Why Relaxing "Very Hard" Makes This Stylist Better at Her Job

We believe in the power of routines and finding meaning in the ways we sew comfort into our everyday surroundings. Drop Ins is a series that explores just that, taking a dressed-down look at the lives of people who inspire us.

Keyla Marquez loves her job. And it’s precisely because she loves it that she is a diehard proponent of taking time away from it. "People always tell me I work too much, but I want to change that perspective of me. It’s not healthy. I also chill very hard!" says the LA-based stylist and creative, laughing.

That drive runs deep. Born in El Salvador, Marquez was immersed in the world of fashion and textiles from an early age; both her mother and grandmother had their own clothing lines. "All the women in my family are super powerful alphas," Marquez notes, a trait that she witnessed in even greater magnitude during the turbulent early years of her childhood in a civil war-torn El Salvador.

At age 5, Marquez immigrated to the U.S. and lived out her childhood in the Valley—something she credits with fostering her creative side. "If I grew up in LA I would have been so wild! But instead I spent so much time in my room making stuff. I had to harness all that energy into something," she says.

Image - Keyla Marquez

Her DIY beginnings eventually parlayed into an interest in streetwear, and from there, she began designing her own clothes and eventually launched a small clothing line. After some photographer friends asked her to help out with some test shoots, she began a career in styling, working as an assistant before having a breakthrough moment collaborating on Frank Ocean’s iconic album Blonde

We caught up with the in-demand stylist to chat about her self-care practice, the DIY renaissance as a response to the pandemic, and why taking time away from work is sometimes the best thing you can do for your career.

As a stylist, your day-to-day varies a lot. Walk us through what a “normal” workday might look like for you.

I do kundalini meditation first thing every day. If I don’t do it, it really sets me off. It grounds me and helps me generate energy. Then do my coffee with all my adaptogens—I’m obsessed! They’re so good for you. It’s plant medicine. I feel like I’m going back to my ancestors, doing what they used to do. 

Then come the emails, of course. I think a lot of people assume being a stylist means you’re always on set, but half of it is creating mood boards and shopping. So it’s a lot of that work, and then maybe later in the day I’ll go to a costume house. Sometimes I feel like my job is a professional scavenger hunter! It’s fun.

At night, when I’m done for the day, I love taking baths. That’s my way to come down. I love getting bath bombs from Lush. I have my mustard bath powder, Epsom salts, my music. After that, I’ll take some Feals. It’s the only thing that helps me sleep! Melatonin doesn’t do it, but there’s something about the CBD that really helps when my brain is going nonstop.

Image - Keyla Marquez - Feals
Your industry was hugely impacted by productions and events in a constant stop-and-go pattern due to the pandemic. Coming out the other side of it, I’m curious if you can tell us a bit about how your perspective on the importance of tending to your personal well being has changed.

Before all this, I didn’t have a self-care practice. I was just working a lot. Sure, I would meditate once every two weeks, and it was like, “OK, cool.” But I wasn’t making much of an effort. 

During COVID, we all had some time to turn inward. In the beginning, I had three or four months off, and I took a trip with some friends to Joshua Tree. One of my best friends had recently started doing Kundalini, and she would wake up in the mornings and do it, so I tried it with her. The way I felt afterwards—it was crazy! It generates energy on a level that nothing else that I’ve experienced does. 

Once I found this new regimen of self-care, I felt so many things in my life shifting—it was a really beautiful transformation of my energy, and I’ve been so much happier. I’ve also started setting boundaries, which is something no one is really taught as a child. 

The way we dress is one of our most visible forms of self-expression. Personally—and with clients—how do you think your perspective has changed as we start to re-enter public spaces? How has your relationship with fashion as an art form changed, if at all?

Everyone had so much time to work on arts and crafts, and I think that’s especially true with the youth. Kids got very, very creative! So now we’re seeing a lot of DIY. I recently went out for Art Week in LA and it was the first time I went out and no one was wearing masks and there was this really beautiful energy in the air. People are so hungry to be seen, and everyone just looks great. It’s like, every time I go out, everyone is just looking so hot! There’s also a mix of people who have saved some money through all this, so they’re shopping. It’s beautiful to see people out there mixing vintage with designer and DIY. 

Image - Keyla Marquez - living room

But most of all, I’m just seeing people be more intentional with the way they dress. I think women just feel a bit more empowered right now—especially women of color. There’s a sense of support for our culture. It’s like, “This is who I am. I am dressed like this because I feel sexy.”

As a creative who works for herself, any tips you can pass along for maintaining a work-life balance that feels good?

If you love your job, I think it’s so important to take time off so you can keep loving your job. I love what I do, but I have to give myself space in between to love it. To get inspired.

Hustle mentality is so toxic. You don’t need to take every job. You don’t need to portray that into the world, either. It’s unhealthy to think you always need to be working. Give your body and your mind and your heart the rest that it needs. And be sure to celebrate your accomplishments. Feel good about the things you do.

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