Ask Biki…

Ask Biki...

Creative Job Advertisements: How To Spot The Bullshit

I’ve worked in the fashion industry in one way or the other for almost ten years now.  Before I decided to take a spin at Fashion’s Wheel, I worked in the Legal sector, therefore it came as quite a surprise when I would go for fashion/creative job interviews, only to learn that the job was either unpaid or offering minor duckets (very little money). And I wasn’t going for internship positions, I’m talking about freelance J.O.B.S.

As time went by I learnt how to decode certain job advertisements and spot the bullshit which is often deceptively encoded.  This was great as I stopped wasting precious time honing the ‘Perfect CV & Covering letter’, preparing for various interview, only to be told by the interviewer (without blinking and a straight face) that the so-called job I had applied for, was one for which I was to get little to no renumeration.

But how did I learn how to spot the bullshit? Can BS ‘job’ advertisements really be translated? Ohhh YesSS they can, and without further ado, here’s how to do so:

If you read a creative job advertisement tailored at professionals (not interns) with the following words:

‘…a fantastic opportunity to work on great projects!’: Translation- It’s Bullshit

‘…a wonderful PLATFORM to showcase your work!!’: Translation: It’s Bullshit

‘…exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’: Translation: It’s Bullshit

‘…work in a very open-minded and relaxed environment!’: Translation: It’s Bullshit

And what advice can you take from this?  If a job advertisement begins to sound more like a trip to Disneyland than an actual job or if you see over-zealous words like , ‘great fun’, ‘super exciting’, ‘ truly wonderful’ and then those words are punctuated by an overuse of exclamation marks: it’s Unpaid/minor duckets, and most definitely Bullshit!

Do any of you know of any other popular words, creative job adverts use to rope you in to work for free?

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New Model Advice Tips, Fashion Karma, Finn Juniper Denaro…

Berlin Fashion Week A/W 2015 ran from Jan 19th to 23rd and I didn’t go to any of the shows.  Not One Daln.  Why?  I had to prioritise and this season my London Fashion Week projects came first.  I am working with two Nigerian clients, with one client, I’m doing PR for the fashion collection they are presenting during London Fashion Week.  With the other, I am co-ordinating and presenting a London Fashion Week TV Special.  So with that and the Marketing Communications work I am still doing for the school in Nigeria….going to the Berlin shows was not an option.

But I’m still all about the Par-Tays mainly for networking reasons and you know I love to dress up, so any excuse! So, fast-forward to my friends and I standing in the drizzling rain and me bumping into a model male friend of mine, who then introduced me to a model friend of his called, Finn Juniper Denaro.  Actually, he introduced us to a whole bunch of his model friends who gave us the standard ‘blank nod and mumble’.  However, one guy jumped in front of the Model Herd and introduced himself properly.  That was Finn.

finnAt the time, I remember thinking he reminded me of a new-born puppy put on skates and shoved on an ice-ring: he was just so excited as he regaled us with stories from his fashion week.  I remember telling him at the time, ‘This must be your first season….’ Turns out I was right, and as we all walked away, my friends and I spoke about how energetic he was, which was a great breadth of fresh air from the usual ‘Too Cool For School (And A Smile!!)’Berliner.

The next day, despite all the work I had to do, my mind took me to Finn: I knew there was a story there.  So I got his details via the friend we have in common and pitched Finn my idea- I told him I wanted to interview him and submit it to magazines.  I also warned him that there were no guarantees.  You know what he said? ‘Let’s do it…I’m excited!’ (New Models, Take Note…)

Finn2DYNFast forward to us having the interview and me having such fun as I was doing it, then came the next day, a Sunday: it wasn’t a day of rest for me, I sat on my bed with my recorder and wrote the article.  Then came Monday and I began the search to find ‘my baby interview’ a home.  I found one- Superior magazine.  The article made their Berlin Fashion Week A/W 2015 Special (Page 70-73)  If you want to have a great insight into Berlin Fashion Week, the designers, backstage…or you just want to have a visual feast of great photography, take a look!

So new models, what tips can you take from this article?:

1) Be Your Own Agent- You never know where and when your next client will turn up.  Always be ready to sell yourself and your work.  If Finn hadn’t told us that night on the streets what he had achieved during Berlin Fashion Week with such gusto, I would never have had the knowledge or interest to push his story.

2) Be Enthusiastic and Professional– this pretty much explains itself.  In the lead up to the interview, Finn was accessible and responded to my messages on time.  On the day of the interview, he was punctual, armed with infectious humour and energy. This is very important.  It’s because of this, I’m referring him to the Berlin-based photographers I know.  I wouldn’t (and no one else would) attach my name to a miserable, unprofessional sod!

