Stylists…the new rulers of the fashion world?

Katie Clinton

Remember the time before stylists ran the fashion world? Maybe I should say, before we knew they ran it? The days when Rachel Zoe wasn’t more recognisable than of her clients and it was one of the least fashionable jobs in fashion.

Oh how times have changed. Stylists are now revered as experts who deserve recognition and not just in the fashion industry. They grace the red carpets, they pop up at premiers and they feature regularly in the text of fashion magazines. Stylists are so hot right now.

“Styling isn’t a recent phenomenon. In fact, it’s probably one of the oldest professions; dressers were used by everyone from the ancient Egyptians to the monarchy to the military. These dressers were the stylists of their time. The turn of the twentieth century brought a huge change to the fashion industry in terms of production. Clothes became ‘ready to wear’. Stylists have always been around, but their role has changed”, says Ailbhe McNeela, the Irish stylist and blogger behind

So it may not have been what you thought the oldest profession was but it’s also one of the broadest titles a person can have. Stylists’ duties can range from emailing PR companies, to designing shoots, to tying a models shoe.

Irish stylist-extraordinaire, Courtney Smith clears the concept up for me, “There are lots of different types of stylists; I am an editorial and TV stylist. I style photoshoots for fashion magazines … I also showcase trends and how to wear them on TV3 shows. This requires me coming up with concepts, researching trends, celebrity styles, who is wearing what etc. So constantly staying updated. There are also personal stylists; who dress clients and celebs wardrobes, for events and everyday occasions. There are wardrobe stylists for TV shows such as Xfactor and the voice, who create stage outfits for performers.

But why the sudden rise in fame? Why did stylists go from being behind-the-scenes to paparazzi fodder in a few short years? “Well stylists are experts in their fields, most have studied their craft and continue to learn and grow with the industry. And within recent years more and more fashion magazines, fashion blogs and fashion events have popped up, women are becoming even more obsessed with fashion so it is easy to see why fashion stylists who create the beautiful imagery in magazines, or dress celebrities on the red carpet have become of interest to the public eye.” Courtney says.

There’s no arguing with the fact that these people know fashion and not only that, they have an eye for style that few others can lay claim to. They are the ones who finish off the looks before models head onto the catwalk. Designers generally only design the clothes; it’s the stylists who incorporate jewelry and accessories, finishing the outfit. “The high of the job is definitely seeing the finished product. It’s a lovely feeling when you get it right.” According to Ailbhe, who set up her blog to showcase her work.

So you’ve got the knack for picking a winning necklace and you’re ready for your close-up on the red carpet, you’re on your way right? Remember, like anything else in fashion, it’s not as glamorous as it looks. Courtney says, “working for myself can be difficult at times when trying to create work and get new clients – I have nobody else to do that but myself. And the long hours… people don’t realize that one photoshoot is at least 3 days work; from emailing PRs to schedule pulling clothes, booking models, hair and makeup, sourcing location or studio, drawing up concept and moldboards, day pulling clothes, up to 15hour shoot day and day returning clothes and then a few more hours writing up credit lists for magazine.”

Still want to get into styling? Make like Ailbhe and set up a blog, get involved with on-campus fashion shows, photoshoots, anything! Build up a bit of a portfolio and then get in touch with established stylists to assist them on shoots. There are also colleges offering courses in styling, which is the path Courtney went down, “I got accepted into a post-grad styling and fashion media course in London College of Fashion. After styling celebrities for a top boutique in London after 6 months I moved home and set up my own styling business… and that’s where it really began!”


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