You Want to Go into Styling
So how did you get to where you are today?
I would have to say around my sophomore year of high school I started to recognize my interest in fashion. I was applying to schools and seeing where I wanted to go, and Florida State was one of them.
Where are you from originally?
I'm from Davie, Florida. When I was researching schools, Florida State had one of the best programs for what I wanted to major in. So, I decided to go there. They also had this whole in-college magazine called Clutch. It's really cute. I got involved with that during my years of college.
In my freshman year, I was super involved with clubs, and I was also an on campus ambassador for ASOS and Rent the Runway. Then going into my sophomore year, I did my first internship at Seventeen Magazine.
What does a brand ambassadorship entail?
ASOS and Rent the Runway would send us products, and then we would host events on campus. One of the events that I did was in collaboration with Clutch. I brought all of these ASOS cups; getting people to take photos with them and there were also all of these other incentives.
Oh cool. That was also right at the beginning when Instagram was becoming a new tool for marketing.
It’s crazy when I think about it. They were so ahead of the game when it came to influencers and campaigning, because they knew that these kids were going to buy what their friends had. It was a super cool experience, I took a trip to New York and got to visit the ASOS showroom, and meet with all the PR people there.
I was this bright-eyed young girl who wanted to get into the industry so badly, and I do really feel that my internships on campus and my involvement with our school magazine Clutch, helped me get that first internship at Seventeen Magazine. I was like "I'm not going to let anything hold me back. Just because there are kids that are doing three, four internships in New York during the school year, I can still get an internship during the summer if I work my ass off.
That's so smart. You're one of the first people that I’ve interviewed that got involved in fashion while not at a city school. That had to have made a huge impact.
Yeah, I originally really wanted to go to NYU, but it was just too expensive and I had a scholarship to go to Florida State. I remember when I got that email from Seventeen. I was so happy. That was my first summer in New York; I was living on the lower east side. It was the picture-perfect moment for my first time living here.
Yeah, it was like your introduction to everything.
Yeah, it really was. At Seventeen, I was a fashion closet intern. I met a lot of people that I'm still in touch with. You learn so much. When I first went on set, it made me realize how much I enjoyed working in magazines, whether it's in styling or market.
After Seventeen, what did you do?
I went back to school and continued with the brand ambassadorships. I also did this other brand ambassadorship with a local boutique called Henri Girl. It was an amazing experience and I got to know the retail side.
I think it’s very important when you’re first starting out, to see as many sides of the industry as possible.
Definitely. I knew that I wanted to go into magazines so I made sure to intern in PR so that I could see the other side. I did one PR internship with Anthropologie and then went on to work at HL group as an Account Coordinator. Both these experiences have helped mold my work ethic and how I handle stress.
What were your expectations for your first internship versus reality?
I think when I went into my first internship, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought maybe something from along the lines of when Lauren Conrad interned at Teen Vogue on The Hills.
This was my real first time living in New York and being delved into a very fast-paced environment. I came from a small town. So, being in New York was a whole new experience. It helped mold me into the person that I am today because I don't have high expectations for anything. I kind of go into it with a clear mind.
When you first started at Vogue, you were the freelance jewelry market assistant, how do you think you made yourself stand out?
I think it was just my willingness to learn and eagerness to want to grow in the company and that's what they recognized. Every time I was given a task, I just wanted to do it well and see what else I could do.
So now you’re the Fashion Market Assistant at Vogue, can you give an overview of your role?
Ahh yes, I wear many hats in my role. I directly assist my boss who is the Fashion Market Director, so that entails scheduling and acting as a liaison between her and the other editors when needed. I also handle all of the front of book shoots for the magazine; these include the smaller beauty shoots and the profiles we do on designers, artists, actresses, etc. In addition, my specific markets include Swim, Lingerie, Knits, Tees, and Fur. These markets are fun though, I usually have a bit of free reign to interpret the stylist’s vision and bring it to life!
Are there any specific things that you’ve learned from your position now?
Just how to work efficiently and with others. I feel like that's what I struggled with growing up, as well as into college and in my early career. Sometimes I felt like if I needed help, it meant that I couldn't do the job myself or as well as I wish I could. But my workplace is such a collaborative environment; everyone wants to see everyone succeed. So from that, I’ve learned to take others advice and see how my work can go from one place to the other in a very positive way.
Also, a sense of urgency and learning how to prioritize. So if there are requests for a shoot that's happening on Friday and today’s Tuesday; I need to make those requests first. Or let's say it was around New York Fashion Week and my boss leaves in a week for Europe, then I need to be doing her Milan schedule… like yesterday.
I am so lucky to work in an environment where I am surrounded by young talent as well as the more seasoned editors; there’s so much to learn.
That's such an incredible place to be, where two generations combine. Or multiple generations.
Multiple generations. There are so many interesting people that I work with. To even get to go to the office in the morning and be around these people, I'm so happy and so thankful for it. It's always been a dream of mine to work at Vogue since I was a sophomore in high school. The masthead was on my inspiration board.
And now your name is on it!
Yeah. My first masthead I was like, "Mom and Dad, I really hope you laminate this and frame it."
Do you want to give an overview of how you got to where you are today?
I went to Syracuse and studied advertising and minored in fashion communications, which covered everything from fashion advertising to magazine. Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to be somewhere in fashion. I worshiped magazines.
In between my junior and senior year, I freelanced at Teen Vogue as a graphic designer, but I also got to assist on set. I became obsessed with the energy of it all, I got to help style a bit and also art direct, which was amazing and confirmed that that was what I wanted to do. So after senior year, I interned for Elizabeth Sulcer. Then in September of this year, she hired me as her assistant.
Yeah, so it worked out well. I'm really happy at the moment.
How do you think you were able to stand out as an intern at Elizabeth?
It all just comes down to working really hard which sounds really simple, but I would always try to go the extra mile. It's definitely not a 9 to 5 job, with regular hours or regular tasks, so you have to learn how to be super flexible. Also, it’s important to always be thinking of new ideas and ways that you can contribute. I think if you’re always as helpful as possible then that will make you stand out. I was always putting 110% into that internship, and I think that is how I got to where I am now.
What have you learned from your role with Elizabeth?
How to roll with the punches and figure out a plan. Issues always arise like the package with the one dress Bella wanted doesn’t arrive on time. You always have to be able to think on your toes and have backup plan because if you're counting on one dress, it'll never get there on time. So mainly just being able to problem solve and think of the best solutions rather than freaking out.
Have you seen yourself grow since you got the position?
Totally. I feel a lot more confident now with myself and my skills. It was definitely intimidating in the beginning for sure, but I feel as though I’ve learned a lot very quickly.
Do you think studying graphic design has had an influence on your aesthetic and your take on the fashion industry now?
Totally. It’s especially helpful for being on set, specifically in regards to art direction. It deepens your knowledge of basic design principles which can help you see what will look good on a page and also online, or on a screen.
When you were looking to get into this industry how do your then expectations of it differ from your reality now?
What I'm doing now definitely exceeds my expectations for a first job. If I had told myself when I was in college that I would be working with Bella Hadid and assisting on Victoria's Secret sets, I would have said: "no way, that's not going to happen." It's not as glamorous as it sounds of course, there’s a lot of grunt work too, but the end result definitely exceeds my expectations.
Can you give an overview of what your role looks like today?
Yeah of course. It is completely different depending on the day and what jobs we have going on at the time but Bella Hadid is one of our biggest clients so we’re always putting looks together for her since she’s constantly photographed. So that's a big ongoing job. For her, I’m always researching the newest up-and-coming designers for her to be the first to wear. Bella, especially, loves to wear the newest designers that nobody else has worn yet, which is great because I love finding them. I’ll dig them up on Instagram a lot of the time.
It's amazing if you can take a designer who's pretty new and put one of their pieces on Bella Hadid. It’s super rewarding if you can help a brand out like that. That's one of my favorite parts of the job. Then, of course, I’ll help with requests, sample trafficking, fittings, and assisting on set.
Elizabeth also styles the Victoria’s Secret photoshoots, so that’s another big one. They’re really fun too.
So on set, what’s your role?
Every shoot is totally different but usually in the morning we'll have a fitting with the model where we’ll choose the looks for her throughout the day. Then when we’re shooting, Elizabeth and I will keep an eye out to make sure everything looks ok or if we need to add a necklace or fix their skirt or something like that. It’s just about making sure everything goes right with the looks. Then there are always the last minute errands, for instance; “we need a red pump right now,” but I love it. It's so much fun to be on set and to see it all come together, and all your work paying off.
