There’s something that most people working in the fashion industry have in common, no matter how iconic their work is, how high up on the masthead their name is or how many celebrities have worn their designs: they started out as assistants. It’s something that’s been said ad nauseam, but assistants are the unsung heroes of the industry, working tirelessly behind the scenes and receiving little acknowledgement for it — although that’s not necessarily what they’re seeking. They want to learn the ropes from the best, and the late nights, errands and living their lives on-call are helping them to reach their goals.
The future generation of fashion stars can likely be found in the current crop of assistants working in the industry, and two 25-year-olds — Brais Vilasó and Xim Ramonell — honed in on this when putting together their brand new, self-funded magazine, Assistant. The co-editors met while working on set, and found themselves constantly curious about the assistants — to the makeup artists, photographers and stylists — who were toiling along with them.
"We wanted to know where they came from, if they want to do their own work, if they want to stay as assistants — you could have a very good life if you’re assisting someone big," Vilasó, who currently works as a fashion assistant and has held stints at major houses like Balenciaga, told Fashionista over the phone from Paris. To find people to feature in the first issue, Vilasó says the duo spent hours on Google, but also tapped into the talent they've met while working as assistants over the last four years.
"We live in this moment where everything is made by the same people," he explained. "There is a lot of young talent that wants to spread themselves and their names through their work. All the people that I met through that way — people that were assisting with me in shooting or a [runway] show or whatever — these are the the people I contacted for the first issue."
Putting together a debut issue is a challenge for anyone — naturally, brands are hesitant to send clothes and potential subjects are hesitant to take part when there's no layout or knowledge of who else will be in it — but the book's premise made it even more difficult for Vilasó and Ramonell to get people on board. "We had a lot of 'no's' at the beginning because people [are] conflicted: We really wanted the magazine to be called Assistant but we knew that it would be complicated because a lot of people, even though they are assistants, don’t really want to be considered as assistants," Vilasó said.
In addition, certain bosses weren't too keen on their employees being featured, but the magazine's debut issue includes interviews with Patrick Demarchelier's assistant Brendan Burke, as well as Jennifer Csengody, the head executive assistant to Bergdorf's Linda Fargo. The cover star is 17-year-old Maisie Williams, known for her role on "Game of Thrones." She, too, is just starting out in her career, rather than at the peak of it.
The magazine is distributed in over a dozen countries, and hits the states this week; in New York, it will be available in select magazine shops and at Bookmarc. Vilasó and Ramonell are already discussing their second issue, and are still busy learning the ropes in their day jobs. As for advice that the co-editors have for students and graduates looking to be standout assistants? "Discretion is very important," Vilasó says. "And even before your boss asks for something, know that he is going to ask for it." Also, it's true what they say about being in the right place at the right time, and Vilasó got most of his gigs through recommendations from previous employers, so working to set yourself apart from the pack is crucial. "Fashion is a difficult industry and you have to trust in yourself," Ramonell adds. "Try hard and go for the job you really like."