A creative soul from a young age, a stylist at Amazon Fashion by day — a poet and light artist the rest. Chelsea Netzband greets me bright and early at her apartment on the cusp between the bustling Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods in Brooklyn, NY. She is wearing a black Metallica t-shirt, checkered pants, and a gold necklace that has the inscription “sissy” in cursive. As far as rock-and-roll goes at seven in the a.m. this is absolute.
Netzband currently works as a lead stylist at Amazon fashion. In the past, she worked in a creative capacity with a plethora of brands, including J Crew, Gap, Ivana Helsinki, and 12th Street by Cynthia Vincent among others. Her evolution into a stylist was a natural progression of her curious artistic spirit. Netzband grew up acting, which lended to her penchant to invent, create, and bring together various elements of her persona into the coveted umbrella of roles that is stylist. “Acting was a big aspect of my childhood and young adult life. From a really young age I was into designing clothes and dressing up and that kind of followed me through life. I like using my hands, being curious, adventuring. When I was younger, I was more in ‘my shell’ per se, and I used to always pretend. I used to go outside and play for hours and set up, like a house. My sister would come and find me and be like 'who are you taking to?’ I think both of these careers (fashion design and acting) have been an expression of my own art. It’s something that allows me to articulate myself in a deeper level.”
“As an artist you’re always evolving, learning to get comfortable with different aspects of yourself, and how to express it to the world”.
How did you get your start as a stylist and artist? Which came first?
“An artist came first for sure. Different types of self expression, creative writing and poetry, drawing, and self exploration in that, and then I kind of got into styling. I think that as an artist you’re always evolving, learning to get comfortable with different aspects of yourself, and how to express it to the world. I started my career in apparel design and in the past couple of years I made styling into a career. I had a brief stint launching a couple flagship retail stores here in New York and experienced the whole sales side of it, which was amazing because it showed me the business aspect. After exploring the purely sales side of the industry (with emerging brands like Solace London and Shrimps), I returned to the creative, I need to do something that allows me freedom to express myself. Being able to put colors and prints together, using different kinds of fabrication and textures, thats like a beautiful silhouette, a visual painting of whats going on inside of us.”
Can you describe your style and what you hope to capture when you're on set?
“my personal style and the way I style can sometimes be totally different things. In my personal style I like to juxtapose a lot, bringing in opposing kinds of forces and colors. Honestly in one word, I would say my style is eclectic. One day I can be super chic and I’ll wear all black and it just flows. And then there are days that I’m wearing a heavy metal band t-shirt and some cool pants.
“art as a whole is a force of hope and light. I think that it sheds a new perspective and fresh ideas and keeps the energy of the whole from being crazy stagnant.”
Tell us about the seeds of inspiration behind "your art/your styling."
״I really like to capture the subject. And obviously you start with an idea, and go up from there. I get the most enjoyment from building out a creative deck, putting together the mood board, and figuring out that angle. Then finding the subject, or muse, or model and building off of their characteristics, be it their whimsical side, or if they have a softness, or hardness, or an edge. What is relevant in the moment also plays a huge aspect. What’s going on in my own personal world, whether I’m heart broken, or crazy in love, it all goes into it. It becomes this beautiful melting pot of what we exist in.”
Given the current political and social landscape, why is it an important theme for 2018?
“The past two years have been kind of tumultuous with a lot of transition and change. It's an interesting time in our world. I think art as a whole is a force of hope and light. I think that it sheds a new perspective and fresh ideas and keeps the energy of the whole from being crazy stagnant. I know that when I come to set or to a project that it means getting people involved, and it’s all about collaboration and being able to come together, to share ideas and create. Thats huge because from there you can go in so many different directions. Supporting and elevating women is also a huge aspect. Showing that we are all strong beautiful forces, and equality for all who are oppressed.”
You’ve always had a way with self expression. Tell us about a few of your favorite projects and how they’ve led you to this point in your career.
"There have been so many avenues in my life that have brought me to where I am today. I started my career in fashion design which was exactly where I wanted to be. A few of my favorite projects have been designing clothing for really passionate women and working primarily with a female team. At the time I was really young and I don’t think I appreciated it like I do when I look back on it today. Now I’m like, ’wow that really shaped who I am, how I process, how I create!’. My most inspiring project recently was a Radiohead music video. The band re-released the album Ok Computer and added three unreleased songs that they’ve written years ago. They took three different young directors from all around the world and had them film a music video. We had five days to work on the project, and I had only three days of prep, but we got to develop a character and we filmed all the way into the night. It was a lot of hard work and really special to be part of something so intimate with such iconic musicians.”
