5 Key Career Tips From Successful Stylists

Want to make it as a stylist? Listen up.
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Eliza Brooke
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Want to make it as a stylist? Listen up.
Stylist Nicole Chavez gives her pro tips. Photo: Gil Riego

Stylist Nicole Chavez gives her pro tips. Photo: Gil Riego

In theory, styling seems easy: Book a gig with a celebrity for a red carpet event, pull some gowns, play dress-up while sipping champagne. Not so. At our "How To Make It In Fashion" conference in Los Angeles on Friday, we pulled four major stylists away from their jam-packed days to give us the lowdown on their jobs. And surprise, surprise: They're anything but cushy. Think of styling as both a sprint and a marathon.

From the celebrity world, we had Micaela Erlanger (Lupita Nyong'o and Michelle Dockery are among her clients, Nicole Chavez (Rachel Bilson, Katherine Heigl) and Tara Swennen (Kristen Stewart, Julie Bowen). Sally Lyndley came out to rep the magazine and studio world, where she's made a name for herself at publications like Pop and Vogue

If you're thinking of getting into the world of styling, read on. Here are five of the most poignant career tips the group had to share. 

1.) You’re working on everyone else’s schedule.

Micaela: “It’s 24/7. You might have clients in Asia on a press tour or in London, and you’re in LA or New York, and you have to be working on everybody else’s schedule. Forget about your own. It goes out the door.”

Sally: “I got a call from an editor who said, ‘Can you shoot four covers in six hours in LA?’ And I had to figure out how to make it happen. You’re literally working in every time zone constantly. You have to love what you do so much that it doesn’t matter.”

2.) Paying your dues may take longer than you’d expect.

Sally: “When Katie Grand, who is my mentor, started giving me covers for her magazine, that’s when people started paying attention. And that was after six or seven years of working tirelessly for her and the magazine. The first cover was Stephanie Seymour for Pop. Then she gave me another cover two covers later, and that’s when people said, ‘Ok, Sally’s here to stay.’ That was a moment where people in the magazine world said, we have to pay attention to this girl.”

3.) Be respectful of everyone, especially your peers.

Tara: "There are some rough politics in this business, but if you do handle it with integrity it will get you much further... I’ve shown my resumé maybe twice in 15 years. Networking and the relationships I’ve built are what have actually gotten me work."

Sally: “I knew Prabal Gurung when he was an assistant at Bill Blass. It’s cool to grow up with people, but also it’s important to remember that today’s intern is tomorrow’s PR director, designer or big stylist. That’s important, because people get caught up in, ‘Oh they’re just this,’ or whatever. That’s bullshit.”

Tara: “This generation has realized that there’s enough work to go around and we can help each other out. I’ll literally pull a piece [for someone else] and say I’m sending this shoe over. It’s lovely to be able to do that.”

4.) If you're trying to get a job with a stylist, be persistent... and get in front of her agency.

Tara: "Calling the agencies is good. You get on their radar and then they’re the gate keepers to us. We call them and say, 'I need six assistants for this, I'm gonna die.' If you’re on that roster, you get put in front of us. We don’t have the time."

Nicole: "We have all worked so hard to get where we are and we put in years of working for free and doing a lot of things, so we’re looking for that same drive. We’re looking for ourselves. We’re looking for that version of ourselves 10 years ago, and when that email comes across my desk that’s who I reply to."

5.) Being a celebrity stylist means being a team player.

Micaela: "There are so many politics behind what gets chosen. The boyfriend weighs in. The mom weighs in. The publicist weighs in. At the end of the day it’s about collaborating with the client."

Tara: "If the designer’s happy, the publicist is happy, the client’s happy, we’ve made it out alive."