We work so hard on the prep. Requesting everything, getting it all together, making sure we have the right pieces, the right sizes. Then when it finally comes together, and you see it on the girls, it's so awesome.
How does your role differ if, for instance, you're dressing Bella for an event vs. street style?
With Bella it’s a very collaborative process. She has a lot of input and a very specific taste and style of her own, which we’ve been able to pick up on. So when we see something, we’ll pretty much already know if she’ll like it or not.
For street style for example, we'll get a bunch of really cool pieces and put them together into looks, and she'll come in and try everything on and either say I don't like this, I want this top with these pants, etc. It's a really fun process working with her.
Yeah, one of the things I love about the looks is that you can see Elizabeth’s feminine attributes melt with Bella’s downtown more gritty style.
That's actually a great description of her style, grunge, hard pieces with a lace bra on top. With Bella, we get to be really creative which I love. It’s awesome styling her because she's pretty much game for whatever as long as it’s dope.
Your favorite time on set?
It was a shoot with Russell James and Elaine Irwin. I did it by myself, Elizabeth was in Paris at the time.
It was a really awesome feeling to take the reigns by yourself. I pulled all of the samples, went to the shoot, set up and put all of the looks together, and it all went really well! Elaine has the best personality and was so beautiful, and Russell is such an amazing photographer.
It was really cool seeing something and being able to say “That’s my work!!”. It was definitely super nerve wracking at first, but it was so worth it because it turned out so great. I would say that was one of my favorite moments because I saw my own work be produced.
What does the rest of your role look like?
For the rest of my role, it’s just about being up for whatever. Everyday is completely new, and I never know what’s coming. I have to stay on my toes and be ready for whatever new job we get. We can get a job that’s tomorrow, so then we’ll have to drop everything and prep for it. So it’s a lot of quick problem solving, and being as prepared as you can be.
How has the influx of digital media affected stylists?
It’s helped, for sure. Instagram is an amazing tool for stylists, it’s so easy to find new up and coming brands now. Also Elizabeth has a huge Instagram following and because of that a lot of people know who she is. It’s crazy the number of people that you can reach.
Regarding magazines, though, it’s a little bit less beneficial obviously, but I think print will always exist in some form. When I was at Teen Vogue it was all about growing their online presence. I think it’s more of a learning curve than necessarily a negative. I don’t think print will ever completely disappear because people will always want to hear from the experts.
Agreed. With this industry becoming increasingly democratized, it’s important to also listen to the people who’ve studied fashion versus the general public's opinion. Anyone can be an influencer. So a balance is good and print definitely holds that one side in tact.
Of course. I think the expertise and reputation is what keeps publications alive. I think also the extreme influx of fashion bloggers and influencers has a negative effect on their power. With so much dilution it’s hard to know who to trust or which accounts to follow so consumers turn back to the experts.
True, magazines have built up trust, which has followed into the digital era because it’s so unknown.
Right, exactly. That's basically what magazines exist on is that they are the most knowledgeable in their field. Also print can feed back into digital. I know People Style Watch has this feature where you can scan the print page with your phone and then you can click and actually buy what's on the page, so I think they can work together like that.
Did you see the Garage issue when Binx pops out of it via an app on your iPhone?
Yes! That was when I was doing graphic design so it was interesting to look at it from that perspective as well.
So do you think digital can help print survive?
Yes totally! A lot of the time magazines will post one photo from an editorial on Instagram and it gets me excited, and I’ll want to buy the issue.
How has the accessibility factor influenced the fashion industry?
It’s a huge change for sure. It’s awesome that now you can go on voguerunway.com and see all of the shows. It used to be so much more exclusive, and editors would have to sketch really quickly what went down the runway. On the other hand, the fashion industry thrives off of this exclusivity, so it’s about learning how to deal with that. Overall though, I think it’s a good thing. If you’re passionate about fashion, doesn’t matter where or who you are, you can watch the shows as they’re happening. It also gives designers a broader reach as well.
Does the See-Now-Buy-Now initiative affect you?
Not really. I haven’t noticed a change in terms of requesting for clients.
I find that so interesting because there’s been such an uproar about it in the industry but then whenever I ask that question to a stylist or a stylist's assistant they always say that it hasn’t affected them.
From a consumer standpoint though, I think it’s a great thing that needed to happen. We live in an instant world with everything at the click of a button, which made waiting months archaic. The industry needed to keep up with that.
How did you get to where you are today?
I’m originally from Australia, grew up in the UK, and then went back to Australia to study fashion design at university. While I was at university, I’d always come back to the UK over breaks and intern for a production company. After I had graduated they offered me a job as a junior producer, so I started in that role and worked there for about 2 years. It was great because it gave me the fundamental tools for being an assistant. I learned how to stay organized, write strong emails, communicate effectively and be a good team player. I had an immense amount of respect for what they did, but I was never very passionate about becoming a producer.
Since I wanted to be in styling, I had to get out there myself and eventually start freelancing. One of the first jobs that I worked on was in New York with Poppy Kain. Which was cool because it was also my first time in New York.
How did it go?
Really well! But At the time Poppy had just left assisting Venetia Scott, so she didn’t need a full-time assistant. She ended up recommending me to another stylist, Stevie Westgarth, and I worked with him for about 6 months. Then I found a position with Gillian Wilkins, who was the fashion director at Russh Magazine at the time. I was with her for about 2 years.
Were you between Australia and the UK? or…
Just the UK because that’s where Gillian’s office was located which was a bit of a challenge when it came to communicating with PR’s. UK PR’s we could talk to all day but New York PR’s would open at 2pm and then with Australia you’d wake up in the middle of the night and answer emails at 4am. We would always be working on quite a few projects at once, which would add to the craziness.
It was definitely a 24/7 job and pretty hectic. But I loved it. Then when Gillian moved to New York, we parted ways. It was good timing because I realized that by then I had learned everything that I needed from that position at that time. I feel like when you’re not progressing anymore and you feel like you can do that job with your eyes closed you know, it’s the right time to move on.
So then I started doing more freelance work, and later I became Julia Sarr Jamois’s first assistant at i-D. I was with her for about 8 months, before a job opportunity came up as the Junior Fashion Editor at The Violet Book, which is where I am now. I still do some freelance work with Julia, and just recently started working a lot with Tom Guinness. It was definitely a conscious decision to freelance only with people whose work I really admire. Right now I’m trying to do more of my own work and working towards identifying my own style.
Circling back to your position at Russh magazine in London. Can you go into detail about your role there?
My role on the masthead was Fashion Director's Assistant. But I basically worked as Gill's first assistant in addition to Russh work. I worked on all of her shoots, which included cover shoots, main fashion shoots and extra stories within an issue. I also worked with contributors that Gill would bring on board. Production was a part of my job as well, so it was good to have my previous production skills under my belt. Gill was Lucinda Chambers first at British Vogue years ago and still does a lot of work for international Vogue’s. So we’d always be working on editorials for them as well.
So your prior experience with production ended up benefiting you?
100%. It gave me the tools to be a better assistant. When interviewing I think it gave me a step ahead as well because people like to see that on a resume. The skills learned in production are invaluable for assisting creative people, especially because it’s all about organization and structure which teaches you how to be a good assistant. It’s also important to know how to treat people on set, and especially how to deal with people who can be a bit difficult.
People skills can be the most important to have.
Yeah, you really have to be aware of what you say and when. It’s definitely something you learn with experience over time when you’re assisting. It’s important to give the stylist and the photographer physical space on set to do their thing and bring their vision to the shoot. You have to step back and let them know you’re in their eye line but not in their way.
How was Russh’s company culture?
It was literally just Gill and I, so it was a bit tricky because I always felt the distance between the office and us. The office was in Australia, and we were so far away from there, so it’s really difficult to liaise with a company you work for that’s in a different country. It’s definitely tricky to not have the physical support of a whole team, but I was still happy in that environment. Working with different time zones was a struggle though, especially with PR’s, but it was lovely working together so closely. We became really good friends as a result of working like that.
Can you tell me about your role at i-D and how was it there?
Everybody at the i-D offices are amazing. Julia calls in a lot of samples, which can sometimes be challenging but so many PR’s are incredibly supportive because her work is amazing. That definitely makes the call in process easier. There was definitely quite a lot to juggle when it came to sample trafficking. But because of it I also got to do some incredible shoots with her. I went to Senegal in Africa for a shoot, which was unbelievable. It can go down in history as one of the best shoots that I have been on. Such an eye opening experience.