“I think that through my writing I’m unearthing this deeper part of myself and through sharing my words I hope to resonate with other people. It's all about everything we go through from feeling alone in this crazy chaotic world when you are surrounded by so many people, to love, and heartbreak and finding our path”
Speaking of self expression, what are other ways you look to communicate that to the world? Is there any specific inspiration behind these choices, or any symbolic reason they dominate your intention?
“I love to write — short stories, poetry, abstract thought. Its like music to my spirit and it allows me to create and get that flow out. I really derive a lot of my inspiration from my own personal experience. That has dictated where I’ve gone and writing is a big form of self expression for me. Sharing my words has been a beautiful aspect of my life. I primarily share my written word on Instagram and I’ve done a few poetry readings with some of my musician friends. I think writing is a place where I show up super vulnerable. In fashion I feel pretty confident and comfortable, and I feel pretty groovy in my own style, but in a way that is also kind of a mask. I think that through my writing I’m unearthing this deeper part of myself and through sharing my words I hope to resonate with others. It's all about everything we go through from feeling alone in this crazy chaotic world when you are surrounded by so many people, to love, heartbreak, and finding our path.”
You've spent many years in the fashion industry, is that your preferred medium?
“Besides writing I really love light as a medium. Last year I also worked for an amazing light artist, and I want eventually to go back to school and study more digital design and incorporate the whole prism of light and the idea of how we are all energy. In that way I want to create interactive experiences that showcase what goes on underneath the surface in each of us. I want to break into the healing realm of humanity. So often we walk around and we have this physical body that we judge, that we accept, that we love, that we sometimes don’t love so much. I think there is so much beauty within us that isn’t perfect, and I'd like to show that through a series of art installations where light and human energy come together.”
An Arizona native, Netzband attests that she has always loved New York. “When I was fourteen or fifteen, I visited New York and I remember thinking, ‘wow there is so much energy here!’.” She has been in the city for seven and a half years, which to her “seems like forever”. Prior to New York, Netzband lived in L.A. working in design. “I thought I wanted new experiences, and really fashion brought me here. I think there is so much to do in New York and there is so much creativity, that just stepping outside of your comfort zone is inspiring." A few of her favorite New York adventuring activities include going to the Whitney Museum, and visiting art galleries in Chelsea. For her, living in New York is simply about taking in the city’s energy. “I love taking the ferry. And, actually, a huge point of inspiration for me is riding the subway which I don’t get to do much anymore (because I work in the neighborhood). It sounds kind of crazy because when I did do it all the time I didn’t appreciate it that much, but I play this game where as soon as I get on the subway I put on some really good music and then I choose a subject —whether it’s a person, or latching onto a feeling I have — and then I just write about that all the way until I have to get off the train. It really helped train my mind and articulate some deeper types of writing and styles that I wanted to get into. Now that I don’t take the train often it is a treat for me whenever I do.
“Living in New York it’s an amazing aspect being able to get out of the door so quickly and find yourself in the mix of this incredible energy and being able to grab that energy and hold it with you”
Where do you indulge your artistic side in New York?
I think a huge part of creation is also having the moments where you feel lost, or a little drained and you’re kind of searching, at least for me that's how I create a lot. That’s also when you go out and hit the streets and you feel like, what do I need? I think thats a huge part of being artistic. It’s not always shiny and bright. The deepest, saddest parts are sometimes when you come up with the most beautiful things.
A perfect day in the city: what does it look like?
“first of all it would include sunshine. I’d be waking up early and probably going to yoga or some sort of physical activity. Then grabbing a coffee and a small snack and definitely going on an adventure. It would be either going to a museum or seeing a new gallery, or exhibit. Then getting a delicious lunch somewhere and from there I would probably go find a beautiful park. I like lying in the grass and drawing and writing and just relaxing and soaking up all the energy. My most favorite thing to do in the city is wandering, putting in my headphones and just listening to the movement of music while being with somebody that I love and adore. Just being able to go within an experience and let it marinate and move me. I think my most brilliant days are when I go with a loose idea, no expectation, and just let it take me.”
Where can people find you next?
I’m going to say you can probably find me in Berlin. I got into a masters program in media spaces for digital design in BTK. I’m thinking of going in a year and a half. I’m excited for the opportunity.
Any last words of advice?
I think it’s important to be true to who you are and not be afraid to show that and to speak your truth. It’s easier said than done but show up for who you are, and you’ll be received always. The world needs each and every one of us. So, leave your mark, because it's bad ass.
Thank you so much, Chelsea, for inviting us into your home and letting us in on your multifaceted and inspirational take on style.
To see more of Chelsea Netzband’s world, you can find her at @sparklewhat
Photography & Words by Yael Cohen