Explaining what I do as a Stylist in advertising
Let's talk about the backstage of a stylist / costume designer's job on a commercial, print or branded content.
1. So usually I get a call from a producer / an agency. It's either someone I have worked with before or who had my contact through a recommendation. I do send cold emails to creative agencies when I'm looking for new clients but I get one answer out of hundreds of emails (everybody prefer to work with someone they know, it's normal).
2. I find out if I'm available for the dates, what kind of project it is (print, film, social media content...), who is the client (the brand), how much it is paid and how much the wardrobe budget is.
3. Then I get a brief or a pitch by email. It gives me an idea of the aesthetic of the project and what I'm expected to do in term of wardrobe, accessories and style. I can even get a storyboard if it's a film and a script if there are dialogues.
4. This is my sourcing time, the heart of my craft and what I like to do the most. As I mainly work on contemporary projects, I usually find inspiration online through Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube, catwalks, films, television shows and... the streets. If I'm looking for a specific thing I could also go out and visit some concept stores or vintage stores.
This is the first draft of a file I made for the lifestyle photo project I did for Lenovo in 2017.
5. I usually need time to take a step back and go for a walk or take a nap before processing all these visual information into mood boards or drawings.
6. After my ideas are clear and my brain had a good rest to process all of that, I start creating mood boards or any other kind of support to communicate my ideas with the producer/director/agency and client.
My finale mood boards for Lenovo.
7. Time to wait for feed backs. If it's a commercial / branded content, I will wait for the production and the client(s)'s feed backs. If it's a big brand it can takes quite some time cause many people will give their opinions.
8. Time to wait for the casting to happen and the clients to make a finale decision. Once everybody is happy (talent's agent, agency and client) I can finally get all the measurements I need and have a better idea of the final character.
9. Then I start sourcing the clothes. I usually go shopping. If I'm working on a shoot with celebrities, I could borrow clothes from brands PR (then I had to add another process before because I would need to contact them in advance). If I need uniforms or vintage clothing I could also hire costumes from companies.
In advertising I usually shop new clothes from a variety of brands (although I always have some favorites) but if I need to be more realistic I would also source clothes from charity shops and second hand stores.
I shop A LOT, especially if I work on a branded content / ad. I usually shop three to four times the amount I actually need. I'm expected to have endless options (like 10 pairs of shoes for the one we really need). Even if the mood boards were approved by the client, I could face someone from the brand who didn't necessarily saw them and would want something different. If I have a budget I'm allowed to spend - let's say £2000 total for 2 talents, I'll probably buy £8000 worth of clothes.
10. Fittings ! When I'm lucky enough to have time, then I would schedule fittings with the talents. It is of course not an option if I work on a film or a tv show cause everything has to be tried on and approved by the talent and director (sometimes also choreographer, stunt, producer, ...)
11. Life on set... Again, I could work alone if it's a small shoot or if it doesn't require to have assistants or I could also not be here if it's a feature or a tv show and they don't have the budget to keep the designer on board during the entire shoot.
This is an entire job to steam and make everything look as it has to be. Sometimes I would need to hem a pair of trousers five minutes before the talent gets called on set. To be honest, that's not the part of the job I'm the best at and my wardrobe assistants friends have hundreds of tricks to face this kind of situation on a bigger shoot. I usually have double sided tape (specific for skin), lots of pins, some kind of glue that goes everywhere, threaded needles ready and wipes. I also have a kit of specific underwear like sticky bras and other sexy stuffs like that...
12. Returns. This is maybe the most annoying part of our job and I can't wait to stop doing that for real (yep I do that if I don't have the budget for an assistant because I would not feel ok to ask someone to do that job for free - although I've been there :/ ). This is not fun and you sometimes have to find funny excuses when you return a full suitcase of clothes. I realised that it is much easier to do returns in London than in Paris. I think people are quite used to it here and I'm also always surprised to see damaged or dirty clothes to buy in famous stores (like dude, don't return a dress if an actress wore it all day under studio lights, that's disgusting).
Any tip to interns : this is maybe one of the most challenging part of the job and if you nail it then you have great chances to be called back. Don't take that part lightly just because it's not creative cause this is so much responsibility.
13. Accounting. I actually kind of like this part of the job. It's like doing a puzzle : understanding which items have been returned, which ones were kept and if my bank account is doing ok (meaning not having crazy overdrafts fees). I think this is super important to be efficient and organized because every piece has to be accounted for so if you lose an item you are responsible for it (and it can be a nightmare if the item is worth more than your rate...)
14. Couple months/years later, the project comes out or it never does. I get IMDB credits if it's a fiction and I put it on my portfolio (unless I don't like the result). Sometimes we get invited to a screening and it's nice to hang out with the crew again. Sometimes we don't even know when it's going to be out...
The Lenovo project at the end ! Photos ©Jack Terry