1 Guerrilla tactics can get you a place at CSM
I worked as a pastry chef in Manchester, but wanted to do something in fashion. I went over to St Martins, but I didn’t have an interview. I found out where the interviews were and when you had to check in for interview, I ticked off someone else’s name on the list and got in. At the end of the interview I was like “when do I start?” The course tutor said, “I know you haven’t applied, but we thought we’d interview you. If you apply properly, on UCAS, you can come”.
2 Think about your goals in a smart way
I had done a pre-foundation in art – I did anything I thought a fashion college would want to see. I had a bit of a portfolio, painting and fabric; I did a bit of writing, and pretended that I was going to be a writer. Of course I wanted to be a stylist, but the course made it very clear that it wasn’t a course for styling, although I’m sure a thousand people wanted to do that instead.
3 Work with the best
You should work for the most successful/well known stylist you can. Find out who they are and approach them. If I was assisting now, I’d go for a freelance stylist, because they do so much stuff and at a certain level. If you’re happy to work at a women’s magazine, that’s fine, but it depends at what entry you want to go in at. I always wanted to work with the best, craziest people. If you work with a stylist as their assistant, you’ll meet the photographer’s assistants, who are going to be the next big photographers. Those connections that you make very early on in your career are so important.
4 Assist, assist, assist
What it all boils down to, is what photographers you have worked with. That’s the most important thing a stylist will ever be asked. The bigger the photographer, the better the magazine, the better the collections, the better the models you’ll get.
5 Be conscious of what’s going on
Most stylists call in clothes that they like and would want to wear. I knew about fashion and sportswear as an extension of my wardrobe, but I also realised that not everybody is buying into sportswear.
At the time, there was a very big minimalistic thing going on. It was very popular and Helmut Lang was a massive designer, so that design style was really picked up. The style of Juergen [Teller] as well, very minimal, clean, and real. You’ve got to look at what everyone else does, and what’s popular at the moment, and you either do something as a reaction to those, or something that seems very conscious of it. If you’re not popular, it doesn’t mean you’re not good at what you do: it’s just not in fashion at the time.
6 Knowledge is power
As an assistant, it’s great if you come with a knowledge of fashion photography and fashion design; if you know the difference between twenties and eighties. It sounds so silly, but it’s important. You need to know your designers, but also have a great resource of young designers that you know, people at college who can make things.
7 But it’s not only about what you know…
Just as I left college, I was given the opportunity to work with a stylist at Arena Homme +. It was a shoot with David Beckham by Steven Klein, the one where his head has been shaved. So, I assisted on that shoot, and then the next issue of the magazine they gave me the position of junior fashion editor. I started working as an assistant at the Face at the same time, in 2001. Then I met this crazy lady called Isabella Blow, and she commissioned me for a shoot for the Sunday Times. She helped me a lot, I started styling fashion shows, I started doing Phillip Treacy couture shows with her…
At CSM, I made a fanzine called Guinea Pig, it was about how guinea pigs are experimented on and social experiments. I basically just shot people that I thought were cool, young students. If you look back at it now, these people are all CEOs or stylists and PRs at Adidas and McQueen. These are the people that I had kind of grown up with; I like the fact that my magazine is like a document in time. If you look back at it, it’s like “oh look, Simon Foxton”.
8 Embrace technology
I think magazines like the Face and Arena have closed down with the rise of technology; I think they would still be around if they had the digital voice they never had. For me, I didn’t really embrace technology. I didn’t have Facebook, but I did understand Twitter though, and got a lot of work through that. Not because I got a lot of followers, but because brands could quite easily find out who I worked with. Brands are still obsessed with Twitter, while we might not be.
9 Brands still find independent magazines appealing
When you see something in an independent magazine, you know it’s the choice of the editors. When you see something in a big magazine owned by a publishing house, you know that an ad director has made them shoot that dress with those earrings.
10 As an editor, you have to be very opinionated
When you’re on a set and you’re in charge of twenty people doing hair/makeup, styling, photography, lighting, you have to be so switched on, and you have to know what you want. Not getting someones hair right can ruin a shoot, and you can’t redo it. You have to be so strong in your ideas, but also your research.
Images from Rebel Magazine, shot by Bruna Kazinoti
Portraits via The Guardian and SHOWStudio