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Noor Alali

POSITION
Stylist Intern
LOCATION
New York
INSTAGRAM

Noor is a sophomore at Parsons and has spent her past year interning for Patti Wilson. Her unique eye has developed throughout her time with Patti and having the opportunity to work under the very best in the industry.

This interview took place between Tate and Noor at Ootoya in New York

TVPS: Hello, there we go.

NA: Hi. Cheers.

The glass is empty.

Really, oh God, this interview's going to be fucked now.

Okay, brief us, what are you up to?

I'm having lunch at a Japanese restaurant with you, and I'm really excited because it's one of our favorites.

No, your life.

Okay, well I'm going to be starting my second semester at Parson's doing the Integrated Design Major, but I’m still not sure if it was the right choice.

Why?

Because it's so broad. It's like freshman year all over again. You know I had to do that fish tank, I had to do charcoal sketches, I have to take a bar of soap and carve it. I had to make an anchor, and it looks like a piece of shit. You know like the ones you buy in those prank stores?

Yeah.

In fashion design, people are already making collections their second year. I feel like I'm wasting my time in a way, but I also feel that for what I want to do, which is styling and creative directing, you don't have to go to school for that. It’s not something that can be taught. Obviously there are basic and practical things that you have to know, like how to pull and request pieces, assist on set, and organize sample trafficking, which you learn by interning and assisting in the industry. But you're either born with the eye for it, with your specific style, and that isn’t something that can be taught. By working and observing in the industry, you keep building your library of inspiration in your mind, and no one can teach that to you, you know? It's just what you feel and envision emotionally and creatively.

I'm also interning with Patti Wilson right now. I've looked up to her since I was a kid. She teaches me more in a day than I learn in an entire semester at school. When I'm in the office, I hear her on the phone. I see her pin up the mood boards. I see her grab books. I watch her conduct fittings. I see the whole process, and that's what I want to do.
I also think half of these internships isn't just about what you do there working; it's the connections that you make.

“For what I want to do which is styling and creative directing, you don't have to go to school for that. It’s not something that can be taught.”

What is your role at Patti Wilson?

A lot of it is sample trafficking, so picking up all of the samples, checking them in, photographing them, sorting them for fittings with models to get everyone’s look together before we go on set, and then packing trunks for set.
The day of the shoot, we know exactly what we're doing, so we will usually put shoes, gloves, and other accessories into plastic bags and hang it on top of the dress or something and put it in a garment bag and label it with the model's name, so we know who it’s for when we get there, like it’s "for Sergio.” But sometimes we will just have the clothes sorted and labeled by the designer.
I assist on set so that basically means helping Patti and her assistant Taylor Kim in the wardrobe by organizing and keeping looks together, sorting, and dressing models. Then at the end, we separate priority pulls which means that certain samples have to go directly to another shoot from our set. We bring the rest of the samples back to the office and do mass returns.
Then some things are packed after the shoot is over, and go directly back from set to their locations, which are usually PR firms, such as KCD or Karla Otto, that are both based in NY and abroad.
I'm just so happy and grateful to be there and to be doing it because I'm doing what I love. I don't even feel it. Literally, I wake up excited every morning. I love that every day is different. I never think, "Wow, I'm so tired," or "Wow, I'm acting like a 30-year-old when I should be still a kid.

Just this past week they asked me to make a mood board for an upcoming shoot. I'm so nervous when I do that, you know, thinking are they going to like it, are they going to think I have shit taste? Then, Patti walked over and said, "Oh, that's awesome, I love it." That took a good four months to get to that baby step, you know?

How did you land the internship with Patti?

It was actually on Fashionista.com. They have a careers page, and that's where I found her email. I was like "Oh, okay it's probably not going to happen but why not try.” This was last February [2015]. I sent her an email. It was so embarrassing. It was literally like a good five paragraphs long, not sentences, paragraphs. It was one chunk, like a letter.

LOL

Yeah… so I learned. They don't have time. They want to see someone who literally delivers exactly what they want to do, why they want the job in 3 sentences. Split up too, always be airy. Don't group it into one letter but always attach a cover letter.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Double space, double space. Not too lovey-dovey because that's creepy. You have to be professional, but friendly, so like "Hi, Patti," and then end it with "Best," Not “Talk Soon!”, etc." No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Then follow up a week to 2 weeks later.

