Archive | How to become a Stylist RSS feed for this section

Why aren’t kids working?

5 Jun

Maybe it’s just the teenagers I know, but I’ve noticed that there has been a serious decline in high schoolers that have part time jobs, or even college kids for that matter.  No one works anymore.  They’re just supported by their parents who think that their kids need that spare time to focus on their schooling.  I can’t speak for every industry out there, but I know in my world that the people who are booked all of the time are the hardest working, not necessarily the most talented.  What I mean by this is that you’re not going to get anywhere with your amazing talent if you don’t bust your ass on set and have a bunch of people recognize that.  The only way you become an ass buster is by having a bunch of jobs that sucked so badly that they drive you to want to get the most out of every opportunity.  The result is that nothing is taken for granted, and you kill yourself to not have to work at a gas station again (actually, my favorite high school job).  I became a full time freelancer at the spry age of 22, but that was only possible because my parents had me scoop ice cream at 13 in between field hockey games, which continued onto about 15 other part time jobs that made my clothes smell like pizza by the time I graduated high school.  Now that I’m older, I think my dad was a smart man when he told me, “You’ll never appreciate money unless you’ve been poor and you’ll never appreciate your job unless you’ve worked at your rock bottom.”  He created both of those things for me, which I didn’t understand at the time, but I truly value today.  I’m also appreciative of the fact my ice cream scooping arm is still much stronger than my left.  Thanks Dad….   Kids, go to work.

Am I missing something?

4 Jun

For the past year I’ve fallen into a big dark work hole and haven’t had time to think about anything except for the current project that I was working on (which has been AMAZING!).  The past week is the first time in memory were I had a big project cancel and I was able to sit down without any distractions and ask myself, “Am I missing something?”

As a freelancer, the easiest part of the job is working on projects/being on set.  You have someone telling you where to be and what you need to do.  The toughest part is figuring out how to use your spare time as effectively as possible.  It seems like how hard you work during the ladder is just as important, if not more, than the former.  The second I stop working, I feel an overwhelming pressure to figure out my next step.  That’s the killer.  It creates a lot of sleepless nights.  The internet, which was your best friend becomes your enemy because you can’t help but drive yourself insane researching what else is going on out there.  Unlike a photographer, what I can’t do is go out on my own and build my portfolio.

For wardrobe and prop stylists and HMU artists, their portfolios are comprised a little differently.  To some extent, we’re only as good as the people who hire us.  What I mean by this, is that I can dress a set that I think my mom would be proud of, but if the photographer is an average shooter, the model falls flat, the hair & makeup is terrible, then the image is useless to me.  My work is only as good as the people I’m working with.  This is why it takes a hell of a long time to build a portfolio that you’d want to write home about.  Even at that, once you have images you like, there’s the next question, “Is this how I want to present myself?”  Which is followed by, “Does my work represent what I want to be doing?”  That’s where I’m at now and that’s where it has become pretty clear to  me that I need to revamp my website and this blog.  It’s a daunting task, one that may not be completely necessary seeing how most crew members beyond the photographer don’t put a ton of effort into their web presence because 80% of our work comes from referrals, but god damn it, it may help me sleep.  I want to look pretty on the inter web because I’m damn proud of what I’ve done since I’ve started this steam roller 10 years ago.  Here I come.

The Returnist doesn’t return everything.

29 Mar

For those who are scratching your heads at where I came up with the name, The Returnist, it is a hybrid from the famous fashion blog, The Sartorialist, and the famous back end of all styling assignments, having to do an insane amount of returns.  For those who don’t work in the industry find it really shocking that we return everything that we don’t use.  Here’s where the name, The Returnist is getting me in trouble, and getting all stylists in trouble; now with scrunched down budgets, everyone thinks that since we have tag guns we can return EVERYTHING.  Sure, we can.  You can also steal jewelry easily from Macy’s too if you wanted to, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.  Wardrobe budgets are getting silly small, UNREALISTICALLY small for the needs of the project.  If we kept everything that touched skin, meaning smelly crotches (pants) and boderific odor smelling shirts, we’d be limited to shopping at discount stores like KMart and Target.    The thing is, we all know that you can’t show up with only options from these stores when presenting to the client.  Of course, it all depends on what you’re doing, but with things like business attire, you can’t cheat a good looking suit or ladies button down shirt.  It’s true that things are probably OK if the model only wore it for a couple of minutes, but not all pores are the same when nervous and in front of the camera.

