The Orthodox stylist who makes stars glimmer at the Oscars
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'All my clients have become my friends. It’s very intimate when you dress someone'

The Orthodox stylist who makes stars glimmer at the Oscars

From Mayim Bialik’s modest grace to Us the Duo’s elegant grunge, celebrity stylist Adena Rohatiner’s work lights up the red carpet

Stylist Adena Rohatiner has amassed a collection of over 150 pairs of shoes for her clients' use. (Courtesy)
Stylist Adena Rohatiner has amassed a collection of over 150 pairs of shoes for her clients' use. (Courtesy)

LOS ANGELES — When the annual awards season hits Hollywood, celebrity stylist Adena Rohatiner can spends days considering as many as 75 looks for a single client’s outfit. But not her own.

“I get dressed in three seconds,” Rohatiner tells The Times of Israel.

At her interview, she is wearing Rag & Bone jeans, an LNA T-shirt, Golden Goose sneakers, low-end Forever 21 sunglasses, a Zara jacket, a navy leather Proenza Schouler messenger bag and a Rolex watch — a gift from her husband.

“I don’t have time to dress like the people that I dress,” Rohatiner says.

“Quick make-up, I don’t do my hair. T-shirt, jeans. I’m ready to go. In the showrooms, all the girls are dressed to the nines and I show up in jeans… I can’t be in heels.”

‘I don’t have time to dress like the people that I dress’

Each winter there’s an uptick in the demand for designer looks, and increased reliance on the ones who make the “beautiful people” look beautiful in front of the cameras on Hollywood’s ubiquitous red carpets.

For Rohatiner, squeezing in an interview with a reporter at a local coffee shop during a brisk week means greeting unexpected friends in between interview questions, bites of pastry and sips of coffee. It’s a typical breakfast for this size 2 mother of two who usually wears jeans and sneakers — albeit luxury versions of both — to dress her clients in some of the greatest names in fashion.

Celebrity stylist Adena Rohatiner at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, pulling looks for her client Grace Gealey. (Courtesy)
Celebrity stylist Adena Rohatiner at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, pulling looks for her client Grace Gealey. (Courtesy)

A member of West LA’s Modern Orthodox community, Rohatiner is the niece of Jeff Rohatiner, purveyor of Jeff’s Sausages, a local booming kosher eatery, as well as the niece of Rachel Zalis, a previous West Coast editor of Glamour magazine.

As a marketing student at Stern College and The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Rohatiner interned at Glamour magazine and for a few big names — Teri John, Joie and James Perse and celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe. That experience sold her on the profession.

After graduating, Rohatiner worked for Hollywood stylists Estee Stanley and Cristina Ehrlich, assisting with styling A-listers and helping to develop their clothing line, Miss Davenporte. After several years, she landed a gig behind the scenes for the syndicated television show “Extra,” styling anchor Maria Menounos for daily on-air appearances and star-studded events, such as the Oscars. This year, the 89th Academy Awards takes place on February 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre.

Adena Rohatiner worked at Glamour and for big-name stylists before branching out on her own. (Courtesy)
Adena Rohatiner worked at Glamour and for big-name stylists before branching out on her own. (Courtesy)

In 2014, Rohatiner launched her business, styling celebrity clients for commercials, magazine shoots and red carpets. Award season days cram in nearly too many events to consider. One recent week, she dressed a client for an Entertainment Weekly party, the NAACP Image Awards, Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, a Netflix premiere, a film premiere, two more industry events — and held consults for a new client.

Indeed, Rohatiner, embodies something hummingbird-like. Petite and lithe, she flits from one topic to another. Her phone buzzes with percussive texts as out-of-town friends grabbing coffee also grasp her attention for a quick hello at our outdoor table.

‘I’ve worked so hard to get to his point. It’s one of the reasons I’m so skinny’

“I want to be a top stylist,” Rohatiner says. “I’ve worked so hard to get to his point. It’s one of the reasons I’m so skinny. I’m always carrying dead garment bags. I’m very quick moving.”

Indeed. When asked how many clients she has, she attempts to count on her fingers. “I actually have no idea,” she says. “It’s always changing.”

She settles on 15 as she describes the process of how dressing a celebrity unfolds. It begins at some 20 showrooms around Los Angeles. Often, a publicist will email a request to style a client for an upcoming event.

“Sometimes the celebrity will reach out to me, but by this time, I know the vibe,” she says.

Adena Rohatiner spends another day at the home office. (Courtesy)
Adena Rohatiner spends another day at the home office. (Courtesy)

In response, Rohatiner prefers to spend two work days “pulling,” seeking out potential items for a client and borrowing them from showrooms. For client Mayim Bialik, who prefers to dress more modestly than many celebs, Rohatiner requests items from New York that are shipped to LA. Rohatiner actually initially offered to work with Bialik through a publicist because of her familiarity with the actor’s observant Jewish lifestyle.

