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How To Make It As A Fashion Stylist

Picture of Jill Di Donato
Fashion Editor
Updated: 11 November 2016
Sitting front row at the best shows, pulling clothes for celebrities, nonstop parties, and being on the pulse of everything fashion are some of the perks of being a top stylist. But being a fashion stylist is one of the most demanding jobs in the fashion industry, and competition to be a standout stylist is ridiculously tough. So, what does it take to make it in the styling world?

Culture Trip attended Simply Stylist‘s New York panel, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Making It in the Styling World” moderated by StyleWatch‘s executive editor, Bethany Heitman. The panel was made up of Christine Cameron, a personal stylist and editor of the blog My Style Pill; Joey Maalouf, celebrity hair and makeup artist (clients include Jessica Alba, Rachel Zoe, and Diane Von Furstenberg) and co-founder of The Glamm App; Ashley Kiely, Assistant Fashion Editor at StyleWatch; Jackie Demeterio, costume designer for “Younger,” veteran movie and TV stylist, and celebrity stylist (clients include Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, and Vanessa Williams).

These experts share industry secrets on how to make it in the world of fashion and beauty styling. Do you think you’ve got what it takes (and that means having more than a good eye)? Read on to find out.

A photo posted by Joey Maalouf (@joeymaalouf) on

Bethany Heitman: What advice would you give to young stylists starting out in the industry?

Ashley Kiely: Always bring positive energy and turn things around if you’re on a shoot.

Jackie Demeterio: You might be very stressed but an actor or actress doesn’t want to see you frantic, because that will make them think they don’t look good.

Joey Maalouf: Leave your ego at home. Know how to manage a team. It’s DIY all the way and your end goal is to make sure a client or celebrity feels confident in their body.

Christine Cameron: Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t like your choice. As a personal stylist, I want to know what my clients lives are like, what their sensitivities are. When you’re inside a woman’s closet, she’s very stripped down. [It’s part of my job to learn] when people get self-conscious. Being a personal stylist, I do what I call ‘closet therapy.’ I can read a woman from what’s in her closet.

A photo posted by Younger (@youngertv) on

BH: What’s the first thing you do when you work with someone new?

JM: I need to understand where the client is at and where she wants to be: a sit down dinner, stand up event, red carpet. My job is to make people feel excited about where they’re entering.

AK: The first step on a shoot is to understand what is the aesthetic? I like to know what have other people done with [the clients] and what do I want to do? I want my readers to feel like the trends are attainable to them.

JD: As a costume designer, it’s my job to tell stories through the characters’ clothing. So, I talk through the character with the actor. In many ways, the characters are defined by their clothing. Initial fittings are so important, really long and collaborative. On “Younger,” me and Pat [Patricia Field] were like, how are we going to make a 40-year-old look 26? Then we met Sutton [Sutton Foster] and from her expressions, how she laughs, I was like, OK, I can work with this.

BH: How important is your reputation in the styling world? And what can you do to establish a good one?

JD: Your reputation is super important. Everybody notices what you do. I’m a bit of a perfectionist which can be bad, but my relationships with actors and producers get me jobs. [It’s essential to] do your job well, never be half-assed and do it with your stamp. When interns come to work with me the rule is they must leave their phones at the door.

JM: Always be on time. Do not lie (you’ll get caught). Always bring something to the table. Be yourself, and remember loyalty is royalty.

CC: Because I’m a personal stylist, it’s not the same industry so word-of-mouth is my reputation. It’s important to be super positive. Always be nice. Always be professional. Make sure your tone in an email is always warm and inviting.

AK: Know that in the fashion industry you’ll be working with the same group of people down the line. Be someone who other people want to work with. Be that person who makes the job enjoyable and fun.

BH: What are some mistakes stylists can make?

AK: There’s a lot of people who want to be in this industry. Little things are remembered. People who come in and kill it are great.

CC: I’ve been that person who interned like crazy and made no money to get where I am today. So, you have to go above and beyond. Don’t be afraid to ask what you can do and where you’re needed.

JM: [I agree with all that, but] mistakes lead you to the next thing.

BH: When it comes to interacting with clients, what are some mistakes stylists can make?

JD: My first day at Barneys I went to Mariah [Carey’s] house with L’Wren Scott and I was told, “Do not say a word until spoken to.” That’s a little extreme, but when you’re assisting, listen to what the stylist says, follow her lead, set up fittings, get the racks ready; be super helpful without getting in the way.

AK: Always be prepared for anything. You’ll need pins, tape, clamps, but be prepared to put things on your personal card if need be. You have to be willing to run out [off set to get necessities.]

JM: Being a [good] stylist is so not remotely close to lazy. Be prepared to ship boxes, send emails, send flowers, become friends with people in the showroom. Learn everybody’s names. Fight for dresses and know that everyone in the front row earned the right to be there.

CC: You can be uncomfortable around money. Don’t be. It’s a business and you don’t want any miscommunication to happen.

JM: Anyone and everyone is capable of opening a door for you later on. Being a [good] stylist is about being, “Hey girl,” at any moment.

JD: I don’t say no. Give it back; leave opportunities open because they always come back.

*The above was excerpted from the Simply Stylist panel “The Do’s and Don’ts of Making It in the Styling World.”