Interning at Vogue, freelancing at Opening Ceremony, assisting stylist to the stars Kate Young… It sounds like a dream, but Beverly Nguyen’s living it. Nathalie Owen finds out how.
For Beverly Nguyen, a career in fashion was always on the cards.
“It’s really weird to confidently say that, but since the beginning, it’s always been fashion,” she says, when we meet outside the Albright Fashion Library in New York, where she’s been pulling clothes for an upcoming shoot with celebrity stylist Kate Young.
Wearing a white strappy dress, black woven shoes and a red crocodile bag, Beverly’s worlds away from her preppy upbringing in Orange County, California. “Everyone in my high school wore Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch, so they didn’t understand why I wanted to wear a tangerine, 80s, shoulder-padded Goodwill top with cut-off shorts.”
But fashion’s in the blood for Beverly, who grew up running around in her mother’s jewellery and Charles David mules. “One of my earliest memories was going to my parents’ apparel factory and helping them sew clothes. They didn’t have a babysitter, so they asked me to help cut off threads.”
When university rolled around, Beverly chose to major in visual merchandising. “I applied for the New School and FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology] in New York, but when it came down to it, there was no way I could move across the country just yet.”
Enrolling in the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2010, Beverly split her time between school and working as a visual merchandiser at Banana Republic. “It was crazy,” she recalls. “I’d go to my job at 5.45am and work until noon, then go to class till 10pm, then go out and party every night, five days a week. I was just really excited to be in a city where people understood creative ideas.”
Beverly’s career is hectic but filled with incredible (photo) opportunities – and she’s got the ‘grams to prove it.
With a year to go before graduation, Beverly decided to take the leap and move to New York with her boyfriend, thinking, ‘If I’m serious about fashion, I should probably get an internship’. When a friend told her about an opening at Lucky magazine, she jumped at the chance, only to find the position had been filled.
Luckily, what came next was an offer to die for: an interview for an internship in the beauty department at Vogue.
WHEN VOGUE CALLS
“I bought a one-way ticket that Thursday, had the interview on Friday and started on Monday,” she says. “I left all my stuff in San Francisco, had no money and finished my degree online.”
At Vogue, Beverly learned to pick up the phone, pitch story ideas and write articles for vogue.com, with the women she worked with her inspiration. “Those women work really hard. I’d never seen work ethic like that and felt really privileged to be part of it.”
“I bought a one-way ticket that Thursday, had the interview on Friday and started on Monday”
While other interns crumbled under the pressure, Beverly thrived in the fast-paced environment.
“You’re literally running errands, but I met so many different people that I wouldn’t have met if I’d sent a messenger to go and do them. It’s those tiny chances and opportunities that a place like Vogue offers you.”
It was this hands-on approach that led to her next role at Opening Ceremony as a freelance hair and makeup artist in the e-commerce office. “There’s nothing like an e-commerce team that works well together,” she says. “We were like a family — it was so much fun.”
Kate dresses Selena Gomez for the 2015 Victoria’s Secret show (left). Beverly and Kate on the job (right).
For the next year and a half, the team would come in, blast music and shoot 40 looks a day. But even with her new-found passion for beauty, Beverly never lost sight of her love of fashion, and ended up taking a role as a stylist assistant at e-commerce site La Garçonne.
“If you have [good] taste, you can pick out clothes, but it’s all about discipline and being able to know when to interact, how far you’re willing to go to get the shot, and how to pick the right models. I learned all that at La Garçonne.”
THE GAME CHANGER
And then she met Kate Young, the celebrity stylist who dresses Hollywood It-girls including Sienna Miller, Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman, Dakota Johnson and Margot Robbie. “Kate likes to say she stole me from La Garçonne,” says Beverly. “My dad was sick and I was going to move home when my friend in PR said, ‘I don’t know if you’re interested, but I just met Kate Young and she’s looking for a new assistant.’”
The next week, Beverly called in sick to assist Kate on a test shoot for Lucky — but as fate would have it, the shoot was right outside the La Garçonne office! Beverly confessed to Kate that she’d lied to her boss, and “at the end of the day she looked at me and said, ‘I hope you don’t get fired for this — or maybe you will,’ gave me a wink and got in her car”. The rest is history.
LIFE AS A STYLIST
“Working with Kate is the most amazing experience,” says Beverly. “I went into it thinking, ‘This can either be crazy madness every day, or I can actually try to control Kate’s studio.’” Cue the latter: from hiring assistants, booking tailors and organising clothes, to travelling all over the world, Beverly ensures everything’s in place so Kate’s fittings with her celebrity clientele run smoothly. “It’s an incredible opportunity,” she says.
One of the biggest events of the year is the Oscars in February/March, which Kate starts planning for in November. “The majority of the women we dress are committed to designers, so it starts with sketches, then the first fittings happen in January,” says Beverly. From there, the designers come in to fit the actresses — and that’s when Kate really gets her hands dirty. “She asks if we need a ribbon around the waist, or if we need to cap the sleeve or shorten the bust. I’m there for support, to choose jewellery and to say whether I agree [with something] or if it’s not cool.”
Travelling the world with Kate is one of the rewards of the seriously hard work but, says Beverly, “our relationship is really the highlight.”
Whether it’s working on Selena Gomez’s tour, or having access to the biggest names in fashion and film, assisting Kate certainly has its perks. But the biggest on Beverly’s list is the travel; she accompanies Kate on every trip. Although there are some days that see Beverly sitting in a car full of suitcases feeling overwhelmed, “I never feel like I couldn’t tell Kate that, because she’s [worked as an assistant herself] and will check on me and ask if I need to hire more help. That’s one of the things I love about working with her — she’s so centered and calming.
“Looking back, I know I’ve worked for a lot of big names, but when you’re in it, you don’t realise how big it is,” says Beverly. She adds that although she didn’t specifically set out to work at Vogue or Opening Ceremony, she was lucky that those were exactly the types of jobs she should have been pursuing. “The way it happens in New York is that the decisions come fast, and if you don’t say yes then and there, the opportunity’s gone. There’s no time to strategise.”
So what’s next for the budding stylist? “I’ve had a five-year plan my whole life, but when I started with Kate I could see myself being with her for 10 years,” she says. Regardless, she has a line of luxury robes, By Beverly, in the works, and we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for that one — proof that with hard work, determination and a little bit of luck, in the wonderful world of fashion, anything’s possible.