Katie Grand is, by far, one of my all time favorite fashion heroes. Every time I work with her and for her I learn SO much. Not only is she one of the only editors that gives me the space and platform to do much of my favorite styling work, she gives me the opportunity to collaborate with the BEST people in the business. For that, I will forever be in Katie's debt. When I worked for Katie at Pop magazine, she taught me what it means to be a fashion visionary and an incredible business woman. I'm not going to go into a long spiel here about her biography; I really wanted to chat with her specifically about styling. For this column, I will be conducting a series of interviews with people in different fashion roles who hire and work with stylists, or the iconic stylists themselves. Katie answered my questions with the honesty and humor that I always appreciate from her. I learned so much reading her answers, I hope you guys do too!
Here it goes....
SL: How long have you been styling? It began when you started Dazed & Confused with Rankin and Jefferson Hack in 1993, right? KG: Yeah, I was at St Martins and met Rankin and Jefferson at a bar in the basement of the Trocadero called DNA and I started working on Dazed, initially folding magazines, and then my first story was a white t-shirt story, shot by a friend of mine, Gary, who was at St. Martins doing photography.
SL: What led you to styling versus doing another job in fashion, like design? KG: Stylists get to do the best bits, we work on product, on photo shoots, shows, advertising and magazines--we get to do all the best bits.
SL: Who do you feel you have learned the most from in your career? KG: In chronological order: my dad, Nathan Wilkins, Giles Deacon, Rankin, Jefferson Hack, David Davies, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Steve Mackey, Miuccia Prada, Marc Jacobs and Nicholas Coleridge. I think they all influenced me hugely.
SL: How did you meet Camilla Lowther, owner of your current agency CLM? KG: Kevin Kollenda, who used to work with Camilla, met me socially, we laughed a lot, so much, and then he introduced me to Camilla.
SL: Has she always been your agent? KG: Katy Baggott, who used to be at Z Photographic and then started her own agency, was my first agent. Very sadly she passed away earlier this year, we remained friends, and I always had a huge amount of respect for her integrity and loyalty. She represented Juergen Teller, Phoebe Philo and Katie Hillier.
SL: What has been your biggest career highlight so far? KG: There's a couple of brilliant moments. 1. When I'd been styling for about a year, I got asked to style Kylie [Minogue] for Top of the Pops, I literally ran around our very tiny Dazed office on Brewer St because I couldn't contain my excitement. 2. I had been asked to style the Miu Miu show in Milan, which was very exciting in itself, and then got invited upstairs to "have a look" at the Prada collection and ended up working for Mrs. Prada for three years. 3. And then being asked to launch a magazine with Conde Nast [Love], which was really hard not to tell the world about but I couldn't!!! SL: What roles do stylists play in your world as Editor-in-Chief? KG: I don't do the magazine on my own; it's only as good as the staff and the contributors. I have huge respect for the stylists I work with on Love, and have worked with throughout my career. I like working with stylists. I love Joe McKenna's work, I always have. I feel incredibly honored to have him contribute to Love. And all the other stylist I work with, of course, but I have a special affection for Joe.
SL: How do you interact with other stylists for Love?
KG: Over the telephone, and then sometimes in the bar at the Principe [in Milan] or the Meurice [in Paris] at show time. SL: What major concerns do you have business-wise and creative-wise when hiring and working with stylists for? KG: I commission some stylists giving them complete freedom, others I ask things of--getting involved in casting or the clothes or the location. It depends on the shoot and the idea. SL: How do you find out about new stylists? KG: Our paths tend to cross in some way. Some stylists I work with started out on work placement [the Brit's way of saying interning] or are friends of friends or assistants. Or just a chat socially!
SL: What do you look for when you are reviewing a stylist's portfolio/book? Any dos or don'ts for books? KG: I think most people look at portfolios on the internet now--which is a shame because there is something so special about portfolios and pages from magazines. It's just not practical to send something so heavy around. SL: What are you looking for and listening for when you meet with a stylist? KG: I gauge a lot from personal appearance and whether someone is nice or not, to be honest.
SL: What is your thinking when you are pairing stylists up with photographers? KG: It's usually instinctive. SL: How do you pair up stylists with subjects, like story ideas or celebrities? KG: Often celebrity shoots happen so last minute you often have to choose the best person for the job that is available and in the right city. We've worked together loads because you are in the right city at the right time and you've always done an amazing job. I love how I can call you at lunch time and say "we've got four covers to shoot tomorrow morning, is that ok?" And you say "yes" and it gets done and it's great.
SL: What do you think makes a stylist's work great? In images? At a show? KG: Stylists (like most professions) are only as good as the people around them. Fashion is such a team job, you need a great photographer, or designer, a nice art director, a good editor, models, hair, make up, clothes.... It's who you choose to work with that makes you look good!
SL: What criteria and standards for assessment do you have when you are working with a stylist? I have found a lot of the criteria is unspoken so I would love to hear your thinking about this! KG: Someone who says yes, delivers with enthusiasm and doesn't do the opposite of what you ask them to (which happens more times than you'd imagine). And delivers great pictures over and over.
SL: Do you have any specific dos and don'ts for stylists when they are shooting a story for you? KG: Don't be rude to anyone, do turn up on time. Having good old fashioned common sense and having good manners.
SL: Who are your favorite stylists? KG: I have the hugest respect for Carine Roitfeld who both edits a monthly magazine and styles such great stories.
SL: How do you recommend people who want to become stylists get started? Most people assist a major stylist. Do you think that is the best way to learn? KG: I was a hopeless assistant, I worked in the Katharine Hamnett press office for five days and was just useless. I was always quite driven, I suppose, and I knew I wasn't so good at answering to people and just wanted to get on and do it myself. If you're a hopeless assistant, it isn't the end of the world. SL: Any other advice for new stylists or readers who want to become stylists? KG: Get on with it ! Everyone finds their own way, people will tell you to "get on with it" and it makes no sense, until one day or night, when you know that there is an opportunity. And be loyal. This business is tiny and we are all going to be in it together for a long time.
Check out Katie Grand's Love: Thelovemagazine.co.uk