By Allison Duncan
Windy City stylist Eric Himel is a blast of fresh air in a business mostly concentrated in New York City and Los Angeles. Himel chose to base his styling company in Chicago because NYC and L.A. were already saturated with stylists. “Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, but it was leaps and bounds behind in terms of style,” says Himel. “People were hungry for it here.”
And Himel has been hungry for a career in fashion his entire life. He began his studies at the Parson’s School of Design in New York City, where Project Runway’s style guru Tim Gunn became one of Himel’s mentors. “Tim Gunn has definitely been a mentor to me throughout my career,” says Himel. “He was a teacher of mine 25 years ago, and I admire him because through his success, he has remained the same person and has kept his integrity.”
Following graduation, Himel moved to Los Angeles where he began his styling career. His business grew steadily so Himel expanded to Chicago, where he is now based and spends the majority of his time. With a roster of celebrity clients like E!’s Giuliana Rancic, The Bachelorette’s Jillian Harris and Windy City Live’s Valerie Warner and Ryan Chiaverini, Himel is one of the most sought after stylists in the city. But his ideal client, he explains, is someone that recognizes they hired Himel for his knowledge and talent and is able to trust him to make them look their best.
“My favorite people to style are those who will benefit deeply not just on the outside,” says Himel. “Anyone who has lost (or gained) weight, divorcees, widows, and people battling/recovering from illness.”
Himel has styled celebrities, editorial shoots for top magazines and newspapers in the Chicagoland area, television segments and events. “Editorial can be like a fantasy,” says Himel. “For television you need to understand patterns, color, lighting and camera angles. Event is the most ‘real’ so you need to make your client look his/her best in real life as well as for photos. I love styling for all the mediums.”
Himel’s extensive styling experience in a variety of channels sets him apart, but Himel also has a fashion philosophy that makes him stand out from the multitude of fashion stylists: that is, the beauty of fashion not only relies on what looks great on the outside, but more importantly the way that fashion makes one feel on the inside. “I don’t look at my competition,” says Himel. “But I think I am successful because I combine a history of fashion design, with an understanding of how garments are made, with objectivity toward other people’s style and bodies. I don’t make it all about me.”
But when asked about himself, Himel explains that his proudest accomplishment to date is being a good friend, son, uncle and brother. And in five years, he hopes to be able to reach the masses through television, radio, books, and his own clothing line featuring accessories as well. “I want to start my own line so looking good won’t be exclusive to people with money,” says Himel. “It’s your right to look good!”
And while looking good is entirely subjective, Himel believes the definition of ‘great style’ is combining a unique mix of different styles, making your look your own by exuding confidence. “My favorite trendsetters do all of the above,” says Himel. “I love Zoe Saldana, Kate Moss and Helen Mirren. They’re all accomplished, have individual looks and are incredibly confident!”
It helps to have a great wardrobe, and Himel loves the aesthetic of a number of designers. “I really have favorite pieces in different collections that span so many designers,” says Himel. “For fall, I am loving Gucci, Ferragamo and Alexander McQueen.” And ultimately, it is Himel’s relationships with designers that give him insider access to the fashion industry, a notoriously difficult field.
“Styling is such a tough business because it is all about balancing personalities and being a great listener,” says Himel. “It is a constant balancing act.” If he had to give advice to an aspiring stylist, Himel counsels them to create a story and then make their client the star of it. And although Himel acknowledges that the styling business presents challenges every day, he loves his career.
“I knew I was going to be a fashion designer my whole life,” says Himel. “When I was younger, there was no such thing as a stylist. In the early 90’s when stylists came of age, I realized it was what I was always meant to be.” And Himel has certainly proven through his unparalleled success that it is always best to trust one’s instincts and follow your dreams.