Somebody really needs to give Ali Marie Kahn a reality show, because those Hills girls have nothing on her. After working as a fashion stylist in Houston and around Texas for magazine shoots, fashion shows, movies and clients, Kahn headed to the epicenter of glitz and glam — Los Angeles — 18 months ago. Since the move, Kahn has found herself rubbing elbows with celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe and outfitting members of American Idol, but her real passion lies in the Los Angeles resale stores she scours for vintage finds.
Much like fashion inspiration Carrie Bradshaw, Khan is always in a pair of heels. And, like most women who find themselves drawn to the industry, Kahn has always been a style-setter, so it wasn’t a surprise when she left for L.A.’s sunny scene in July 2007. Just like in a movie script, Kahn found an apartment with hardwood floors and lots of character in the Hollywood Hills just three days after arriving in southern California. Jobs with American Idol (she styled judge Kara DioGuardi for photo shoots), Disney and Nickelodeon soon followed.
Experienced in the way the style scene works in Houston, she had a bit of a learning curve in Los Angeles. In Houston, most stores allow stylists to borrow or “pull” pieces for shoots for free or with a credit card number. Kahn discovered there is a restocking fee charged when stylists pull for cover shoots or music videos, because the store owners assume certain pieces won’t make it back. So now, she pulls from high-end designers, but she also chooses clothing and accessories from more budget-friendly stores like Forever 21.
Established in Houston, Kahn quickly made contacts in her new city and started working. Being in the right place at the right time helped, too. One gig fell in her lap when someone else backed out at the last minute and she landed another by simply chatting with someone at a bar while waiting for her friend.
“You just have to know that one reputable person. Michael Kors is cool to work with,” she says about the designer who makes regular Los Angeles visits. “The market is so saturated and there is so much work.”
Between parties in the Hollywood Hills, working on movie sets and trips to the beach, Kahn also shops for vintage clothing. Not content to keep the pieces all to herself, she started holding shopping parties for friends.
“My friends don’t want to pilfer through clothes and they don’t have a ton of money, but they have great taste. I love going through all the dive resale shops around L.A. Most of the time, the stores don’t know what amazing things they have,” Kahn says.
On a recent trip to Houston, Kahn brought 80 pieces, including timeless Dolce & Gabbana little black dresses, Chanel blouses, and YSL and Marc Jacobs jackets, for a shopping party she threw. Nothing was over $100 and on the heart-shaped tags, she listed how the trend could be worn. Kahn herself was in vintage, pairing denim shorts with a nautical Marc Jacobs top, simple navy tank, gold hoop earrings and gold platform heels, of course.
“I look at the trends each season and then work vintage into my wardrobe. These designer pieces are so well made that they look great after all these years,” Kahn says. Tops of her list for spring are florals and linen updated with modern pieces.
Vintage hunting in L.A. is grand, but Kahn has her sights set on Paris, where the finds are nothing short of divine. But she hasn’t forgotten where she started.
“I could never snub my city. Houston is where I got my start. Really, the stars aligned for me in L.A.,” Kahn said. “It’s good to start in a small place and be persistent.”