Designer Chelsea Von Mach Discusses How Her Dreams Became Reality

Chelsea Von Mach shares her journey from Marian High School to styling celebrities to owning her own Santa Monica boutique.
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Illustration by Rachel Idzerda

Although Birmingham-raised Chelsea Von Mach grew up watching her father sell upholstery fabric of all colors and patterns globally and out of his store in Grand Blanc, this isn’t what inspired her to pursue a career in fashion styling. Instead, it was the reality TV shows she watched while she was a student at Marian High School, like The Rachel Zoe Project, which followed a stylist’s journey as she built her fashion empire.

“I hate saying that it was reality shows, but it’s true,” Von Mach says. “I just never knew I could really make it a career until I saw it visually on screen.”

She attended Michigan State University for a year and left before choosing a major, wanting to learn and live somewhere with a larger fashion industry.

After taking a one-year hiatus to research different fashion schools, she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, where in 2009 she obtained an associate degree in product development and learned “a little bit of everything” about fashion’s design and business aspects.

In 2011, she went from watching Rachel Zoe on TV to working for her as a stylist assistant in LA. “I will never forget living in New York and seeing her walk out of this fancy restaurant, The Waverly Inn, and thinking to myself, ‘I’m going to work for her one day,’” Von Mach says. “It was probably a year later I did!”

Her first TV styling gig was on set for the 2009 Melrose Place reboot. Since then, she has worked on shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, MTV’s Faking It, and FX’s The Bridge, and in 2020, she won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding costume design/styling for styling co-host Jeannie Mai from The Real.

“It was nice because I had been working so hard in this industry, and getting the award was very validating,” she says.

Now, Von Mach has moved on to the entrepreneurial side of the fashion world, opening The Store in 2021 — a Santa Monica-based boutique (where her Emmy statuette proudly sits) that offers vintage fashion items from around the world, including Italy and France. And she still occasionally takes on styling projects. Here, Von Mach shares her favorite styling experiences, her celebrity encounters, and other projects she’s working on now.

What has been your favorite styling experience?

Being an assistant on Rachel Zoe’s team during awards season. She was dressing Anne Hathaway when Anne was hosting the Oscars! I got to be backstage during the dress rehearsals, which was unreal. And the day of the Oscars, I was helping another one of Rachel’s clients, Liv Tyler, get ready for the Vanity Fair party. It was a very exciting time!

My other favorite moment was styling TV host Jeannie Mai for the 2018 Golden Globes. She wore an Uel Camilo gown, and the next morning she made Vogue’s best dressed list. It was my first time getting a client on the list. This was during the #MeToo movement. All the women attending the awards agreed to wear black as a statement of banding together. It was a special and powerful moment in time. I don’t think there has ever been an award show where everyone was unified wearing the same color.

Why open a vintage boutique and step away from styling?

I wanted a lifestyle change. I was the shopper for an HBO Max show called Generation for three months, and I left that and opened my store. I needed a break from TV and film, and I had done vintage as a side hustle for so long, and I was like, “Why don’t I try to do it full time?” And then the space came up and the store came about. I like having something of my own. It’s like my own creative expression.

How do you choose which vintage items to sell?

I’ve been collecting for a while. I have a contact in Italy that shops markets there, and I’ve been going to Paris. When I’m home in Detroit, I find stuff. I’ve been collecting vintage since I was in high school.

My store is sort of like what’s going on in fashion right now, what’s going on in the runways. So, people who normally don’t shop vintage [might think], “Oh, I’ve seen this in Zara or Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom.” And there are definitely one-of-a-kind pieces; I feel like that’s the heart of vintage. But you can find classics and normal things in vintage as well.

Have any interesting people visited your store?

I’ve had celebrity clients I’ve never styled before come here and shop, which has been really cool. I had Zooey Deschanel come shop from here. I’ve sold some things to Law Roach, who is a big stylist. He’s sort of retired now, but he styled Zendaya — one of the biggest celebrities there is.

What was the inspiration for your fall 2023 Coquette Vampire Collection? I love the 1970s custom lace gown with feathers.

I created this character that I called “coquette vampire,” which brings me back to the art of TV and cinema. I made her this vampire that’s very buttoned up during the day and has a normal day job. And then at night, she turns into this sexy coquette vampire, a vixen type. I was very inspired by ’70s skirt suit silhouettes and ’30s-inspired gowns.

You’ve taken on styling, entrepreneurship, and now … writing?

I recently started an online magazine through Substack called STORE at chelseavonmach.substack.com, which goes hand in hand with my vintage store. I usually break down current trends with the vintage clothes I have but also vintage in general.

I am actually collaborating with a fellow Detroiter, Tim Farah. He was a designer in New York for a long time working at Club Monaco, Perry Ellis (when Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs were there), Nike, Jack Spade, and Thom Browne. He is a Detroit treasure and so talented — I feel lucky I connected with him a few years back.


This story originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. To read more, pick up a copy of Hour Detroit at a local retail outlet. Our digital edition will be available on April 5.