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A Fashionable Life


September 2012

Globetrotting fashion photographer Bill Tyler recently launched his own jewelry line of leather cuffs.

After years of experience as a professional photographer, including stints as staff fashion photographer for top retailers like Macyís and Kohlís, Bill Tyler says heís still learning.

Although he took pictures for his high school yearbook in Minneapolis, Tylerís first real exposure to the photography business was working in his brotherís pre-press shop in Colorado. In those days, he notes, photographs had to be broken down into dots before they could be printed in newspapers and magazines. Today, scanners do the job.

The work sparked Tylerís interest in creating images. He returned to school in Minneapolis and apprenticed as an assistant for several photographers.

"Then I just started freelancing, and here I am 25 years later," he says.

Most fashion work is done on location ó New York, Miami, Los Angeles ó and Tyler says he enjoys being on the road.

"I love the people," he says. "Thereís so many different personalities on every shoot; your hair and makeup people, your fashion stylist and models, and that changes from job to job." The trick, he says, is to get everybody on the same page and create an atmosphere where models can relax.

"A lot of times the first picture I take is the shot I use, because the model is comfortable and theyíre not expecting it to be the shot," he notes. "To bring out their inner beauty and personality is what I love."

Location shoots are not always glamorous. Tyler recalls a Miami swimsuit shoot where the thermometer never got past 38 degrees, "but the models were so professional youíd never know it."

Tyler met his wife, Miki, on a shoot. She is a hair stylist and they often have the chance to collaborate.

"We work well together. Sheís always right," he says. The couple recently welcomed a new baby girl, Asahi.

Tyler is proof that you donít have to live in fashion capitals like New York to be successful. The Wauwatosa resident says New York is still "a base camp for fashion, and itís great to go there to get inspired."

Early in his career, Tyler says, he never considered himself an artist, "but I learned that itís a real art. Itís definitely more than documenting the clothing, you need to sell mood as well; you put it in an environment."

When heís not shooting fashion, Tyler is creating it in his West Bend studio. His new line of leather cuffs and belts is a mash-up of rock ínĎ roll, Native American, cowboy and biker influences.

A biker himself, Tyler has rebuilt his own motorcycles, including a Harley Heritage and a 1969 Triumph he calls "Survivor." He made his own chaps and vest, and fashioned his first leather cuff from leftover scraps. Each of his cuffs has a tooled leather, vintage vibe, embellished with studs and nickel silver conchos from Arizona.

"A lot of people look at them and think theyíre for guys, but a lot of women are buying them, too," Tyler says.

To see Tylerís work, go to



This story ran in the September 2012 issue of: