FIRST IN THE SERIES: Become A Fashion Stylist, Pt 1
6. Obviously there are perks to being a stylist, but there’s got to be a downside too. Any examples?
ALEXANDRA: Long hours, being seen as a glorified messenger, lots of work for spreads that sometimes never get published.
AMY: A downside would be having some customers who “don’t get” what you are doing. A lot of times I’ll see an outfit I love, and then a week later spot it on the “Worst Dressed” list. This sometimes makes me wonder if I know what I’m doing but usually this happens to a star known for their fashion forward way of dressing and I happen to love experimenting and the unconventional. Look at Carrie Bradshaw for example. Known as a fashion icon but most wouldn’t be caught dead in some of the outfits she’s sported on SATC through the years.
JANEL: When samples get lost and/or stolen. The first big shoot I assisted for in LA with Jennifer Love Hewitt there was an incident where an off-the-runway dress was mistakenly returned to the wrong designer store. It then mysteriously “disappeared”. I had to file a police report. It was awful!
SARAH: Perks, free product, some you don’t even like- some you love, exposure to the best and the newest things, star treatment- downside- waiting 3 months to get paid, not a steady job – busy 1 month and then the next nothing- but having days off and not having a 9 -5 is a major plus.
7. You are styling an editorial for a big magazine. How early do you prepare and what are the steps you take to get ready?
ALEXANDRA: Make a list of all of the sources that I want to pull from-pull together all contact info on spreadsheet and start chipping away at the list, meet or plan with photographer and creative team to discuss theme, send out one page blast to all sources informing them of what is needed, visit showrooms, coordinate pickups, hire freelance help, plan food and exercise strategy because if I’m not at my best I can’t serve others well.
AMY: If I were styling an editorial for a big magazine I would come up with a concept for the shoot that was on point with the trends/season and which best suited the reader of that particular magazine. Then I would pull samples of clothes, shoes and jewelry from tons of designers at least a few weeks in advance so I have time to put any last minute finishing touches on each look then I would pull tears from magazines for hair and makeup ideas. I also usually bring along a bag of props from my own wardrobe like special vintage pieces, tights, etc.
JANEL: Every time a new collection goes down the runway I am taking notes for future shoots. Once a shoot is solidified, the magazine, photographer & stylist decide on an artistic direction. Then various looks that would work with the theme are selected and called in and pulled from the showrooms. Then we go through and edit the pull down. Though I usually have an idea what I am going to use on a shoot, I always am a bit spontaneous and do it in the moment. That always results in the best photos!!
SARAH: You come up with the story idea and write up an email or letter when you are shooting, the idea of the story, photographer, run through date, shoot date, return date. Call, email all your showroom contacts and start pulling like crazy.
8. Tell me about a typical day on the job.
ALEXANDRA: Every day is different.
AMY: A typical day at my job running the website usually consists of answering over 100 emails throughout day, updating our Twitter, providing materials or ideas for our email blasts, approving email blasts and celeb lookbook pages, meetings, buying and restocking, monitoring press and the occasional buying trip in NYC or Vegas and occasional speaking engagements. On photo shoot days styling the shoots and then editing the photos, selecting “the one” and having new images posted to our site www.chickdowntown.com.
JANEL: Every day is different! One day I could be finding amazing vintage pieces. The next I could be in a fitting, dressing a client. You never know!
SARAH: Fun stress- clients can be demanding. Sometimes you are really tired and everyone wants to talk to you all at once. Every day is different so there is no typical day. Some days you are pulling clothes from showrooms, some days you are shopping at department stores and shops, some days you are on location in Brooklyn at a photo studio or in Manhattan and a luxury apartment and then you might be in a motor home crammed in amongst the clothes or the best you book a job in the Bahamas and you are on the beach. Some days you are carrying 5 bags of clothes on the subways and other days you have a car service – it really depends on the job and the budget!
9. Are there any people in the field that you look up to or anyone whose career you wish you could emulate?
ALEXANDRA: Alex White, Grace Coddington, Anne Christensen.
AMY: I look up to everyone in this business that has been successful because I know how difficult it is. I would love to have a career like Rachel Zoe’s. I’d love to eventually have my own Chickdowntown line which I create.
JANEL: I love the vision of Grace Coddington. She understands the beauty of the surreal. For over forty years she has constantly delivered some of the most exquisite images to date.
SARAH: Lori Goldstein- I assisted her and Pat Field- she is not a fashion snob and is irreverent.
10. What’s the salary and career path like?
ALEXANDRA: Rate can be anywhere to nothing a day to several thousand dollars a day. Assist first then move up the ranks. Really no two careers are alike. Every stylist has their own style niche.
AMY: The career path is hard unless you “know someone AND are talented” or a celebrity. I started from the bottom and was on the path to managerial roles but getting into the really creative side is difficult. I don’t know if it would have happened had I not started Chickdowntown myself but I feel it would have because it is my passion and what I’m good at and I think having been with a company for several years someone would have taken notice. I think it’s good to start at a company you’d like to grow with.
JANEL: Usually you start out as an unpaid intern. With that experience, most start assisting a successful stylist. This usually is freelance and pays around $30,000/year. After establishing yourself as an assistant you begin branching out on your own. The salary grows with the work experience!
SARAH: Everyone’s exp is different a good stylist can make anywhere from 80k-300K a year. Career path – you have to bust a move and work really hard. Network- I suggest working at a magazine if you can or for a department store. Work as a costume designer for a TV show or movie and assist someone you admire even if it’s for free for 1 day or 1 week. It will pay off!
Just wanted to say a quick thanks to all the lovely stylists who took part in the interview – please check out their work and their various ventures into fashion, if you have a chance.