Gem Fatale's styl[IST] blog!
One of the benefits of studying Fashion Promotion at Uni is speaking to people who are actually in the industry. For example, one of our lecturers is Piers Atkinson, a milliner who just showed at LFW as part of Stephen Jones' 'Headonism' collective (showcasing emerging London milliners) and has also just created a collection for Topshop. Here's his collection for Headonism:
On Friday, stylist, Kim Howells (who works with Piers as a stylist and consultant) was our guest lecturer.
Kim used to work as Nicola Formichetti's assistant before moving on to do her own thang, and now regularly styles for the likes of V & Dazed as well as styling for fashion films and music videos (including this awesome one for The Golden Silvers 'True Romance'):
Here's some of Kim's editorial work. She has something of a signature style with the use of props that she commissions and adds to the outfits, seen here in the form of crazy bright shoulder-pieces and cars as gloves (why not?). Howeveer, she's no one trick pony, producing much moodier images too. Feast your eyes:
Kim, who is also a blogger, gave us an insider's account of what it's like to work as a stylist's assistant as well as moving on to solo styling. I think it was probably a bit of a wake up call for the stylist wannabes on the course (bringing a sense of relief to my journo-wannabe self), and it was certainly clear that, whatever 'it' is, you've either got it or you haven't.
I know a lot of blog-readers want to work in fashion, and a big chunk of those that want to work in fashion want to be stylists, so I thought I'd share a few of Kim's tips with you lot. Even if you don't want to be a stylist, a lot of it is relative to working in the industry in general...
♥ First and foremost - SAVE MONEY NOW! Work your ass off whilst you're in the protective bubble of your student loan. You will be working for free for a long time and the more you can save, the better off you'll be! Kim said she lived in a squat for a while with 10 other people! If that doesn't sound like the life for you, you'd better get saving!
♥ Similarly, whilst you're working for free, find ways to make money in your spare time. Kim suggested contacting PR agencies for promotional work (you can get around £150 a day), and making Ebay your bezzie mate.
♥ Assistants must always carry a 'styling kit'. I thought this was just pins and bulldog clips etc, but there's a lot more to it. Kim's suggestions included: different types of underwear, insoles, tit tape, all different kinds of tape, a tape measure, a lint roller, tights. Your stylist probably doesn't have any of this so it's crucial that you do!
♥ Meet people. As the old saying goes, it's not what you know, it's who you know, so network. And make a good impression.
♥ Always be available to work. As an assistant, the stylist's needs come before your own, so be prepared to drop everything to help them.
♥ BE USEFUL. When assisting, your job is to make everyone's lives easier. If you're on a shoot and you've got a moment where you are at a loose end, fetch drinks for people, tidy, do anything. Don't stand about chatting to the crew. Kim said the fashion world is surprisingly small and everyone knows everything about everyone, so if you get a reputation for being a lazy assistant, your career is basically over before it's started! Scary stuff!
♥ Keep your head down. You may think you're the next Katie Grand, and maybe you are, but as an assistant, your purpose is to be in the background and get on with the task at hand. If you're good, your time to shine will come.
So there you have it. After hearing about all of the scary realities of styling, I wanted to hear more about the good times that come from putting all of those tips into practice, so I asked Kim what her career highlight was. She replied that it wasn't a specific moment as such, but more the people she gets to be surrounded by - her "fashion family", and how by being surrounded by amazing people, even at the end of a 14 hour day, you're still buzzing with excitement about whatever it is you're all working towards.
Her reply really stayed with me. I think it's that relentless passion that is really needed to be a stylist. Bouncing off others and sharing that energy together to create an amazing result. That's 'it'!