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Photographer Chris Cantoya Returns to His Roots as Fashion Stylist


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All photographs provided by Chris Cantoya

You’ve seen him at fashion events and runway shows lugging his camera around while capturing beautiful images, but the multi-talented Chris Cantoya never stops surprising us as he takes on a new role as wardrobe stylist for Element Boutique. We caught up with him to find out how he got to where he is in his extensive career in fashion!

SLTV: In an offline conversation, you told me that you’ve been involved in different aspects of fashion for several years. Can you share with our audience an overview of your timeline and how you got your start in styling?
CC: My fashion career actually started 12 years ago in Omaha, Nebraska after I graduated college. I was working at a local boutique and was asked by a friend to produce and style a fashion show. At that event, I met my first personal shopper client who was the owner of a new modeling agency. In 2007 I attended my first SXSW in Austin which convinced me to move there.
That same year I started working for Neiman Marcus as a accessories specialist. One of my friends roped me into going with her as interns for Dallas fashion week. Little did I know that it would be one of the most unforgettable fashion experiences of my lifetime. I worked 9 shows in three days, including an Anne Klein show by fashion designer Isabel Toledo. I was so thrilled to meet her and husband Ruben because they reminded me of a modern day Frida and Diego dynamic artist duo. I was so inspired by that fashion week that I learned how to sew at the Austin school of Fashion Design. By 2009 I was featured in Tribeza Magazine and Austin Monthly for my ties and scarves line called Mint Owl. I also won menswear designer of the year at the Austin fashion awards.
Despite my success in Austin, I decided to start a new chapter in San Antonio in 2010. This is when I started experimenting with fashion photography and working with some of the best wardrobe stylists in south Texas. As a wardrobe stylist, I assisted Robert Mitchell, Krista Ynostrosa, Brandy Joy Smith and Grizelda Garza. I also was a lead stylist/ dresser for Xitlalt Herrera-Salazar with fashion shows and fashion events. In 2012 I was the lead stylist for Tim Gunn’s Lucky Brand fashion show, and I started working for Michael Kors as a local retail representative.
By 2014 I had switched gears and focused more on photography and also started working for the J Crew Call Center. I was a personal stylist for some of J Crew’s top clients and became a trainer for new hires. In the last two years, I have worked as a freelance visual merchandiser and as a photographer for Neiman Marcus fashion events. In 2016 I had the privilege of seeing celebrity fashion stylist Rachel Zoe working with clients at Julian Gold. And finally, I was able to photograph the world-renowned fashion director Ken Downing giving a trend presentation at Neiman Marcus in March of this year. 

Chris meeting Tim Gunn
Rachel Zoe at Julian Gold

SLTV: How does your creativity as a photographer play a part in your wardrobe styling? What inspires you when putting a look together?
CC: Photography and styling go together like the guitar and drums. They are very different but they complement and enhance each other. My clothing knowledge sets me apart as a photographer, my photographic keen eye helps me be a well-rounded stylist. With both styling and photography, some creative  experimentation must happen to take the quality to a higher level.
I’m inspired by both well polished sophisticated looks and organic no frills edgy rugged looks. All in all a powerful story or message has to inspire me by the clothes or the person wearing them. The more precise the focus is, the better the outfit is. The most frequent mistakes I see in styling are no cohesion (hot mess) and no creativity (copycats).

Styling Assistant work
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SLTV: Why did you decide to get back to styling? Why did you choose Element Boutique to return to the game?
CC: I considered making styling a professional job again for years, I’ve just been waiting for the right opportunity. I will always want to be known primarily as fashion photographer because it’s so creatively satisfying to me. With my photography, I have poured my heart and soul into supporting the San Antonio fashion industry for 8 years. Now I want to utilize the same talents and experiences to benefit my wardrobe styling clients. (Shameless plug) Please nominate me as a photographer for the San Antonio Fashion Awards this year.    
I have supported and appreciated Element boutique since it began two years ago. The great location and fabulous clothes they have are really appealing to me and clients. I did some photography work for the owner Alicia Guevara during Fiesta and that’s when we talked about this new business alliance. We liked the idea of giving clients the opportunity to get the full-service treatment all in one spot (hair, makeup, styling,  and photography).  I want everyone to know that my services will be available primarily at Element boutique but not exclusively.

Element Boutique at Look Local Night 2018

SLTV: What is your styling approach? What elements do you focus on with a client?
CC: My styling approach is similar to my life motto: balance is best. Whether its a wedding look or a senior photo, if the look is not balanced right by the right fabrics or accessories, it’s going to look and feel awkward. In other words, mix it up, have some vintage classic staple jeans with a brand new brightly colored floral top. Wear some clean casual inexpensive white sneakers with a designer tuxedo stripe wool pant. If you have a simple chic little black dress jazz it up with layers of fun fabulous jewelry.
Don’t try too hard, but don’t be afraid to experiment with something you haven’t tried before. Ultimately I want my clients to feel confident about what they wear and how they express themselves through their wardrobe.

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SLTV: What are your styling service options and pricing? How can we schedule an appointment?
CC: My basic package right now consists of a 2-hour personal consultation and shopping session for only $50. Some shoppers may need more time talking about their wardrobe challenges and others may just want to save time by me helping them shop faster and better. My goal is to customize the sessions to accommodate the customer’s needs. If someone needs a full makeover or major wardrobe update I have larger packages that include more time and multiple locations. I also have packages that combine styling and photography. I would be happy to give more details and full package options via email chriscantoya@yahoo.com All wardrobe styling sessions are by appointment only that can be booked by phone at 210.343.1273. (Oxygen Room& Beauty Bar/Element Boutique) 

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