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What they don’t teach you in Fashion Styling School

First of all I have to start with saying that I am not knocking fashion schools, as they have produced  some of fashion’s greats like John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.  However for every handful of talented artists who honed their arts in school, there are dozens of equally talented ones who learned their arts through practice.  Examples of such stylists are Katie Grand (she quit Central Saint Martin’s after a year and commands about £6,000 a day, so I believe she counts) and Hector Castro.  And if we are judging stylists on commercial success alone, celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe has no formal fashion training.

Recently an incident occurred that involved me narrowly being sued thousands of euros, which I feel the need to share so that other stylists can learn from my mistakes.  To make a long story, not very long- I borrowed a dress from a PR department and after I returned it, the PR manager contacted me to let me know that the dress was now ruined as there was a stain on it.  ‘Stain’? I thought, ‘What stain’?  You see, I had no idea that the dress I returned was in fact damaged.

Now several errors brought me to this shaky point-

1. When I had seen the amazing dress which although was fish leather (oh yes), did not feel or look like leather- as it was an unfamiliar texture to me, I should have asked the PR officer how to take wrinkles out of the dress or if the wrinkles could in fact be taken out.

2. The weird thing is although my assistant had steamed the whole of the wrinkled dress, only one area of the dress got stained.  I assume or guess that, that is because she held the steamer in that particular area for too long.  After the phone call I got from the PR, I then called my assistant to see if she could shed any light on the ‘disaster’, and it was only then that she informed me that she had noticed the mark on the dress as she steamed it and had ‘hung it out to dry’. before putting it on the model.  I told her that in future, should any accidents like that happen in a shoot, always let the stylist know.

3. I also learnt a lesson which is that, no matter how rushed for time a shoot is, I’ll always try to look closely at each outfit after it has been steamed by an assistant to make sure the piece has not been harmed.  In the team’s haste to get all the shots done, I had given a lot of responsibility to my assistant including making a judgement call about steaming, dressing the model (after I selected the pieces for each look) and re-packing the pieces back into their appropriate Press bags.  These were the responsibilities and tasks I had to do when I was assisting.  In fact, I did more as in addition to the above I would often be instructed to pick up the press bags and deliver them after the shoot.  However, just because I did this with no casualties, doesn’t mean that all stylist assistants will be so lucky.

4. I also learnt the importance of ensuring that a stylist commissioning letter expressly states that the company commissioning you for the project takes full responsibility of all pieces loaned for the project.  Luckily, I had such a letter and narrowly missed the bullet.

All in all after some scary emails that kept me ‘Sleepless in Berlin’ for a couple of nights, all has been resolved and the final results of the project are brilliant.  But I’ve learnt a lesson or two, oh yes indeed I have.

Ask Biki...

Ask Biki- Civil Wedding African Style

Question

Dear Biki

I am planning to have a civil wedding in NYC this Fall and would like my African culture to be reflected in my outfit.  However I don’t want to look like my parents, i.e I want to look youthful and stylish.  What do you suggest?

Thank you, Patricia

Answer

Dear Patricia

First of all- congratulations!  And now how to ensure that your African culture can be perceived in your ensemble without looking like you are a few decades late to audition for the Imani Izzi, ‘Barking dog, African princess’ role in ‘Coming To America’.

To suit the formality of the event, I would advise you to wear a fitted Ankara print dress, with a tailored jacket that has a matching block colour tone.  Jewel By Lisa, is a Nigerian label that has put a luxurious spin on Ankara print.  The brand’s modern take has seen it infusing cutting edge shapes, adding complimentary fabrics and embellishment onto the classic print, all of which will ensure that guests don’t confuse you with your mother on your special day-

 

Courtesy of Hauteafrica.comCourtesy of Hauteafrica.com

 A great way to bring out your African heritage in a subtle yet powerful way would be through accessories– for e.g. wearing coral beaded jewellery, an ankara clutch bag or an ankara print fabricator

Ankara print fabricator, courtesy of www.myasho.com

 

Courtesy of Akmosaic.blogspot.com

Etsy also do a unique selection of African inspired jewellery

Courtesy of Etsy.com

If you are feeling particularly creative, you could also arrange for a gele to be tied on your head-

Courtesy of Nairaland.com

Urbanknit also have a spectacular wide range of Ankara print clutches

Courtesy of www.urbanknit.com

Furthermore, African hairstyles like small braids or intricate cornrows will bring out your ethnicity in a subtle and very attractive way.

To crown your look, I would advise on opaque tights (preferably black) and vertiginous stilettos

Enjoy your very special day! x

 

Ask Biki...

How do I set my Blogging Rates?

