I believe every top stylist has a very special Secret Weapon. What is this secret weapon, you ask? An incredible first assistant. A brilliant lead assistant is one of the roles that holds the entire business together for the stylist. This week I am going to ramble a bit about how extremely important it is to have an incredible, reliable assistant and/or team of assistants.
A first assistant, FA for short, is a jack-of-all-trades. The responsibilities for a head assistant include every aspect of the stylist’s business. After sitting down and making a shortlist of what my assistant handles for me, I came up with these 13 fundamental responsibilities:
1. Research: FA can find the story styled by Grace Coddington and shot by Patrick Demarchelier for the first issue of Anna Wintour’s US Vogue without asking 500 questions or looking for five minutes and then telling you they can’t find it. An FA finds the story and creates the most fabulous scans of the story and also scans the rest of the main well from the issue, just to have on hand.
2. Prepping: A stylist doesn’t always have the time to go through every show on Style.com to choose looks for a story, so the FA steps in and makes a first edit. The FA can pull the best looks for the concept the stylist is creating, from designers the stylist loves and the credits the magazine needs. This saves the stylist hours of time.
3. Shopping: The FA is the best treasure hunter ever. On some advertising jobs, a stylist can get the impossible task of finding orange boy’s swimming shorts in December. You will find the shorts in five other variations as additional options, come in under budget and will only shop at stores where the unused product can be returned for a full refund.
4. Pulling: Pulling is different from shopping in the sense that the FA becomes a liaison for the stylist because he or she is then acting as company representative with a designer’s PR contact or store manager. Also, when the FA is pulling from a showroom or shop, he/she needs to know what the stylist likes enough to pull relevant items that will fit the creative ideas for the stylist and also be appropriate for the stylist’s taste level.
5. Requesting: Another moment where the FA is a representative of a stylist’s business in his/her communication with the PR contacts for designers. The FA’s thorough-ness and manners becomes crucial in creating powerful relationships with the ever-important PR’s.
6. Onset Organization and Etiquette: Being on set can be the most stressful time for a stylist (dealing with 101 opinions!). Therefore, having an FA who can keep everything organized and act appropriately makes all the difference in the world. This drastically increases the stylist’s ability to take care of his/her client and get great images.
7. Returns: Returns are a deceptively simple. The FA ensures the returns are impeccably checked. This entails that no items are missing and that they are packed in a way that no PR or designer gets upset…hello, this is luxury fashion! A dress valued at $20k thrown into the bottom of a three month old brown paper bag is unacceptable, and the FA knows that.