It was unbelievable. I flew with a crazy amount of suitcases and met Julia who was already out there with Harley Weir who shot the story. It was just a team of us 3 girls for the shoot. They had been shooting a feature with Grace Wales Bonner for 2 days prior so Grace was with us for a day or 2 in the beginning.
Oh, I love her.
She's the best. I've been working with her recently with Tom Guinness, who styles Grace’s shows.
What is it like to work with Tom?
He’s awesome. A really nice guy. I feel really lucky, because I jumped on board with Tom at the time that he started getting really busy and gaining a lot of momentum, shooting for magazines and teams that I really like and enjoy being a part of. He's the nicest man to work with. He's so chill and laid back and incredibly talented. It makes working in a sometimes hectic environment, so much more enjoyable. His eye is really unexpected and I like watching how he puts pieces together, in a way I would never even think to do. We worked on Grace's last show, which was so good, watching her work is amazing.
I first met her in Senegal with Harley and we shot a series with Grace's graduate collection on wrestlers in Senegal right before we shot another story there as well. There were these unbelievably beautiful men; really burly men in Grace's graduate collection wrestling in this incredible pink lake in Dakar. It's pink because of the amount of salt that's in it.
How did you do the street casting? Would you all split off and divide and conquer, or…
Julia had a friend who did production on the shoot. He’s from Senegal and he had just shot a film in Dakar so came along and helped. He would take Julia and Harley off in the mornings and they’d find men and women and children in the markets, on the streets. Anywhere. I would get into this old van in the mornings with all the cases tied to the top; no one spoke English so I wouldn’t know where I was going. We’d be buying peanuts from the street vendors begging at the windows of the van for our breakfast. Then we’d get to some school or youth club or hall and have old hangers and a dodgy little rail to set everything out. It was totally ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ but totally added to the experience.
How was the company culture at i-D?
Everybody is really lovely. You bond off of the experiences and the stress that you have within our environment. I feel like that with a lot of people and my friends who are assistants. It's not about pushing anyone in front of buses, or being bitchy. I've never had that experience in my world, and I just think it's very neat that at the end of the day we can all come together and have a moan about our lives and know exactly where each of us is coming from.
What have you learned from Poppy?
Poppy is amazing. She is unbelievably talented and incredibly meticulous. She inspires me not to be lazy, and that every single thing you do and put out there in this world should be exactly how you want it to be; exactly how you saw it in your mind and that your choices and decisions throughout your career should really be considered choices and decisions. I’ve been so influenced by the professionalism and thoroughness in her work. She’s an incredible mentor, she always makes herself available and we have a wonderful friendship that’s grown from our time together.
While assisting all of these really incredible and influential people, how have you been able to develop your own aesthetic and point of view for your work?
When I first started doing my own work I was under the impression that more was better. Layer it all up. Once I started working with other stylists though it taught me to strip back and that more wasn't necessarily better all the time. Add eccentricity to your work in other ways. I feel like from that my work is becoming more considered. My friend and incredibly talented photography Anna Victoria Best brought that out of me too. She pushes me to pull back a little. I hope that people can look at my work and go, "Well, that looks like Ashlee Hill’s work." I would love to keep working this way.
Can you give an example of having more considered work?
Whenever Poppy does any editorial she does fittings, where she’ll go through all of the looks prior to shooting. I never used to think that was necessary and I know a lot of stylists who don’t work like that. I now understand how important and helpful this can be. All of the decisions Poppy makes are really thought about. I like to try to consider things a little bit more nowadays. I like to familiarize myself with looks excessively beforehand. I like to try and make time for fittings before a shoot.
It’s certainly a skill and one that I'm trying to get; knowing when to pull back and when to push it. I believe that's what makes a great stylist. Knowing when enough is enough or more is needed to make the look work.
For styling, do you prefer your work being shot in film or in digital?
For me personally, I like the idea of working with somebody who works with film because the whole process is more considered. You have less bullets to fire, so you choose wisely with how and what you shoot.
What are the challenges of having so many projects going on at once?
It varies depending on season. Everybody shoots manically in June and July, and then August tends to be quiet. I’ve had my share of breakdowns in the past, but it’s very rare. It’s hardest when I’m working with so many great stylists at once and juggling my own personal work and trying to prioritize their needs and expectations along with mine. But that’s where my production background comes in to help; I learned how to try and fight fires before they happen.
Are there any specifics you like about the fashion industry today?
There’s so much that I love. Oh God, where do I start? People are open to seeing new and old talent. I love that it's about finding new faces, visions, and voices. I definitely feel it’s a real London thing, but I’m sure it’s like that in other places. There's just loads of exciting stuff happening, particularly in London.
Now you're an editor at Violet, which is super exciting. How’s that going?
Great, it was very exciting and scary to have freedom when I started. Leith put a lot of trust in me and looking back it felt so good to be accountable because I was so so ready to do it on my own. Leith is keen on having all women crews for a lot of Violet’s work. I tend to actually work with women a lot - Anna Victoria Best, Sarah Louise Stedeford and Sam Copeland are my favorites girls to shoot with.
How would you describe the environment when it’s all women?
I don't think it’s particularly different compared to a mixed environment, but I personally feel I'm able to communicate better. I do know that I'm very comfortable shooting with women and also I just tend to gravitate towards women photographers more for some reason.
Are there any challenges to not working in an office?
I don't mind working from home. I think that I work quite well from there because I’m focused and know that the job in hand has to be completed. The biggest problem is the amount of stuff that I always have. It's never just you go on set, you do a job, and then you go home. There are boxes, bags, and samples around me all the time. I can never disconnect from work because I am always surrounded by it. I’m always on my phone dealing with emails even when I’m not in my home surrounded by samples so I never really escape it. But overall I really do love the flexibility.
How do you think the influx of digital media has affected the role of a stylist?
It’s affecting new stylists and how they showcase their work, and which platforms they use to do so for sure. No one can deny the incredible power social media has to sell their work. There are obviously still so many magazines out there right now and print is so beautiful. It is particularly difficult though, for newbies like me to find a middle ground print magazine to showcase their work in. There's definitely a gap regarding midway print magazines; there’s not a lot of really good ones out there, which is frustrating. No one wants to put their work in a bad magazine, there’s only so many mid level print mags that you can work with and then the higher level ones we just don’t have access to yet.
Do you think that’s changing though?
I hope so! It’s just about putting more magazines at that level I guess. But then it’s a catch 22 situation because the market is currently so so saturated. I'm currently working on a little project that's quite close to my heart. It’s a magazine called Zine Mag. Sarah Louise Stedeford and I have just shot a lengthy men’s casting story for it and it was all shot on film and hand printed by Sarah.
Ahh I’m excited to see it. There's a real push in the industry towards going back to film. Why do you think that's happening?
I think a lot of it is because people are craving a slower pace in the industry, plus the images are just so much more beautiful and interesting. It’s also about taking back the art of it, you have to learn the craft to shoot in film, and there’s a lot of respect that comes with doing so.
So how did you get here?
I moved here in 2012 and started interning for Gus Romero, who’s mostly a commercial stylist. I didn't really know what I was doing. I just started cold emailing. I was looking at fashion internships online. Even on Craigslist where I ran into that stylist and he was really great in my evolution, and he taught me a lot of things. I eventually became his first assistant. This was while I was in school, so I was multitasking. I would assist him and then go to school from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm everyday. After that, I got a little bored, so I started interning at V and that taught me how to work at a magazine in a professional environment with other people and not just one stylist. That was a really huge part of me getting into this industry. From V, I started freelancing more. I still worked with Gus but I was working with other people too because a huge part of being a stylist or being a stylist’s assistant is word of mouth and who you know and friends of friends because people always need help.
Then Chris Bartley from V introduced me to CR. I was here [as a fashion intern] for about three months, and I really excelled here, and I built a really good relationship with Ben, and we stayed in touch, and he helped me get freelance positions at Harper's Bazaar, which was also a good experience. After CR I kept freelancing with other stylists and just doing my own thing.
Also throughout this whole time I was styling my own stories every time I had the chance. Then, Ben called me one day and said, "Do you want to work at CR?" I did. Now I'm here.
How did you make yourself stand out at CR as an intern?