That’s when I got the interview with John, her other assistant, he’s the sweetest.

What's his role?

John takes care of more of the administrative work, such as dealing with emails, phone calls, deliveries and orders, and the calendar. Then Taylor, her other assistant, is basically Patti’s right hand, who travels with her everywhere and is always her first assistant on set and in the studio, so that's the whole team. It's just three of them, plus a couple of interns. For me, It's going really well because there have been some interns coming in and out, but they didn’t come back after their first days.

So why didn’t you fizzle out like the others?

I would say I'm super organized, dedicated, professional and polite, but also you can't be a robot. I've seen other interns who sit there quietly the whole day. I was immediately so warm. I'm just like that naturally, I'm a really outgoing person.

I wanted to make them feel immediately, which I think I did, that I'm a person too and I'm here because I love it and I love the people in this industry.

But there are boundaries, no?

There are. You can't be too much. There's a fine line between being outgoing and being obnoxious.

How do you judge that line?

Don't be all over the place. Nothing too personal. It does take time. Now obviously I'm much more comfortable with them, and we joke about things.
Sort of like work comes first, be professional, but when there's downtime, you can try and get to know them a little bit. It also completely depends on the place, you have to match the energy.

Did you start out knowing people in the industry?

Zero.

Who made you, you?

I would say, my parents. My dad is the most hardworking person that I know, and always pushed the academics in my brother and I. It was hard growing up and being raised like that. I'd fight against SAT prep and all that, but he really built that never give up, hardworking drive in me. He was pretty against me going into this industry. I mean now he completely supports me because he realized how much it makes my heart beat, literally, and that so far I’ve been doing pretty well. My mother, too, is an amazing woman and the most creative person that I know. She's an artist. She does hand-painted tiles. I am so grateful for them both.

Where did you grow up?

Everywhere. My background is the most complicated answer. I was born in San Francisco. Because of my dad's job, he's a brain surgeon; we moved often, all over the country. Then I moved to Southern California, Virginia right by D.C. Then I lived in Michigan, Ohio, and now I live here in New York. I lived all over the country, but ethnically my father is Syrian. My mother is Hungarian and grew up in Paris. I feel most at home in Paris. That's where most of my family lives, and I continue to go there many times a year, as often as I can. I always say Paris is probably my biggest inspiration and just having this multi-cultural background; my Middle Eastern heritage too is really interesting to fuse with classic Europe. I speak 4 languages fluently (Hungarian, French, Arabic, and English) because of my parents and my upbringing. All of that has exposed me to meet all different types of people and cultures, and has inspired me tremendously.

Who do you look up to in the industry?

I look up to and am inspired by many in the industry, as those that made it to the top are truly special, and all have something unique to offer. However, I would say that nothing matches the work of John Galliano. His extreme creativity and storytelling that he creates with each collection never fail to take my breath away. He’s a dreamer, like me, which is also why I feel so connected to his vision and work, as he can effortlessly mix historical eras with modern day haute couture. I am still so sad about his departure from the House of Dior and miss his work for the label every day.

Tim Walker is another one whose work I can never get enough, and Carine Roitfeld is my ultimate legend. She symbolizes sexy yet effortless Parisian chic and dares to display the taboo, making her fearless and bold, which is so attractive and important for a woman especially. My dream is to lead a career like hers, becoming an Editor in Chief of my own magazine one day, as well as continue styling.

I also love the works of Helmut Newton and Chris von Wangenheim. The women they portray are always feminine, strong, sexy, and independent, making each of their images so powerful. I am always forever inspired by Roxanne Lowit’s backstage photographs. They are so feminine and glamorous; looking at them you feel like you are at that show or afterparty.

Then there is Kate Moss of course. She is my greatest icon, both as a model and in style. I credit her for making me fall so deeply in love with the industry. I remember when I was in fifth grade, so about nine or ten years old, I began flipping through fashion magazines and fell upon her face. From that day on I never looked back, and I began to tear out her photos and plaster my bedroom walls with them. Then it was through her that I started paying more and more attention to the photographers that shot her, to the designers she walked for and wore, leading me into the entire industry, and choosing it as a career path.

