Fashion styling schools and courses are popping up everywhere - the interest in styling as a career has never been stronger and it is easy to see why. Working as a stylist is a creative, exciting job in a rapidly expanding industry. I have been down many avenues on my journey pursuing styling, finding some doors open and others firmly jammed shut. I quickly discovered becoming a successful stylist meant a hell of a lot of climbing. I walked step after step, passion in my pockets, drive in my heart, to the level where I could comfortably say 'wow, I am earning a living doing what I love'. I often thought I would never get to that point, it almost felt like a revelation to arrive there because it was such a big dream for me which seemed unrelated to reality. It felt a bit like magic and in many respects it still does, possibly because I have not taken the easy road both in life and in my career!
In hindsight I wish someone had told me how to climb a little quicker, which paths to go down and how to skip the stones made of sand. It is my absolute passion in life to help others towards their dreams, the reason I hold workshops and seminars and firmly believe in anyone with a dream and a goal is because witnessing another's success puts fire in my belly. I am motivated by people around me, I am inspired by the dreamers, the creators, the crazy-enough-to-think-I-can's. I always aim to provide the tips and directions that were not available to me, possibly to an annoying level when I start getting overly excited about a project someone mentions and I accidentally get all 'motivational speaker' on some poor, unsuspecting soul. My bad! But for those who actually do want some advice and tips, here are 5 things I wish I knew when starting as a Stylist...
Do a Short Course
I studied Fashion Business, which was incredibly helpful and taught me so much about the different roles in the fashion industry and how the whole puzzle fits together, Looking back though, I knew from day one that I wanted to be a Stylist so I should have gone with my gut and and done a styling specific course in a shorter time frame. When it comes to styling, on the job experience is so vital and the sooner you can start the better. Studying is really important, largely due to making initial industry connections which lead to work opportunities down the track and also to gain the skills to get started. Find an intensive styling course and hit the ground running.
Pester & Persist
I would never encourage harassment in any form but getting experience requires insane levels of tenacity and self belief. Google all the stylists in your area, email them expressing your desire for experience in any way, shape or form and be persistent. You may not receive a reply at first, so don't be afraid to send a follow up 7 days later. Promote yourself, detail what you can offer rather than what you aim to get out of the business relationship. Write a list of all the people you know who may be able to help you, friends of friends becomes a big list with endless opportunities for connections. Ask for help while offering your time, passion, skills and commitment. If you truly want experience it will come across and your go-getter approach will impress potential employers and industry figures.
Build A Body Of Work
It is no use trying to be a stylist if your not already styling. Get started on your portfolio and begin to develop a body of work that reflects your aesthetic. Create your Portfolio online, attach it to a blog or showcase your work on Instagram. The platform isn't as important as the work itself, so get started. Style yourself, style friends, work on shoots with learning photographers or aspiring models utilizing TFP in every way you can (TFP meaning 'time for photos' - a great system in which a bunch of creatives collaborate for free, exchanging their work and contribution for the photos. This is available for models, photographers, makeup artists, designers and stylists). Join local groups, usually found on Facebook, for creatives where you will find TFP and sometimes paid jobs.
Build A Brand
Choose a business name - either your own as a sole trader or a company name. Consider trademarks, available names, legalities and domain availability. Remember to choose a name that you can grow with - I selected 'The Style Side' because it won't limit my expansion as I grow my business, it suggests a range of services and allows me to expand on what I do. Create a logo, identity and cohesive branding. Are you edgy, classic or relaxed? Who do you want to style? Does your branding attract your target market? Start a mood board to help these questions answer themselves, you are a stylist after all so using visuals is most likely how you process and understand things. Play around with fonts, words, formats. Get creative with your colour pallet and visual communication.
Establish the Business Basics
Firstly apply for an ABN, then create a price list, professional email address (sorry Hotmail, not going to cut it) format an invoice template ensuring your ABN is on there, then build a website. You can do all of this yourself or get some help, but it can be surprisingly easy using Wordpress or Wix and the basic site packages are free. Link your Instagram, Facebook and every other social platform you intend on using to reach customers and brands. To market yourself, consider using Hotfrog, True Local and other free web listings. Contact local retailers and business with your details and business cards to pass on to customers. Most business owners support each other, especially if you can provide customers to them via personal shopping sessions when you begin to develop a clientele base.
Don't Be Afraid to Call Yourself A Stylist
Is a piano player a pianist? Yes. Is a painter an artist? You bet cha! So why, spending time styling, are you afraid to say I am a stylist? It took me a long time to feel comfortable saying it out loud. This is perhaps because I felt like an imposter even thought I was being paid and believed in my work. It was also due to the surprise reactions I noticed and the inevitable 'but what do you actually do' questions that followed. I quickly got over this but I did bother me for some time. This begs the question, when do you arrive at a title? Is an actor on a commercial an actor or do they need to be cast in a movie or play to earn the title? It is very ambiguous. There is no definitive point - you have to start somewhere and to succeed you have to be all in and own. The term 'stylist' is a very broad one, from personal shopping, editorial styling, food styling, celebrity styling to creative direction...the list goes on. The fact is, if you style on any capacity, whether for free or for money, whether you are just starting or are well established, you are a stylist and until you believe that no one else will. Own it.
I encourage anyone chasing their dreams in fashion to get in touch, leave a comment or continue to read, grow and develop. The most important thing of all that I wish someone told me many years ago is treat your goals like an addiction, a non-negotiable. Don't have a plan B, work your ass off everyday on Plan A. Have fun with the journey, make connections and back yourself. Your only limit is you, don't quit, don't doubt yourself, dream big kiddo! x
Images sourced from Pinterest