It's weird because I had a lot of experience before I interned at CR. I was being paid to assist people on sets, so I was already working professionally in the industry. I was just here because I loved the magazine so much and believed in what the magazine stood for and I admired Carine. I think that showed a lot. My experience showed and my knowledge of who Carine is and what her aesthetic is, really showed. Also, I'm really fast. It's kind of a joke to Ben when I have a thousand things to do; I'm really good at getting them done. When I have one thing to do for the day I'm so slow at getting it done because I love being busy. Also back then there was no market team. We had 4 less employees, so it was all hands on deck. Everyone had to help pack. I'd be here until 11:00 pm sometimes. I'd skip class. Not that you should skip class but I did to help and be on set and be a part of it, and people noticed that. Especially Ben and he really appreciated it. He always kept me in mind. I guess that's kind of how I stood out because I was just always so available and always so willing to be helpful.
Did you start out knowing people in the industry?
Nope. I just went for it.
Do you want to touch on your decision process for leaving Parsons?
Parsons was great. I was studying communication design, which applies to fashion in a sense, but doesn't apply to what I'm doing now. It's a lot of graphic design, typography, and stuff like that. I was interested in that and I was good at that and it was always just kind of a backup. I excelled at working in fashion and styling and being an assistant, so I kind of just jumped ship without thinking twice once Ben offered me the position. I was always in school as I was assisting, but this was a full-time job and I wanted to be here full time and be completely in it. I just did it, and I don't have any regrets and I think sometimes life hands you these things where you don't know exactly what to do, but your instinct is always right and my instinct was always just to go with my dream job.
Why do you work in fashion?
I'm very much in love with women. Obviously not in a sexual way, but I just think women are so beautiful and everything they stand for and everything they do and everything they can create. I'm obsessed with women. I think it's really, really important to celebrate women and to celebrate good design. I'm not excited about a lot of things on the runway right now, but when I am excited I think of why I got into fashion. It's the fantasy of it and the excess and the extravagance and who's going to wear this $40,000 handmade dress?
I always wanted to be able to see that $40,000 handmade dress and now I do get to see it and things like that aren't as exciting now because now I'm in it, but I think it’s the idea that things can still be exciting; things can still change. People still have a point of view and people are trying to shake the status quo up all the time. I think that is what fashion is to me is the hope that something more exciting is coming. I mean in a way it's also a double-edged sword because people are always going to want more and a lot of times people can't deliver, but I think that feeling of expectation and excitement is what really drives me to love fashion. We're working with all the fall/winter collections right now and I can't wait to see all the spring collections and that's not going to happen for another two months but I’m still so excited.
Do you want to give an overview of your role now?
My position is called the sittings assistant. It's a little broad. Basically, I'm Carine's second assistant on set for everywhere in America and sometimes in Europe depending on who's available and what's going on. That applies to the magazine and all of her outside projects, too. All her ad campaigns and all of her collaborations and things like that. Part of my job specifically here is to find all the vintage and unique costume pieces that make the story more Carine. That's a challenge in itself because it's not something you can find on Style.com where you can go to Dior Look 53 and say "Okay. That's the perfect piece." It's something that's maybe in Europe or maybe in Idaho, and somebody has to hand make it the night before the shoot and send it. I do a lot of research on old editorials and old movies and stuff like that for inspiration for stories.
Another developing part now is that I'm styling a lot for online, and I am slated to do "x" amount of stories a month. It gives me a huge platform to work off of because eventually, I want to become my own stylist and not be an assistant, but for right now I'm in a really great spot and I have a really great platform to work with. It's a lot of work to produce content on my own for the website but it's also really rewarding and it's a huge, huge opportunity that a lot of people don't have.
Do you have a favorite time on set?
I think maybe the first time I was a little bit like, "Whoa. I'm here" is when I was working on Tom Ford with Carine and Ben in LA and Lady Gaga was there. That was kind of my first taste of working with these really major people. Lady Gaga was insane and did all of these amazing dance moves that you don't see in the video, people were crying and their jaws were dropping watching her perform. That’s kind of the first moment I realized, "Whoa. I'm in LA. I'm working for Carine. I'm on a Tom Ford campaign shoot and Lady Gaga is stripping in front of me and dancing and singing. This is incredible. I'm so lucky." That was kind of one of my wow moments where I was like, "I'm doing the right thing. I made the right choice." That's a good one. I'll always remember that.
How would you describe your styling aesthetic?
I don't ever like anything to look like it's just a full look off the runway; I think that's boring. I like things to be a little eccentric even if it's not the most over the top styling technique. I like things to be a little bit off in terms of how did they do that or how did they think of that or why does that make sense? I always want there to be kind of an outlier or some kind of black sheep. Maybe it's a men's story but all the men are wearing earrings and have this kind of feminine sexualization with their outfits. I like juxtaposing things and clashing ideas together.
Is fashion a good place to express ideas and evoke discussions about gender and sexuality?
Definitely. Is it always understood? No. Do people take advantage of it? Yes. My first story for CR online was a transgender story. I had a huge, huge, huge point that I wanted to make when we were planning it. I was like, "I don't want any of these girls to feel like we're just casting them because they're trans girls. I want them to feel like they are beautiful models because they all are" and they all looked beautiful and they all looked like fashion models and that was the point. It wasn't about them necessarily being a trendy topic or a trendy discussion. They all have such interesting lives and I want to know about it, I want to know what path they want to go down and what they want out of life and what voice they want to have in the future and what voice they have now.
I want them to be able to express whatever they want to express and use this as a platform as much as I'm using them as models because I think it's a two-way street when you work with anybody. I always try to meet the people that I work with before I work with them and I think especially for that case, in terms of gender identity and gender idea, it's super, super important to respect that and super important to understand that. I think fashion has a really good way of understanding that but I think that also can be misinterpreted a lot of times. It can go wrong in a lot of ways but I think it's important that fashion is all about acceptance and change and differences and uniqueness which is what makes it the perfect place for that discussion to happen.
Is it tough to develop your own aesthetic when you're under the umbrella of such a huge icon?
I thought about that before. I think it's definitely easy to have blurred lines and kind of have something that she did already rehashed by me and not even realize it, but I think I've been really aware of like, "Okay. I'm going to do this and maybe she did that, but I'm doing it this way" and I think it's definitely still my aesthetic. You can't help but be touched by her presence and her way of thinking and I think it just makes me a better stylist and makes my personal taste and aesthetic even stronger.
What's the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
The most rewarding aspect is picking up all the clothes in the duffels every single morning and piling it into cars. Piling twenty-seven duffels into three SUVs and breaking my back everyday. No. That is not the most rewarding. The most rewarding is-
You just gave me a major flashback.
I guess seeing it in print and smelling the paper. I love the smell of freshly printed paper and just knowing that we are creating something that some ten-year- old boy is going to see or some girl is going to see in some suburb that's going to inspire them to move to New York or move to Paris and follow their dreams because that's what I did.
I saw CR and my life changed. I thought, "Wow. This is incredible. I need to be part of this" and that's exactly what I made happen. I think that's the most rewarding thing is seeing the actual book or seeing the actual campaigns that we worked on and seeing the final product and being able to say, "Wow. I was a part of this and this is going to be a part of somebody's mood board or idea or reference and help whoever, wherever, accomplish whatever."
What have you learned from your role?
I've learned so much from working with Carine, from working with Ben, from working with the team. It's a really small team, so everyone's kind of like a family. I've learned to not take things so seriously and be great at my job and do exactly what I have to do but also have fun while doing it because if you don't have fun, there's not really a point. Fashion is fun and there has to be some kind of energy and liveliness and enjoyable presence while you're doing it or there's no purpose. I've learned what I can't control and to just roll with the punches. To do as much as I can with what is in my power, but also let things take its course and be able to step back and breath. And say "You know it's just fashion and at the end of the day we're still going to shoot something and it's still going to be great."
How has digital media affected stylists?
Anyone can be a stylist now, which is a horrible thing and a great thing. If you go on Instagram or Tumblr people, say they're stylists all the time and maybe that's true. Maybe that's not. Digital media has definitely opened a lot of people's eyes. Tumblr has helped me with references and being inspired, but also too much knowledge is not a good thing. Having all of these things that you just know about can't always be a good thing. So many people think they know everything, but really they don't.
It's always a matter of execution and talking the talk and walking the walk and I think a lot of people like to talk the talk on social media, but they don't walk the walk, which is fine. I think it's great that everyone has such a huge interest in fashion now because of the Internet.
All the brands are kind of doing their own thing with the calendar right now. How does that affect magazines and stylists?
I think it's annoying. It's better when people show less. I think it's annoying, for example, Tom Ford didn't show his fall collection and isn't going to show his fall collection until it's literally in stores.
