You Need These Four Qualities to Be a Successful Fashion Stylist

As someone who spends every day working in the fashion industry, often helping well-known celebrities put their looks together for photo shoots, runway shows, major events, and even just shopping excursions on Rodeo Drive and other trendy districts, I’m often asked what my work involves. My response is often something along the lines of, “Whatever that person wants or needs.”

If you watch reality television shows or follow celebrity fashionistas on social media, you’ve probably seen many of them wearing my work. While I’m not a designer per se, as a stylist, I provide them with a range of services that encompasses fashion styling, personal shopping, selecting apparel and looks that complement their individuality, organizing and reorganizing their wardrobes, and others.

Just a few of the many “names” with whom I’ve worked are Serinda Swan, Lady Gaga, GiGi Hadid, Bella Thorne, Paula Abdul, Carmen Carrera, and Gia Gunn. These wonderful people have entrusted me with helping them look their best, whether that’s classy and tasteful, glam and glitzy or somewhere in between.

I am passionate about my work, and I believe that that passion has translated itself into the success I’ve enjoyed over the past 10 years of my professional life. I love styling people, and have wanted to do this since I was a child growing up in Toronto.

So what do I do, specifically? I’m glad you asked.

First of all, no two days are the same. One day, I can spend 8 to 12 hours handling wardrobe fittings for events. In fact, in the case of a fashion show it can be several days doing this. Another day I can be shopping in high-end boutiques on behalf of a client whom I will later advise to “consider wearing this, because it really goes well with your look and your coloring, and it brings out your eyes.” For a photo shoot, I might be working with an editor, a photographer and the models well before the session to ensure that all the clothing items selected are approved, fitted perfectly and drape exactly how they’re supposed to so the photographer can get the shots and the editor will be satisfied (and hopefully excited!)

In my decade of doing this job as an independent, I’ve learned that there are a few traits that have helped me become successful. These include the following.

It all begins with impeccable fashion sense.

This goes without saying. To be a stylist, one must simply love clothes and how they can enhance a person’s look. It’s not just looking through a fashion magazine and appreciating the couture you see, though. You have to be able to pair items of clothing with the person who will be wearing them, and they have to look smashing on that person. To achieve this you need to develop a fashion sense that takes into account the client’s body type, hairstyle and coloring, eye colors, and more.

You also need to know how to make not only clothing, but shoes and other accessories work, and not only work but work well. This means putting together a look that not only consists of a couture item but also such items as belts, eyeglass frames, jewelry, handbags, and other accessories. It is imperative that everything — and I mean everything — goes together in such a way that makes the person wearing it look like the star he or she is.

Creativity is a must.

As a fashion stylist, you’re asked to do a lot of different things. And with some clients, it’s extremely important to know how to creatively put a look together. This works both in a traditional styling and one that goes way outside the boundaries of traditional. What I’m saying is that you need to know what the rules are before you can break them. Being able to advise someone to wear a pop of an unexpected color or pair a motorcycle jacket with an evening gown in a way that makes her look amazing is a necessary skill. On a photo shoot, a well-placed creative suggestion can often make a person look even more sensational. And we’ve all seen magazine photos in which celebrities are wearing creative looks that not only grab attention, but even sometimes become a personal fashion statement or trademark.

You have to love working with people.

Many creative artists, including models and actors, are extremely aware of how they look and, maybe more important, how they want to look. As a fashion stylist, it’s not only my job to be an advisor in helping them achieve their desired looks, but also being patient, diplomatic, friendly, upbeat, supportive, and encouraging. The reason is this: many celebrities are extremely busy. They have incredible demands on their time, so as a stylist I have to respect that I need to do my job in a way that not only pleases (and excites) them, but also makes it as easy as possible for them. I need to provide them with looks in which they will feel comfortable. I need to have an acute understanding of what they like and don’t like. And I need to respect their time. I strive to do all three of these things, which I’m confident has helped me to achieve an excellent reputation for what I do.

Be extremely well organized.

As I mentioned above, no two days are exactly the same. In the fashion industry, you also do a lot of traveling. You also get phone calls and text messages asking you to fly to a different city, maybe even across the country or the ocean, for an assignment by tomorrow, so you have to juggle your schedule and be available if at all possible, but also know that all the work is being done by when it’s needed. This is why assistants are so crucial to our work. The busier you become, the more you depend on them to keep the business running well and your schedule up to date. Strong organizational skills cannot be understated.

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