Born in Honduras and raised in New York, Parsons alumna Karen Chinchilla has a little-known job in the fashion world: she is a tailor and seamstress specialising in preparing outfits for red carpets. She does meticulous, behind-the-scenes work, taking care of fittings for the fashion industry's most recognised brands and celebrities.
Recently Chinchilla was in charge of putting together the looks for events for celebrities such as Beyonce, JayZ, Naomi Campbell, and Bella Hadid, and earlier this month she was in charge of preparing the outfit worn by Allison Williams at the Oscars 2023 ceremony.
Karen Chinchilla's work
It is well known that behind every celebrity who appears at an event or red carpet there is a group of experts in charge of making everything look perfect. Karen Chinchilla is part of these teams and she recently told the media what this type of work is like. Specialising in haute couture alterations, she has to ensure that the garments fit celebrities' bodies at important events such as the Met Gala, the Cannes Film Festival and awards shows such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars.
"Often my job starts with a problem to fix, I often get last minute calls to fix garments that aren't finished or don't fit correctly,” she said in a statement.
“I am present for special guest fittings for fashion shows or events, making sure that these often unique pieces fit the guest's body perfectly. In some cases, I even make a new garment if the size is very different. My job is to make the guests look impeccable in exclusive garments that have not yet been launched on the market," she explained to the media.
Sewing as part of life
Chinchilla grew up among sewing machines and fabrics; she is the third generation of a Honduran family of tailors and dressmakers. According to Chinchilla, her grandmother worked as a sample maker in New York's fashion district in the 1960s, and her mother followed in her footsteps in the 1970s.
"To some degree I took it for granted because in Hispanic culture there is almost always a family member who can sew,” she said.
“On my dad's side, my grandfather was a shoemaker, so he had a sewing machine for leather and shoes. I could say that I grew up in an environment where my relatives made beautiful things with their hands.”
Chinchilla had the opportunity to study fashion design at Parsons and that opened the doors to major fashion houses such as Prada and Alexander McQueen, where her sewing skills earned her the status of Master Tailor.
"My career in fashion was made possible by recommendations from acquaintances and my willingness to learn from anyone I worked with. I started as a dressmaker's assistant at Marni and through this experience, I was introduced to someone who worked at Prada, where I met many private clients and stylists who subsequently introduced me to the world of red carpets," she said.
Red carpet expert
A little known job, but undoubtedly necessary. "It all started when I worked at Prada, a stylist asked me to go to a photo studio on my day off to fix Jonah Hill's clothes, with whom I have worked on several occasions," Chinchilla explained to the media.
"From there, I started working with other stylists who recommended me to more clients, which allowed me to expand my list of contacts and grow in my career as a couture tailor for red carpet events," said Chinchilla, who since then has not stopped working behind the scenes of big events.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.AR. Translation and editing from Spanish into English: Veerle Versteeg.