Yeah, so what happens then?
Even we don't know. People that work with the collection don't know anything about it until it's ready and I have opposing views on that. I think one it's frustrating because you want to know and you want to see what's next. On the other hand, it’s also genius because you don't know what's next and we won't know until maybe it's too late. I think it's interesting the way he handled that and I think it's a good idea and I think more people should do stuff like that. With Celine, they never released their lookbooks until the clothes were shoppable, which I think is also really great.
But they had a preview for stylists right?
Yeah, exactly. Press gets the lookbooks in advance and there's always like an embargo stating that you can't show these images to anyone besides people that you work with. I think that's great because a lot of times people just copy each other and everything gets really diluted because there's always five designers that show the best collection and everyone copies it.
I think less is more and that people are starting to get that idea but I think right now we're still in the middle of people not knowing what the voice of fashion is.
So I guess now bi-annual magazines have a strong advantage because they’re on a less strict timetable for pulling clothes?
I think the advantage that bi-annual magazines have is that we have a lot more time to digest and really explore people's ideas in terms of their fashion collections. But specifically in regards to Tom Ford's collection, I don't think anyone's going to shoot it because even press isn't able to pull anything. It's kind of like a, "Fuck you" to everybody. "I'm not going to let you shoot anything. This is my label. I'm going to do what I want."
How would you like to see this industry evolve?
There’s money. It's just not in good places right now.
Yeah, it's not like it was.
More diversity. More equality. More opportunity. I think one of the biggest things and you touched on this with your website. I didn't have something like this when I was looking for internships. There are so many people that need help, and there are so many people that want help and you don't know how to get in touch with them unless you know somebody or you have some kind of reference or some kind of idea of who to reach out to. I think we can definitely build a bridge so it's not so hard to find help and less of a shot in the dark.
Then how will you be a part of this industry’s evolution?
I always try to be really diverse in the casting. Every time I do a story, I always try to have a really diverse cast. I think I am very aware and conscious of who I cast and what I'm doing and the images I put out there. I also think I like to give people a chance. I like to give interns a chance. I like to ask people who maybe would not normally be ready to be on set or know exactly what to do on set or something like… You know what? I'm an underdog. I don't come from a rich family. I am self-funded. I got myself here and I am paying for my own college debt. Anytime I see an underdog or somebody who has eighteen jobs and still interning here and wants to be on set at six in the morning even though they finished work at midnight. I think that's amazing because I did that and I know so many other people do that and I think it's such a testament to their work ethic and their values and I always try to give those people a chance. It's not always about who you know. Sometimes it's about really, really hard work and really, really wanting it and I always, always try to find those people.
How did you get to where you are today?
I studied fashion at Blanche MacDonald Center in Vancouver, Canada. It was a 12-month diploma program. During the course I developed a great relationship with one of the professors who was really inspiring to me. His name is Tyler Udall, he’s the fashion director at Blanche, and he had previously worked in London as a fashion editor at Dazed and AnOther Man. I pretty much knew that I wanted to move to London after I graduated – I really wanted to experience the fashion world in one of the major cities, so London was perfect. So I applied for a UK visa and moved almost as soon as I graduated. I was so lucky to have met Tyler, he’s really the reason I’m here in the first place, he shared his experience, was very encouraging, and connected me with a few key people.
Once I arrived, one of the people that I emailed shared some of her contacts with me as well - basically a lot of styling assistants and stylists, and one of them got back to me. It was Katie Shillingford's assistant. She just said, "Yeah. Come in for an interview. I actually need a new intern." So I did and then she took me on as her intern for 3 months.
That experience was invaluable, funnily enough, because I realized that I didn’t want to be a stylist, which I think is something that you can only learn from experiencing it. But also I learned so much in such a short space of time. It was really hard work and people could be tough, which is to be expected at a magazine like AnOther. But I think I just realized that I was a lot more interested in the whole picture, rather than specifically the clothing. I loved doing research and helping to inform some of the ideas and direction.
After that I got an internship under the Art and Fashion Director at Mario Testino's studio which was completely different than AnOther Magazine.
He has a beautiful studio in West London. It was incredible and I learned so much. The woman I was interning for was nice, yet tough, and very talented and I respected her a lot. The roles within the company are more definitive, and it's a lot more structured than the work environment that you would find at a magazine. I was in the art department, so my role was assisting with research, casting, and sending out internal newsletters to people in the company informing them of what was going on in the fashion industry and, more generally, in the world.
How big is the company?
It's pretty large actually, because he has a studio called Mario Testino +, which does art direction, production, finances, everything. All together it's a 3-story building with around 30 people.
It was good to see the level that they work at. Everything is pristine and perfect. Every morning the whole team would have a meeting. “What are you up to?” “How can I help you?” Kind of thing.
That was a 4-month internship, and near the end I wasn’t really sure where to go from there. Then Katie Shillingford's assistant that I had interned for messaged me, "I'm leaving. Are you interested in potentially taking over as her assistant?" At first, I didn't respond for a day or two, and I was thinking no way - I couldn’t see myself being an assistant when I didn’t even want to be a stylist, but I spoke to my mom, of course, and my friends, and I knew that it could really be an amazing opportunity to be a part of the magazine as more than an intern, and to work with those people at such a high level. So I went for it. I did a trial run for 2 months and at the end, she asked me to be her assistant.
Was the old assistant there during your trial?
Yeah, it was a really busy time for Katie so together we prepped like 5 shoots within 2 weeks, if I remember correctly. Then I prepped one shoot totally solo, and it went really well.
It was on location outside of Brussels with Pierre Debusschere. I didn’t go on set, but I confirmed all the samples, coordinated with PR people to organize their arrival in Brussels, and then handled the returns.
It went really well and I think she was impressed. After that she was like “Okay, let's do this.”
What did you study in school?
I studied at University in the arts program for my first year and then transferred to Blanche Macdonald where I completed the fashion program.
Did it prepare you for where you are now?
Yeah but I’m always a little bit unprepared for every job that I start, which I almost think is the way that it should be.
You just learn as you go and you rise to the challenge. Now I feel like I could do this job no problem, but in the beginning it was overwhelming.
When did you know you wanted to go into fashion?
It's really funny, because in high school I really didn't dress particularly well and a lot of my friends were like, "What? You're going to fashion school?" And now they're like, "What? You live in London, and you work at a magazine?"
I didn’t even figure out that I wanted to go into fashion until my first year of university. I was always obsessed with fashion imagery though, so I think ultimately that’s what led me here – I was always looking at magazines and tearing out images I liked.
Has it been worth it?
Yes. 100% of it.
I'm so happy to hear that. I know some people aren't so happy, and it makes me sad.
Well, yeah. I feel lucky to be where I am right now because a lot of it was pure luck.
When I emailed AnOther Magazine about the internship, she just happened to need a new intern that day. I hate to say it, but a lot of it was connections and a bit of luck.
The harder you work the luckier you get.
That’s true. I feel proud of what I've done, but I know there are some really good interns at AnOther who have been there for so long just hoping a position would open up, but it just doesn’t happen. I'm so lucky that there was one for me, and I came back.
But I feel like if that hadn't happened, something else would have happened. I was also interested in set design, and there was a woman who wanted to have me as a paid intern there, so that could have led me a different way as well.
How did you make yourself stand out at AnOther Magazine?
I’m a perfectionist, and I always presented myself in a professional manner. Which is really important as an intern if you want to go on set, because there are some interns who you just think, "I'm not bringing them on set because they might do something crazy." I love interesting characters, but when you’re an intern on set you need to be very professional.
Who or what influenced your career path the most?
One of my professors, Tyler. He’s one of the first people that I met who was involved in the high fashion scene. He was so inspiring to me; he has amazing taste and just has this cool personality. He was so open to anything. He was my mentor.
What’s it like starting a career in the fashion industry in London?
There are pros and cons, but one of the pros is the immense energy and the acceptance of youth. I’ve always felt self-conscious about how young I was, so moving here, I’ve really appreciated the acceptance of youth.
People are so open to young people here. They're almost like, "You're young. You know what's cool. Tell me." I love that. And there're so many creative people working in the industry here, so there are good vibes. But you have to work really hard to make it, because if you don't someone else will.
But it’s also an exhausting place, and I think it ages you a lot. I think the major downside of London is the cost which makes it difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle, because you're overworked, underpaid, paying too much for rent, the air is polluted… But, I'm happy to sacrifice that while I'm here, at least for a while.
I think London and New York are the same in that sense, but I feel like London celebrates youth a little bit more.
