with brown pom poms. It was probably a handmade gift from my sister.

The last thing I bought and liked was oversized Balenciaga T-shirt. It’s just black with white stitching, but the sleeves have waterfalls of gorgeous French lace – it was love at first sight, and I immediately knew all the hundreds of ways to wear it.

A Loewe trench coat and a Balenciaga lace sleeve t-shirt in Welch’s dressing room © Matthew Welch

And on my wishlist are Adam Pogue curtains to go in my home office. He’s a textile artist that I discovered through Commune Design in LA, and he makes these amazing patchwork and appliqué curtains – they look like stained glass. iamamampogue.com

The first garment I bought myself was probably an Esprit sweatshirt in the 1980s. I had a paper itinerary so I saved some money to buy some clothes. I also loved Benetton – I remember buying a green and white rugby shirt there. I would like to have it again.

The place I can’t wait to return to is Powell Lake, just north of Vancouver, where my husband Matthew and I own a small island. I grew up near there and we went to the lake every summer with my parents. The island, which we renamed Dog Island because we have two Rottweilers, is two acres full of tall trees with lots of little trails around it. It has two cabins, which were constructed from reclaimed wood, and we intend to run it on solar power. It’s charming but very rustic – there’s an outbuilding with a composting toilet and a wood-burning hot tub. You are not staying at the Ritz.

Where Welch can't wait to return: Powell Lake, near Vancouver
The place Welch can’t wait to return to: Powell Lake, near Vancouver © Alamy

The last music I downloaded has been serpentine prison by Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National. I like that he’s a postmodern man – a little sad, a little sensitive, and interested in supporting powerful women.

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a pair of white jeans from Line. I used them in a shoot with Hailey Bieber and loved them. They’re high waisted with a wide leg, and they have that perfect little touch of elegance that’s what I look for in my wardrobe.

The best book I’ve read in the last year is Emerging strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown. She’s an amazing writer who talks about imagination and the patterns between nature and the man-made world. She is a social justice facilitator and her books explain how to get things done.

‘Emergent Strategy’ by Adrienne Maree Brown – Welch’s favorite recent read – and a candle from the Harlem Candle Company © Matthew Welch

The fashion moment that changed everything was Virgil Abloh going to Louis Vuitton. I met him when he started Off-White, and we started dressing Justin [Bieber] together – he was always such a lovely human being. But he also showed us all the things we never would have imagined.

A recent “discovery” is Courage Bagels, in Silverlake. They serve Montreal style bagels, which are the best in the whole country. My usual order is a Run it Thru the Garden on an “all burnt” bagel. 777 N Virgil Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029, couragebagels.com

The best gift I’ve given recently is a Spore bracelet from Lisa Eisner to my husband for our anniversary. She’s a Los Angeles-based artist who makes the most beautiful organic and free-form jewelry. The one I bought him is blackened bronze. $990, lisaeisnerjewelry.com

Welch is wearing her Ana Khouri ring and a Lisa Eisner bracelet

Welch is wearing her Ana Khouri ring and a Lisa Eisner bracelet © Matthew Welch

Augustinus Bader The Cream, one of Welch's beauty must-haves

Augustinus Bader The Cream, one of Welch’s beauty staples © Matthew Welch

And the best gift I’ve had lately is a Ana Kouri ring, which I now wear as a wedding band. It’s a large band of gold with a diamond on the side. Khouri studied sculpture and for me her creations are like wearing a work of art. anakhouri.com

The essentials of beauty that I never part with are an eyebrow spoolie and Augustin Bader Cream. I don’t wear any makeup other than a little lipstick, but it makes my skin look like it’s 20 again. It’s the perfect formula for me.