I’m writing this post to bring some awareness to the fact that putting stylist in a position to have to return soiled garments (ew), puts us in jeopardy of having bad relationships with the stores we rely on, or for having bad karma for the rest of our lives to ensure that we’ll catch bed bugs when we least expect it at Neiman Marcus.   My suggestion is that if you’re unsure what wardrobe and props will cost for a job, you should contact the stylist you’re thinking about using to give you an estimate.  Remember, if you can’t afford solid gold, you can’t wipe your armpits on solid gold.

My 5 Year Goal

17 Feb

I’m always amazed at what people can get away with when they’re really good at something.  For instance, I had got a reservation for my husband as a Christmas gift to go to the impossible to get into restaurant, Schwa.  The reason why it is so hard to score a reservation is not only because of chef Michael Carlson’s legacy for being a mind blowing amazing cook, but also because he’s a terrible business man.  When you call, there is about a 95% chance you’re going to get a voice mail box telling you it can no longer take messages because it is full.  If for some crazy reason you’re able to get someone on the phone and make a reservation, there is about a 95% chance they’ll cancel on you and make you reschedule.  This not only happened to me once, but TWICE!  The thing was, I wasn’t mad, because I understood it was part of the experience.  As much as his cooking, his otherwise known to be shoddy behavior, is part of his claim to fame.  Chef Carlson will only open if everything is absolutely perfect and he can present his best work to his guests.  Dang, I wish I could get away with that… I’ve worked while having food poisoning.

Next case and point, I recently got to wardrobe style for probably the most well known photographer I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with thus far.  I went to look at his website prior to the shoot, as I always do even though I’m very familiar with his work, to find that there isn’t one single image on his website, just a bunch of contact numbers to his agents.  Now that’s when you know you have made it; a photographer that doesn’t need to show any pictures.  “You know what I do,” must be a pretty comfortable place to reside.  He doesn’t need a website because you can see his work everywhere.  Awesome.

Last example and one you’re all familiar with; the artist formerly known as Prince.  Shit, screw names.  I’ll have an ugly tattoo represent me.  I don’t need to explain why this is amazing.

Now for my goal, and feel free to contact me if you’d like to collaborate on this.  I want a portfolio exclusively consisting of “real” people, butt ass naked, posing with no props, on a white sweep.  Use your imagination people.  Let my legacy as a wardrobe and prop stylist paint the picture for you.*  If you want to book me, you’ll have to get my address off of my contact page because I now only accept letters.  My 3rd grade dream can now be fulfilled of having the most pen pals.

*I feel I need a disclaimer out of fear for those who may read this that don’t already know my sarcasm.

Personal Shopper Confusion.

6 Feb

A weird thing happened the other day; I was parked outside of Target at the beginning of a hefty return day, pulling out a couple of Ikea bags and a woman stopped me and asked, “Are you a designer?”  I did a shady, “Um, uh… no,” without making any eye contact.  I then proceeded to do my routine return and the woman followed me in while accompanying me during my awkward moment at the customer service desk and said, “Have you ever thought about personal shopping?  I’m a really busy mom who’s also a massage therapist who would love to have someone shop for me.”  To be honest, there were a number of asshole responses that ran through my head.  First, and probably the least offensive, “I’m a busy wardrobe stylist that would also love to have someone do my ‘shopping.'”