I think it’s more creative here too. I feel like sometimes the general opinion about NYFW is that it's very corporate and business-y and there’s a lot of money. Whereas in London because of CSM and London College of Fashion, there are so many young designers that are not making any money but still make new amazing collections just because they want to show it to everyone.
Do you get the sense that there's a supportive community here for the young people coming into the fashion industry?
Definitely. The schools here are amazing and they do well with supporting new talent.
Also, it's incredible how much exposure the graduate collections get. They get put right on Style.com or whatever it is now. The editors too are always looking at the graduate collections, so you’ll see them featured in AnOther Magazine and Vogue and all of the others.
The internship thing is a bit tricky though because basically no one pays their interns in London. I generally think that it's a supportive community though. People want to help each other and even though London is a huge city with so many people in it, it's a pretty small industry. Everyone kind of knows everyone.
So now that you graduated to an assistant position at AnOther Magazine, what’s your role?
It’s been just over a year now. Long term, I want to be an art director so in a way I think they geared my role towards that. I do a lot of image research for each issue. I’m often in the library at Central Saint Martins.
We start planning each issue months before we start shooting. Then when we start shooting that issue, we’ll find out about a specific shoot maybe 2 weeks before it happens.
So then when I know a shoot is coming up I start to send out requests for different looks that Katie wants. She’ll say "These are all the designer looks that I want," and, "I'm thinking about maybe some vintage pieces that look like this. I also want some costume pieces like this," so I'll request all the looks via email to the press officers. Then I'll go to vintage stores and take pictures of stuff that I think might work and go to costume places and do the same. Then I have interns that help me check in the samples, lay them out, pack them up and then we shoot it.
Do you also assist on set?
Yeah. I'm always on set. It’s my favorite part because I admire photographers so much that getting to meet them and work with them is so cool for me. The hair and makeup people are always so nice. I love seeing it all come together. Katie appreciates my opinion as well, so she often asks, "What do you think? Which option is better?"
So you also manage interns?
Mm-hmm. I usually have two, maybe three to help me. I'll have one come on set, whoever I think is best on set. They help in the beginning to unpack everything, and then they help to pack it all up and send it back afterward.
Has there ever been an intern that stood out to you?
I had this one intern, Katherine, for almost six months. I could always rely on her. She always packed things up neatly. She always got things back to where they were supposed to be. She never lost things. You have to be so organized, and smart, and know how to get everywhere in London. Just being on top of it.
What have you learned from your role so far?
I'm a completely different person from last year because when you’re given that much responsibility you grow so quickly. I've learned to be very, very organized, and independent because Katie was on maternity leave. Since she lives in the countryside, she was hardly in the office so I would prep the whole shoot and then just meet her on set.
Yeah she put a lot of trust in me. Some weeks I would get to the office at 8 am and just work until 10 or 11 pm. It's incredibly rewarding, though.
Another really important thing that I’ve learned to do is introduce myself to people on set, and connect with them - so many of them have become really good friends of mine now. Like hair and makeup artists, and even photographers. So when I visit another city that they live in, I’ll see them.
It's so nice to know people like that. They're all so nice and open, even if they might intimidate you at first. And it can make almost any job a lot more enjoyable if you’re working with your friends.
Another major thing I’ve learned is how to balance my life a bit better. Being an assistant can be so exhausting and the hours can be really long, so when I have time off I really make the most of it. It’s so important to have that time to yourself and with your friends.
Do you like your role now?
Yeah. I mean there are still days when it’s just ridiculous, and you’re overworked and underpaid, but it’s been so worth it. The experiences that I’ve gotten to have, traveling and meeting all of these people; it’s remarkable.
Do you also help Katie with her other projects, like Gareth Pugh?
Yes. I help her with everything that she does.
Yeah so I’ll help her with Gareth Pugh, and then most recently she styled a ballet at the Royal Opera House in May, so I worked a lot on that.
How did her styling techniques change when she had to prioritize the dancer's ability to move in the clothes?
It was a real challenge, for both of us, it’s not really something that’s been done before, “styling” a ballet with designer clothing. And yeah, a major struggle was making sure the dancers could have full mobility in the clothing. She had to choose things that were fairly mobile, and we asked certain designers to custom-make pieces as well, but there was also an amazing team of seamstresses at the Royal Opera House that altered things to help them move better.
Yeah, it was amazing to work on that. And she shoots a lot for Vogue and other magazines as well.
That's cool because you get to work on the magazine but you still get to expand your network to all these other places.
It was perfect. It's so nice to have an office to go into everyday and friends to see - I know people who assist freelance stylists and they might just be in an apartment receiving samples all day. Where as I get to be in an office environment but also be a part of projects that are separate from AnOther Magazine.
Do you have a favorite time on set?
Totally. We went to Kiev in Ukraine in May. We were there for 4 days shooting and they had street cast all these interesting young kids mostly found at these raves organized around the city – “Cxema”, and we shot them in incredible clothes that we brought with us... I still can't believe I was apart of that. It was incredible - being in Kiev, a place that you wouldn't think of going. Staying in this amazing hotel, which is an architectural landmark. Exploring the streets of Kiev and shooting these kids in designer clothes and hanging out with them at night and going to their studios. It was incredible.
It was so much fun. That is one memory that I will always keep close.
So how did you find these kids? Did you email them or…
I wasn't involved in that, but the casting directors, Julia Lange and Piotr Chamier, put the word out and ended up discovering this amazing group of people. They found this underground rave scene that's called “Cxema” - it's this organization that puts on parties and raves at different clubs and venues around Kiev. There's this group of kids who always go and they're really interesting characters. And we also shot a couple different models that lived in Kiev too.
What's the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
Traveling to different cities and meeting photographers are my two favorite things right now. It's so perfect because the most stressful part of a shoot is prepping it and the lead up to it. But once you actually get to whatever crazy set location you’re shooting at and you meet the photographer, it's like, "Yes. This is so worth it.” I love it.
How would you describe AnOther Magazine’s company culture?
AnOther Magazine has an amazing group of inspiring women who I look up to, and they're all encouraging and want to help you out, and bring you up. They're intelligent. They have a good eye for things, and they're really passionate about their jobs, which is nice - working with people who truly want to be there and make the magazine what it is. There are no men at AnOther interestingly, but we share the office with Dazed, and there are a lot of men there.
How do you keep the two magazines from being blurred together?
The magazines have completely different teams so I think they really stay separate because it’s always a different perspective and a different opinion portrayed in each issue. And I think each magazine’s voice is quite distinct. Dazed focuses a bit more on youth culture, whereas AnOther has a bit of an older audience.
Do you still have the pool table?
Nope. I know there used to be one though.
Shit. I was hoping it was still there. I read about it in 'Making It Up As We Go Along'.
We have office meetings every month, which is really nice. We just had it today.
How was it?
It’s everyone from Dazed, AnOther Magazine, AnOther Man, and Nowness. Jefferson comes in, and we all have breakfast together, and we talk about what's going on. We’ll go over what’s coming up, how things went, who’s coming and going, everything. So today Jefferson was talking about the next issue of Dazed that comes out because it’s their 25th anniversary, so it's a huge thing. He was just talking about old memories and the pool table in the office days. I think there was a bar and a skate ramp too.
So I know that Dazed and AnOther Magazine share offices and sometimes people cross over but how does that work?
Well as of recently each publication under the Dazed Media Group has their own editor-in-chief actually. But still, there is one person who crosses over, which is Jefferson Hack. But most of the stylists/editors are also contributors to the other publications. Katie and I just shot for Dazed in July actually.
Has AnOther Magazine changed under the new editor-in-chief?
Definitely. Susannah Frankel is so incredible. She's the woman I want to be when I'm her age. She's down to earth... just doesn't give a fuck. She says what she thinks, and she's honest and funny and kind, and extremely intelligent.
When Jefferson was the editor-in-chief, obviously it was still great, but he wasn't in the office that much because he’s really busy and always traveling. She’s in the office a lot of the time. It's nice to have someone who’s more present and who can be approached at any time. It's interesting now how it's an all female dynamic. Also, the editor-in-chief of Dazed is a woman now too, which is cool.
How has the influx of digital media affected magazines?
It’s been good and bad. I think it’s been good because it will eventually narrow the selection of magazines to only the ones that are actually worthwhile and interesting.
I think a negative aspect is that everything is over exposed. You’re constantly seeing imagery and old references that people are re-referencing. I hate it when people copy stuff. They'll look through a Tumblr page and see these great 90s campaigns and then they’ll do the exact same thing. My mind is constantly over-saturated with imagery.
