Tara Swennen has been Kristen Stewart’s stylist since the actress appeared on the Into the Wild red carpet wearing Chanel in 2007. Since then, we’ve seen Stewart in everything from studded minis and many T-shirt-and-jean combos to the more recent floor-length gowns and sheer jumpsuits. Quite the evolution. For the Twilight finale, Swennen — who also styles Julie Bowen and Connie Britton — chose particularly dramatic looks, aiming to put Stewart in outfits that would reflect this “end of an era” for tween fans, starting with a butt-baring, nude Zuhair Murad number. “It took a lot of balls for her to wear that dress, so I’m super-proud of her,” Swennen said of the controversial pick. Read ahead for the stylist’s thoughts on red-carpet sneakers, Ghesquière’s departure from Balenciaga, and where she thinks Stewart’s style will evolve from here.
How did you choose the looks for these recent Twilight red carpets?
It all stemmed from the fact that this was the end of a big chapter in her life. Twilight is coming to a close, so we wanted to do stronger looks. Just recently, she’s embraced doing the long-gown thing, so it was definitely an opportunity for me to stick as many as I could on her. We just wanted to make a grand escape, I guess, rather than a grand entrance. And through the years, she’s come into her own, and so now she’s letting me play a little bit more. I’m going from a glam moment to an androgynous moment from one carpet to the next; we like making sure that we push boundaries on every carpet.
Right, legs seem to be her thing, and now she’s wearing these long dresses. Why the change?
I think it’s just time. She’s become a woman since I’ve known her. She’s a tomboy at heart (both of us are), but she understands that fashion is an arena, that she can be a chameleon and not dress the way she does every single day. She’ll always change into her Converse by halfway through a carpet, which is to be expected at this point, but she puts on the heels for me for the photos, God bless her. At the end of the day, I want my clients to be comfortable because I think it shows. She needs to put on her sneakers and that’s alright with me.
So, as a stylist, how do you feel about sneakers on a red carpet?
Well, I clearly prefer a heel. I just think it photographs better. Regardless of it being any type of heel, I think it elongates the silhouette, which obviously you always wanna do, make them look taller and have that longer look. But it’s part of her personality; I think it’s fun when she does it. There are definitely times when I have to say, “Please, please, please put the heel on just for me.”
Kristen has been wearing also a lot of Zuhair Murad lately. Why that particular designer?
It really fits her silhouette. Like Balmain a few years ago, you pretty much just zip it up and it fits. He’s had some very unique pieces; as you can obviously see, we went from the lace bustier gown at the premiere to the completely sheer beaded jumpsuit in London. He really does have a lot of very exquisite pieces; it’s couture essentially. I’m drawn to it just because each look is so special, and then it’s been fitting her so elegantly. She’s worn three recently, and each one of them has been stunning. Don’t get me wrong, there are some pieces of his that she tried on that would never have worked, but these particular pieces have been amazing.
Is there anything that you can’t get her to wear that you would love to see her in?
She doesn’t have her ears pierced, still, so it’s a running joke that when she’s 25, I’ll finally get her in jewelry. She doesn’t really carry purses, but she does that because she really enjoys signing autographs for her fans. She doesn’t really need to carry anything, so she doesn’t see the point.
Do you weigh in on what she wears off the red carpet?
No, I give her a lot of stuff from designers, but she comes up with her day-to-day looks on her own.
What would she gravitate toward if you didn’t style her for the red carpet?
Just T-shirt and jeans. You know, she really like leather jackets right now. She’s been lucky with Balenciaga; she’s been able to get her favorite quilted one in every color. She loves her Ray-Bans. She likes sweatshirts, she likes a good rugged jacket, maybe a nice warm sweater here or there.
How has her style evolved from the first Twilight red carpet to now?
It all came with embracing her womanhood. When it all started, she was 15 years old, I think, and she was a young girl, she was a young teen. Now she’s 22, and she’s a young woman. There are certain things you can pull off when you’re older that you can’t as a young teenager. She’s grown into being more comfortable on the red carpet; she’s definitely embracing elegance and gracefulness. Obviously I’ve been able to push more on her, but I think her confidence level is really the thing that’s changed the most over the years.
Is it a struggle to get her into these more feminine gowns?
I’m able to get such beautiful pieces for her. There are certain silhouettes she still just gravitates toward and others that, like with any client, you have to push a little bit to take them out of their comfort zone. But she’s willing to try it on just for me, just so I can say, “Listen, this is like Christmas for me when these amazing couture pieces show up in these boxes; you have to try it on so I can see it in the flesh, and then you can take it off.” But when she does that, every once in a while, she actually sees something that she hasn’t seen before and likes it, and all of a sudden we have something new that she wants to wear, which is super-exciting, so luckily for me, she likes to appease my begging.
On this one Twilight tour, she’s been wearing the same jewelry, the one necklace and two bracelets. Is that something that she was adamant about?
Yes, her jewelry is jewelry that tends to stay on her only because it has sentimental value to her, whether it’s from friends or family, There was one bracelet [by Iwona Ludyga] that I gave her at the beginning of the tour, and she’s been wearing it a lot, it’s a red triangle. But it’s really a fluke with jewelry. I don’t even pull it at this point because I know that she’s gonna wear her personal stuff.
So it’s not like you either have to show it off or hide it, it just kind of gets incorporated?
It’s her second skin, essentially, at this point.
Kristen wears a lot of Balenciaga, obviously. How did you react to Nicolas Ghesquière parting ways with Balenciaga?
I think he’s a genius. I think he did amazing stuff with the brand. Whatever he chooses to do, I think he’ll be brilliant at it, and I think they’ll choose somebody wonderful to fill his shoes. I still love the brand, I will continue to pull it, and she’ll continue to wear it. We have a wonderful relationship with Nicolas, and that won’t change either. She actually still has one more [Balenciaga.] Obviously she still has her On the Road press through the end of the year. We still have one more look that I’d love to get on her.
Do you have ideas for who could take that job?
I don’t know. I honestly can’t say at this point.
So, where do you see Kristen’s style going from here?
I love that she’s getting more and more glamorous every time. One of the things that I love about her is that she is willing to take a risk. As a stylist, that is one of the best things you can ask for. She’s not afraid of prints and sheerness and textures, so I just hope we can to continue to do fun things. [My only goal] would be to get some accessories on her. We’ll see where she goes from here.