Styling 101



A behind-the-scenes look at fashion styling

We’ve heard this countless of times, the world of fashion isn’t really as glamorous as it looks. Call it cliché, but for us who are working tirelessly on the sidelines, getting something done—be it for a magazine editorial, a celebrity appearance, or for an ad campaign—means hours and even weeks of preparation. And it ain’t always that pretty.

When it comes to fashion styling, the key, really, is patience and will to get the job done. When I joined a fashion magazine as a writer, I never saw myself dabbling in what appeared to me as an otherworldly realm of fashion and style. It was in my first few shoots that I saw that this “intimidating” world functions and operates the same as any other industry. I was entranced. You sweat and get your hands dirty—literally.

This issue, I share some of the biggest things I’ve learned as a fashion stylist.

1. Study
The world of fashion is constantly evolving. And so should you. In this field (or in any other industry for that matter), when you think you know it all, there’s no more room for you to grow. Having your own aesthetic in terms of styling for a publication, or for a celebrity, is one thing, but you should constantly seek new ways to approach styling. This, for me, is done by studying.

For the longest time, I didn’t really refer to myself as a “stylist”. To me, I didn’t deserve the tag because I didn’t really get formal training. But slowly, I realized that while there may be a lot of institutions now that give formal classes on styling or on fashion, as a whole, experience is still the best teacher.

There are a handful of resources to expand your perspective as a stylist. There’s countless of fashion magazines (or what is left of it) to show you where fashion is heading and there are online media and social networking sites that could keep you updated. Styling, as a whole is not just dependent on what is on trend though. It is important that you familiarize yourself with all facets of fashion, design, and style to keep you well-rounded. Whether you enroll yourself in a class or like me, choose to hoard all fashion magazines you could find to educate and develop your aesthetic on your own, you should invest time and energy to learn the ropes of styling.

2. Collaborate
I think it was Pharrell who once said, “Collaborate with people you want to learn from.” The fun in styling starts when you see your vision materialize. But the surprise actually comes when an idea you think is foolproof is improved when there are more brains working to make the idea even better. Fashion is a very collaborative industry. There’s no “one thing” to do something. You have to be open to collaborate with people, be it from that friend you have worked with in the past, or someone you have just met for a job. Never miss a chance to learn from other people as you go along.

There are always opportunities to broaden your knowledge when you keep yourself open to new ideas and you never know if the next big idea could come from the people you work with, at the most unexpected time.

In this profession, you will work with a lot of people. From producers, creative directors, photographers, to make-up artists, and hair stylists. You have to build a creative relationship with these people. Find someone whom you could connect with creatively. When you establish this kind of relationship, you would be surprised to see how much you could learn from one another.

3. WORK!
I can’t stress it enough. Styling as a profession is no picnic. If you think styling is just like shopping for clothes in a store and all you have to do is to pick which dress is the prettiest, then you have to think twice. Styling for a campaign, for an eight to 12-paged fashion editorial or for your client entails hours of conceptualization and communication.

The first thing to do is create a mood and look board for a shoot you are preparing for. It could be from a creative brief you will be given for a particular job or it could be something that you will be asked to come up with and present to a client. This will be followed with communicating with your pool of resources from brand personnel and designers to request to borrow their merchandise. This is a lot of leg work.

And when the approvals come in, you have to be ready to scour through stores and designer ateliers and carry all these items from one destination to another. You have to haul bags and bags of clothes either by yourself or with an assistant and this involves a lot of hard work. Pre-styling is the process every stylist goes through when all the available clothes are being evaluated to complete several looks. This serves as a dry run prior to a shoot to prepare items that will be shot or worn by a model. This is highly suggested to save time when the actual shoot day comes.

Come shoot day, you have to be prepared to get down and dirty. You have to be on the lookout for things that need to be remedied. You have to kneel, follow the subjects around in a studio or a shoot location and be vigilant for details that need to be added or removed. You have to also be prepared when a client suddenly wants a change of look.

4. Wait
In styling, waiting is paramount. Patience is something that you should master. From waiting for a client’s approval to waiting around before the shoot starts and ends, waiting is part of the deal. But as they say, when you enjoy what you are doing, this is not a problem.

In another sense, you also have to be willing to wait for you to get your break. Not all jobs are going to be your “dream” gig. But you have to treat each gig as the one as you would your dream project and getting there would not be a problem.

5. Evolve
As I have learned through the years, when you think you already know everything, you would miss on an opportunity to grow and develop. You have to always be on the lookout for learning opportunities. Continue studying to elevate what you know and evolve into a better version of yourself as a stylist. Be it in your styling aesthetic, or your ways in dealing with clients, you should strive to develop and be a better than your last work.


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