It's obnoxious when places are dependent on constantly churning out new stuff where it becomes fluff, and none of it is interesting because the turnaround has to be so quick.
Yeah, totally. Today in our office meeting, Nowness was talking about how they used to put out a video out every day of the year, but now they're cutting it back to 3 per week. Not because they're doing poorly or because they’ve cut funding, it's just because people work so hard on those videos. If there’s one every single day, you don't pay attention to it for long enough to respect it and appreciate how much work went into it. I think less content, but better quality is key.
Speaking of which, accessibility has become a huge thing recently. In your opinion, how has that affected the industry?
I think that it’s a good thing. It's ridiculous that fashion is this elitist thing. We all wear clothes, and we should all be able to wear really nice clothes or not care about clothes if we don't care about clothes. I hate the idea of niche markets and elitist values. I think it's good to democratize fashion.
But I also think that the accessibility factor has contributed to this over saturated market because everyone can post fashion images on social media.
What do you like about being in the fashion industry?
I love the people that I meet. So many people who live in London are from all over the world, so everyone has really interesting backgrounds and points of view. They all have different stories.
In the fashion industry, people want to make connections because that’s what furthers them but at the same time people want to make connections because it enriches their lives. Sounds really cheesy, but it's true, because knowing so many different people from so many different places, it makes for a fun life.
For sure. How would you like to see this industry evolve and change and grow?
A lot of the things that I've touched on before, just slowing it down, making quality over quantity.
People need to crave more and not just constantly be thrown imagery and stuff. I think as I've said before, I wish people would thoroughly research things and read books and watch films and go to galleries.
You're like, "Listen up, everyone!"
Yeah, it's just so important. Educate yourself. Sometimes I think I wish that I had an actual degree from a university rather than just a diploma, but you can teach yourself things, read books, and watch films. You can teach yourself whatever you want to know so take advantage of it.
Can you give an overview of how you got to where you are today?
I came to London almost nine years ago after I studied fashion design in Sydney. I planned to come over for just a few years because Australia felt pretty isolated and London seemed exciting and the place to be. I first interned for the designer Roksanda Ilincic, doing sample cutting and working in the studio, followed by internships at Dazed and Confused and Vogue.
From there, I got offered an assistant position in the London office of Turkish Vogue, which had just launched. I was the Assistant to the Fashion Director for nearly two years, traveling between London and the office in Istanbul as well as travelling a lot for all the shoots. It was full on, a 24/7 job, but very exciting shooting with photographers I’d always admired like Mert & Marcus, Demarchelier, Sarah Moon and Maripol.
After I assisted stylists’ on a freelance basis while gradually, more and more I started to do my own thing – test shoots and small, independent magazines. One of my biggest projects is the magazine Off Black that I work on with my friends which is now on it’s 5th print issue and stocked globally.
Circling back to your time at Turkish Vogue, what was your day-to-day role?
I was Assistant to the Fashion Director when the magazine first launched. In the first few issues, we had all the top photographers, all the top models, so it was an exciting time and place to work. The main office was in Istanbul, but the fashion office was in London. There was a lot of flying around the world with clothes, millions of trunks and creating all the carnets and paperwork. It was right when Vogue Russia, Vogue Ukraine, Brazil, all the new markets, had launched as well and we all shared an office. I found it really interesting - how can you translate current fashion trends to a different culture, religion, different way of life?
I thought Turkish Vogue would be a lot more conservative, but not at all. Still though they have a different aesthetic, they like quite loud, full-on things, usually with a logo or recognizable print to show the brand. In London, Paris and New York at the moment, it’s all about being quite understated. The fashion director I assisted had amazing ideas. One of the first editorials I did was called Cartoon Femininity. Turkey has quite a masculine culture so we put these really feminine dresses on super feminine models in these Turkish masculine situations.
There’s a tradition of Turkish oil wrestling for the men, it’s a coming of age rite. They’re given these embellished leather trousers and big belts when they are boys. We shot Isabeli Fontana amongst the oil wrestlers on a beach in Montauk. All the samples got drenched in oil and sand, which was a nightmare for me!
Then we went to this beautiful place called Izmir on the Turkish coast for Turkish Love Story but with Dree Hemingway. It was interesting taking their traditional ideas and making them new and fashionable in a way that we could sell to them and also internationally.
I’ve continued to do a lot of work for new markets in my freelance work. I’ve been to Azerbaijan six times, Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Mexico, Argentina. It’s interesting to learn about those parts of the world. You realize that fashion is more than just clothes; it’s a symbol of aspiration that they’re progressing. They’re so into logos; it’s about showing luxury outwardly.
How was the company culture at Vogue Turkey?
There were only two assistants in our office, so it was me and this other girl who is actually one of my best friends still today. We were working 24/7 and relied on each other so much so you really form a bond.
I swear you make your fastest and closest friends in the fashion closet.
Yes! There were a lot of situations that seemed so daunting at the time and a massive workload but we were quite resilient because we were there for each other. We were there until 2 in the morning many nights, weekends. We shared an office with other publications and us assistants would all be in it together, exhausted. It was a complete pressure cooker environment.
What was your biggest takeaway from Vogue Turkey? Did you grow during your time there?
Completely and really quickly. It’s hard to get magazine jobs because there are so few and it’s fiercely competitive. The first day I got there, I had to organize a whole shoot with 28 trunks. I packed a trunk overweight, and it got stuck in customs and caused hold ups. I think being thrown in the deep end is always the best way because you learn from your mistakes. I never did that again!
Then once a whole shipment for the Britney Spears’ video I was working on got stuck in customs because turns out you’re not allowed to ship sunglasses to the United States. You might write in a customs invoice that a sample has feathers, and then, turns out; you’re not allowed feathers in that country. You always learn the hard way!
What was one of the best parts about assisting?
I became quite good friends with the photographer’s assistants, the hair, and makeup assistants, and the set design assistants. Since then we’ve all started working together—it’s quite nice to have that community and have all of us grow together. It’s great to have that kind of support. It’s about building contacts, relationships, and trust. Building a strong creative team and network is so important.
When did you know you wanted to work in this industry?
I think when I saw the film, Strictly Ballroom. The costumes, visuals, and music were so inspiring to me. I began drawing all of the costumes, and that’s when I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. I also used to make all of these little magazines with my friends. We hand wrote them and made copies with carbon paper.
I found when I did fashion design; I wasn’t designing wearable clothes; I was designing stuff that I thought would look good in a picture or that would tell a story. I love Tim Walker’s pictures for example; it’s a complete fantasy. When I was sewing, I didn’t care about things being perfect; I often glued my hems, it was about the bigger picture for me. I love all of the old-school, iconic fashion imagery - Avedon, Horst, Blumenfeld. The images of fashion are what stay in the memories and history, and that’s what I love.
A lot of stylists that I’ve interviewed so far have some background in fashion design. Did yours have an impact on your career?
Yeah, I think so. It’s important because you learn about how fabrics fall, what goes well with what, what looks good in what light because it has this shine, or will this stick to that; what’s going to be a nice fit on this person, how to pin and alter things, etc. I still even need to learn more. When you’re on a commercial job, you’re a seamstress or a tailor sometimes, tailoring a suit to someone. Often, it’s not that creative; you’re just polishing.
Why did you choose to start your career in London versus other cities?
I visited quite a few times when I was younger, and I liked the energy. I had read a lot about Central Saint Martins. I used to get the airfreight issues of British Vogue and i-D when I was in Australia and the images of Boombox and the whole scene and designers at the time just looked so exciting.
The best thing about London is that there are so many people from all over the world. They’re all here doing their thing and all are trying to make it work, and it’s quite an inspiring community. Everyone needs to work really hard, and everyone needs to help each other because it’s such a struggle to get by as a small fish in a massive pond.
How many people are on your team at Off Black?
Two friends, Sarah and Claire, started the magazine. They are both amazing hair stylists. The magazine started as a creative outlet for them and platform to create the shoots they wanted. The team is now a collective with an art director, fashion editor (myself) and beauty editor and a family of photographers, stylists, set designers and casting directors who regularly contribute.
Since Off Black was founded solely online and later expanded to print, what were some of the challenges of adding that medium?
