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Ask Biki…

Ask Biki...

Blogover For 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!  I hope you all had a great Christmas holidays and are excited about what lies ahead in the New Year.

One of the many reasons I was happy to welcome 2014 was that in celebration of all things New and Fresh, I could start my Blogover.  What’s a Blogover you ask?  Well, the word came to me and borrows slightly from the term, Makeover.  But whilst a Makeover focuses on the transformation of an outward appearance, a Blogover is about change from the inside out, as well as an exterior revamp.

I have written my blog for about two years and a half, and I now want it to go in a new directionThis year, I want people to actually come to my blog for a specific reason, as opposed to clicking on the blog link that was attached to one of my Social Media Promotion Tools.

There are so many articles on the net on how best to improve your blog, increase hits, raise traffic, create a loyal following and the like.  I read a great article recently on Independent Fashion Bloggers written by Ashley Robison, which lists 52 Blog Resolution Tips For 2014.  I have lifted my favourite tips and ones I will be implementing for my Blogover:

‘9. Take the first step… contact a brand you love about getting on their press list, working together, or send them a recent feature.

13. Learn the basics of SEO – what does it mean? How does it work?

18. Email a regular reader and commentor and thank them for their support.

20. Figure out what your blog’s niche is.

22. Commit yourself to a realistic blogging schedule.

23. Write a guest post for another blogger…

24. And seek out guest posts for your own site! (This is especially great if you’re traveling, moving, or have big life changes happening.)

25. Take a course, a Skillshare class, or utilize other opportunities to learn a new skill.

28. Set attainable, incremental goals for your site (ie. receive 5 comments on this post. Reach 100 visitors a day regularly.)

34. Revitalize your site! Add in a new logo or background, change out your blog colors. Consolidate from 2 sidebars to 1, or expand.

36. Start posting a weekly roundup of articles and links you’ve loved online. Share OTHER bloggers’ posts!

46. Make (or update) your business cards!

50. Make and update the pages on your blog: be sure your “About” page reflects who you are today (not last year), that your “Advertising” page reflects current rates, and that your “Contact” page…. well, actually has ways to contact you!’

I’ll definitely be coming back to this list monthly to make sure I’m still on track.  I’m excited about my blog transformation, and know it’s going to be a lot, A LOT of hard work…  Anyhoo, I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going along the way.

If you have any comments or ideas on topics you would like me to write more about or any past articles I wrote, which had themes you would like me to repeat: please let me know.  It really helps to know what you the reader wants!

Ask Biki...

How To Get Your Dream Creative Job- Part 1

If you follow my blog you will know I am now working  in Glossybox Berlin, the leading digital beauty subscription provider in the market.  During my lunch break this week I picked up a book that was lying around, I believe it was titled something along the lines of How to get a job in Fashion, and it was published by Teen Vogue.  In it were the views of key editors, stylists, designers and the creative like.

I focused on the creatives who had landed impressive editorial (both creative and commercial) positions in Vogue and found a pattern- they interned either during Uni or straight after, started at the bottom of Vogue and climbed the ladder (often changing departments) to get to their current prestigious titles.  And most of them had done this by the age of 26.

Lucky them.  This was not the case for me.  But as Aunt Alicia (one of my favourite film characters of all times) said in the iconic film, Gigi: ‘…instead of getting married at once, it sometimes happens we get married at last.’

Yes she was talking about marriage, but it’s a theory I apply to a lot of other matters, as being a late starter in almost every aspect of my life- I strongly relate to this line.

So back to the topic at hand, my below views are made from my personal experiences.  I cannot claim to be an expert on landing a job but I believe I am an expert in fighting for the creative career (where you get paid!!) and lifestyle you want that will make you happy.

I have also labelled this article Part 1 as here, I am going to focus more on the Mental and Spiritual side of things.

Looking back, I realise that I got my job by doing a 360 on my mental as well as physical activities:

1) There is more than one way to skin a cat– In my early 20s when I was looking for my ‘Dream Fashion Editor’ job in a magazine, I had tunnel vision and only applied to fashion mags.  Fast forward the years and from reading several Fashion Editor CVs on LinkedIn; I now know one can can get to this position through other means like through a PR job for a globally successful brand.  For e.g. if you get a PR job in Topshop, H&M and the like, as you impress them and go up the ladder, you are bound to rub shoulders more and more with various editors from high readership mags allowing you to find out if there any vacancies etc.  This has to be done with common sense for obvious reasons, so it does not get to your PR boss that you are planning to jump ship!

