She's Keeling It, Stylist Keely Murphy
Photography: Larsen Sotelo
Styling: Keely Murphy
Creative Direction: Bridgette Bayley
Production: Sophia Callahan
Makeup: Maddie North
Hair: Crystal Liz
Interview: Cinnamon Frost
As early as she can remember, Keely Mackenzie Murphy has always been on the path to becoming a stylist. Her dream as a child was to possess handmade items, and to mesh things together on her own. By way of Manhattan Beach, Murphy shares how she got her start at the fastest growing retailer, Nasty Gal, knowing when to ask for help, and her Myspace influence.
Cinnamon Frost: What is a busy day in your life like?
Keely Murphy: [Laughs] Going to work, tracking packages on eBay, putting together outfits. That’s kind of it; that’s so weird. My ideal Sunday would be to get up and go to the Goodwill, come home, paint on the things that I’ve found, and then take a bunch of photos for my Instagram in my mirror.
Cinnamon Frost: Between your painting and your styling, does one influence the other?
Keely Murphy: I think they kind of influence the other. For right now, styling is the best way that I’ve found to communicate. I would like to have more art practices but I’ve found styling to be lucrative, and very fun. I don’t see them to be mutually exclusive.
CF: How did you get into styling?
KM: I think I got involved because I knew some people in film. I started assisting on music videos and things like that, and thought maybe I wanted to do production or the art department side. Styling came to me, easily, and I would get asked to do it, a lot. From there, I had a couple internships.
CF: What brought you to Nasty Gal?
KM: I interned at, Nasty Gal, and then, Rodarte. I assisted a couple of stylists here [in L.A.] when I got done with school. After that, the job at Nasty Gal came up while I was looking for something a little more stable. It worked out! I was also doing Jeffrey Campbell stuff and my boss there, she pushed me to do more. She has been really helpful. I’m thankful because she made me think I could do it, which is cool.
CF: That’s really cool. Where do you see yourself going with this work as a stylist, whether that’s solo or within the company?
KM: I really love my job and I love my coworkers. I mean, we have a lot of freedom to make really cool projects but I think ultimately, I want to have a brand of my own and maybe a space, like a store slash gallery.
CF: Would that be in L.A.?
KM: Probably L.A. first because I live here, and there’s a lot of that going on right now. It’s a really friendly climate for smaller concept stores, and it’s easier to do here with rent and everything. I’d like to have a line that sells homewares and stuff as well. Clothes, but also bedding--
CF: I’m a sucker for homewares!
KM: I love it! I think my mom really liked it when I was growing up. We’d order new sheets and things. I’ve just always been really into that. It’s not too far away from fashion.
CF: It’s just decorating your space rather than, you know, your body.
KM: Exactly. It’s just like dressing your home.
CF: How has growing up in L.A. influenced your work and your personal style?
KM: Living here gave me a chance to shop and build my whole wardrobe, which is a luxury. The town that I grew up in, Manhattan Beach, was definitely a small sort of beach town that’s kind of like the center of punk. I was always really envious of the other teenagers, like the way they all dressed. I think to this day, I still take a lot of my styling queues from the high schoolers that were above me, and the people I would see on Myspace, like the photos I would stalk. I still envy a lot of those things because that was where the realness came from as far as how to look really cool. I think that totally influenced my style.
CF: Where does the courage come from to begin to pursue your goals?
KM: It comes from my mom. I think she was really supportive. Both of my parents wanted my sister and I to do whatever we could because they knew that we were more creative than, I don’t know, academic in a traditional way. I think now with my mom being gone, I just wouldn’t want to let her down. I think that’s why I’m working at it. She gave me all the tools to do so, so why would I back down now?
CF: That’s amazing. How do you stay inspired?
KM: We’re so image-saturated right now. There’s so much to see. Sometimes I feel like it’s hard and question what’s the point in trying to keep up with everything? But then I feel like we have so much more power now. Like it’s all in your hands. If you want to produce, there are venues for it. I love seeing what other people are doing. I love checking up on shopping and editorials because you can see parallels between different people. There’s a collective consciousness, stuff that everyone’s thinking about that has to do with outside influences and circles of trends in fashion. It’s a little self-reflective about culture, which is cool.
CF: How good are you at asking for help?
KM: I don’t know, I’m pretty stubborn and self-righteous. I try and understand where I can only go so far and when I need other people to meet me halfway. Recently, I’ve gotten to work with more photographers on a one-on-one where we develop things together. I really like that experience. Having that rapport makes it a lot easier for me to seek advice. I think other times, I get very defensive of my aesthetic. It’s just not wanting to lose what my intuition was because of surrounding influences. Trying to do creative things while also making them commercially viable is hard. Like you do have to ask for help. If somebody’s footing the bill, it has to be beneficial to them.
CF: What have you discovered about yourself to never be repeated? Maybe a mistake that you’ve made in the past and then said, “I’m never gonna do that again.”
KM: Oh man, okay, definitely got some of those. I think just with any job, you learn your do’s and your don'ts. What feels good at the time and what you’d prefer not to do again. I think there’s a lot of things like that when you’re on the lower end of production like assisting a lot. Those are not my favorite things to do; it’s just not the most honest. But I know now that I only like to work with people that I really like. Having a good friendship on set is really important.
CF: It’s so important. You do your best work that way.
KM: Totally! When you’re working with people who are on the same wavelength mentally, it’s so much easier and the work is better.
CF: Who were your childhood heroes?
KM: [Laughs] I loved Elvis. I loved male rockstars at a very young age. I think as soon as I got to college, it all pretty much switched to females. I think it’s indicative of a lot of girls’ thought processes, when you finally realize the way that icons are thrust upon us. They really don’t need to be that way. In terms of modern people I admire, I love Paris Hilton. I think she’s just a genius entrepreneur.
CF: And lastly, what’s the greatest secret to composing the perfect outfit?
KM: [Laughs] Not thinking too hard! Trusting your instincts and not being afraid of repercussions ’cause at the end of the day it’s just a yellow shirt with blue pants. That’s not the worst thing ever. There’s no wrong answer.
Originally published in IN #5, Fall 2016