Dimitri started his career under Marie-Amelie Sauve and then went on to become the fashion market editor at Self Service. He is currently a freelance stylist based in Paris.
This interview took place between Tate and Dimitri at Brasserie Barbès in Paris
TVPS: So how did you get to where you are today?
DR: At first I wanted to become a fashion designer because I didn't know what else you could do in the fashion industry. Then I learned that I was more interested in images and that I didn’t want to work in a design studio, so I decided to pursue a career in styling.
I moved to Paris seven years ago for the fashion school Studio Berçot. Then I started interning at Marie-Amelie Sauve and she ended up hiring me.
What was your role there?
I was her personal assistant, and I also assisted her on set all over Europe. It was really interesting because I was with her every day, so I got to learn a lot. I also did a ton of image research.
Was she a good boss?
Yeah. She's really, really demanding and tough, but I think that’s the best way that you can learn the job because it's a really tough world, a tough industry. If you have a boss who is too soft then, in the long run, it ends up being more challenging because it inhibits your ability to adapt to various situations. You need to learn how to deal.
Did she have an office?
Yes. When I was there the office was quite small but now they have a super nice office.
Then you went on to Self Service?
Yeah I was the fashion market editor.
I was basically the person that was between the advertisers and the stylists. I worked with the stylists to give them the least amount of credits to do as possible. Then I would always check in with the stylists to make sure that they could get the samples that they wanted.
That was my main position but because the team was so small I was doing much more than that. I was finding artists that the magazine could collaborate with, working on some other projects that the magazine had on the side, and I was also doing all of the styling for the website.
Oh yeah I saw that you styled Lineisy back when she was still doing go see’s.
Yeah, she's amazing.
I worked with her when I was an intern at CR and I was hanging up her robe and just doing regular intern stuff, and she went out of her way to introduce herself to me. She’s so sweet.
Yeah, she's so cute, and I think it was her first season or something. She didn’t speak English very well yet, and she was just very young. Now, she's everywhere. She did Chanel and stuff like that.
Yeah that's where I worked with her.
Did you learn anything from your time at Self Service?
Yeah, especially because it was my first time working at a magazine. When I was working with Marie-Amelie Sauve, for shoots it was mainly just putting looks together and assisting on set. Versus when I was at Self Service, I had to deal with deadlines, coordinating with different people, I saw the team making sure the photographer can work well with the stylist, then editing the photos, layouts, and just really the entire process from start to finish. It was super interesting, though. At the end when the magazine is in your hand you’re like “Oh my god.”
It sounds like they're really good at giving stylists their freedom to go out and do what they do. That’s probably why it's one of my favorite magazines. I have every single issue.
Yeah from like 2012 and up. I’m obsessed; they always have the best people.
Yeah I was super happy to be a part of it.
I'm a huge fan of their work. Even in the beginning, in the 90's, all the first issues are amazing. It wasn't at all like it is now; it was a bit like a fanzine with cool collaborations with Chloë Sevigny, Mark Borthwick and all the cool people from that time.
Also they just have this cool independent reputation. It's really important in Paris because a lot of the magazines here are more commercially focused. Self Service is more about letting people be free to do what they want but with this specific touch you can find in every issues.
How was the company culture?
It was a tiny team, and everyone was super chill and then sometimes not chill.... I don’t know, you could just feel that something special was happening when we were building the issues. We were all very free to do what we wanted and no two days were ever the same. We also worked really well together as a team, and everyone helped everyone. It was one of the most beautiful offices too.
So what are you up to now?
Now I'm freelance, which is exciting.
It’s really nice to do what you want after assisting for so long. I feel really lucky because there are quite a lot of people who want to work with me. Also being freelance, you bounce around a lot more, so I'm meeting a lot of photographers, or potential collaborators. I have some commercial work as well coming up from nowhere which is cool.
Yeah your website is really well done. I'm sure it has brought a lot of people to you.
Yes. Recently I’ve been contacted to do personal shopping for a private client coming to Paris, she wanted a stylist to help her to choose some clothes. So we went shopping together one afternoon.
Have there been any challenges from branching out from an assistant position to doing your own work?
Yeah, it’s really different. When you’re assisting, you don’t have much if any free time to work on your own projects. But it’s really important to assist, especially someone you admire because that’s how you learn how everything is done. Then when you’re ready, you can branch out, and it’s a lot less stressful that way because you have an understanding of the process.
So Marie-Amelie kind of trained you, almost like being in school?
So what’s your process after you book a shoot?