I feel like I should first preface my explanation as to how my job is different, and why I would never be a personal shopper by saying, I have absolutely nothing against being a personal shopper nor do I think I’m better than someone who is a personal shopper/closet organizer type.  It’s a great career that I’m sure is challenging, and allows you to make people feel good about themselves and their surroundings.  Here’s how my job is different and why I wouldn’t take on personal shopping/closet organizer onto my roster.  I do what I do, not because I like to shop, not because I like to see the people surrounding me in clothes that they’ve worn within the last six months from their perfectly edited and sensible closet, and not because I feel like I need to fix the sometimes sensitive to the eye outfits I see on a daily basis.  I actually enjoy a hoarder, a wrinkle, an outdated capelet from Ann Taylor, and a pair of cargo pants that with a tug of a zipper becomes a breathable pair of shorts.  It’s telling of your personality, and it tells a little story, which brings me to the reason of why I spend a crazy amount of time filling my car with things from shopping establishments… I like to tell a story.

The reason why some stylists do both on set work and personal shopping is that styling is a mix of traits that lend itself to personal shopping; knowledge of everything current in every single stores, resourcefulness, ability to listen to your client to make a strong guess as to what they might like, knowing what is in style and works for someone’s body, and working within a budget.  Why being a set and wardrobe stylist is different is that you’re one single part of big team.   You’re shopping for the agency, the client, and the photographer, as well as all the variables you might run into on set, which will likely change  your original intentions.  What works in person, or what we thought worked during the pre-production conference call may not hold true once you’re on set, which in the end is the bottom line.  It all has to make sense and tell the intended agency and client’s story.  It’s a much different mind set when shopping; one that I personally think is tough to mix with a personal shopping client, or even my own shopping list.   Therefore, please e-mail me if you want to pick up my dog’s food.

Which wardrobe/and or prop stylist should I contact to assist?

20 Jan

Some people may disagree with me on this, but I personally don’t think you should be choosey on what wardrobe and/or prop stylists you want to assist.  You can learn from everyone, even if you think someone isn’t as talented or has a different personality.  Sometimes learning what not to do is just as valuable as learning the seemingly right way to do things.  It is best to team up with as many stylists as you can in order to pick up as many different techniques as possible.  We all do it a little differently.

Tone

18 Jan

I was recently talking about this with some work friends the other week and I thought it might be a helpful post.  For those of you who are doing your first round of reaching out to possible freelancing opportunities, be hyper aware of your tone, especially in e-mails.  Always sound excited, always sound appreciative, and always sound willing.  If you have these three things down, you’re much likelier to get a response.  It has at least worked in my experience.  It doesn’t hurt to mean it too.  That’s good tone.

Carine Roitfeld – Irreverent

2 Jan

This was one of my favorite Christmas gifts this year, the book Carine Roitfeld – Irreverent, from my amazing husband that remembers things that I mention with excitement over a month ago.  This goes through the nitty-gritty of everything you might want to learn and see from the famous ex-French Vogue fashion editor.  This book only reconfirmed her authenticity as a stylist.  She’s someone I truly admire, not because I want to style like Carine Roitfeld, (I’m not a french aristocrat and didn’t have an erotic film director for a dad, therefore that ship has sailed); I admire her for her whimsy in styling, her sense of humor, and her confidence in her spontaneous ideas.  I’m not sure how someone becomes so cool in the world of Paris fashion, where everyone acts like a black cat on a marble perch.  Probably just a perfect ball of neglecting judgemental peers and social quos, while having unadulterated superior taste in all that looks perfect on a magazine page.

Here are some of my favorite quotes taken from Irreverent.

What do you attribute your success to?  Can you define it, or is it a mystery to you?

There’s certainly something mysterious about it.  It’s not my place to say whether I have any talent or not, but success is a mix of hard work and good luck.  I met the right people at the right time, but I also knocked on the doors that I knew were the hardest to enter.  I never chose the easy option.  I have always gone after the most interesting things, even if they are the most difficult.  Always!

So what exactly is signature Carine Roitfeld in your fashion photos?  Could it be an approach to elegance with a suggestive-not explicit sexual component?

