Always operating under intense pressure and scrutiny, Petra Flannery ’95 is the stylist for celebs such as Emma Stone, Zoe Saldana and Amy Adams — to name a few.
This year, she notched the number-one spot on a list of the “Top 25 Stylists in Hollywood” as ranked by The Hollywood Reporter.
“I’m known for being super-organized,” said Flannery, who graduated from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences with a degree in political science. “Even when I’m traveling around the world, I come equipped with extra clothes and accessories. I’m confident that I can find resources — such as a tailor — whether it’s Tokyo or Berlin.”
Once — while traveling with Stone for a Spider-Man premiere — a VIP team from Versace came to London specifically to help with the final fitting of the actress’ gown.
“It’s exciting to be at a point in which I have access to these design teams,” Flannery said. “These resources come from years of relationships that you make working with top designers. They love dressing high-profile actresses in their beautiful clothes.”
A delicate balance
Although fashion doesn’t immediately evoke thoughts of politicians and electorates, Flannery believes that her USC education built the foundation for her professional skills as someone who often needs to wend her way through delicate situations.
“In my field, there is a level of professionalism that you need to maintain,” Flannery said. “When I’m on a photo shoot, I have my client, the ad agency and the people who represent the product. Part of my job is to make sure everyone is happy.
USC gave me invaluable skills in socializing, networking, organizing myself and holding myself accountable for my work.
“USC gave me invaluable skills in socializing, networking, organizing myself and holding myself accountable for my work.”
Right after graduation, Flannery went to work at Elite Model Management as a model booker, or agent, but she craved an opportunity to tap into her artistic side.
After leaving Elite, she started dabbling in production on photo shoots.
“One of the first jobs was a Harry Winston ad, and I saw how intimate, creative and exciting these shoots are,” she said. “You’re working to make something perfect, and I loved the whole essence of that.”
Flannery was hooked. After about three years of apprenticing, she branched out on her own. Saldana and Stone were among her first clients.
“We kind of grew up together,” she said. “After so many years of such hard work, we all came into our own at the same time.”
Risks and rewards
Throughout her career as a fashion stylist, Flannery has been influenced by the content of many of her college courses.
“I took an architecture class that inspired me because I love lines and mid-century designs, and I also love clothes that are modern,” she explained. “I also took art history. All of the different periods and art pieces really influence fashion.”
Clothing can offer glimpses into the past or the future, she said.
“Learning and traveling can only enhance your knowledge, your vision and your creativity.”
Flannery is known for taking calculated risks with clients.
“I’ve always been into fashion, but I am especially drawn to unique fashion,” Flannery said. “It becomes its own form of expression when it’s done well, and it is nice to push the envelope and stand out.”
Saldana is a great match for her because the actress wears even the edgiest outfits with confidence. “You can’t make someone look good in something they don’t feel comfortable in,” Flannery said.
Flannery did not enter or leave USC knowing she wanted to be a stylist, but there was one college moment that did prove prophetic.
“I received the superlative for ‘best-dressed-on-the-row’ in my Greek yearbook,” said the Kappa Alpha Theta alumna. “So I guess you could say my career has been a natural progression.”