It’s different every time because it depends who contacts you first- the magazine, the photographer, or a brand. If I have to build a concept or if the photographer already has one or if it’s a collaboration with an art director.
Usually, I like to meet who I’m working with before the day of the shoot to talk about the mood, the casting, the location, to give some references..
Why did you want to be a stylist?
I knew that I wanted to work in the fashion or art industry when I was in high school. I did a small fashion show at my school when I was a kid, and it was so funny. I had a really good time working on it though so I decided to take that career path more seriously.
I first studied fashion design because I thought that that’s what I wanted to do. Then I realized that I would probably get really bored at a studio because when you’re at a big fashion house, there are a lot of people so at the end of the day your job isn’t that creative. Around the time of realizing that, I would always find myself at art galleries looking at photography exhibitions. The images that I saw really stuck in my head and I thought that I could be a part of them somehow, and that’s when I started assisting a few stylists.
I fell in love with the feeling of building a concept, working with the photographer to bring an idea to life. I loved the fittings and building looks on models. It felt as if creativity was constantly pouring out of me. I don’t know… it was just so much fun.
Are there any specific reasons as to why you chose to start your career in Paris?
I thought about going to London, but I was too late to apply to schools there. I’m really happy that I ended up here though because I love what’s going on in Paris at the moment.
There are a lot of young creatives here that are sending new ideas into the industry. I also just love Paris.
It’s beautiful. I can understand why people come here and never leave.
Does having a background in fashion design affect your viewpoint as a stylist?
Yes. It's really important to know how to make clothes, how to make a shirt, how to make trousers because when you're dressing someone, you know exactly what's going on with it and the way that it should be fitted. It gave me a different eye than someone who hasn’t studied fashion design.
I feel like it’s so important to understand that part of the industry.
Is there ever a message that you try to express with your styling?
I like to think that I dress real women. I’m not going to be a stylist who works with a lot of makeup and crazy dresses. I prefer a more natural look. I always want people to feel like they could be the girl in that picture. That it’s relatable, not unreachable.
How would you describe your styling aesthetic?
It’s very feminine but with a juxtaposition of strong, tough women. I’m obsessed with the middle ground; I love tomboy girls.
Does music influence your styling?
Of course. Lots. I'm also a DJ, so music is really, really important to me.
I listened to some of your tracks.
Music is one of the most important sources of inspiration for my work. There are so many different images, and different styles, and when you throw music into the mix there are so many possibilities. Kind of like when you’re a teenager, and you’re obsessed with this band and try to dress like them.
Who are your favorites?
I love Siouxsie and the Banshees.
I love Siouxsie Sioux the leader in the band; she's totally crazy. She's really punk. She's always wearing this crazy makeup. She's beautiful and I love the music. They're just so cool. I also love Patti Smith, all the pictures of her when she was with Robert Mapplethorpe are so inspiring to me, her on stage as well.
Have they directly influenced any of your work?
Maybe, I don't know. I can’t pin point exactly where they influenced my work, but I’m sure my work would be different if I didn’t know who they were. There is something with that attitude that I love; the strong personalities.
Are there any specifics that are important to you about castings?
It’s hard to say exactly. I need to see a photo, and then I know immediately if I hate her, or I love her.
Do you always have a say on castings?
Of course. Styling is not just choosing the clothes, and that’s it. Which I love. You get to be a part of it all. I want to have a say in everything, the location, the model, and even hair and makeup. At the end of the day, you’re a part of the team that’s creating an image, so I think that it’s important to have a hand in everything.
What's the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
It’s when you're on a shoot, and you just feel like everything is going in a good direction and that there is a good energy. That's the moment when I'm really happy to do what I'm doing.
Does gender play a role in your styling?
No. It’s something that’s just with me everyday. All my friends are gay, straight, trans, and it’s something that is just so engrained into who they are.
That makes sense. You can't separate that trait from the person. It's a part of who you are.
Yeah I know it’s a really big topic right now, but I don't feel right drawing lines and categorizing people.
I'm just surrounded by lots of different people. My friends are a-gender, non-gender. Some don’t define themselves as a man or women but just as they want. I don’t feel like we have to name things and put words on them. They can choose to be whatever they want and to not have a specific gender or whatever.
Yeah I agree. What effect is digital having on the fashion industry?
Everyone gives me that same look when I ask that question.
It changed the entire fashion industry and how people view your work and interact with it. Everything is so fast now. Everything is accessible.
