Behind almost every great fashion editorial, advertising campaign, designer look-book and celebrity red-carpet appearance is a stylist.
The stylist is as, if not more, important and powerful as the person they are dressing. Their fashion choices are responsible for influencing the way society dresses; the celebrity or model is simply a coat-hanger for the stylist’s ingenuity.
Most women adopt a ‘style icon’ and yet most style icons have a stylist. To give examples, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson and Reese Witherspoon are all styled by red-carpet specialist Leslie Fremar; Claire Danes and Emma Stone are dressed by Petra Flannery; and there is, of course, Rachel Zoe who has her own TV show and has styled some of the most beautiful of Hollywood’s A-list, including Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Hudson and Eva Mendes
Editor, Michelle Larin, interviewed two working fashion stylists - one from New York and the other from Sydney - to find out more about this creative vocation and their take on the concept of 'style'.
Part 1: 'Sneed' - Fashion Stylist living in New York, New York
Q: Tell me a bit about yourself.
A: My name is Sneed. I am a stylist originally hailing from Jamaica. I am currently based in Queens, New York. I love all things fashion, whether period pieces or futuristic style. I dabble in everything from costume design to wardrobe styling. I even teach!
Q: When did you decide to pursue a career as a stylist?
A: I was on the set of a music video clip working as a grip and slate, when the director made the comment he was looking for a stylist. I didn't have a portfolio, but I knew how to make and coordinate clothing. I showed him my projects from school that I had made and styled for shoots. He loved my work and hired me on the spot.
Q: How did your styling career officially begin?
A: My career began the moment I was paid for styling my first music video. From that point, I started to experiment more with style, as I love the frou frou avant garde editorials much more than the simplistic ones. I love how you can juxtapose clothing against a myriad of subjects. The more creative I became, the harder I worked. For me, it was then a matter of finding the right photographers to work with, as you always want to work with a photographer that is just as creative as you.
Q: Did you undertake any courses?
A: I never undertook styling classes, but I did attend FIT to study fashion design. The clothes I design and make are usually in the editorials I style, but I also lend them out to other stylists or directors for shoots.
Q: Describe your signature look.
A: My signature look – wow – I am all over the place! I guess I am always the girl with a hat on her head. I love hats: baseball, fedoras and berets. I love mixing patterns and to play with colours. My style in general is to make a statement.
Q: Who have you styled?
A: I have styled lots of people! In particular, I have styled musicians including Aaron Carter and Karmin, models such as Chinese beauty Teng and US Olympians from the fencing team. Seeing the latter styled outside of their everyday persona was a lot of fun!
Q: Describe a typical day in your job.
A: I don’t work full-time as a stylist, so my day varies. When I am styling, my day starts with the client explaining to me what they want to achieve. It is then my responsibility to work out how to bring their vision to life, which is heavily dependent on the subject of the client’s brief.
Q: What do you do to prepare for a shoot?
A: I am very anal when preparing for a shoot. I have to do everything myself. I prepare mood boards, as I need to know and understand the idea and reference. I have to style my mannequins. Sometimes I may do 40-50 looks on a mannequin to see what works best. I take photos of those looks and upload them to my computer to select the best ones. The looks I select are then sent to the art director, client or photographer.
Q: Has styling taken you to any exotic locations?
A: Not yet! I am hoping it will. I would love to shoot in a cave or on a mountain with a beautiful sunset. I’d also love to style a feature in an aquarium!
Q: Describe your most unusual styling assignment.
A: I haven’t had one of those yet, but I did have an unusual but fun costume design assignment with Toshiba for their tablet. I assisted the lead costume designer to build a Chewbaca out of a cassette tape!
Q: From where do you draw your ideas and inspiration?
I am a lover of anything and everything big. I love volume. I love color. I love frou frou. My inspiration stems from my favorite designers, such a McQueen, Galliano and Pugh.
Q: Whose style do you admire most?
A: I don't admire any person’s particular style per se, because style is always evolving. I am more a person of aesthetic.
Q: What items do you think it is necessary for women to spend major dollars on?
A: Shoes and bags! I can easily drop $300 or more on a pair of shoes or a bag. Accessorising is everything; it can make or break an outfit. It’s definitely worth investing in good, quality pieces that will make you stand-out.
Q: What's your opinion on vintage?
A: I don't care for vintage, as fashion is always repeating itself. Because of this, to me, nothing is ever truly vintage.
Q: What trend would you most like to see disappear?
A: Leggings, as I hate seeing a woman's panty line. Low cut jeans is also an offensive piece of clothing – I hate seeing butt cracks!
Q: What are your key styling tips for women?
A: Wear clothes for your body type and not what's trending. What's trending may not work for you. Not everything looks good on everyone!
Q: What are five key items every woman should have in their wardrobe?
A: A leather jacket, a cool hand bag, fun shoes, a comfortable pair of flats or sneakers and good accessories. A bare wrist or neck bothers me.
Q: What is your most covetable buy?
A: My Fendi militia boots for $1100. I really wanted them. I treat them like gold – literally! I don't wear them often, but they have appeared in many of my shoots.
Q: What do you consider the biggest fashion faux pas?
A: To me there is no such thing as a fashion faux pas. Rules are meant to be broken! If a person commits to the outfit and wears it well they can pull it off. However, if they don't, they’ll just look like a mess and no one likes to look at a mess!
Q: Which celebrity would you most like to dress?
A: Pink! I have wanted to dress her for quite some time. She has a very cool style. I like that that she is a tomboy - not afraid to get dirty. Very bad-ass!
Q: Who do you consider the ultimate fashion icon?
A: Michael Jackson for men and Jackie O for women hands down. Even today, people still look to their style for inspiration.
Q: Where do you like to shop?
A: I shop “high low”. Meaning, I shop anywhere from the rainbow shop to 5th Ave shops such as ‘Bergdorf’. If I think something is cute, I’ll buy it! I am a lover of both the bargain and a quality item. In a sense, it's a constant battle, but there is a middle ground – it's called the sales rack!
Q: How would you describe the style of New Yorkers?
A: New Yorkers have their own style. Some people are ‘hipsters’. Some people are ‘urbanites’. Then you have the ‘skaters’ as everything in between. In New York City you can dress however you want.
Q: Tell me about living in New York City.
A: I love New York City, but it’s overpopulated. It’s extremely competitive, forcing me to work harder to achieve and for less money. It does have an exciting air of creativity and energy. But I think it’s time for me to take a break and move to LA – for a little while anyway!
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