Working for supermodels and designers as a downtrodden assistant is never the end goal. Make the connections while in the role and use them! The leap from assistant to stylist (or designer or PR or photographer) isn’t a long one, you just have to convince whoever will listen that you’re the one for the job.
My last day as a PA became my first day as a fashion stylist – all I had to do was say it and POOF, I was a stylist. Yes, I had the ability to throw a look together, but having only attended shoots with former fashion bosses, I didn’t know the first thing about styling one. But when does that ever need to stop anyone?
This is where self-belief plays a vital role. It's true what they say, if you're not going to believe in yourself, then who else is going to? Life will pass you by if you don't take a few chances. It's like a play - if you're not a natural go-getter, if you question your ability, experience, worthiness, then put yourself in character. Play the part until you learn to be that part. You can be all the things you want to be and get the roles you may currently think are out of reach, you just need to believe that whatever it is you want can be yours.
I wanted to be a stylist, so I told myself I was a stylist, and from that day on I was one. As a stylist, I needed a portfolio of work to show to magazine editors and clients to get further work. I didn't have one and couldn't see a way of getting one without spending money I didn't have. I needed to find another route.
At one of the events I had talked my way into (another party I wasn't strictly invited to, but as I said before, there is always a way in!) I had met someone who knew someone who knew someone. With a very loose six-degrees-of-separation connection, I contacted the fashion director of a leading style bible, dropped a few names (hoping she didn’t actually know any of these names, as I certainly didn’t) and I was through the door. I had a 10 minute time slot in this fashion heavyweight's diary, so prepped my lines, spent the previous evening self-talking myself into believing I was someone they wanted and with as much confidence as I could muster, made my way to the meeting.
I had no book of work and no styling experience, but without directly lying, I alluded to the fact that I was hugely connected within the fashion industry and qualified to style a shoot for the magazine. The winning smile and designer ensemble I had borrowed from a friend worked its magic - I was commissioned on the spot for a minor one page shoot the following week, but I was in. I then had to think on my feet and make it happen. Terrifying yes, but it proved a success and I went on to shoot regularly for the magazine. Don't overthink it - the times I have messed things up by overthinking things are countless! Run with it and remember, if you don't believe in yourself, nobody else is going to.
Creative license will get you through the door and hopefully lead you to where you want to be, but out and out storming lies will come and bite you in the arse, so be clever with your creations. While working for i-D magazine, an 18-year-old managed to secure a meeting at the office by saying he was my son. I was just 28 at the time! His plan backfired and he was promptly black-listed for this fashion fiction.
Embellishment will be overlooked in the long run. Embarrassing experiences caused by fashion fibs will stick like glue and will be harder to shake off.
Artwork Tom Montgomery