2) Open yourself to other possibilities and by this I don’t mean lose sight of your dream.  I mean until you get your dream job, you have to live and still thrive so that when your dream job comes you have the chops (mentally and experience-wise) to nail the job.  For example, before I got my job in Glossybox, I did a CAM Diploma in Marketing Communications, I worked part-time for a school coordinating Communications.  I believe this helped me get the job I have now.  Also weeks into the position, my duties swing rapidly from brainstorming, pitching and writing editorial ideas for our monthly magazine (creative) to writing corporate newsletters and sales pitch content for the site (commercial).  I am able to flourish with these changes as they emulate the life I had as a freelancer.

3) Say No.  A lot– I once watched a TV show where a successful actor (I forget the name) said he got to where he was by mainly rejecting a lot of film roles.  Since my move to Berlin two years ago, I learnt the power of saying No. A lot.  No to jobs that did not bring me visibly closer to my career goals.

And this involved the choices I made in my social life.  So No to friendships introducing varied staged Drama Acts in Part I, II and so on, that were draining, No to going to Berghein club on a Sunday because even though I was a freelancer and could.  I wanted to act as if I had already got the job, so no Sunday Mash Up Action, which would destroy me on Monday.  Fake it till you Make it.

4) Wake up before 8am– In my first two years in Berlin, even though I was a freelancer and could technically wake up any time I pleased.  I was always up between 6 and 7 and I didn’t need an alarm clock for this, my body clock woke me up.  Personally speaking, waking up at this time and getting cracking on things gave me the power to focus, plan and carry ideas out.

5) Reassess what your ‘Dream’ is– this is really for women/men in their 30s.  In my opinion, as a creative your 20s are the years where you feel you can do anything.  In your 30s, you may still believe you can do anything but so much would have changed- your market (in my case the shift from print to digital), your lifestyle, friendships, social life- all this or some of this, is bound to have an impact on how you see your ‘dream job’.

Also in my opinion, one should stay true to oneself but by 35, 45 etc- one is rarely thinking Me, Myself and I- responsibilities pile up where a balancing act between dreams and reality need to play themselves out.

6) Why a Dream Job when you can have Dream JobS?– this is my closing point and one I believe in most of all.  I came to the conclusion that since I was at adept in writing, styling, production logistics and so on, I was damn well going to spread out my dreams.  My full-time job fulfills a certain dream.  It’s hard to pick out which one exactly as it changes everyday but for now I will say, a boss I actually respect and want to emulate.  I have not had this throughout my whole life.  I don’t care if you are Editor in Chief of Cool&Edgy Mag, the pioneer of the African Global Fashion Industry- if your actions condone and support not paying creative professionals, using them to make you get bigger and then spitting them out without so much as throwing a perk in their direction: I don’t respect you.  You pollute and corrupt the industry. And more on point- A pox on you.

So my Glossybox job ticks XYZ dream, when I want to write what I want when I want- I have my blog, if I want to take part in the African Fashion Movement I find a way to do this that does not conflict with my full-time job (More on this later) and so on.

There it is, hope you could take something from this.

How did you land your job- creative or commerical?  Did you get it immediately after graduation or did it take years?  Did Social Media or Networking play a key part? I love hearing about people’s career paths, tips and so on, so do tell!

Ask Biki...

Ask Biki: How Do I Pull Clothes From Press Offices For Music Shoots Without an Official Commissioning Letter?

It’s been a long, long time since I have been asked a question I can put in my ‘Ask Biki’ section and so I was mighty pleased to receive this question today at 6am, and here it goes:

Dear Biki

I work with a lot of independent artists (both solo artists and groups) and it’s always a struggle to get wardrobe for photo shoots. I have two album covers coming up and have been doing a lot of research on pull letters. The problem is I’m having is finding out what angle to come from when you’re not commissioned by a print magazine or any magazine in my case. How do I go about getting clothing in this way? Should I write up my own pull letter as the stylist? Or should I have the artist write up a pull letter?

Thanks, Rodney

My Advice

Dear Rodney

First of all, thank you for reaching out to me like this.

In my eight years of working with press offices in the fashion industry, what I have learnt is for them it is all about the End Game.   This means that as it is part of their job to ensure the brand they are looking after is placed in the most credible media- so the brand is seen visibly across the right audience- press offices are very selective as to who they lend.