3) Climb Every Mountain, Ford Every Stream, Follow Every Rainbow…Yes, The Sound Of Music does have a place here! What I’m saying is, as a new model/model you are likely to be sent on many castings, get pitched for interviews, editorials, commercials etc- some of them will materialise, majority will disintegrate.  However, you must approach each job like it’s ‘the one’, like it will be a success, like how Finn did when I told him the interview was not a guarantee: he said, ‘Let’s do it,  I’m excited’.  Yes this level of optimism is difficult, this is why modelling and the fashion industry ain’t for everybody.

4) ‘Do You’– You know the saying by Oscar Wilde, ‘Be Yourself:Everyone Else Is Already Taken’?  This couldn’t be more so in the modeling industry.  More and more, the models who are making ‘it’ are the ones who have personality: in the heavenly 80/90s we had The Supermodels who always looked poised and Glamazon-like, now we have Cara D and her many clown faces…anyhoo, to stand apart in the stifling modelling crowd, you need to know who you are and what you are bringing to the table.  Finn knows, in seconds he’ll proudly tell you he’s ‘from the bush’, loves surfing, is passionate about social and political change…He is walking his own path and so far, so good…

finn1RikeAs for the Fashion Karma part, well as much as I always wanted one, I didn’t get a Mentor in the fashion industry.  I had to learn the ropes via stepping and falling head first into many a ‘fashion pothole’.  Through it all, I’ve fought hard not be bitter, to retain the enthusiasm and hope I see/saw in Finn…that’s why I’m happy to answer his questions relating to modeling, I tell him what I know, I’ve started introducing him to the good photographers (with strong industry contacts) I know in Berlin because that is a key ingredient to making ‘it’ as a model.  I wish more people in the industry could be as giving…but as the saying goes, ‘Be The Change You Want To See…’ (Gandhi)

Pic By Me

Pic By Me

Pictures by Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, unless otherwise stated.





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3 Tips When Dressing For A Creative & Commercial Job

Over a month ago, I left Berlin to work in the marketing communications department of a Nigerian company.  Apart from dealing with the usual hullabaloo that arises when moving continents, I was faced with a recurring female-prone problem-  What The Dickens To Wear.

In Berlin, my freelance fashion lifestyle means I can wear pretty much wear what I want; so entering a job and country where Fashion-wise: I had to mind my Ps  and Qs had me a bit on edge.  Especially, as the bulk of my wardrobe is in London, Berlin and Lagos…

I also had the challenge of working out how to play the balancing game when working for a job that was neither wholly corporate nor entirely creative.  One day I am working in a relaxed environment with the graphic designer on images and design, the next I’m acting as an ambassador for the brand at various events where a degree of formality is required.   Hmmm, how to marry the two worlds in a harmonious stylish union?

Fast forward the weeks and I think I have it sussed out, and I wanted to share my tips for the women out there who have had the same predicament.

3 Tips When Dressing For Your Creative & Commercial Job

1) Invest in a ‘stand out’ tailored garment

For me, this is a  blazer.  Blazers with interesting details like structured, patterned lapels, statement buttons et al, tend to lack the stuffiness of their older more corporate ‘Suit Jacket Sister’.

Topping my casual outfits with a blazer instantly takes my ensemble down a more chic route, which then allows me to relax my outfit with statement accessories as seen below.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????2) Play The Balancing Game With Accessories

ifb20Statement accessories are my everything but when I am doing this job, I can’t go as balls out with my jewellery as I normally do.  However because my job isn’t strictly an office nine to five, I can wear the odd one or two statement pieces, which I balance out with more ‘low profile’ accessory pieces.  I also ensure that my statement accessories are eye-catching but sophisticated, so I still look professional.

For instance, my vintage snake belt does have that Look At Me factor, but my more subtle nude toned footwear helps to tame my look.


3) Coordinate Your Colour Scheme With Care

???????????????????????????????The monochromatic effect of black and white has the power to tame otherwise seemingly edgy/racy fabrics like leather and lace, as seen above.

??????????????????????????????? If I do want to wear a print garment with a bold pop of colour, counterbalancing it with a somber hue like black helps to reign the outfit in.

???????????????????????????????And there we have it! Do you have any more tips to add?  Have you discovered more stylish winning formulae for nailing it with your job outfits?  Do tell, I’d love to know!

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Most Impressive Cover Letter Application I've Received

I received an application from a girl recently that inspired me to write this article.  Before I go on further, I have to stress that my tips are tailored for those who want to assist freelancers in creative jobs.  Reason being, the way you would approach a freelancer for a job differs from how you would approach a company employee for a creative job.  Though in certain areas, you can apply the same tips.

