'So You Think You Can Dance' Stylist Soyon An Dishes on Her Favorite Go-To Brands

Soyon An

It's safe to say Soyon An has cornered the market on styling talent-based competition shows. The fashion guru behind American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance has her hands full with the never-ending task of staying on top of the hottest trends and crafting the perfect performance-wear for our favorite up-and-coming stars. We had the chance to chat with the busy gal about where she finds her inspiration, her biggest show splurges and even got her to confess who her all-time favorite contestant to work with was (hint: It's not Adam Lambert).

Hollie+Cavanagh in American Idol Season 11 Episode 36

StyleBistro: Where do you find your inspiration?
Soyon An: I find my inspiration everywhere, I find it from fashion magazines, trade shows, fashion shows and also just everyday life. I love people watching, that's where I get my dos and don'ts. Even architecture, buildings, accessories, floral landscaping—it's a little bit of everything.

SB: Any favorite blogs or fashion sites?
Soyon: The Sartorialist is one of them, also Gilt, and then searching the web and seeing what all the different bloggers are doing.

SB: What are some of your favorite places to shop online or off?
Soyon: I'm definitely a hands-on person. Stores I like to go to are Live On Sunset in LA, Traffic, even Forever 21, Steve Madden. I think I go to every store in LA! American Rag, Church. I go to a lot of smaller boutiques as well big department stores and chains.

Joshua+Ledet in American Idol Season 11 Episode 40SB: Who are your go-to designers for the shows?
Soyon: It varies, I like Sass & Bide, Alice + Olivia—[Stacey Bendet] does such a great job with silhouettes and also with sequins which are so much fun. Zara, their suits fit so well, and BCBG and Bebe did really great collections this summer. Elizabeth and James, Levi's for jeans, the list can go on and on.

SB: What are the top three things you really love about your job?
Soyon: The first one is it's never typical, every day is a new day with new challenges. For both shows in different capacities it's different themes, different story-telling, different music, so it makes the styling different. Another thing I enjoy is fashion is ever-changing and I'm always having to stay on top of it. And [lastly] I see what I do as art, just being able to show millions of people a form of art. Whether they see it as art or not, for me it's being able to express how I feel about the current trends.

SB: And what's the hardest thing about your job?
Soyon: The hardest thing about my job is it never stops (laughs) it doesn't matter if on paper I have a day off, I don't, it's always ongoing and there's just never enough time.

SB: Can you walk me through the creative process of your job?
Soyon: I listen to the music first. When I listen to music I see color, so it helps me really figure out the storyboard on my end. With Idol, if they're singing an upbeat tempo I'm not going to put them in a long gown or a tuxedo. Well, I might do a tuxedo but with a cool funky accent. For both shows I think about the story they want to relay, then I create the mood with colors or Fox's fabrications. If it's a beautiful whimsical story then the fabrication will be softer with chiffon, Georgette or satin. If it's more rock-n-roll or jazz it might be brighter colors, sharper lines, more construction, more structural.

Then I have to think about functionality. Joshua Ledet on Idol, he's a dancer, he's a performer, he was doing splits, he was flailing his arms, swinging his microphone around. I had to think about if he'd be able to do all of those things and feel comfortable and not worry his clothes would rip. For Dance I have to think about everything like this, is she going to do a flip up in the air? Is she going to step on this? Does she need shoes for this? The dancers are athletes and some of the stuff they do with their bodies you can't have regular street clothes for. [I have to think about] just making it look beautiful and fluid without sacrificing the fashion element.

SB: What was your biggest splurge moment on either show?
Soyon: Anytime you see a lot of Swarovski crystals, or if you see a lot of flowy materials, or a lot of structure when everything is nicely fitted and tailored. We know fine tailoring doesn't come for free!

SB: I know it's hard to pick favorites, but who has been your all-time favorite contestant to style?
Soyon: That's hard! Can I say three? I think the two that are freshest in my mind are Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet. And then I'd have to say Pia Toscano—I think we really resonated off of each other and were able to really push it.

So You Think You Can Dance Season 9 Episode 3SB: Who are your ultimate style icons? 
Soyon: It changes every season, but I think Madonna is one of them, Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga. Also Alexander McQueen, rest in peace, was definitely one of my favorites, I mean the stuff he did in his videos and his runway shows—the presentations were just impeccable.

SB: It's interesting you mentioned mostly performers and you work so much with performance apparel.
Soyon: Oh yeah, definitely, that's the thing with performers, they're able to showcase clothing in a whole different nature.

SB: Who would be your dream client to work with?

Soyon: I used to say Lady Gaga because she is so open to exploring new possibilities. But a dream client to me is just that, one that's open to trying new things, where there isn't a limit. I think the reason why I enjoyed working with those three contestants was just the energy that was created between me and the artist.

See Soyon's work from American Idol.
See Soyon's work from So You Think You Can Dance.
Editor, graphic designer, illustrator. Tanya@Livingly.com