Celebrity stylist Tara Swennen has worked with everyone from Gwen Stefani to Emily Ratakojwski, but has perhaps gotten the most attention for her collaboration with rule-breaking actress Kristen Stewart, who most recently was the reigning dare-devil of the Cannes red carpet. And that's exactly what Swennen loves about her. "One of my greatest goals as a stylist is to create a balance of what my clients would like to wear, what styles are trending, and how I envision their fashion evolution," she explains. Here, the stylist opens up about how she introduced Stewart to Chanel, what she thinks of the actress's new buzz cut, and why sustainability is more important now than ever.
How did you get started in the business?
I studied fashion design at Cornell University. Once I graduated, I moved to New York and worked in the studio services at Barneys NY, where I met my first stylist, Andrea Lieberman. I started my styling career with her... and then rest is history. I moved to Los Angeles right after 9/11, and began working for Rachel Zoe. It was great as it was the during the Lindsey Lohan, Mischa Barton red-carpet era. After about five years I branched out on my own, and that’s when I began working with Kristen Stewart.
How did you first meet?
Her publicist of 15 years, Ruth Bernstein, put us together when she was only 14 years old for Into The Wild. We have remained tried and true ever since. Kristen was one of my first clients I got within the first year I started styling. It's funny because the first look I dressed her in happened to be Chanel.
Kristen Stewart has great personal style. How do you take that into consideration with your work?
One of my greatest goals as a stylist is to create a balance of what my clients would like to wear, what styles are trending, and how I envision their fashion evolution. It is paramount to me to showcase their personalities, so the end goal is to refine and elevate whatever their own tastes may be. Kristen's fashion sense has evolved as she has grown into an ever-expanding repertoire, so it makes it that much more fun for me!
How does a new beauty look, for example Kristen’s buzz cut, influences the styling of their look?
A new beauty look can have an enormous effect on the styling. I welcome this new bleached buzz cut on Kristen. It suits her perfectly and allows us to go in a new direction. I feel my part in it is to facilitate their evolution as its coming.
The Cannes Film Festival is known for having super strict dress codes. How have you been able to work with the rules and maintain a look that feels appropriate?
Kristen simply happens to not really be a gown person, so we have adapted her unique style to the event by keeping her dressy yet with her own unique twist on it. What is your day-to-day like as a stylist?
There is no set day to day in this business, which is one of the reasons I love it! Some days I am researching online, others I am pulling and fitting, and others I am on set... it's ever changing, but yes, I am always planning.
What are some of your goals?
I would really like to become more of a spokesperson for ethical fashion. I became a vegan last year and feel that we need to be more conscious. Fashion is not a necessity. If you want a fur stole, you can achieve that look just in a more responsible way.
How does this more conscious way of styling work when you're dealing with a client?
Lately, I will just reach out to vegan brands I see on Instagram or hear about and will ask them to send me things to dress my clients in. Most of my clients share the same thinking, which is great. For example, Kristen won’t wear fur or wear snakeskin, but sometimes will wear leather – so we can be more responsible and shape the look. We are in an age where we need to become more responsible on all fronts and as a passionate fashionista- I think it's part of my job to help from within now.
What else are you working on now?
Tons of things! Kristen is launching a new project with Chanel, so tons of stuff for that. I also just picked up a few new clients like Ashley Benson and Bella Thorne!
Who is your dream client?
My girls are my dream clients. I am a very lucky woman.
The Hepburns - Katharine and Audrey.
Okay, let’s get personal. What are three words to describe your own style?
Classic, elegant, and fun.
Favorite vintage stores in the world?
I love flea markets worldwide. That's where you can find the best and most unique treasures!
Style pet peeve:
Bad tailoring and not leaving anything to the imagination. Best recent discovery:
A pet pig named Sprinkles ;)
Any other plans down the line?
I would love to get back into men’s styling!
Few directors’ first short films entail work by an Oscar-winning visual effects company, music by St Vincent, and a three-person stunt team. But few directors are Kristen Stewart. Only one is, in fact, and she has brought her 17-minute debut to Cannes this year: an abstract piece called Come Swim, in which a man (Josh Kaye) who remains nameless in the film itself, but is identified as Josh in the closing credits, wrestles with an unquenchable thirst – sometimes within a dream, and perhaps sometimes not.
It’s an earnest, sombre, often unsubtle work – but it’s also disciplined, sharply coherent, and cine-literate in an old-fashioned surrealist way. And its commitment to its own weirdness itself feels bold, given its director’s profile as a young actress (who got her break in a vampire romance franchise, no less!) who’s dared to stray to the far side of the camera. In other words, it would be an easy film to mock.
Easy, but wrong. Come Swim is significantly better than some of the ill-advised actor-directed projects the festival has programmed recently – perhaps, you sometimes wonder, as a prank (step forward Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn). Cannes has spent the last five years nurturing Stewart as a world cinema star to be reckoned with, and that plan came off: in 2015, she became the first American to win a César from the French Académie. So if they now also want to give her a platform as a filmmaker, more power to them, and her.