Who are your favorite designers?

I love different designers for different reasons. For example, as an artist, John Galliano. I also really admire the late Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaïa, and Christophe Decarnin for Balmain. But for more casual pieces, I love Isabel Marant, Saint Laurent, Joseph for leather trousers, IRO, and Alexander Wang. I also love the gypsy styles by Chloé and the elegant, feminine, but still cool and edgy looks by Alexandre Vauthier and Anthony Vaccarello for Saint Laurent. Lately, I’ve been really into collecting cool vintage pieces; especially t-shirts... I have a problem.

What are the challenges, or benefits of being so young in an industry that is still very much ruled by an older generation?

Energy, I think especially being young now and because it is such a cutthroat, competitive industry, the younger you are, the more driven and passionate you are because everyone obviously wants to be number one.
Now that we're so young, at least for me, I have this fire under my ass every second like, "I need to be successful and at the top of my field.” How am I going to do that? I'm not giving up." I could call in for exhaustion sometimes, but I won't because I'm like, "I don't want to miss a day. I want Patti to see that I'm there every day and I'm hard working because I want to make it." It's that drive.

What is the effect of the digital world having on the fashion industry?

Huge, but I'm not completely happy about. I feel that the industry has lost some of it’s magic in the sense that everything moves so fast now, so content has to be produced much faster too. Because of this, I find the industry focusing more on releasing and selling as much as they can, rather than actually caring about what they create and put out there. I'm also still an old-school nerd who likes to physically buy and collect magazines and books, and touch the pages rather than look at everything online. However, the effect of the digital world has made everything a lot more practical and efficient. For example, you have the ability to just sit and search anything up, like motorcycle jackets and red lips. You're going to have endless results show up. It has greatly helped with communication and networking as well as keeping organized.
Also accessibility. Before, you had to be invited to see anything, and now everything is online.

“I'm still an old-school nerd who likes to physically buy magazines and books, hold the pages, and not look at everything online.”

Is it becoming less exclusive or more exclusive because everyone wants it now?

I would say it's becoming less exclusive in a sense that it's exposed to everybody. A girl sitting in a cabin in Montana with a laptop can look at what's happening at Paris Couture live. I think it also made those, who are the elite, even more, closed off if that makes sense.

Yeah.

They almost feel like, "I'm giving you all this, but I still have my personal life that you have no idea about. Everyone has another life than what they put up on Instagram.

What about print?

Going into the world of magazines at a time that each day is becoming more digital is scary. I think about this every day, I will wake up to it at night in bed, thinking if I am making a mistake. But I firmly do believe that magazines will never go out of print. I think that our generation is just at a digital obsessed phase, but it will pass, and people will soon come back more to print. This happened with records and CDs when the iPod came out, and now it’s considered trendy to collect records. Staring at screens for hours is so unhealthy too, so I think people will always have the need for print.

However, this digital craze has made people so impatient, because they’re so used to scrolling through their social media feeds, flipping through channels at the push of a button, and ordering things online, that it has also made us a lazy generation, which is also why so many people don’t read anymore or even take the time to look at a beautiful photograph. So I think for the future, magazines should focus more on the art of the industry, featuring more editorial spreads and articles, almost like a portable coffee table book, rather than what it is now: 90% advertisements.

What stereotypes bother you the most?

That fashion is superficial and shallow, the industry as a whole.

Why is it not superficial?

It's a whole world ... It's one of the biggest industries in the world. People don't realize that their pair of one-dollar white socks came from the same industry as a $150,000 Chanel Couture dress. It is really a world that we chose to go into because it is what we breathe. It’s an industry full of truly passionate, dedicated, and hard-working people.

You're here because you love it and you're not doing it for the money.

No, not at all. The pay for most fashion industry professionals is not great; only those elite few who made it big. They dress glamorously because they're usually given those things and take pleasure in creating a character based on their mood and inspirations. Doctors and Lawyers, for example, get paid a lot more, honestly.