Yesterday evening was particularly exciting for me as for the very first time, I was approached by a company and asked my blogging fees as the company would like me to blog for their site.  This request couldn’t have come at a better time as whilst revising for my PR and Marketing and Consumer behaviour modules (for my CIM diploma), I can’t help but notice that a lot of emphasis is being put on Digital and Social Media.  Furthermore, if super brands like Burberry, GAP and Estée Lauder, are anything to go by- its the way forward.  So I’m more than happy to blog for as many brands as possible- only thing is I haven’t actually sat down to figure out my rates yet.

After reading the request from the company, I went to my fairy godmother-Google– to see what she had to say about the matter, but after typing ‘How do I set  my writing rates?‘ I was inundated with mostly irrelevant information.  Reason being, whilst there is a lot of information on how to set writing rates for traditional media– newspapers, magazines and the like, there isn’t much information about how to set rates for new media, e.g. blogging and web content.

There are so many questions I have for e.g.- is it better to charge by the hour, per word or per project?  With the current financial climate and with so many bloggers at the ready, what is a good rate to charge?  For now, I’ve decided to get the wheels turning by asking the few freelance writers/bloggers I know what and how much they charge and hopefully I will be able to work from there.  This may seem obvious, but as a freelancer it’s always a good idea to use various social media tools like Facebook and Linkedin, to connect with people in your field- at times like these, they can really come in handy.

Ask Biki...

What’s the hottest fashion trend right now? Doing business in CHINA

Lately, I can’t help but notice that 1 in every 5 fashion business article I read seems to be giving the deails of a  fashion luxury brand doing business in China.  For those of you who are unaware of this, let these facts wash over you-

  • In China, affluent customers are choosing luxury in every aspect of their lives according to a 7-counry survey of households earning $150,000
  • Prada forecasts that its sales in China are expected to double or even triple in the next 2 to 3 years
  • Sports apparle Nike Inc has set a target of boosting its annual sales in China to $4 billion by 2015
  • Much of Europe’s hyper-luxury sector is being devioured by China, one of the fastest growing emerging markets
  • Yoox Group, the Italian company that builds and manages about half the fashion worlds’s etial outlet (Armani, Marni, Dolce & Gabbana etc), was recently the first multi-brand e-tailer to launch a high-end multi brand boutique in China called- thecorner.com

Personally, what these facts tell me is that it is time for me to move shop to China and get a slice of the lucrative pie.

Ask Biki...

The Conflicting Motivational Words of Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs

I am not one for motivational speeches or bettering myself through the wise words of self-help books.  In fact, the recent trend on Facebook to put up ‘go get ’em’ status update phrases like, ‘Life is a gift, never take it for granted’, makes me want to regurgitate.  Repeatedly and Violently.

However, I couldn’t help but listening to the full length of this Oprah Winfrey clip, where she tells the story of how she got the big break in her career and what she learnt from that experience-

In my opinion she seems to be saying, when you want something so much and you have done all you can to obtain it and it still evades you, surrender and let it go; for often, God can dream a bigger dream for you.

When I listened to this clip for the first time, I tried to take in the words and felt I had to take in the words as they had sprung from the lips of the lady who is one of the richest, most successful and as a result, uncharacteristically; one of the most likeable and admired person on the planet.  Consequently, I felt that anything she had to say which could help me in my career, where try as I might- I have not got to where I want to be.

 However, I wasn’t sure that I could abide by her words and ‘surrender‘ and let my main ambition go.  Even though I could find similarities in how our all-consuming passions for our respective desires had led us to do anything we could to express that feeling; for instance Oprah decided to go against her father’s wishes and took a leap of faith and auditioned for a role in, ‘The Colour Purple’; and I went against my father’s wishes and gave up law (and turned down a full-time legal job) and decided to embark on a career in the fashion industry.  Despite these similarities and upon coming to the same end, i.e. not getting what we ultimately wanted,  I couldn’t and still can’t sing the ‘I Surrender’ hymn.

Recently, I was sent a clip which featured the late Steve Jobs, and I found myself drawn much more to the motivational words he had to say to the graduates of Stanford University. 

Whereas, Oprah Winfrey seems to say that when one fails repeatedly to get what they truly want, they should let go and surrender to a higher power.  Steve Jobs seems to be saying that life is too short ‘to let go’ of what you truly want.  He insists that ‘believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path and that will make all the difference’.  That belief is what has continuously pushed me in my quest to get where I need to be in my career and what ultimately took me from the financial security of a legal profession to the unpredictable world of fashion.  Furthermore, my quest to (in Steve Job’s words) ‘keep looking’ and ‘not settle’ made me move from one of the fashion capital’s of the world-London to one of the most well-known creative hubs in the world- Berlin.

On a side note, watching both clips from beginning to end makes me cry unfailingly- I guess I am a sucker for motivational words after all.  Watch out Facebook, my inspirational ‘Status Update’ is coming soon.

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