I think it's really good in a way because there are more outlets to show your work but at the same time, the industry is becoming much, much more commercially focused. This obsession with Instagram followers; I think it’s quite ridiculous. It's a shame because when you’re at a magazine, sometimes you're looking at models just because they have a lot of followers, and I'm like, "Why?"
It drives me crazy.
It's not because she has an interesting look, it's just because she has the most followers.
I understand though because it is a business, and if a model has a lot of followers then it’s that many more people viewing your work when she posts it to social media. But because of this way of thinking we’re losing some really good talent.
Also, all of these reality TV stars too. I mean I watch the Kardashians, I think they’re hilarious, but I see more and more reality TV stars all over the fashion industry when maybe it should just stay funny and entertaining on TV. It’s getting to be too much.
I agree. There're a time and place for everything.
Do you think print will ever go out of business?
No, no, no.
Digital is fantastic, but print is… it’s something that you can hold in your hand and keep forever. It’s extraordinarily important that it stays. There is something beautiful about print, something precious that you cannot feel with digital.
I feel like when it’s in print you’re going to invest a block of time to look at the images and dive into them whereas with Instagram you pull it up when you’re already distracted, and you might spend 5 seconds looking at an image.
And when you're thinking of a certain time period or a certain thing that happened in 2006 with Balenciaga, you can pull a magazine from that time and look for it.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I noticed that I have visual references in magazines as well. For example every year, you know, Vogue Paris does a collaboration with someone for an issue. They are super good, the old ones like Hitchcock or Polanski are so amazing, more recently I love the Sofia Coppola one as well. I always go back to look at those old issues.
Who are your favorite stylists?
I love Marie-Amelie Sauve and Melanie Ward. They’ve brought so much to this industry.
I love Paolo Roversi. He has a book called Nudi. It's nude in Italian. It's black and white portraits of models naked. It's beautiful. It’s like poetry.
I'm also obsessed with Corinne Day, Nan Goldin, David Armstrong, Mark Borthwick. All these 90’s photographers are really important to me, and more recently, I love Juergen Teller. I also love Jamie Hawkesworth, his prints are incredible; I’m always in admiration when I’m in front of them.
I've worked with Letty Schmiterlow. She's British, and she's really, really talented. I think she will go really far because there is something so interesting and beautiful about her work. After I also love some non fashion photographers like Mapplethoorpe obviously, I really like Mary Ellen Mark, Joel Sternfeld, …
It's mostly 90’s photographers that have touched me because they did real stuff. For exemple Nan Goldin was photographing her friends, she was photographing sick people, she was photographing what was going on around her; there is something that is very deep about her work. In the 90’s they didn’t have photoshop or anything extra. It was all about these raw images that could take your mind somewhere else.
Last one, favorite designers?
I really appreciate Nicolas Ghesquiere.
Did you get to work with him when you were with Marie-Amelie Sauve?
Yes I worked on his first campaign for Louis Vuitton. He was very nice.
I think he's one of the reasons why I originally wanted to work in the fashion industry. One of the first collections that I saw was by him. I remember thinking that it was just a really interesting approach to fashion.
Then Prada, of course. More recently, I love Julien Dossena for Paco Rabanne. The last collection was really good. I love the image that they are giving to the brand. It’s new, modern, and interesting.
Who do you look up to?
I feel like I'm growing up everyday with all the people I'm surrounded by. All my friends are very creative. They're inspiring me and in a way they're building me.
What’s your take on our generation?
I think it's good, and it's the future generation. It's exciting and it's cool.
I feel like you only start to get noticed when your 30 though but right now are the interesting years, when you’re in your 20’s and you’re just so excited to be here and to give. So I think it’s just really important that we give ourselves as much exposure as possible.
Where do you hope the fashion industry goes? Where is it headed?
Everything is going so fast now. It’s not the same industry it was five years ago. All these digital things, the Internet, social media, and what's going to exist next. I don't know how it’s going to evolve but I'm excited to see.
Is there a specific impact that you would like to make going forward?
To keep doing what I love and staying creative.
What advice would you give to a kid who looks up to you?
Always trust in yourself. Always have dreams and work hard to make them. Take all the opportunities that come to you, and be open and be curious and try to always be really demanding with yourself. Never give up because there are lots of times when I was like, "Okay, maybe it's too much. I don't want to be a stylist", and every time, I was like "No, I want to be here. I want to be here. I want to be here." It works out in the end. If you’re really talented and if you're working hard, it pays off. Always have dreams and trust yourself.