In my fridge you will always find a bit of a mess. There’s wine and Graber olives, which are grown in California, and I have to put about eight boxes in my suitcase every time I get back to Canada because my family is obsessed with them. I also always have a fair amount of dead produce in there – I hate wasting food, and my plan for this year is to cook more at home.

i have a collection of pottery, which I have been accumulating for at least 20 years. It could be a $2 coin or a $2,000 coin – it’s just a visceral thing where I hold it and I kind of have to have it. I go to a lot of thrift stores all over the world, or there’s a great store in LA called OK, where my husband sometimes buys me gifts. okthestore.com

Pieces from Welch's pottery collection, which she accumulated over 20 years
Pieces from Welch’s pottery collection, which she accumulated over 20 years © Matthew Welch

My style icon is Miuccia Prada. She has the most subversive form of sex appeal. When you put on a Prada dress – and this may be the dumbest dress – you instantly feel like such a powerful woman. The very first designer piece I bought, 25 years ago, was a brown silk Prada blouse I bought at the Barneys warehouse sale.

The indulgences I would never give up are facials or massages, which I’ve been a fan of since I was 13 and I’m not going to stop anytime soon. I go to Joanna Vargas for facials, but for massages I’ll literally go anywhere – if I see a massage chair, I’ll sit in it. Triple Crown Facial, $250, joannavargas.com

My favorite part of my house is my yard, which has many beautiful trees. That’s the beauty of living in California – it’s very indoors-outdoors. Our home is mid-century modern and opens onto our pool and yard, which are filled with different varieties of eucalyptus, citrus, and pine trees.

An Electric Love dream catcher in upcycled feathers

An Electric Love dream catcher made from recycled feathers © Matthew Welch

Welch's garden is filled with eucalyptus, citrus and pine trees

Welch’s garden is filled with eucalyptus, citrus and pine trees © Matthew Welch

The garment that I will keep to transmit is a Balenciaga motorcycle jacket from when Nicolas Ghesquière was there, which I bought second-hand. I would save him from a fire. I also have a lot of beautiful vintage Ossie Clark dresses from Couture Shrimps in Canada.

An object that I would never part with is a painting by Darren Waterston, which my husband bought for us as a wedding gift. It is a beautiful abstract space landscape. It’s very weird, and I love it.

The last meal that really impressed me was at Umeda in Los Angeles. You have to make sure you’re ready for a bit of a wait but it’s worth it – the chef was an apprentice of Nobu Matsuhisa, and he makes lovely sushi. 6623 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038, umedarestaurant.com

Welch at her Los Angeles home (with her rottweilers Tommy and Ziggy), wearing a Rodarte Van Gogh dress
Welch at her home in Los Angeles (with her Rottweilers Tommy and Ziggy), wearing a Rodarte Van Gogh dress © Matthew Welch

This year I really enjoyed The Beatles, which I have always loved, but those of Peter Jackson To recover was possibly the most amazing series I have ever seen. You watch them drop off the tape you’ve listened to all your life, and it felt very deep to me. Just seeing them arrive without songs and leave with “Let It Be”… It’s an incredible gift to be able to watch it.

Best styling advice I’ve ever received is from my sister, who said “good clothes open doors”. It doesn’t mean expensive clothes, it’s about pulling yourself together and presenting yourself in a way that makes you feel good. In the end, it distills something quite powerful.

If I didn’t do what I do, I would be the person who cuddles the baby pandas who have been separated from their mother. You put on a panda costume and the babies crawl over the person. I don’t think there could be anything better.

The only artist whose work I would collect if I could is Amy Sherald – I’d love a portrait of her – or there’s an Edward Burtynsky I’ve always wanted, one of her career images. Plus, Tyler Shields’ photography is stunning. I wouldn’t collect just one person, I would like a ton of them.

The view from the bridge on Dog Island:
The view from the bridge on Dog Island: “My favorite place to be with my family and friends” © Matthew Welch

My favorite app is Kitchen NYT. If I ever get stuck with what to eat, I’ll just see what her meal of the day is and make it. The other night, I made an apple tarte tatin.

The best memories I brought home are pottery pieces from a special trip to Greece. We went to Pelion, which has small mountain villages that we visit every evening for dinner. We found a tall woman who made pottery, so I bought her lots of bowls – some unglazed, some turquoise. You can tell that she simply submits to fire magic.

Elizabeth J. Harless