High Style: Inside Stylist Cary Tauben’s Creative WonderlandJ-P VaillancourtDecember 15, 2017
“With cannabis, my mind starts to go off,” says Tauben. “I get all these amazing creative ideas.”
“When I come home and I’m organizing for a shoot, with cannabis my mind starts to go off,” explains Tauben. “I get all these amazing creative ideas. I use cannabis as more of a creative outlet. It boosts my creativity and gives me interesting ideas—‘Oh my god, I have to think about a hat, I have to think about a shoe.’ It just gets my mind moving.”
In motion is how you want to picture Tauben. He’s been driving his life forward since barely out of high school, having begun his career at 20 and become fashion editor of Dressed to Kill magazine at 21.
Today, he’s a stylist who prides himself on making his sets feel great—which he makes seem very easy. Welcoming Leafly at the lush Westmount Victorian townhouse he shares with his partner, Tauben is friendly, gregarious, and very easy to talk with.
“Aside from being a stylist, I’m also known for just being a very positive, happy person and making sure everyone feels comfortable at all times, whether it’s on set or at a party,” he explains.
An Easygoing Nice Guy in an Industry of Egos
It takes panache to turn being an easygoing nice guy into a career in an industry full of egos, but Tauben makes it sound as though nothing could be more natural. He can mention in passing that he’s partied with Kate Moss and it sounds not like a brag but essential information. If you’ve seen footage of him dancing on a yacht with lusciously thonged plus-sized model Ashley Graham, you can tell how comfortable he makes people.
“Stylists take care of the model. You could have a great outfit on, but if you don't feel confident, it doesn't really work. Confidence is key.”
On set, he says, he wants above all to keep models happy, to the point that he becomes a mother figure. Do they need a coffee, or a water? Are they overworked and need a break? Tauben takes it on himself to ask in order to keep the shoot comfortable.
“Stylists take care of the model. We kind of make sure everything flows properly,” says Tauben. “The job of a stylist in fashion is one of the most crucial parts, because if what you bring to set doesn’t work, the whole shoot can fall apart. It’s about making sure that the client is comfortable and also that the model is comfortable and that they feel good. You could have a great outfit on, but if you don’t feel confident, it doesn’t really work. Confidence is key.”
Confidence is also one of Tauben’s guiding principles. His understated charm is built on a wellspring of ease in the world that goes back decades.
“I’ve always dressed extravagantly, even when I was a kid. I had bracelets up to here,” Tauben recalls with a smile. “When I wore heels starting when I was like 17, 18, I would get stared at on the street, but it wasn’t because I wanted to get stared at. It was the way that I was able to express myself and feel confident. I wear heels sometimes because I feel powerful and I feel tall. Or I wear really, really long hair because it just gives me this extra power and that’s how I’m able to express myself and bring that confidence. From an early age, I was always confident. So I kind of brought that into my styling and into trying to help my clients find that confidence as well.”
The Kid with Fashion-Show Dreams
Long before he started at Bialik, one of Montreal’s private Jewish high schools, he was hungry for a very specific experience he knew the school offered. When he was in sixth grade, friends a year older participated in the school’s fashion show, and his path forward was set.
“I always wanted to be in the fashion show,” he says. “There were [student] producers who would produce the show, and they would go to all the showrooms here and get clothes and they would wear the clothes and dance in the clothes—and that was the fashion show,” he recalls. “I always thought it was super cool.”
“I've always dressed extravagantly, even when I was a kid,” says Tauben. “It was the way to express myself and feel confident.”
The specialized high school also demanded a heavy course-load, with Yiddish and Jewish History courses on top of the already-mandatory English and French. But Tauben was happy to take it on, especially because the school prepared him for the fashion industry.
“I ended up being a producer and I loved it,” he recalls. “I got to know the industry a little bit in Montreal because I got to go to all these showrooms and I didn’t know that showrooms even existed. Now, I go to these showrooms to borrow clothes for my photo shoots. So it was kind of a stepping stone.”
Tauben credits his parents, above all, for encouraging him to believe he could do as much as he’s done. They were always open with him and happy to let him dress however he wanted, while never forcing him to participate in extracurriculars he didn’t feel at ease with.
“With my father, I remember at family dinners, if I ever said anything negative, my dad was like ‘I never want to hear no. I only want to hear positives,’” he recalls. “I think that kind of helped me be a positive person. I’m not a big complainer. I’m rarely in a bad mood. I really value my parents for that.”
His father was also open to cannabis, being a longtime hash smoker. When Tauben was an older teenager and his parents would go away for weekends, he and his brother found cannabis was a natural way to accentuate a good time. As Tauben grew up, he also discovered the value cannabis held in boosting his already remarkable creativity.
Into the Legal Future
This means, above all, that he’s more than ready for legal recreational cannabis to come to Quebec. On recent trips to Seattle and Las Vegas, he marveled at the friendly openness of the American recreational markets. Although Quebec as a whole has become more conservative when it comes to cannabis, Tauben is convinced that Montreal will remain cannabis-positive.
“Look at the tam-tams,” he says, citing the decades-old Sunday-afternoon institution. “It’s a place where people go on Sundays to smoke cannabis and play drums and dance around, and sure, there are police there, and they obviously smell cannabis, but it doesn’t matter. It’s something that everyone knows about. You know cannabis users go there every Sunday.”
Tauben is already thinking about how recreational cannabis is going to change the culture, and fashion.
Acknowledging that living in Quebec likely means having to wait a little bit longer for retail-ready cannabis—especially while labels get translated into French—Tauben is nonetheless already thinking about how recreational cannabis is going to change the culture, and fashion.
As mainstream acceptance of cannabis continues to grow, “I’ll probably have some really interesting, more fashion-y paraphernalia,” he says, noting that he’s already developed a collection of cannabis-themed handbags, clothing, and accessories. That, too, is a sign of changing times for Tauben himself.
“Maybe 5, 6 years ago, when I had anything with weed leaves on it, it wasn’t something that I wanted to wear because I didn’t want clients to associate cannabis with me and think like, ‘Oh my God, this guy is a big stoner.’ It’s always been a stigma, but now it’s becoming more trendy and people are seeing the business end of it. I’m not as shy with it now. I’m also an established stylist now too, so it’s kind of like, I do what I do and that’s it.”
More than anything, cannabis is for Tauben an inspiration, and a tool that helps him draw on an already abundant imagination. “If you use it safely and recreationally and you’re not out of your mind, it’s something that enhances a vibe or enhances the moment. It’s something that should be looked at as positive.”