Staff Reporter

Pick up a current issue of George magazine and you'll find Calista Flockhart on the cover. Allure features Angelina Jolie while Life has Gwyneth Paltrow and her mother, Blythe Danner.

Their hair styles, makeup and in some cases even their manicures were not left to chance. The magazines all turned to a small Santa Monica-based agency called Cloutier to create just the right look.

The low-profile firm has become one of the premiere companies in L.A. representing freelance hairdressers, makeup artists and wardrobe stylists. It serves as an employment agency of sorts, linking the 60 people it represents with celebrities, ad agencies, and television and film producers.

Depending on the services provided, the work can pay from $150 to $4,000 a day. Cloutier gets a 20 percent commission, the standard rate in the industry.

Cloutier's cadre of fashion experts has been called the "bod squad" and for good reason. Arianne Phillips, one of its stylists, turned grunge rocker Courtney Love into a swan in a white Versace gown at the 1997 Oscars in one of Hollywood's more dramatic makeovers.

"Cloutier has the most talented people in town," said fashion photographer Herb Ritts. "I always want to put together the most creative team for any shoot I do, and those individuals are all with Cloutier. The agency has high standards of perfection. I trust them, and I have never been let down."

Rebecca Jensen, an account executive at the Donahue Group, a Beverly Hills-based public relations firm, represents European designers La Perla and Ermenegildo Zegna. When those clients need stylists for their ad campaigns or magazine spreads, Jensen turns to Cloutier.

"When you are dealing with them, it's like talking to someone in New York or Europe and not someone on the West Coast," she said. "They understand what their clients want, whether it is cutting edge or conservative. They don't project their own ego onto a project. They are 200 percent professional."

The Cloutier Agency was founded 18 years ago by Chantal Cloutier, a French Canadian-born model. She began in the business when she met New York makeup artist Franklin Welsh, who had relocated to Los Angeles after years of working with fashion models on the East Coast.

After Welsh returned to New York, Cloutier opened the agency, operating from the dining-room table in her home to enlist makeup artists, hair stylists and wardrobe experts to send on fashion shoots. Among her first clients were Playgirl and Teen magazines.

At the time, Los Angeles was still playing catch up to the East Coast. New York makeup artists were charging $750 to $1,000 a day, while their counterparts here were struggling at $150 to $300 a day.

"The freelance business really didn't exist in Los Angeles," Cloutier recalled. "Movie stars were dominated by the studios. Modeling was a different business. When I was a model, we had to do our own hair and makeup and bring our own clothes. There was no crossover between modeling and acting."

But the game has changed, especially in the past five years. Many top models are now actresses, like Revlon's Melanie Griffith, a Cloutier client.

"We have the celebrities (in L.A.)," Cloutier said. "And more and more they are doing the ad campaigns and the fashion shoots. In terms of quality, L.A. is now on a par with New York."

Cloutier is headquartered in an eight-room office suite overlooking Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. The agency is filled with harried staffers fielding requests for stylists here and abroad. The office is decorated with antiques, and framed magazine covers fill the walls.

For editorial work on a magazine layout or cover, hair and makeup stylists are paid between $150 and $300 a day, the industry standard. The jobs also come with photo credits that often lead to more work.

The big money, however, comes from advertising agencies and their clients.

For an ad spread or product commercial, fees for each hair and makeup stylist range from $500 to as much as $4,000 a day. A wardrobe stylist, who chooses the clothes a model or celebrity will wear in a photo shoot or commercial, earns between $750 and $2,000 a day. Most jobs last one or two days, although music videos and some commercials can stretch to a week. A movie project can last several months.

Cloutier officials declined to discuss annual revenue generated by the firm's 20 percent commission on its work.

"This is a business and an art, not a hobby," said Madeline Leonard, who runs Cloutier on a day-to-day basis. "Our business has grown every year."

Jennifer Allen, an account agent at the Los Angeles-based public relations firm PMK, compares Cloutier to a talent agency.

"They know who is good for a job." Allen said. "If you need someone who specializes in a dramatic look for a big fashion story, they know who to use. If you want someone who uses a natural look, they know the right person."

Among PMK clients who have used Cloutier are Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Jodie Foster, Lisa Kudrow, Winona Ryder and Carrie Ann Moss.

Celebrities and models usually don't call Cloutier to do their hair and makeup. That's done by a public relations firm, ad agency or personal assistant. Cloutier then selects stylists to work with a fashion photographer or cinematographer to create the right look.

"It could be hip hop, high glamour or fantasy," Leonard said. "But it is a collaboration."

Said wardrobe stylist Annie Spong, whose clients include Anne Heche, Val Kilmer and Minnie Driver: "You help (celebrities) pick an image for themselves. There is so much information out there that they get confused. They are bombarded with offers to try this dress or try this suit."

Styling can have its bumps because not everyone wants to be advised on what to wear. Still, Spong tries to persuade clients not to show up at the Oscars in a Spandex outfit.

"You have to be diplomatic," she said. "I tell them not to be a stick in the mud when I ask them to try something different."

Versace, Gucci and maybe Valentino are among Spong's favored recommendations. So are vintage clothing shops.

Today, celebrities are not the only ones using stylists. Many top film-industry executives and their wives seek guidance from Cloutier stylists, especially for major events like the Oscars.

"We have to call hair and makeup people out of retirement," Leonard said. "It's not just stars who want hair and makeup for the awards. It's producers, their spouses, studio executives, everybody. We have celebrities who (already) have put hair and makeup people on hold for the year 2000."

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