“I wake up every day to a problem I have to solve–– sometimes it’s frustrating, and sometimes it’s challenging, but it keeps me waking up in the morning.” We sat down to chat with New York based stylist Dani Morales about the creative process of styling, and shares stories and advice on working in the industry. Photographed by Louise Palmberg.
Raised in Seattle and living in LA, Dani ended up moving to New York on what seemed like a whim. She spent her twenties unsure of her path, testing the waters as an actress and a comedian, before her love for fashion came into the picture. “I started making stuff, was working a little bit of retail and dressing friends… I decided one day that I was going to move out here on a whim after having a conversation with a friend. He happened to have an apartment and let me rent it for the summer, so I packed up my stuff and 6 weeks later came to Manhattan.”
It seems that the move was not in vain, as she describes: “everything kind of fell into place when I moved to New York. I felt like I fell in love, like real love with something. Whatever I’d been moving around and searching for was here.” She held night jobs and side jobs while taking a class at FIT, and met a woman who owned a wardrobe rental showroom. After asking for a job, she interned and was later hired as her assistant. Since then she has fell into assisting for other stylists and getting work on her own.
Dani does both movie/commercial production and editorial styling. “I like to do both because there are pluses and minuses to both, and the good part of working freelance is that you never have to do the same job every day. Commercials [are] my bread and butter, and the artistic and fashion get to be my passion.”
When it comes to creative inspiration, Dani is inspired by other people’s passions. “I’m really inspired by people that I work with–– I feel like getting the opportunity to work with other artists that are out here working on something they’re so passionate about is so abstract. They are following what they feel they need to do as opposed to what society told them to do.” Her other inspiration? The women of New York. “I feel like you’ve got to be kind of lost not to walk down the street and feel inspired by how beautiful people look on a day to day basis here.”
So what would Dani like to see more of in the fashion world? “More young designers. I’m always looking out for new young designers that are from other places. It can be really hard to find, and it’s really expensive to start a fashion line, but it would be great to have more grants to inspire young people who are from different cultures or places to show what kind of art they can create.” Working with independent labels is important to her, and when she works shoots with a little more flexibility for independent magazines, always tries to include them.
“When I first moved to New York, I had a designer tell me: the most important thing to remember is not to compare yourself to anyone else’s process, and that your process is beautiful and unique and important the way it is,” says Dani on the creative process, adding “you have your own process and it’s going to happen the way it’s going to happen. That’s the art of it.” She describes her own process and aesthetic as a clean, beautiful, minimalistic insanity–– organized chaos. “I like to keep the beauty, but find the right amount of odd.”
In her styling kit, you can find socks, tights, topstick, a bleach pen, sanitizer–– and something from grandma. “I have a collection of my grandma’s [things]; my grandma always had a house full of clothes so I always try to put something of hers in every shoot that I do. She’s always been an inspiration to me.” Her other essential? A phone charger. “It will always make you a friend on set, especially if you’re assisting.”
Dani’s advice for up-and-coming stylists is to always say yes. “Part of what made me successful is just not worrying about whether something was going to get me somewhere or what I was going to get out of it. Just saying yes and filtering out what works for you and what doesn’t. In the beginning, always say yes–– be open to however tragic or exciting an experience might be. You’re going to find what it is you’re looking for.”
Thank you, Dani, for chatting with Atlas. You can follow her on Instagram @danimoralesstyle