Roles don’t mean all that much. There’s hardly anyone I meet in this industry whose job is actually limited to their job description. Officially, I’m a fashion stylist. But in reality my job often encompasses everything from production to psychotherapy. You have to get beyond the role—you have to make things work. And when you allow yourself to do that, you often find that your original vision is ultimately strengthened.
During our last couple shoots this really came to the foreground for me. We’re getting ready to shoot Brooklyn Decker for the Modern Luxury Group. I’ve spent a week putting together a stellar collection of high fashion. Suddenly Markus is trying to get me to style his love-interest Zonna from items in the wardrobe so that he can sneak in a few shots with her.
On the surface, it might seem like there is a lot to spare, but the reality is that everything in the wardrobe is part of a carefully orchestrated series and thought-out direction. Each idea represented there communicates a particular fashion trend for the season.
Planning and executing a shoot begins as a very open ended process and becomes increasingly specific as the zero hour approaches. I begin by exploring my instincts about the season—this grounds me in my own aesthetic sensibilities and keeps me from becoming derivative. Then I turn to my notes: I am constantly taking notes on fashion trends, whether it be from shows I’ve been to, publications or fashion blogs. These notes let me translate my vision into something concrete.
Next I send out requests to the various designers and showrooms. Each item on my list is usually a unique piece, which means that there is no guarantee it will be available. Sometimes I get what I’m looking for or I’m told the look I want is already out on another shoot. This is how the dance begins—I need enough elements to tell a story with, if this can’t happen in time I have to change the idea or our fashion course completely.
Styling a photo shoot can be a lot like styling a fashion show. Except at a fashion show, the idea needs to look good from 360 degrees. In styling for a photo shoot you are trying to make the clothes look good in a much more precise way, with consideration for the environment, the light, and the camera angle. You are essentially trying to create a fashion moment, a microcosm where the clothes speak to the viewer in an intuitive way that brings inspiration and understanding. The representation of the fashion in the picture is incredibly important. And as there is often only one sample to work with at any given moment, it means one size has to fit all. It’s my job to make sure that fashion looks as good as it can on the body. It can mean using A-clamps, safety pins whatever is needed to create a good fit. In the end, it’s all about what the camera sees.
On the other hand, it’s not just about adjusting the clothes to match the environment—it also works the other way around. And because my job encompasses art direction and production, as well as fashion styling, I can enhance the presentation of the fashion by changing the environment and the tone of the shoot.
That's the advantage of being comfortable in a variety of roles. It lets you attack a problem from more than one angle.