Growing up, my parents never told my sister or I that we couldn't do something because we were girls. It was a matter of whether we wanted to work hard enough to get something. If not... then we wouldn't achieve it. Unknowingly, I think they instilled the ‘entrefemmeur’ mindset into us at a young age. Work hard and take no shit, ever. It's nice that La Femme Collective has a word for it now.
I didn't always want to be a stylist. I don't think I even knew what a stylist was ten years ago, but I'm not sure many people did back then. The general public has only become familiar with the job of wardrobe styling in recent years. I went to the University of Iowa to study Fine Art and Printmaking. My background is actually only loosely connected to fashion.
To my good fortune, I started my career under Caley Rinker, who was a stylist and family friend in Los Angeles and took me on as an intern right out of college. I stayed on with her as a first assistant for two years, before going freelance. Between meeting her and Elizabeth Saltzman, they really set me on the right path and taught me much of what I know.
Materialistically, my favourite part of being a stylist is the accessories. Shoes and jewelry make my world go round. I'm a sucker for amazing vintage pieces. On a more personal level, I think we all do this job for the creative outlet and to make our girls feel like the best versions of themselves that they can. That part of the job is really the most rewarding. You can tell in a fitting or on a carpet if a client is loving the look she's in.
I have the luxury of working in an industry with some of the world's most creative and determined women. Every self-made wardrobe stylist, make up artist, and hair stylist is deserving of our recognition for their badassery. I also think that It is our duty in an industry that allows and encourages female creativity, to push it as far as we can. There are so many other industries that aren't as fortunate. I think it's our responsibility to give those other women something to be inspired by and escape into, whether it's a magazine, award show carpet, or Instagram post.
Social media is sort of a necessary evil in boosting your career - but I can't complain too much about it. It has served such a great purpose within the creative industries and has brought some of the "behind the scenes" careers such as hair, make up, and styling the credit where credit has always been due. I think that is fantastic. It's great to be able to scroll hundreds of images, find inspiration, and keep up with what's going on in pop culture and fashion. Those parts are absolutely crucial to our job these days.
On the other hand, those virtues can also be the curse of social media. In our industry, your Instagram is essentially your "book" of work. It's the easiest way for publicists, photographers, and clients to judge whether or not they think you and your aesthetic are right for a job. You may lose a job to someone with more followers or a more curated Instagram. For someone like me, who has been behind the scenes assisting someone else's work for so many years, I don't have loads of my own work to show just yet. So that part can be tough. But really that's the exciting part, isn't it? Finally doing jobs for yourself and proudly displaying your work. Growing your own aesthetic.
I'll always remember my first job styling on my own was for Mane Addicts with Kat Graham. I had only something like six hours to prep it but I was so excited to finally be doing a shoot on my own. You do countless jobs as an assistant, that you never really get any credit for, but that job helped me to feel like I had finally made some growth or a step forward in my career. It was a great confidence boost.
I used to say yes to all clients and jobs, because all experience is good experience. There still isn't much that I say no to, however, I don't have to say yes like I used to, and that is sort of a great feeling. I want to work with clients that I feel like I can really help develop and push forward in fashion and their careers. I like working with girls that are interesting looking and have something interesting to say. I enjoy jobs and clients that I look forward to working with everyday. The ones that make the job fun!
A lot of my inspiration comes from color, I love color. Color is my primary focus when looking at anything - I have a fascination with it. I also spend a lot of time watching old movies. Edith Head, I mean come on, genius! I'm also sort of a music fanatic, so I find rock band's tour looks to be really inspirational. Somehow musicians have always had the freedom to wear whatever they want on stage, free of the public critique that a red carpet can have. It's great to see creative people wearing whatever they want and really express themselves.
I was thinking the other day about how much of styling is natural talent and how much can be learned. It's an interesting question. Do I think I have the best style? No, probably not. I'm constantly inspired by other stylists whom I think are brilliant in ways I could never be. But, I think every stylist has a different eye, a different inspiration they draw from, and a different experiential toolbox that they bring to the table. I went to art school. Other stylists may have gone to fashion school, had an internship at a magazine, or may just be inherently fabulous. No two stylists experiences are the same. The mechanics of the job can be learned and taste can be evolved, but passion has to be innate, otherwise you have nothing.
You do NOT need school, especially not fashion school. I think that fashion schools are no comparison to hands-on experience. Traditional resumés aren't a very good judge of potential success in this type of creative industry, but I don't ever look at an intern's resumé and think "Wow, she went to fashion school, let's hire her." I'm much more inclined to go with the person that makes me say, "Wow, they look like a hard worker, let's give them a go."
Instead of spending the money on expensive fashion schools, save that money so that you can afford to work an internship in fashion and really commit to it. I say that with truly passionate fashion people in mind. If you're on the fence about a career in fashion, go to a conventional college for business or art. It will serve you well if you decide you want to transition to fashion.
If you want to get into styling: work hard, work really really hard. Hard work is noticed even though it may not always be rewarded. If you work without the expectation of a reward, you'll never feel resentful toward the job. Along the way in my career, most all the lessons I've learned have been off the back of someone else's mistakes. I spent years trying to be a sponge and really learn the ins and outs of this job. Of the course of time, I've found myself much more grateful that I learned what not to do, rather than what to do.
A stylist's "kit" is sort of like a tool box for every possible situation. In an emergency, I find myself reaching for the below most often:
- Bristols Six Nipple Covers, they are the absolute best.
- A leather punch- saves me from taking a belt or shoe to be altered when I can just do it myself.
- Double Stick Tape
- Joy Mangano Mini Steamer
Styling is challenging in many senses of the word. I think that is why so many people decide that it isn't for them. It's not a glamorous job. There are a lot of really long hours, lugging around suitcases and garment bags, and general hard-work involved in every look you see on the carpet. It takes a village. I always tell the girls just starting that it's 98% hard work and 2% cool experiences that make the 98% worth it. If you can manage to make those percentages a little bit more equal over the course of your career then the job becomes fun.
Creative genius I admire:
Donald Roberston @drawbertson
He's a fantastic painter. I love to see how he will interpret current pop culture and fashion into his work. He's someone that I'd love to chat with, just to see what makes him tick. At the very least, I've made it a goal to own one of his pieces at some point in my life.
Elizabeth Saltzman @elizabethsaltzman
God, where to begin? I've had the luck in my life to work with her over the last five years and I'm humbled to call her a friend and mentor. To me, she is a fashion genius. I used to find it so frustrating to assist her, because as an assistant your job is to sort of "think" as if you were that person. With Elizabeth, the second I thought I'd gotten close to being able to predict what she would think was cool, she was onto the next thing. Her taste is always evolving, a constantly moving target, but always absolutely impeccable. She's been the mastermind behind looks that sort of became the zeitgeist of fashion for it's time i.e. Gwyneth Paltrow in the Tom Ford cape dress, and hopefully Saoirse Ronan in the Calvin Klein pink bow dress. To be a part of her creative process is truly amazing and an honor.
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