How To Build A Career As Fashion Stylist
Submitted by Gisela Viera @giselavierastyle
Your friends are always commenting on your fabulous wardrobe. You get stopped in the street by random people wanting to take your picture for their IG feed, and asking you where you got your shoes. You are obsessed with hunting down all of the little-hidden boutiques with the coolest selections of obscure designers and vintage finds. Friends text you pictures when they’re getting ready for a night out, seeking your style-savvy advice. And you’ve suddenly realized that maybe you can make some money with your talent! You might even be able to turn it into a career! But how to go about it? Where to begin?
As you start down the road of building your career as a Fashion Stylist, I’d like to share some insight from my time working as a stylist in Barcelona, Spain. I currently live in NYC, and my styling career has branched out into wardrobe consulting, professional dressing, and style writing. I’ve had the honor of being backstage, dressing for Victoria’s Secret, Chanel, Tom Ford, Valentino, Michael Kors, and Philipp Plein, proof that investing in your love of fashion can lead to a fun and fulfilling career.
At the beginning of your career, the most important thing is to begin building both your network and your portfolio, and the easiest way to do this is to test, test, test. Fashion photography is created as a team comprised of a photographer, stylist, makeup artist, hairstylist, and model. Often, the photographer and stylist work together to art direct the shoot, creating the inspiration and vision for the fashion story. They work together to choose the perfect backdrop for the looks, or to create a set that makes the looks pop. Every person on a fashion shoot is important to the success of the shoot. Being reliable is key; showing up organized, prepared, and ready to shoot. If you flake the day of the shoot, everyone will remember, and you will probably never work with these people again.
So, how do you build your looks? The images that you’re creating will tell a story with pictures. They have to have something in common to tie them all together. Elements you can use to create a cohesive fashion editorial story are color, texture, clothing category (denim, bathing suits, 1920s inspired, B-girl, etc.), a distinct hair/makeup look, or a memorable location. Keep the publication you’ll be submitting to in mind when you pull your looks. Each publication prefers certain brands, depending on the clients that are buying the magazine’s advertising space. If you can use brands that are advertising with the publication you’re submitting to, your submission will have a greater chance of being published.
So as a fledgling Fashion Stylist, how do you pull looks? Perhaps you are working with a photographer who has already established a relationship with a magazine, and who can provide a pull letter for you to present to showrooms. Showrooms represent designers and want to make sure that they loan out the collection to stylists who will get the clothing into magazines in a cool way that’s relevant to the brand. Building a strong relationship with a showroom includes treating the borrowed clothing respectfully, returning all borrowed items damage-free and in a timely manner, and sharing published images with them. By showing the showroom that you’re a talented and creative person who’s also responsible and reliable, they’ll be happy to work with you again the next time you reach out with an editorial project.
You’ve created your looks for your first editorial shoot, but are still missing some items…shoes to go with the fierce red leather asymmetrical skirt? A statement necklace to pair with the plunging neckline of the slinky metallic maxi dress? Be brave and reach out to shoe and jewelry designers directly to see if they’d like to collaborate. A “no” today may turn into a “yes” down the road. At least now you’ve made a new connection, and you’re on their radar. Also, keep in mind that many stores offer a flexible buy and return policy. If you choose to complete your looks in this manner, it’s super important to protect the merchandise so that you’ll be able to return it and get your money back. Stylist tricks include taping the bottom of shoes with masking tape to avoid dirt on the soles (don’t let models walk in the shoes either), and using a make-up hood when dressing the model to keep all clothing stain free.
An editorial shoot is a fashion fantasy captured in photographs. Many times, the clothing that you’re working with doesn’t fit the model properly. This is when stylist’s get to work their magic with their prop kit, using pins, flash tape, and clips to tailor the style on the model’s body and make the look picture perfect. Don’t forget to pack your steamer, so your looks will be fresh and wrinkle-free.
Fashion editorials are a fantastic way to flex your creative muscle, build your portfolio, and expand your network. There are also some downsides that you need to know about. Fashion editorials are time and energy intensive; a successful shoot takes many hours of preparation, shooting, and return time. It’s also rare for a fashion editorial to generate any income. The purpose of fashion editorials is to create a strong portfolio to show to clients who are willing to pay for your styling talents. Paying clients include E-Commerce styling, advertising campaigns, lookbooks, images for model’s books, individual client styling, portraiture, and headshots. Also keep in mind that photographers, make-up artists, and hairstylists in your network will get booked for jobs. If you make a good impression, they’ll be happy to recommend you when the client asks for a stylist referral.
Does all of this sound overwhelming? Take a deep breath and take it one step at a time, one look at a time, one editorial at a time. And if this seems like too much to take on solo, finding a seasoned stylist to assist is a fantastic way to gain knowledge and experience. Being open and willing to be mentored by someone with more experience and connections than you is a fantastic way to open the door to your own Fashion Styling career. And down the road, when you’re super busy with your own paying projects and clients, you’ll be happy to say yes to your own assistant to share your Fashion Stylist skills with.
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