American Idol Stylist Soyon An Talks Idols, Tommy Hilfiger and L.A. Fashion

American Idol Stylist Soyon An

American Idol Stylist Soyon An

It’s a Monday, and American Idol stylist Soyon An is starting her day with a donut and a bottle of water from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Soon she will begin the daunting task of dressing the remaining American Idol contestants for millions of viewers to see.

Perched on a chair at The Grove shopping center in L.A., right down the street from CBS studios where the show is taped, she calmly prepares to begin what will, a couple of hours later, be a Hunger Games-style mad dash to dress the Idols.

“I’ve got two hours to shop with them – and that includes driving time,” said An on that Monday as she prepared to work on the first styling slot of the day.  “At this point in the game, they’re real artists and they’re busy recording, doing their group numbers, filming commercials, b-roll, doing interviews, and [for some] school.”

The contestants choose their songs on Thursdays, but they are not set in stone until the recording session at Interscope on Friday, where they finalize their choices with Interscope Chairman and resident Idol Mentor Jimmy Iovine. With the song choice finalized, An will begin hunting for the perfect looks and accessories to fit not only the artist, but each of the songs they are doing for the following week.

“Any customization that needs to happen, has to be done on Monday.”

And An loves her some customization. From adding Swarovski crystals to dresses, shoes and more to changing out the lapels on Joshua Ledet’s jackets.

Joshua Ledet

Joshua Ledet

“The blazer is Joshua’s signature piece now,” said An. “And I’ve put every kind of blazer on him and every kind of lapel, from leather, satin, cotton, piping, tuxedo and Swarovski crystal.”

An, dressed in a BCBG Max Azria dress with a Victoria’s Secret slip (a favorite underpinning) underneath, flats from

American Idol Stylist Soyon An

American Idol Stylist Soyon An

Steve by Steve Madden and a Melrose purse, has a handful of trusty L.A. haunts where she shops for the Idols, including, Alice + Olivia, Kitson, Madison, Forever 21, The Grove and Beverly Center.

But if she can make it her own, she will. Last week, she went to the Robert Rodriguez showroom downtown to discuss customizing some outfits for the finale. She told the assistant what she wanted while he sketched.

While many aspiring fashion mavens would envy the chance to be the American Idol stylist, they might be shocked to discover that the glamorous title requires almost as grueling of a schedule as that of the contestants themselves.

The prior week, An had a total of one hour with each contestant over two days – and in spurts of 15 minutes no less. And on a recent “day off” last week, she was at Barney’s Co-Op and found pieces for both Ledet and Jessica Sanchez. Job hazard. But, An said, it’s just how she likes it.

“I like to extract each individual artist’s DNA and use that when I dress them, ”said An, who has been Idol’s stylist for the past four years, and begins working with contestants when it is down to the final 12. “They come in like a blank canvas that we get to add our different shades and colors on.”

While the Idols have been engaged in months of, what could be called, “celebrity bootcamp,” An, has also paid her dues doing her unintended style boot camp when she was first starting her career. Born in Los Angeles, An attended both OTIS and FIDM design schools in Los Angeles, and cut her chops as an assistant to a well-known L.A. stylist, known as much for her stunning A-list clientele as she is for her bizarre behavior and Oscar-worthy tirades. An eventually left the stylist, and was offered the job of styling the Idol tour for Season 6, soon becoming the head stylist for the show.

Style hazing in the early years may have, ironically, been just what An needed to navigate the behind-the-scenes drama that ensued when Idol producers brought on designer Tommy Hilfiger for several episodes as a style consultant – without telling her.

The first An heard of it was though her publicist, who got wind of it in the news.

Tommy Hilfiger, Soyon An and DeAndre Brackensick

Tommy Hilfiger, Soyon An and DeAndre Brackensick

“They had me meet him on camera for the first time, I think to see what my reaction would be,” said An. “I felt like my rights were taken from me in a way because I didn’t know what I could and couldn’t say on camera.”

She remained oddly quiet on camera while Hilfiger chatted with the contestants in a  TV moment that can best be described in teen speak: “Awwwkward.” Admittedly, Hilfiger’s enthusiasm and panache made for a fun addition to the show, but as a viewer — and having briefly met An at a taping weeks before — I was confused about the role each played. And the clothes on set with Hilfiger did not appear to be Hilfiger clothes.

In fact, they were not Hilfiger apparel on that initial on-camera meeting, said An. Rather, An said, they were the clothes that she had spent hours choosing for the Idols, adding to her dismay.

“Tommy is such a sweet man and so professional,” An said, crediting him with making sure that she appeared on camera with him. “It was per Tommy’s request that I was there [on camera].”

(For the record: I did desperately wish that Hilfiger’s advice would have been taken by the likes of Phil Phillips, who seems to favor a greige approach to dressing. He didn’t take Hilfiger’s advice to take it up a notch, and yet got praise from the judges for being original and garnered even more votes from legions of fans.)

“[Phillips] is a perfect John Varvatos, James Perse kind of guy,” said An, reveling in the fact that she had recently gotten him into some more fitted denim by G-Star Raw.

Jessica SanchezThe contestants have been really receptive to her choices this season, said An. But her toughest critic may have been Jimmy Iovine, who called out “the Idol Stylist” on TV, saying that he disapproved of a body-hugging white Max Azria mini dress that 16-year-old Sanchez wore to sing Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.”

“Idol needs a Simon Cowell, and when there wasn’t anything to comment on, he commented on style,” said An. “Production wanted me to put her in a fringe dress and I said absolutely not. It’s an homage.”

Lest any viewers be concerned that short dresses could lead to wardrobe malfunctions, think again. An is always prepared. Victoria’s Secret body shapewear and Forever 21 biker shorts in vivid hues go on all the female contestants wearing dresses.

“I’m always protective of the camera angles with the [female contestants] and the camera angle did no favors to Jessica in that dress.”

Despite minor drama this season (It is reality TV, you know!), An said she wouldn’t trade it.

“It’s a blessing because I feel the show trusts a lot of my style guidelines.”

In fact, so much so that Judge Randy Jackson has An styling singer Grace V, one of his new artists, for personal and red carpet appearances. She is also prepping for the upcoming Idol tour and designing all the costumes for the upcoming season of “So You Think You Can Dance.”

In case she doesn’t have enough to do, An is also working with country star Shania Twain on costumes for her Caesar’s Palace show and will soon be launching a new YouTube Channel with DIY style tips.

Even with so much on the horizon, the season’s impending conclusion is bittersweet.

“This is the most fun group I’ve worked with as a whole!”

For more American Idol fashion scoop and tips, check out or send a tweet to @soysfashion 

An’s Styling Secrets

Victoria’s Secret Body Shaper or Forever 21 boy shorts in a fun, bright color

Tailor everything. The more fabric you have, the bigger you will look.

For summer, try dresses that are short in front and longer in back. It looks great, whether it’s a girls’ brunch, a day at the beach or dinner out.

Go for a pop of color. The really bright brights are my favorite right now.

Add a blazer, but one in a really light fabric.

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Author:Michelle Dalton Tyree

Fashion Trends Daily is the brainchild of Michelle Dalton Tyree. She is the former West Coast Retail Editor for Women’s Wear Daily, Fashion Editor for The Japan Times, and founder of former L.A. luxury boutique Iconology. Michelle is frequently quoted about fashion retail trends in major media outlets such as NPR, KPCC, The Inside Source and the New York Times. She has developed content for many luxury brands and retailers and has written for Allure, Worth Global Style Network, Footwear News and other media outlets.