Culture Interviews Style

Hillary Kerr on Her Style Icons, Twitter Guidelines and Encounter with Jared Leto

Who What Wear's cofounder Hillary Kerr

Our fall fashion curator Hillary Kerr, cofounder of Who What Wear, returns with hilariously wise style advice, social media tips and stories about her brushes with celebrities, on- and offline.

What are you looking forward to wearing this season? Are you planning to shake up your look in any particular way?

I’m really, really, really ridiculously excited to buy a new coat, mostly because I haven’t invested in one in a couple of years and feel like it’s time to do so. The textured Rebecca Taylor coat that’s in my Who What Wear guide is definitely on my list. Its fringed details make it seem like something Stevie Nicks would have worn while working on Rumours, and I appreciate the fact that it’s neutral and will go with just about everything in my closet. Additionally, I adore all of the faux fur outerwear options from Shrimps; they have so much personality and look so cheerful, which one needs desperately in the dead of winter. I also just purchased a pair of flared cords from The Great, which is one of my favorite new brands. The pants are crazy high-waisted but still super flattering and modern somehow. This purchase is rather outside the box for me because I wear pants extremely infrequently (basically never). Now, most people don’t hear “pants” and think “shake up,” but trust me when I say it’s totally wild for me.

What makes a great fall outfit?

Layers, layers, layers, layers and more layers! Also, texture! The best thing about fall is the fact that the cooler weather calls for layered outfits, which are infinitely more interesting to look at than, say, a simple summer slipdress. Embrace the season by adding texture (like suede, chunky knits or even fringe) and layers galore.

How did you select the pieces you chose for the Who What Wear Nordstrom edit?

First and foremost, the pieces had to feel spot-on for the season, whether that meant an incredible fringed coat that subtly nods to the ’70s or a casual take on the ’90s grunge trend with a boxy, buffalo-check jacket that could have come from the set of Cameron Crowe’s Singles. (One of my favorite movies, not that anyone asked!) Secondly, they needed to be versatile; the sort of items that can be styled in loads of different ways and worn both now, while the weather is still mild, as well as deep into winter, with just a few styling adjustments.

Is there something you’re currently coveting? Is there a trend you’re particularly excited about?

Right now I’m madly in love with Roksanda’s entire fall collection; everything just thrills me, from her use of color to the proportions to the way the garments are constructed. She makes things that are a pleasure to wear, plus they fit my body really well, which is obviously of some importance.

Hillary Kerr on set during a Nordstrom photoshoot Do you have any advice on cultivating a personal style? And how did you shape yours?

Like how I imagine it is for most people, my personal style is a mash-up of many different things. In my case, it includes, but is not limited to, the following: my love of Hitchcock heroines, stripes, Stevie Nicks, fighter pilots, Alice in Wonderland, Russian nesting dolls, Scarlett O’Hara, Drew Barrymore in the ’90s, Brigitte Bardot and ballerinas. These are all style touchpoints I’ve collected over my lifetime, and they’re always changing and evolving, which is honestly a delight. While the journey to discovering one’s personal style is different for each of us, if you’re trying to discover your own, simply pay attention to the things that speak to you. I have a million-billion (that’s an actual figure) Pinterest boards of things that inspire me, from old movie stills to editorials from my favorite magazines to black-and-white photos of my mom.

Are there any style icons you have that might surprise us?

You mean other than the Matryoshka dolls? Hmmmm. I love all of the late ’60s rock gods, like Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards, that sort of psychedelic English dandy look. I adore everything about British fashion photographer Tim Walker’s work, and how it always has a sense of twisted whimsy; that appeals to me greatly. Also Lux Lisbon, the main character in one of my favorite books, The Virgin Suicides, and Joan Didion are style-inspiration favorites too.

Do you have an accessory or item of clothing that is imbued with a certain memory or story?

I’m never without my gold and diamond bar necklace by Jennifer Meyer, which was given to me by my boyfriend and the only piece of jewelry I wear every day. There’s a funny story behind it, which involves a Vegas craps table, but that’s another tale for another time.

Is there an accessory or item of clothing that feels especially seasonal or on-trend right now?

Anything suede is having a moment right now, and I’m really into all of the longer-length duster coats, especially in a statement hue or two. (Some are reversible—swoon!)

Do you have any advice for getting the most out of your clothing investments, be it care or styling tips or both?

Before I buy something, I try to run it through my personal two-part test: Three Situations/Three Styles. In a perfect world, each piece I’m intending on buying should work for at least three situations, like: to the office, at a party and on the weekend. If that test has been satisfied, I then think about whether I can incorporate said potential investment piece into at least three totally different outfits. Sometimes you might love an item, but it really only works for a Sliding Doors version of yourself. For example, one time I fell in love with this gorgeous embroidered caftan, which would have been perfect if I was the sort of girl who made artisanal face oils on my crumbling-but-luxurious Ibiza compound, but it had no relevance in my pencil-skirt-and-pointy-heels world, sadly. Not that you should give up that sartorial dream should said caftan move you, but for me, buying it wouldn’t have been the smartest choice!

You have a fun Twitter account. Do you have any guidelines for managing it? Any rules of thumb for social media?

Well, I’m glad you like it! I still self-identify as an editor and very firmly believe in the importance of strong content, which means I tend to run a “so-what test” in my head before I tweet something. It’s a simple way of checking to see if whatever I’m putting out into the world is timely and additive in some way. Is it drawing attention to a great article, like the NPR piece about Ryan Adams’ take on Taylor Swift’s album 1989? (A truly great read on every level, by the way.) Am I spotlighting a ridiculously delicious restaurant that deserves to succeed? Or, is it simply so silly or entertaining that I just can’t keep it to myself, like that time I was literally running into the Givenchy show and nearly crashed into Nicki Minaj?

As for guidelines on managing it, I always remind myself that my parents read my Twitter feed. I’m not sure that’s actually true, but I pretend that it is and that keeps me in line. I also firmly believe that if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, or in front of a small child, you shouldn’t write it on Twitter. I’m a bit old-fashioned that way, I suppose.

Is there any encounter you’ve had on social media recently that’s notable?

Oh yes, and it features the one and only Jared Leto! At some point in the not-so-distant past, I wandered into his Instagram account and lost myself there for at least thirty minutes, admiring his hair and amusing captions in all their Jordan Catalano glory. When I came to, I tweeted about losing a half an hour on his Instagram feed, to which he jokingly replied something like: “Lost? But think of what you gained!” A winking emoji might have been involved; I cannot recall. Anyway, I immediately received a tidal wave of tweets from his adoring fans, most of whom were concerned that I was making fun of their Grand Poobah, which I most certainly wasn’t. It was overwhelming, to say the least. When things escalated, he very kindly stepped back into the Twitter fray to point out that both of us were joking, which put an end to the majority of the bellowing, much to my relief. Needless to say, it was memorable.

—Britt Olson