Although, I do far less freelance stylist work now, I still receive applications from people who want to assist; and too many times I see people make the same mistakes like:

1) Clearly sending a 1 fits all application, i.e. you can tell they have been busy with their Copy and Paste button

2) Showing evidence that they have no idea of the niche I work in

3) Using a casual and over-friendly ‘Gossip Girl’ tone

4) Not explaining why they actually want to assist me and how they could benefit from my experience

Consequently, when I read the below application, it was such a breadth of fresh air!  I’ve blocked her name and personal contact details for the usual reasons, but everything else is from her:

Dear Ms. John,

Doing some research on the leading characters of the fashion scene in Berlin, I found your name listed as a Contributing Writer for Å’ Magazine. Your commitment to the African fashion industry and your aesthetic really amaze me, specially in a market that is so driven by American/European standards. Moreover, your work as both a stylist and a writer resonate with my own interests, therefore I would like to ask you if you could use the help of an assistant.

I am a 24 year old Chilean, currently living in Berlin and trying to break my way into the fashion industry. I studied journalism for five years in my home country and then moved to Berlin to find a job as a fashion writer, only to realize some time later that it is undoubtedly necessary for me to gain practical experience in the field first. I am interested in assisting a stylist because I know that the job requires a lot of work and there is much help needed.

I don’t know if you live in Berlin, but if you do, I would love to help in whatever way I can. My current situation makes it impossible for me to be available before May, but after that date I should be free to get hands on with some work.

In case you would like to know further details about me, I attach my CV. Also, my phone number is xxxxxxx.

I look forward hearing from you!

Best regards,

As I said, I was really impressed by her covering letter.  The lady showed she had taken the time to research me and had found out what drives me and how I wish to contribute to the fashion industry at large. In addition, she gave me an idea of her back story and how she had come to where she was now, career wise.  After reading her covering letter, I knew I wanted and had to help her.  She reminded me of the covering letters I used to write to assist Way Back When. So I had a Skype meeting with her and in that discussion, told her of a magazine that I wanted to put her forward to assist.  Reason being, there she could get great first-hand experience of writing and styling.  I also got in touch with the editor of the magazine to put in a good word for her.  The girl now has to submit a trial article to the magazine, so the rest is up to her.

Part of my blog is dedicated to giving tips, advice and helping beginners who want to work in the creative industry; so it felt great helping this girl in this way.



Ask Biki...

Blog Comment Of The Week: Liability During Fashion Shoots

A few days back, I got asked a great set of questions to an article I wrote some months back titled: How To Write A Commissioning Letter To Fashion PR’s

The article was addressed to stylists starting out in the industry, who were either new on the scene or working for new independent magazines.  And in the article, based on my experiences early on in my styling career, I listed the various information a commissioning letter should have and what PR’s are looking for in such a letter.

I then received this comment, word for word, from a reader (Eimear):

Great advice! Have you ever had an incident where something is damaged on a shoot? Is the client responsible? Or are you responsible? And do you get models/clients to sign anything on a shoot to say that they are liable?

And here is my response:

Indeed I have been unlucky enough to have a press piece damaged on a shoot, and it inspired me to write the following article, which I believe will answer the majority of your questions: What They Don’t Teach You In Fashion Styling School

With regards to your other questions, I will answer them from my experiences working as a freelance stylist for independent magazines (i.e. not owned by publishing companies).

You ask if the Stylist or the Client is responsible for damaged Press Pieces, and if you can get the clients to sign a liability document:  Yes, you can have a client (i.e. mag) give you a signed commissioning letter, where it states that the client is responsible for damages.  Following from that, should damages occur during the course of the shoot, the reparation costs will be passed on from the PR to the client.  And ideally, the client is supposed to have insurance that covers this.  I have to stress here that although you may not be financially responsible, unless you are an A-list Stylist (that both the PR and Client sees as useful), the chances of that client choosing you for future work is anorexic.  And also the relationship you have with the PR in question may become strained, because the bottom line is that the press piece got damaged under your watch.

Also as with many aspects of the fashion industry, the lines are so murky that’s it’s hard to give a straight answer or state a fixed rule.  E.g. when an assistant damaged a press piece during my shoot, although there was no statement in the commissioning letter where the client took responsibility: because the client and press office had a good relationship, and the assistant was from the client’s office: both the press office and the client came to an agreement between themselves, and I luckily continued a good working relationship with both parties.

Your other question asks if models can be given anything to sign.  This is a very interesting question, and one I have not done any actual research on, so you may want to ask around or Google.  But from my 10 year experience in the industry and working with models and their agents, I would say: ABSOLUTELY NOT. Don’t even suggest it!  As a newbie, the quickest way to be on the NO! list of every model booker would be to present them with such a letter to sign before a shoot. Does this seem unfair? Probably, but that’s the industry.  The good news is most models are professional and treat the clothes and accessories with respect.  After all they know that if they go round ripping and staining press pieces, they aren’t likely to get booked for any future jobs thus ending their career sharpish.

I hope this helps, Good Luck!

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