Cleo Davis Urman is a jack of all trades. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NYC based stylist and party planner extraordinaire launched her wellness brand, Barriére—selling everything from chic masks to fun hand sanitizer. Cleo sat down with us for this week’s WWD—giving us the inside scoop on all things fashion, beauty, and business.
You have an incredible sense of style and have used that to create a beautiful fashion career. Where did you get your start?
Since I can remember, I’ve always used fashion to express myself. Even in kindergarten I was given the creative freedom to pick out my own clothes and put outfits together. I’ve always enjoyed the process of putting a look together and experimenting with the ways in which I can use clothes as a medium to communicate and express my individuality. My approach to style has always been about dressing for me. In the fashion industry there tends to be a real emphasis on wearing what's new and looking out for what's next. But lately, I've consumed a lot less and taken the opportunity to appreciate the timeless pieces in my wardrobe and the many ways I can wear them. I always like to remind people that you don't need a special occasion to dress up, even if that means wearing a vintage tulle skirt to run an errand.
A style icon I keep coming back to throughout different phases in my life is Jo Stockton, the character Audrey Hepburn played in Funny Face. I love that she combines tweedy intellectual and minimalist beatnik with high-style glamour, embodying the idea that fashion, at its best, is a form of personal expression.
How can someone define their own style through clothing?
Personal style is about developing a sense of self rather than simply absorbing all of the latest fads and fashion trends. You should always stay true to your personality, and should never take fashion so seriously. The clothes and accessories you choose, and how you put them together is a way to express yourself. Have fun, don’t be afraid to try new things, and be confident.
What do you use for inspiration? We know you travel a lot to destinations around the world.
My inspiration can come to me from places as far off as the streets of Paris, or as near as the book in my lap. More important than a specific source of information is to have your eyes and mind open to whatever you see that inspires you.
You have talked about fashion “kits”. Can you describe what that is?
Having a well-curated closet of essentials and hero pieces that craft the foundation of your wardrobe is key to achieving maximal style with minimal effort. Think elevated basics, and sophisticated centerpieces that avoid being identified by a particular fashion trend or fashion decade. Think of these styles as the bread and butter of your wardrobe, so it’s important to go for quality and what you can genuinely see yourself loving for the years to come.
What are the top 3 items every girl must have in their closet?
An oversized blazer, a tailored trouser or pencil pant, and a classic pump (for me it’s the Manolo Blahnik Carolyn slingback pump). These timeless pieces easily mix with everything in your closet and can be updated, or styled based on trends.
Do you have any favorite cocktail party dresses from One33Social?
I am currently obsessed with the colorblock cut-out bow front gown. I love the combination of pink and red together and the juxtaposition of the feminine bow and the subtly sexy cut-outs.
What are the dress trends for Spring?
- Lingerie-esque: think sheer, lace, unexpected cut-outs and slinky silhouettes
- Embellishments: think sequins, studs, pearls and 3-d floral rosettes
- Expressive color palettes: think violet, saffron, lime, and fuchsia
Do you have any Favorite dresses to wear on vacation?
When packing for vacations in warmer climates, I like to include dress styles that transition well from day to night and that can be dressed up or down with accessories. These go-to styles include a chic caftan, a slinky slip dress and a statement dress in a bold color or floral print.
Let’s talk shoes. You have some incredible tips on which heel heights to you wear with mini or midi dresses?
When it comes to shoes, the key is to opt for heels that make you feel more comfortable so you can enjoy yourself.
Mini Dresses: With mini dresses, I either opt for stiletto heels to give you height and lengthen your legs, or when the occasion allows, an embellished evening flat. In general, heels with an ankle-strap can make legs appear shorter so they are best worn with longer dresses or with mini dresses on taller wearers.
Midi Dresses: Depending on the event, location, and season of the year, a dress cut below the knee looks great with a number of shoe styles. I love to wear a pointy-toe pump or a mule with a low heel for a more sophisticated look.
Gowns/ Maxi Dresses: When wearing a gown or maxi dress that covers your legs completely, it’s nice to show your feet a little with a stiletto sandal or peep-toe heel. Selecting a higher heel or one with a platform will allow you to walk easily, without stepping on your dress.
What should everyone know about how to host a dinner party? What do you wear when do you’re hosting guests at your home?
Always consider your guests, how they’ll be most comfortable and the ways in which you can surprise and delight them! To create a relaxed vibe for everyone, host included, I like to serve a dish that is easy to prepare, presents well, and that is always a crowd pleaser. My go-to recently has been baked potatoes with caviar à la Caviar Kaspia! Paris on a plate! To keep things less formal, I like to mix and match my linens, glasses, and silverware to achieve a more playful, eclectic look.
Hosting a party is one of the only occasions where a slipper trumps a stiletto. I love to balance formality with informality by wearing my favorite gowns and party dresses with a chic pair of slippers.
Do you have any hostess gifts that have become your favorite gifts to give?
My approach to gifting is very personal so I like to pick up gifts for people when I see something I think they would enjoy. I also avoid bringing anything that the host or hostess immediately has to deal with. Ideas for gifts that guarantee your invited back include:
Natural Leather Joy Of Cooking
Box of See’s Candies Chocolates
….and don’t forget, a handwritten thank you note is always appreciated.
Three words that describe you:
Curious, methodical, imaginative…a little oxymoron goes a long way!
Three words that define timeless style:
Polished, Tailored, Feminine.