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.