One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the job of a stylist is that it’s a glamorous task; I’m here today to dispel that notion once and for all. Please don’t get me wrong, I love it. But it ain’t easy.Once you’ve got a concept locked down, the real work begins with putting together THE LOOKS. Depending on the shoot, this part usually starts with a detailed trolling of style.com, then hours (days!) of emailing back and forth and back and forth with dozens of designers, PR reps, and showroom coordinators, trying to track down and secure the loaning of the clothes that best fit your vision. Most of the ones you want won’t be available, so then you’ve got to start pursuing a Plan B, then C… Of course, you can’t forget the hats, sunglasses, jewelry, handbags, hosiery and shoes. That involves more emails and showroom visits and dips into stores all over town, because you’ll want lots and lots of options. Then, someone’s got to cull all these elements into one place. That means you’re running all over town doing pickups, begging brands to provide messenger services, and praying your interns and assistants (when you’re fortunate enough to have them) don’t get lost on the subway with 30lbs of designer gowns thrown over their backs. Everything about this part is miserable, but it inevitably leads to the really fun part, when it all starts coalescing… …Which is to say that sometime late, late, late the night before your shoot, you’ve got all the clothes and accessories you’re going to get, and it’s time to figure out what the heck you’re going to do with them all. What’s the visual narrative? Which blouse will really sing with those pants? Who is the character you’re trying to create, and would she wear a turban with that caftan or is she in a big sunhat mood instead? If you’re really lucky, you’re shooting in the same city where this prep work is happening, so the transportation agony is limited to wheeling a rack bursting with garment bags plus several suitcases of accessories down to a hired SUV, getting reamed out by your always-angry doorman in the process. That’s the easy option. On a location shoot, however, plan to add in either the hassle of flying with ten 50lb trunks, or banking on the inevitability of your shipped boxes being lost somewhere in Alabama, in which case you’ll be awake for two days straight trying to locate and save them in time, only to find out the hotel had them all along and just didn’t realize it, despite your asking 10 different employees to check again at least 5 different times (which is exactly what happened on THIS SHOOT). So then you end up heading to set on absolutely no sleep, with varying levels of frustration and exhaustion threatening to cloud your creative mojo. But you won’t let them! You’ve got too much still to do… Once you’re on set (be it a photo studio or an arid desert moonscape or a dreamy strip of beach), your #1 duty is MODEL MAINTENANCE. Her well-being is your responsibility, because you’re not getting the shot if she’s not happy (or warm! Prepare for lots of apologetic bear hugs between shots). You might also ruin THE shot if everything about her look isn’t perfectly in place, and your photographer is too busy and too focused to look out for these sorts of details ~ that’s your job. Is her sweater tucked perfectly? Is the waistband fitting properly? Is anything bunching weirdly? Are her sleeves pushed up with just the right amount of jauntiness? These minutiae make or break a moment, and that too is on you, baby. It’s all part of FIGURING IT OUT: being the photographer’s second set of eyes, and seeing things before they have a chance to, so that their flow isn’t ever interrupted. They have to worry about lighting and focus and apertures and framing; you need to make sure everything inside their lens fits the vision you share in your heads, and is the best it can be in every way imaginable. Don’t ever look away; you must see the things that no one else could, and be ready with solutions when something’s not working or could potentially be improved. You are always ON. Finally, go ahead and throw out your ego, because you’ve got a lot of PUTTING ON SHOES to do. It’s all an interesting hybrid of creative expression, manifestation, collaboration, role playing… and good old fashioned manual labor. I’m pretty into it.
|PHOTOS| by Ann Street Studio