“We get along really well and I love her,” Rohatiner says.

At her Beverlywood home office — a converted dining room with a mirrored wall — Rohatiner will display 50 to 75 options for each event across two racks. When a client comes over, it’s surprisingly informal.

Adena Rohatiner goes over accessories for a client. (Courtesy)
Adena Rohatiner goes over accessories for a client. (Courtesy)

“We’re having fun, eating candy, drinking espresso,” Rohatiner says. “All my clients have become my friends. It’s very intimate when you dress someone. You spend a lot of time together.”

After decisions are simplified to a few choices, the selection process gets increasingly practical.

“We’ll take pictures and send them to the publicist for approval,” Rohatiner says. “Once we decide on an outfit, it needs to be tailored same day or next and then I’ll pick it up and bring them jewelry and shoes to try on with everything.”

Rohatiner maintains a collection of 150 shoes acquired over time for her clients’ use.

‘I hate being in the public eye, but I am so happy for my work to be on display’

An assistant helps with pick-ups, returns and pulling. Often items are lent for the event. Occasionally, they are gifted. Sometimes, designers create a custom look. A mix of established and rising stars, her list includes Torrey Devitto, Us the Duo, Madelaine Petsch, and Chrissie Fitt.

One of her regulars, Grace Gealey, star of Fox’s “Empire,” is frequently featured in People magazine, Vogue.com and other media outlets for her stand-out looks. Rohatiner routinely posts them on Instagram, each one a fashion achievement.

“My work is so public,” Rohatiner says. “I get so excited. I love the red carpet because I love seeing it.”

Surprisingly, she shuns the limelight.

“I hate being in the public eye,” she says. “I don’t like it when people sing me ‘Happy Birthday.’ But I am so happy for my work to be on display.”

Daughter Ayla, age six, helps Adena Rohatiner at the office. (Courtesy)
Daughter Ayla, age six, helps Adena Rohatiner at the office. (Courtesy)

Her schedule, crazy though it may be at times, still allows her to be an engaged parent for her two young children, Ayla age six and Asher, three. Fridays are challenging but she enjoys preparing their favorite kugel, yapchik — a slow-cooked meat and potato dish — for Shabbat.

It can sometimes be challenging to work as a stylist who observes the Sabbath.

“There are not that many award shows on Saturdays,” she says. But when there is, she adds, “I offer them to get ready at my house.”

But even with constantly changing requests, “I can still take my kids to and from school, help with PTA, go on a hike,” she says.

Adena Rohatiner onsite at a fashion shoot at Vasquez Rocks. (Courtesy)

When attending a shoot or an on-site fitting with a celebrity, Rohatiner tows along a few musts. Like a fashion fairy godmother, her bag includes “top stick,” double sticky tape that she orders online in bulk, a steamer to remove wrinkles, scissors, wet wipes, stain remover stick, lint roller, Spanx, shoe pads, pasties and a sewing kit.

“I don’t know how to sew,” she says. “I need to learn how.”

In addition to her celebrity clients, Rohatiner also works as a personal shopper, helping clients create a capsule wardrobe of reliable looks. She revamps entire wardrobes at a cost of $100-$150 per hour.

‘I get rid of 80 percent. You don’t need a lot’

“They’ll be on a budget,” she says. “So I’m quick… I can change everything out. I get rid of 80 percent. You don’t need a lot.”

She spends about an hour to edit a closet. Then she makes a list of what is needed to round it out again. She will usually spend one to three hours shopping at stores like Nordstrom’s, Barney’s, Bloomingdales and Zara. Some businesses require purchases so she prefers to meet clients at dressing rooms where they can try on what she has already selected before taking items home. Other stores allow her to borrow items for a client, who usually spends from $1,000 to $3,000 to create a new wardrobe.

Women who wear pants require less items, Rohatiner says. More choices are needed for women who rely on skirts and dresses. A key piece for religious women? A leather jacket to make more modest looks more fashionable.

Asher gives his opinion on some shoes for stylist Adena Rohatiner. (Courtesy)
Asher gives his opinion on some shoes for stylist Adena Rohatiner. (Courtesy)

“A leather jacket is so essential to a wardrobe,” she says. “The fit and quality is important.”

Her best personal shopper advice of all? “When you wear something, flip the hanger.” She insists most people wear the same things over and over again, so what doesn’t get flipped, should eventually get tossed.

‘When you wear something, flip the hanger’

When a client makes over their look and it works, “it’s so gratifying,” Rohatiner says. “I get texts from clients telling me, ‘I feel great.’”

But the one person she would most love to dress, won’t let her. Her husband tends to wear chinos and Nikes with standard-issue button-down shirts to synagogue.

“I wish he would let me dress him,” Rohatiner says. “When we were dating, I threw out his entire closet.”

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