But they're there because they're obsessed with it and they're so passionate about it. It's a business full of infatuated, curious, and inspired minds who want to create and spread beauty and dreams for all. I just love being around these creative people. I could never imagine not being surrounded by it every day. It is really just amazing to work with people who are always dreaming; they're always coming up with something new.

Look, Lagerfeld is eighty-two years old, and head of three major companies at his age, but that's because he's so in love with it. You're not going to see that drive and passion in any other business, so that really irritates me that people throw this business and those people in this pile of, "All they care about are parties, champagne, and high heels."

That's our payment because we're not getting cash money.

Exactly.

“For the fashion industry, I would really just love to see its authenticity brought back and make it more about the beauty, the story, and the art again.

What is your take on this generation and where are we headed?

Honestly, I personally don’t relate to some of it. I think it's become pretty superficial in the sense that people care more about becoming famous or who they're friends with rather than actually creating art. That goes hand-in-hand with that lifestyle aspect, which I think is great, but I think there shouldn't be a loss of a sense of art, which is actually what it is. Fashion is an amazing art.

I feel like it's become this world that is more focused on Instagram fame, and in that sense, the industry has lost some of its authenticity and integrity.

It’s become more commercial and digital too. Everything is very fast paced.

What's the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

I would say it's definitely about telling a story and bringing it to life for others to dream. Also the people that I meet, because this industry is a big family. It's so important to put yourself out there and meet people, always be open.
It's really a dream come true. For the longest time, I've collected endless piles of magazines, stacks of books, and tear sheets. I still do, I collect these photography books and magazines. Now I have the opportunity to see how these images come together by these legends that I’ve admired and looked up to my whole life. From the beginning mood boards to the fittings, and shoot on set.

I see how the concepts of those images are brought to life. Then, we start selecting garments, and I see how they chose the clothes that are going to evoke that emotion or bring that story to life, or that fairy tale, or that movie. I would say it's really amazing to see it come from start to finish and then you have that dream in front of you that's going to take you to that other world. I fell in love with fashion because I'm a dreamer, I would always be in another world, and fashion makes me dream like that. Why I'm doing styling is because I want to continue to create those dreams and bring them to life for others.

Has this industry taught you any major life skills?

Yeah, I think to be very punctual, professional, and confident, because there's no room for slacking or hiding in your shadow. Let’s say, for example, we have a shoot booked at Pier59 Studios. We have the space rented out for two days. We all know that the shoot has to be done in two days. It's really a lot of teamwork; it's not just like, "Oh, the photographer thinks this and this look good, and he's going to shoot the image and move on." You're working with the hairdresser, the makeup artist, the models, the lighting crew. I have also learned to think clearly and work fast under pressure, as well as being incredibly detail-oriented, not stressed out, and always in control.

“It's a business full of infatuated, curious, and inspired minds who want to create and spread beauty and dreams for all. I just love being around these creative people.”

Why do you want to be a stylist?

It's bringing a dream to life and telling a story to share with others, and hope to make them dream the way others have done so for me.

How would you like to see the industry evolve and how will you be apart of that happening?

For the fashion industry, I would really just love to see its authenticity brought back and make it more about the beauty, the story, and the art again. I miss seeing creativity and storytelling; looking at a photograph and wondering what is happening in that scene, wondering what her expression means, trying to understand the body language. With social media, the internet, and pop culture, these elements that make the industry so special are quickly disappearing, as it is turning into a world of celebrities, high profile names, and money. I don’t believe that is a fair representation of this world, so I would hope to bring that back. I believe there is a place for everyone, but things that don’t match don’t necessarily have to be forced together.

What advice would you give to someone who looks up to you?

I would say you have to be obsessed with the industry and in your field, as well as in love with it, dead passionate, super-hard working, and extremely dedicated if you want to be in it and stay in it.
This industry is a lifestyle, not a job. It's a big family. You work so many labor-hard hours together. Literally, at the end of the set, I hug the lighting people because you just get to know everybody. You basically created from nothing, something so amazing. Just together, from scratch, you brought that image to life, that story, that dress. I think if you want to be in it you have to love the people, love the art, and love what you're creating.

Photographed by Noor Alali