Every stylist needs a contact database to keep track of everyone, include the designers’ PR firm (for samples), studio services and boutiques (for pulls), and creative teams (for brainstorming). A contact database organizes and holds a stylist’s trusted network. Styling has its share of fashion emergencies (“I need a Dolce dress for a cover shoot in eight hours?! WHAT?!”), which means a stylist worth his/her day rate must keep a very resourceful and updated database.
Over the years, I have seen contact databases in many forms. Marie Amelie Sauve kept her “database” in a Hermes agenda when I was assisting her. In 2007 when I was at Pop Magazine, all of the editors kept track of their contacts via Blackberries synced with their iMacs. Nowadays, I prefer to keep my database in a Mobile Me account that syncs with my iPhone, iPad and MacBook (yes, I am a Mac nerd). Keeping my database in an account like Mobile Me or Gmail allows my trusted assistants to access and update my contacts from any web browser. I recommend keeping a stylist’s database electronically that can be backed up because even the best of us have suffered a lost address book. It can take weeks, months, and sometimes years to gather all of the information again from scratch.
A thorough database includes the following contacts by name, company, work phone, mobile phone, email, address, and notes (titles, agents, assistants, birthdays, other important applicable info) in every city and country the stylist works:
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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.
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A couple of years ago, I began going to business school to learn the basics of how to run my styling business. After all, we stylists have to deal with cash flow statements and managing our money and assistants, even if we are just “creatives” who play with clothing. As I entered into the alien world of business 101, I was surrounded by corporate business people that didn’t have the slightest idea what a “fashion stylist” was or what could be expected of one. In most cases, I would anticipate the need to go into my 2 minute speech which explains my role, how it works, and with whom I work, whenever I met someone new. Even when I got my speech down to what I thought was a decent explanation, I still got blank stares back.
The uninitiated couldn’t seem to understand the gist of what a stylist did. In a nut shell, here was my speech: “stylists work with creative teams including photographers, design teams, or art directors to create a vision for an image or brand. At the same time, we also face the challenge of making the clothes look awesome (regardless of their quality).”
Due to the general lack of understanding regarding my role, I started to think more about what I really do as a stylist. I guess the reason that it is not easy to explain is because a stylists’ responsibilities change quite a bit depending on the kind of job or project we are working on that day. When I am shooting an editorial, I have the privilege of collaborating with some of the world’s best editor-in-chiefs (EIC’s for short) on creating stories for their magazines. With an editorial and the approval of the EIC, I get to choose the concept, photographer, hair and makeup teams, models, and of course the clothes.
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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”:
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