@SAVWHITE wears the HELENA and VERA earrings throughout. Photos by Ben Taylor. Words by Cerise Zelenetz.
‘I thought about trying to make them look cool for the shoot.’ Savannah White jokingly tells me as I glimpse over at the two, triple tiered scratching post playhouse combos that frame either side of her sofa. They’re set up for Kramer, her rescue cat who’s hiding under the bed. ‘Hopefully he’ll make an appearance soon’ she says. Getting to the shoot a bit early, I expected some sort of a quiet pause while waiting for the rest of the crew, but by the time they’d arrived (only about 5 minutes later) Savannah and I were already deep in conversation about travel, tinder, and favorite take-out spots. With such an easy-going, engaging personality it’s easy to see how White has everyone from Interview to Teen Vogue seeking out her styling skills.
Where are you from originally? What was your childhood like?
I’m from Arkansas. Not sure what people think of when they think of Arkansas. I grew up in a small town, tons of nature. I wouldn’t have wanted to grown up anywhere else. There wasn’t always a lot to do so you had to be creative, and then once I got to high school it was a lot of hanging out in parking lots or house parties. Pretty simple.
How long have you been in New York?
I’ve been in New York five and a half years. I came to New York during college to intern, then went back to Arkansas for a little while after and started thinking, what can I really do here? There wasn’t much of a fashion industry, so I moved after school and I’ve been here ever since.
So how did you start out when you moved here?
After school I got an internship in fashion PR at Stella McCartney, then I bounced around to other internships. I interned in the fashion closet at Marie Claire, and over time I started working with the market editor and was able to help out on shoots assisting the freelance stylists and editors, which is how I fell into the styling world. After that I did some e-commerce styling, assisted some other stylists, and eventually branched out on my own, and have been freelancing for about 3 years now.
What’s your favorite part about your work?
Working freelance is really nice. Getting to work with different clients, your days are never the same. Everyone has different aesthetics, I enjoy that. It’s a great outlet to be creative and interpret things in my own way. Whether working with newer designers, or editorials, it’s all about the freedom to be creative.
I saw you did some still life styling too. What are your favorite parts about that and the differences from editorial?
Yeah! I don’t do as much as I used to but still life is fun. I think it’s kind of therapeutic; a little more tedious and detail oriented but there’s something kind of nice about that. I feel like it’s more of a challenge to create a story because it’s not on a model. I like trying to create some emotional connection, and be able to tell a story through product.
What do you love about working for yourself?
I like choosing my own path. I feel like when I started I didn’t turn down anything because I wanted to learn as much as possible. When I looked back on my work it was kind of a jumble of here and there. Now I feel like I’ve tried to concentrate a little bit more and find people that have a similar aesthetic or are like-minded creatively. I think the ability to create that kind of path for yourself is exciting.
And what are some of the biggest difficulties in going it alone?
It’s a lot of pressure. I’m not signed to an agency or anything so I handle all sides of business from my rates and my invoicing, to hiring assistants and interns, also doing all my own market, and requests for shoots. I think it’s rewarding but a lot of work when you’re trying to handle all sides and get established at the same time.
What are some of your favorite clients you’ve worked with?
Right now I love working with Teen Vogue and Interview is always great too. I’ve also had the opportunity to be a part of working with newer designers, like Sandy Liang, and Alix. I think for me what’s exciting is the challenge of always trying to get to that next editorial or client that I’ve always really want to work with. I just had the opportunity to go to Cuba for some shoots as well, and that was pretty amazing!
Wow, Cuba! What kind of work were you doing there?
Yeah, it’s so crazy I’ve been there twice in the past two months for shoots. Everyone’s shooting there now it seems. I had never been before, it was awesome. I went to style for a few different publications which should all be out soon. It was really beautiful and an incredible experience.
Do you have any dream shoot locations? Travel destinations?
Peru, and Iceland would be really cool. I just want to travel everywhere I’ve never been so I’d be happy to go anywhere for a shoot!
How would you say accessories play into your styling?
I personally wear the same jewelry every day (simple gold hoops, and my gold chain). I was never a big accessories person, but recently I’ve been playing with the idea more. Also, when I started doing some accessories market work for different publications I had to learn more about different jewelry designers and of course bags, shoes, and hats, it’s a huge industry full of a lot of amazing designers. Also I think cool statement jewelry can really elevated a look, and I always love hearing stories about people’s personal jewelry as well.
And what are your own favorite pieces?
I love my necklace. It’s just a simple chain and I’ve added trinkets from a jeweler in Chinatown. My other favorites are my hoops. I want to maybe get another ear piercing so I can wear more Sorelle of course! Those are the two pieces I wear every day. I never take them off.
What color would you say defines you at the moment?
I’ve always loved blue, even though in New York I find that I wear so much black. I have on blue today. It’s very calming. Bright blue, navy, whatever. Any shade.
Do you have any daily rituals?
The only thing I would say is consistent is I wake up every morning and check my instagram. It’s awful! I feel like the first thing I do is either check emails or instagram to wake myself up, but that’s about it.
And when you’re checking instagram who are your favorite handles to stalk?
I’m a grandma, I go to bed early so I feel like I’ll usually just check in on what I’ve missed. More recently, because I’ve been working on changing up my apartment I’ll try and look for cool home decor feeds. Actually Francesca posts a lot of really cool architecture and home decor photos.
If you could pick anyone’s brain, who would it be?
I always thought Jane Goodall would amazing to meet. I love animals so much and I work with a couple of rescues here. I think she’s done incredible things with animal research and development. It would be really interesting to sit down and talk with her about where she sees everything headed, and work to be done.
Favorite New York locations or hangout spots here?
I like the Lower East Side. A lot of great bars, shops, and restaurants. Always a solid place to hang out.
Speaking of bars, what’s your drink of choice?
I’m so low key, you know I just love beer. I’ll drink whatever but if I go out I’ll usually just order beer, or a glass of wine. I don’t discriminate, whatever beer you’ve got.