Greg Krelenstein

Casting Contemporaries, Crafting Culture: The Makings of Greg Krelenstein

Show Notes


New York–born Greg Krelenstein, cofounder of global creative studio gk-ld, lets his instinct for what’s contemporary guide his matching of talent to brands, magazines, and collaborative projects. Formerly a third of the DJ collective The Misshapes, he also directed editorial operations at fashion and communications agency Starworks Groups for 14 years before establishing his agency with partner Lisa Duckworth. Krelenstein is a force in the fashion world, renowned for his ability to shape and direct the images of celebrities and brands, whether they are at the cutting edge of the zeitgeist or were famous decades ago and are seeking a comeback. “A mother hen to young indie stars” and “permanently 12 months ahead,” Krelenstein is an industry visionary with innate instincts for fashion and culture shifts and modes—and the wisdom to take a moment to get a sense of what feels right.

Episode Highlights
  • Born in Brooklyn and raised in suburban New Jersey, Krelenstein grew up visiting the city and eventually pursued a communications and media degree at NYU.
  • As interested in celebrities on magazine covers as those working behind the scenes to produce the shoots, his first passion was not for the fashion world but for film and music.
  • Krelenstein was the editorial director at Starworks for 14 years before opening gk-ld with partner Lisa Duckworth.
  • He started in film publicity, working with niche magazines and organically growing his clientele to form gk-ld as an industry insider.  
  • Krelenstein sets his ideas apart by taking chances and choosing collaborations, celebrities, and situations that represent something fresh within magazines developing unique identities.
  • On maintaining decades-long obsessions with certain celebrities, Krelenstein remarks that past monocultures inscribe them in the collective mind, and that peoples’ current attention spans are so short that re-referencing and “comebacks” have social capital.
  • Krelenstein says he intends to create overall images as an image director rather than cater to trends.
  • At an auspicious age, Krelenstein can understand the importance and use of both print and digital operations.
  • Talking about his experience with the #mycalvins campaign, Krelenstein says the ads that you really remember are the ones that appear to be produced from a genuine creative mindset by the designers in the house—and that he’s excited by proximity to those productions.
  • His metric for success is when talents experience their own organic growth, in addition to brand alignment; he calls himself both a psychiatrist to some talent and a kind of cultural anthropologist.
  • Emphasizing the importance of trusting his instincts, he states that what’s contemporary now is taking a moment to breathe and get a sense of “what feels right.”

Notable Quotes:

  • “I knew that there was some way these celebrities wound up in these magazines that I was reading, but I didn’t actually know that there was this job…But I think being in New York and being in NYU and understanding having the language to communicate what I wanted to do, how to open those doors.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “I still feel that genuine excitement around this and for an industry that, I always think—if this feels fresh to me, hopefully it feels fresh to other people as well. So I think it’s really just the, just something I’ve channeled, in my inner life that hopefully emanates outwards.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “I think that really the safest and the thing that I felt most confident in myself was the idea of working for yourself and the idea that you didn’t need these other kinds of bigger structures to support what we did. And I think it was the right choice.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “When you’re actually on set, and you’re seeing those pictures come to life, and you’re seeing like this talent maybe you haven’t seen—the exciting thing for me is that a lot of the projects that I get to work on is the focus really is on trying to do something that you’ve never seen this person like before. And I think that’s always very rewarding, but it is about the collaboration between all the clients.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “Timing actually is the most important thing because you have to have that perfect balance because—you can’t be too ahead where no one knows who they are because it does fall on deaf ears sometimes. For the right subject and the right team, it is about timing.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “I think that what’s so interesting about this moment in time is that it isn’t really always about the new. It just isn’t. Because the way that we’re absorbing culture and the way that we’re seeing things, it’s just going so quickly…The truth is people have forgotten what happened yesterday.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “If you’re constantly chasing the latest, you’re going to be behind.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “Back to your question about zeitgeist and age: I think I feel lucky to be born on the cusp of understanding both. I can’t say I was purely digital. I’m not, but I was on the cusp of having that and having both understanding of the monoculture, but also, I think having still a good grasp on what’s happening now.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “I have been fortunate enough to work with really forward-thinking creatives who are just really interested in always pushing boundaries, always implementing change, and making people uncomfortable sometimes even by creating images that are impactful and reflect really the world that we truly live in versus, things that are based on other social metrics.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “The projects that really feel the most impactful is when, again, it’s not chasing the trend and it really is coming from a genuine place of wanting to spotlight the people that really matter in culture.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “In this moment where everyone’s always online and plugged into the culture, I think what feels contemporary now to me is taking that moment just to breathe and really getting a sense of what feels right. At this very moment in time, because I think that in order to continue feeling relevant, you can’t chase that. You have to just really take that moment for yourself. I think whenever we’re doing these castings, whenever we’re doing this, I apply it to my life, too. It’s just not to get lost.” —Greg Krelenstein
  • “I need that sort of constant unplugging and plugging to go back and forth into that world. But I think what truly energizes me—which I was saying without going too crystal-ball—is the idea of having a life outside of it [fashion], too.” —Greg Krelenstein
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