Print is obviously super expensive in terms of the production, the paper, the layout, the distribution, etc. but it still has the prestige and feels more special. Brands, model agents, and an amazing standard of photographers and creative teams are eager to contribute and are a lot more supportive of print even though its reach is smaller than online. The nice thing with independent magazines at this point in time is that they aren’t bound by advertisers. With the bigger magazines, most of the editorial is actually advertorial where commercial brands are paying to be featured so you can be quite limited creatively as you are more adhering to others direction and concepts. Off Black has been a great opportunity to develop our own voice.
How would you describe the essence and identity of Off Black?
There’s a theme each issue and then everyone kind of goes away and comes up with ideas. Sarah and Claire lead the direction and follow through with everyone. For the “Man-Made” issue, we shot at some really interesting locations – decaying estates in London, the Eden Project in Cornwall which is the world’s largest Greenhouse and Arcades du Lac in Paris. We work a lot with set designers, which I think is quite unique. The direction photography is going in now is very analog and raw. No one has any budget, so people just go out on the street and shoot or make what you can with props, smoke and mirrors. Even if you don’t have a lot, you can still make do. Here in London we’re lucky with clothes. Starting out, obviously it’s really hard to get the big brands, but we have all the amazing students and graduates here who create exciting pieces to shoot.
How did you make the jump from not being recognized by a lot of brands to now doing features with some of the biggest names?
We’re lucky, actually. For the second issue, we had Vivienne Westwood, then subsequently features with J.W. Anderson, Wanda Nylon, Yang Li and Loewe. We’ve all been doing our thing for quite some time and are lucky to have built relationships over the years.There was definitely an element of trust from various PRs for the early issues and we are so thankful for them taking a chance on us. Also when people hear someone else is involved, they are keen to get involved and so gradually it gets easier as more people support and are excited to contribute. Even in the first issue, when it was quite tricky to get things, we just did what we could. You don’t need all the big designers to do something interesting! In fact it pushed us to be resourceful and creative.
Do you work with a lot of young designers?
Yes, even for magazines where I can get bigger designers, I’m always trying to mix in graduate work or designers I find on Instagram, as to me its more refreshing because you end up seeing the same Prada look in every shoot and everyone’s work starts to look the same. You start to recognize, that’s from there, and that’s from there. I go to costume shops, I make stuff, I use student stuff, and then I’ll use Dior and Louis Vuitton. It’s all about trying to make something your own rather than just repeating what you’ve seen a million times, although lots of brands are very controlling now and make you shoot the full looks. But I feel like I need to make a look or a picture my own, or what is the point?
How do you find the younger designers?
There’s a wonderful new showroom in London called 1 Granary, who represent a lot of recent Central St Martins Graduates. I used to stalk them all on Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin – all forms of social media to track them and their collections down; it can take a lot of research to find them! After I get hold of them, it usually ends up that they’ve already moved overseas. 1 Granary is wonderful and supportive of smaller publications. I also worked with a stylist in LA, B Akerlund who dresses a lot of the big league popstars – from Madonna, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Britney, Fergie. She is so supportive of young and up and coming designers who are from everywhere and she represents in her showroom The Residency.
In London at the moment I love Charles Jeffrey, his clothes have a real art and authenticity to them and he’s created a whole subculture that he’s attached to his brand. I also love Marta Jakubowski who makes really interesting color blocked pieces in the vein of Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester in the 90s, beautiful, conceptual pieces.
Lots of people are quite particular about who they work with. I feel like lots of photographers and stylists have a firm idea about whom they can or “should” work with, and who they shouldn’t to get somewhere, which is valid. But if someone approaches me and I am excited by the idea, then I’ll usually do it. I think the way I’m working is on intuition. If I like the person and I like their idea, then I’ll go for it!
In your opinion, what’s the role of a stylist?
The title “stylist” is so broad these days – it can involve everything from creative research, brand consulting, costume, editorial to e-commerce. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that being a stylist is actually quite an administrative job.
In what ways?
I spend a lot of time doing research – it’s a luxury to have enough time to research. Often, it’ll be, “can you shoot this next week, can you do this tomorrow?” I go through all the shows, go through all the student stuff, look at references online, go to the library. Then it’s requesting, requesting, requesting. Lots of emails. Then there’s all the crediting, invoicing, chasing payments and work. When you’re self-employed you also deal with your own tax, expenses, budgets. Most of the day is often spent on the laptop!
Once you’ve called in all of the clothes, you meet with the photographer, the hairstylist, and then you get to set and…
Then we shoot. Shoot day I find, is usually the least stressful for me by that point, if you’re prepared. It’s just trying to build interesting sets, go to interesting locations. We’re quite limited here in England because of the weather. Any time you plan a location shoot; it’ll be a torrential downpour. There’s only a few interesting buildings and houses, the odd beach, so it’s also about trying to find new places or building interesting sets. That’s why set design is such a big thing here.
Do you have a favorite shoot that you worked on?
Too many to remember really. I love traveling, so when I’m somewhere new and far-flung, I think, “Oh, I’m so lucky that I do this job!” For me, traveling is the best bit.
What are some of your recent projects?
I worked with a band called Austra; they have a new album coming out. We went to Mexico City and did their album cover at one of Luis Barragan’s amazing houses. I also just collaborated with the Game of Thrones costume designer, we shot her costumes as a fashion editorial. Lately, I’ve also been doing some advertising work. It is different from editorial, as you need to satisfy a brief and brand identity and let go of your own voice and aesthetic, which is an important part of editorial work. Now I’m trying to take on less work and just focus on the things that are exciting to me. It’s not necessarily the biggest name or the most paid things that I go for; it’s the things that I find most interesting and brands and bands that I feel speak the same language.
Is casting important to you?
Casting’s really important. When you have a good idea, the wrong model can kill it. It’s hard because they’re all young girls without much confidence and experience. You need someone that can connect, who has a good attitude, who can get into character. It’s important to meet the girl first. You look at a model’s book, and it’s all carefully edited, retouched, etc. - it’s hard to get an accurate indication.
Is there a time period that significantly influenced your aesthetic?
I’m a big fan of the fifties and sixties, things that are quite feminine, nostalgic and cinematic. Growing up I guess you’re influenced by what’s around you. Australia is very colorful. I love things that are quite theatrical and over the top. I guess it’s having a bit of a renaissance with Gucci - really piling stuff on, mixing eras. It’s not new, but I like it because for so long things have been sterile and minimal. It’s a bit softer and more accessible; it’s quite dreamy and imaginative.
Do you think it could ever go out of business?
I listened to a podcast called The Stack by Monocle about print medium. There’s been a huge surge of self-published print medium in the last few years. There is an abundance of magazines being produced that are self-published and self-funded, so it’s really about people creating them out of passion, rather than money. I think you have a lot more genuinely interesting ideas with no restrictions. Lots of online platforms are doing print editions too because people still like to have tactile objects.
I have stacks on top of stacks in my apartment; I’m a huge fan.
It’s always nice to go back to things, to keep things. Everyone’s going back to analog attitudes. In London, everyone’s really into ceramics, my friends and I all go to a life drawing class. People – at least in my little pocket of London—are getting back into doing things with their hands. Staring at a screen all day you stop feeling human. I didn’t sew for years, and I just bought a sewing machine again. We forget why we got into it in the first place! I think the resurgence of printed magazines, vinyl music, analog photography all show we are moving back in that direction.
What is your take on this generation as a whole and where are we headed?
I’ll be thirty soon; I feel like there’s a huge gap between my generation and the one after. My generation, we all worked our asses off assisting for years. It was almost like a hierarchy, and you had to work your way up. I feel like because of Instagram; it’s easier just to do something and get it out there and be discovered. You don’t have to work for years to earn respect as you can just put work out and automatically have an audience.
I think it’s interesting how you’re on the cusp of the millennial generation. Do you think growing up with less technology had an effect on who you are today?
We didn’t have so many distractions, for starters. We didn’t have Facebook until college. Because we didn’t have the distraction, I think we were a lot more insular. Now I feel a lot of work is just made for Instagram. People flipping through Instagram or Tumblr overlook how a fashion story is put together, how a photographer communicates a narrative. The whole skill of putting together a fashion story from start to finish is so hard. You’ve got to keep the same feeling, the same character going for 12, 14 pages rather than just a single image that you see on Instagram.
How what you like to see this industry evolve?
I think everything’s in a bit of a flux at the moment. It’s changed so much in last 5 years. It’s going to completely change again in the next 5 years, so it’s hard to see a path forward or a direction. You can’t predict what’s going to happen next week, let alone 5, 10 years from now. Everyday the fashion news is all, ‘this is happening, this is over, and this is dead.’ A lot of doom and gloom.