Come Swim opens with a silky-slow shot of a rolling, charcoal-coloured wave, before cutting to sea-froth washing quickly across the screen, an image heavily reminiscent of that old avant-garde staple, the melting film strip exposed for too long to the projector’s heat and light.
Then comes Josh: first suspended undersea, then is in bed, blearily reaching for a glass of water, which he spills, jolting the film into another room, where he laps the stuff straight from the tap. Josh is beset by a disembodied, critical (and female) voice, which sounds variously like his conscience, his nagging super-ego, his ex-lover, perhaps even some kind of victim of his. The voice overlaps with his own, and the words both speak are by turns critical and intimate, though ambiguously so: “I’m getting water in my mouth,” “It just feels stupid,” “This is my body, eat it,” and most enticingly: “A lie is never a lie, just a code you can’t crack.”
Meanwhile, Josh finds himself in various scenarios, always drinking, often in cars, sometimes moulting and desiccated, until relief, in the form of bodily submersion, finally arrives. Some shots involve a digital overpainting technique which achieves an effect not unlike painting or scratching on celluloid which a smaller production could have achieved for a fraction of a percentage point of the price. But as I say, this is no ordinary first film.
Cynics may scoff that anyone with Stewart’s budget and calibre of crew could have made a good film. But even just a second’s reflection throws up countless examples where they didn’t. (Again, hello Gosling and Penn.) The truth is, she has something – and when there's something more, Cannes will no doubt make room.
Little White Lies Kristen Stewart presents her visually arresting directorial debut at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
There is always something enthralling about a long-time actor’s decision to step behind the camera. Is it a bid to prove something? Do they really have an artistic vision, or are they existentially struggling with the fact that they are a mere puppet rather than a full-bore creator? The results of these directorial dalliances have resulted in some astounding films. For every Warren Beatty (Reds) or Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) though, there’s a Sean Penn (The Last Face) or Ryan Gosling (Lost River).
The latest screen icon to jump behind the camera is none other than Kristen Stewart, star of Certain Women, Personal Shopper and the Twilight saga. Instead of launching directly into making a full length feature, Stewart has opted to turn her hand to short-form filmmaking with Come Swim. The film details a man’s struggle with loss; perhaps the departure of a lover, though it may just as likely be this lover’s death. With his significant other absent, a man (Josh Kaye) is left simultaneously drowning and dying of thirst. The identity of this lover remains unclear until the film’s finale, yet most will recognise the woman’s voice as belonging to Stewart herself.
Like many actor-turned-directors before her, Stewart wears her influences on her sleeve. To express the interior crisis of her protagonist, she invokes the surrealism of David Lynch along with the body horror of David Cronenberg. The film’s aquatic metaphors remain appropriately ambiguous in the first segment, in which Stewart’s storytelling is purely impressionistic. Yet as the story progresses it begins to hint at a big reveal, one that dampens the enthralling mystery set up at the outset.
While Come Swim begins as an exercise in surrealism, it eventually exposes its transparency in what seems like an attempt to concede to the expectations of a more generalised audience. The vivid depictions of thirst and drowning are replaced by matter-of-fact storytelling, with Stewart’s own voiceover becoming less cryptic and more of a guiding light.
These script contrivances aside, Come Swim is a beautiful looking piece of work. With the help of cinematographer John Guleserian, Stewart has crafted a rapturous visual wonder that far outshines the deficiencies of the screenplay. While the images may not coalesce to any conventionally satisfying measure, they nonetheless hint at a young filmmaker with real talent. As a debut, Come Swim is admirable. It may not be entirely effective, but it does serve as a reminder that the best way to learn filmmaking is to pick up a camera and shoot.
Come Swim, the experimental 18-minute short film from actress-turned-director Kristen Stewart already premiered at Sundance and screened in the Special Screening section in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. The short is Stewart’s ambitious directorial debut and is structured into two parts.
Josh (Josh Kaye), the protagonist and basically only character on screen, is introduced in the impressionist first half of the short. The film opens with the image of a slowly-moving wave and then cuts to Josh floating underwater. He is about to drown but wakes up on a mattress in a run-down and cold room. Dehydrated he tries to satisfy his immense thirst by chugging one bottle of water after another but it doesn’t have any effect on him. While he stumbles around the apartment, a woman’s voice can be heard. It keeps on repeating the same sentences over and over again and starts to overlap with Josh’s own voice. Josh then is seen driving around in his car visiting several locations, always drinking water yet he dehydrates and deteriorates at the same time.
The nightmarish first part is followed by a realistic take of Josh sort of re-living his previous nightmare. He wakes up in his now nicely furnished apartment and gets ready for work. Similar to before, he keeps on hearing the same voices again – this time around they don’t seem threatening but intimate and also flirtatious. It’s obvious that he is struggling with a recent break-up and its painful memories. Driving around, he passes by the same locations we have seen before and eventually ends up at the beach, ready to jump into the waves of the ocean and take a swim.
Stewart’s short, to which she has also written the script, is a solid and unconventional debut. Despite its experimental form, Come Swim sticks to a sort of linear narrative structure. It explores the heartache and pain caused by a break-up and coming to terms with it through abstract and often haunting visuals, accompanied by an electronic score composed by musician St. Vincent.