CHICAGO STYLIST ELIZABETH MARGULIS ON NEVER TAKING “NO” FOR AN ANSWER
Elizabeth Margulis, better known by the moniker “Big Hair Big City,” is a Chicago-born commercial and editorial stylist with a personality as big as her wardrobe—and that means big! (We’ve got the pictures to prove it.) We recently caught up with her at her west side loft to discuss what led her into styling and what she plans to do next.
Hi! So, let’s start where you started—tell us about that.
My mom was always dressing up on the weekends. And, I would raid her closet. I’d come home from school, and go through her closet, try on all her jewelry—I think a lot of girls do that, but there was something that brought me happiness when I would do it to a point where it stuck with me. I also used to draw, paint, and do ceramics. I’d always say, “I want to be an artist when I grow up.” I just knew I would. An artist is an artist.
I went into Marketing at Columbia [in Chicago], and I was scrolling through Facebook, and saw [well-known Chicago stylist] Helen Burken had posted something looking for an assistant. And I was like, that’s it, that’s my chance. When I called her, I was like, “Hi, I’m requesting you as a friend on Facebook. I am sending you my resume right now.” Like, she had no other option. And I worked three years full time for her.
How do you find inspiration?
It depends on what we’re doing. If it is a commercial client, I just stop and think about who we are targeting, what the commercial is for. What we are selling and who we are selling to? I think about where they’re shopping, what they’re doing, what ads are targeted at them, and I feel that vibe out.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I see myself taking over the commercial market—doing the styling for commercials—in Chicago. I also want to have the first styling showroom. In New York, LA they have a lot of them. I already rent out a lot of my things to productions, to bloggers, certain wardrobe stylists. And I am a collector of all things. I have a huge storage room downstairs, and it’s just filled with things.
My goal in the next two years is to open a little storefront. And have it open to the public for rentals. In Chicago, I think that is one thing we’re really missing.
What is your ultimate career goal?
It always changes for me. Back in the day, I wanted to be the fashion editor of a magazine. I still have a little spot in my heart for that, but also just creating something here in Chicago. Giving people reasons to come here, and creating more opportunities.
I think with any industry, with any job, if you aren’t confident in what you’re doing, you either fake it or you learn to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.
How do you deal with pressures in your industry?
It is a very harsh, cold industry. It’s cutthroat. You have to be ready for anything. My frequent challenge is when a client wants something, and I give them exactly what they want, and then they change their mind and want something different.
What do you do to refresh or get reinspired?
I have started to take up boxing. One of my buddies is a UFC fighter, so I go to his gym and we do one-on-one sessions. It’s an hour of boxing. It’s great. He kicks my ass and I feel better. Other than that, I like to recharge with other people. I’ve never been the one to recharge alone, so I’ll get social. I will go grab dinner with some friends. I’ll stop by a cute bar and grab a drink. I have a lot of friends who work at boutiques—so I will also just go [to different boutiques] and shoot the shit. We’ll talk about what is happening, what [new product] they’re getting in. And I get inspired by that.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Start young. Don’t be too shy. Even if you’re shy, try to get out of your bubble and push yourself. In order to make it and get far, you have to be willing to chase your dreams completely. And never take “no” for an answer. Even when I started to assist Helen, I told her I’m her assistant. I didn’t give her an option to say no to me. Grow some thick skin. I think with any industry, with any job, if you aren’t confident in what you’re doing, you either fake it or you learn to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.
What is one thing on your bucket list? Go to Iceland.
Favorite place you’ve traveled? Thailand.
Favorite spot in Chicago? California Clipper, MoneyGun, Blind Barber, Art Institute
Favorite season for fashion? Fall.
Nails: naked or painted? Always manicured.
How do you drink your cold brew? Black. It’s perfect the way it is, why add anything else?