I do things by instinct.  For example, I can hang a Chanel bag around Christy Turlington’s neck and all of a sudden, the chai strap becomes a punk S&M accessory.  For me, the main thing is that the photo is sublime, and I let myself be guided by that.  I can do a very sexy photo with a simple pearl choker, or use the sort of very bourgeois lavliere shirt with a bow on it that was worn by Simone Veil, and tie it around a mode’s breasts to make it look like a bondage picture.  Actually, I love violating the codes of bourgeois elegance.  I love high heels with tracksuit bottoms and a black bra under a white shirt.  It’s probably a reaction to my bourgeois upbringing, but it’s also a way of showing a woman’s wardrobe from a different angle, overriding convention and overturning the rules of seduction.

How do you manage to preserve your creativity?

Although I’m very diplomatic, I’ve learned not to back down when it comes to my own vision.  I stay inside a bubble so I can focus on my own creativity and not feel burdened by outside influences or pressure.  I don’t live in a fairy tale – anything but.  But I remain inside my private, insulated space where I find my inspiration and my freedom.

*Carine Roitfeld on the left with a cheetah.

My next fantasy?  No idea.  I never know ahead of time what I’m going to do on a shoot.  It’s completely instinctive process.  I decide at the last-minute, and I order in the accessories at the last possible instant.  I must have my back against the wall to come up with the right ideas.

*Carine loved to use women of all body types.

The Land of Nod

3 Nov

I can’t tell you how elated I am to be part of the amazing crew who creates  The Land of Nod catalog.  To add icing to the cake, the main art direction I got for the wardrobe styling was to “think outside the box.”  This was exciting to me because with kids, you can be a little more weird.  You don’t want things to look perfect, instead it needs to be imaginative.  I approached this project in creating grown up personas for each of the kids and shopped for elements that would be telling of their future personalities.  Grant it, first and foremost, this is a kids home catalog.  We’re not marketing clothes, and we don’t want them to be too over-the-top so that we lose sight of what we’re selling.  The trick is to conquer this while still having the kids look aspirational.  Since I was shopping for a holiday catalog in July, it involved a lot of thrifting, a lot of rummaging through antique stores, and a lot of vintage perusing; mixed with your basics from Target, Nordstrom, etc.  I also aged a lot of clothes to make them look less off the shelf.

Some challenges I encountered were that some kids already had strong opinions on what they would and would not wear.  “What do you mean you don’t want to wear a top hat with a pipe cleaner brim?  But you’re my mini Johnny Deep, via Benny & Joon!”  Unlike a disciplinary mom who can lay down the law and tell her child to be quiet and buck up, I had to compromise with the talent.  They’re still kids, and they’re not going to give you what you want on camera if they feel uncomfortable.  In the end, we made a deal and I’m pretty excited with the outcome.  Here’s a couple of shots I scanned from the catalog.  You can now find the holiday catalog in stores or in your mailbox.

Future PGA golfer who listens to 90’s hip hop artist, Kris Kross.

Vintage shopping graphic designer.

The 70’s inspired poet.

The musician influence by 90’s grunge.

Urban planner.

City shop owner.

Courtney Rust, wardrobe stylist, The Land of Nod.

Kids sizing tip.

20 Oct

A couple of things I’ve learned about the never-ending battle of trying to find kids clothes that actually fit them properly:  First, always talk to a parent after you receive their comp card to double-check that their sizes are up to date.  My second tip, one that took a couple of sizing blows to finally understand why their clothes were too big; parents always tend to buy clothes that are a little big for their kids with the hopes that they’ll grow into them.  If they say they’re a size 3T, buy 3T’s, but also get a whole bunch of 2T’s because that’s what is most likely going to fit them like a glove.  Also, kids sizes are the next most inconsistent thing behind women’s jeans.  If I find something I really like, I bracket the sizes, meaning I buy one size up and one size down as well.  Boring, yet useful information.  Call me the Today show.