A couple of years ago, when I was in business school, my teacher was having a conversation with the class about all of the different areas of business we must take care of in order to be considered “successful”. One of those areas was “politics”. Now, he wasn’t talking about politics in the traditional sense of the word, like government or politicians, he was talking about the dynamics of people in a group, area or field. So I am talking here about politics as the relationship between people in fashion and how some people are considered powerful, how some people are not, and why. At one point in our class, someone stood up and said that he hated politics and he stayed as far away from politics as possible (exactly what I was thinking as the other student said it). In return, my teacher said, “If you don’t like politics, then be a dog. Tough luck buddy. Whether you like it or not, politics are there and you have to learn to deal with them if you want to be successful.” So I started thinking about what that meant to me and my job and career as a stylist and what it meant inside of the fashion business.
My dictionary states one of the definitions of politics as
the assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or thing, esp. when concerned with power and status in a society : the politics of gender
As crap and boring as it is to talk about power and status, it is important because status and power define how much we get paid as stylists. If you are the Editor in Chief of a magazine that is considered powerful and respected and makes money in the fashion game, you can charge the top dollar to style for a brand. If you are an assistant at a magazine no one respects or has heard of, you are lucky if you can find anyone to pay you to style anything. This is the reality I have found in my many years of studying fashion. If anyone has any other theories about this, I am happy to hear them, comment away.
But as it stands, the more powerful you are editorially and the more famous you are as a stylist and editor in fashion, the more you can charge people for styling work. The power and status we are talking about has to be decided by people in fashion industry, you can’t declare it yourself. Trust me, I have tried to declare how awesome I am many times, but no one cares, it doesn’t work. I only started getting booked and paid to do jobs as a stylist when I started working for magazines people respect and designers people respect. When I was able to point out my work in powerful magazines and talk about results I had created (like higher sales and press) on collections I had styled, that’s when people started paying me higher fees.
In this series of column entries I am covering the areas I found extremely important to me to understand and take care of in my role inside the fashion industry as a stylist, fashion editor and creative consultant…
First up: Editorial and Magazine Politics.