Over the last two decades, the occupation of stylist has gone from a behind-the-scenes job that those outside of the industry didn’t know existed, to a high-profile position that rivals “fashion editor” in its stature and gloss.
But what does a stylist actually do, and what does one have to do to get to the front of the pack?
We’ve enlisted super stylist Sally Lyndley–who’s worked with everyone from Katie Grand to Victoria Beckham–to give us a little insight into what her job really entails and why she’s so in love with it. Each week, Sally will offer us a peak into her world, from stories on the history of styling to Q&As with some of her favorite people in the industry.
To get things started, we’ve given Sally the Seven Questions… treatment. We’re so excited to have her on board!
Fashionista: So, tell us a little about what you do.
Sally Lyndley: What do I do?! Sometimes I feel like a “hired” best friend for a photo shoot day, other days I feel like a punching bag, and if I am lucky, I feel like a film director or artistic collaborator (on a good day). But technically, I am a freelance fashion editor and stylist with the agency CLM. I am also a consultant to businesses interested in competing in the fashion marketplace. Sounds so professional! My clients include LOVE Magazine, US Vogue, Teen Vogue, and Victoria Beckham among others.
And how exactly did you get there?
Well, here goes the “Cliffs Notes”:
I started styling when I was 17 for the Dallas Morning News, after having a terrible year trying to model. I moved to NYC in 2000, and one year later, landed a job as Fashion Manager in the production division of KCD working with the iconic Nian Fish. Nian is like fashion’s “Momma Buddha.” My clients at KCD were Chloe, Louis Vuitton, Versace and Zac Posen. It was a major learning experience (fashion boot camp!) because I was working with the best stylists in the world, e.g. Olivier Rizzo, Katie Grand, Marie Amelie Sauve, Lori Goldstein, Brana Wolf. Working at KCD allowed me to really figure out what kind of voice I wanted to have in fashion and to explore what I was really interested in, role-wise. When I was working with Marie Amelie on Chloe, she asked if I wanted to assist her. I was like, “Dude, OF COURSE!!” Marie Amelie Sauve (MAS for short) was an editor at French Vogue at the time and was doing every relevant runway show a girl could dream of, (hello Balenciaga!), I took the job and off we went. We were on planes every other day shooting and consulting for the best brands worldwide, Estee Lauder, Gucci, etc. MAS is this incredible fashion machine (who flies in six inch Balenciaga heels and Alaia!!). She has a relentless vision and passion for everything she does. I learned so much from MAS about luxury, quality and the true meaning of “chic,” while living like a nomad all over the world.
After about a year, I wanted to settle down a bit and work full time at a magazine. Lucky for me, Ms. Katie Grand offered me a position at Pop Magazine, and I found myself in London. Katie Grand is the BEST. An amazing business woman and an incredible creative force, Katie continues to inspire me and push me beyond what I think I can do. I would do anything for that woman. Working in London with Katie and her team taught me so much about the fine line between being artistic and creative with styling and trying too hard. I think the incredible thing about Katie and her peeps is how they manage to bring new and fun images and ideas into the fashion realm while taking care of their clients (the advertisers) and never talking “down” or intimidating their reader, an incredible feat alone. In 2007, I started to miss NYC so I moved back to the States. I still shoot for Katie Grand for LOVE, and I work my other clients here in NYC. And here I am.
What’s your favorite thing about fashion?
I love that fashion is always moving. You can never settle in and think you know everything, because just when you think you’ve found your favorite photographer, model, designer, magazine, everything changes again, someone changes the game. I love that. I have Attention Deficit Disorder, so it works perfectly for my brain. Fashion’s quick moving pace makes it exceptionally hard to get bored.
Who are your top picks for up-and-coming designers/artists/photogs/stylists to watch right now?
I recently found this cool videographer named Malcolm Pate. I am super interested to see what he does in the upcoming years. I also love Angelo Pennetta, whom I shoot with at LOVE. He has a perspective that is different than most of the photographers working, I think he is doing something new. With new designers, I find it really hard, I think it takes years to develop the sense of fit and their customer, who they are designing for…. That being said I love Victor Glemaud and Antonio Azzuolo. They both design menswear but I have a tomboy side of me who loves a custom suit and men’s cardigan. So when I have a little cash to burn, that’s where I go to buy, Victor and Antonio. But I am always looking for new talent to support, I was in London a couple of years ago at the time when Gareth Pugh, Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders were all kicking off. I love shooting and buying new designers when I really believe in their woman, or man.
Where is your favorite place to see street style?
I love funny subcultures. I was recently in the Topshop on Oxford Street in London shopping for sandals for summer and there was this group (or gang) of five 13-14 year old girls dressed as grungy girl scouts. I was so obsessed with them I stopped for 15 minutes and just watched them. They were trying on the super highest heels they could find on the sale rack in their sizes and attempting to walk in them, all holding each other up. I was mesmerized. I also love going with a photographer to document American subcultures. Two summers ago Doug Inglish and I went to Hemet, California and took pictures of these kids competing in a high school division rodeo championship. Those portraits are some of my favorite pictures ever. I recently referenced the rodeo kids for my outfits on a road trip I took to Death Valley. Doug and I also hit up a skate park in San Pedro under a highway and a renaissance fair. I guess I am into observing “cliques.” Everybody belongs to some sort of subculture and I really love tuning into these cliques for new inspiration.
There are so many nice people in fashion–like you! Why do you think the industry gets such a nasty rap?
I blame television and movies. Hollywood and media have to find the drama and cattiness in every person and every situation, in order for these “fashion” TV shows to be entertaining so people get this preconceived notion that fashion people are bitchy and shallow. Even in that movie The Incredibles they had Edna Mode as this incredibly snobby little fashion designer. It’s a story we grow up with from a young age. And shows like Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model put the nail in the coffin. I get really riled up. Anna Wintour gets the worst of it. She’s an awesome business woman and helps so many people in fashion. Ms. Wintour has kept many businesses from filing bankruptcy by helping designers find investors, yet people call her an “ice queen.” There are bitchy, nasty people in fashion but they are at the bottom of the ladder trying to claw their way to the top. But what a lot of people don’t realize is at the top, the most successful people are professional, loyal, ethical and shockingly nice, for the most part.
What kind of topics are your planning on covering in your corner of the Fashionista world?
Well, I have been studying fashion since I was 11 years old, and I find the lack of knowledge available about styling, and it’s history, frustrating. I thought writing for Fashionista would be a great way for me to further my own education on the role of “styling” and share with readers the history and application behind it. I want to start with the background and how styling started. Write about the iconic stylists, and hopefully interview them, and write about the challenges I face as a stylist. It’s also a really exciting time right now for stylist as the internet becomes a new medium for us to play with… I am super stoked!
So as you can tell, Sally’s awesome! Are there any topics you’d like to see her cover? Feel free to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.