To answer your question briefly, it is my opinion that a PR Account Manager will not care if you or the artist send the pull out letter, what he/she cares about is-

1)Firstly, do you and the artist fit the brand’s image and ethos?  When PR’s begin to work with a new client (brand), very often that brand gives the PR a list of press they want to be featured in and a list of press which they don’t.  This is why you will never see Alexander Wang in UK’s, LOOK magazine (a mainly High Street magazine).

2) In what media sector will the press clothes be used, and will that media sector lead to high reach of the brand’s target audience?

3) How famous is this artist you want to style, which they will analyze in terms of sales, awards, Facebook Followers and so on.  So you must have this information ready for them.

With no commissioning letter and with your 2 projects coming up what can you do? You can-

1) For the future, you can start to contact and pitch magazines where you state you want to style your bands for one of their issues, if you get a pull-out from them, use this letter to do a fashion shoot, and also use that as an opportunity to pull separate clothes for your album covers.  This is what Stylists call, ‘Back to Back’ shooting.

2) When one is not blessed with a big budget or contacts, one must get creative.  Remember that for an album cover, what is most important is the image that is portrayed which does not necessarily mean ‘The Latest/Seasonal Clothes’.   After all my favorite album covers include Goldfrapp’s, SuperNature and Prince’s, LoveSexy- and in both, clothes are not the key feature.

3) Many stylists also go to clothes stores that have a policy where you can buy and return.  Personally, I never liked this route as you have to be so careful that when you use such clothes, no damage is done on set, because once there is you are stuck with a piece of clothing you don’t want which you paid for.

4) You need to make friends with independent designers who don’t use PR’s and fast.  They are normally much, much easier to borrow from.  A talented, young designer still studying is even better.

5) Remember you can always borrow clothes from friends and even the artist’s wardrobe.

6) Some Press Offices set up an agreement where you can pay them for use of their brand/s, so you can look into this with your target press offices.

7) On a side note, I would not advise the artist you are styling to write the letter as in my opinion, this does not look professional.  Either you write it as the stylist of the shoot or get the artist’s manager or PR to write it.

Finally, I will say that the higher in the fashion food chain a brand is, the tougher their PR will be, so I will advise you not to contact the bigger PR’s till you can tell them what they want to hear and in the meantime grow your music, magazine and independent designer contacts.

Hope this helps somewhat, Good Luck!

The Echo Vamper Band for KALTBLUT mag, Styled by Me.

The Echo Vamper Band for KALTBLUT mag, Styled by Me.

Pic courtesy of Bernhard Musil

Ask Biki...

My Tips on How To Deal With Styling a 'Difficult Band'

I wonder if such an important topic is included in the various and numerous styling courses that exist today?  If you read my blog regularly, you will see that I have often commended fashion courses, but I’ve always been quick to point out that there are some styling jobs that really can’t be taught.  In my opinion, Music Styling comes very high on that list.

Like many things in life, Music Styling comes with its pleasures and it can sure bring on the pain!  I have worked with some artists that have made my job beyond enjoyable, and nothing can describe the feeling of working with a musician whose music and professionalism you respect, and who has the same Styling Vision as you.

But what if the winds gustily blow the other way- what if the Editor of the magazine you work for tells you to put a band in ‘Circus-themed’ ensembles, only for the band to snap at you with these chilling words, ‘ we only wear black!!!’, what if you have your heart set on a singer wearing a dress and they adamantly refuse to even try it on, what if they are hours late, what if…

From my experience, here are my tips on how to get through it all-

1) Ensure you are on good terms with the bands’ manager– from my experience, with the band manager on your side, you can get additional support on persuading the band to see ‘your side’.  For example, they can help to persuade the ‘all black’ wearing band to enter a ‘life of colour’ momentarily for publicity reasons.

2) Adopt ‘Rhino skin’ darling– From my experience, this really comes with age and after about 6 years of styling musicians, and watching some of them fade into oblivion- it has made me not take certain parts of the job personally or so seriously.  For example, with the music styling jobs I have done where the musicians have made rude comments about the clothes I have picked and so on; I don’t take it personally, because I have come to the conclusion that, I can only do my best and, if that’s not good enough for this (effing) musician, it will be for the next.  And as of yet, I have not been wrong with this reasoning.

3) Be Kind– I was dealing with an incredibly ‘difficult’ musician once who wanted to wear a pair of Thigh highs, the problem was though she loved the Thigh highs, the hosiery did not return the sentiment, if you know what I mean. Situations like that are so tricky for us, stylists; you have to be very careful with your words, as it can be like treading in a land mine- one wrong step and your whole shoot can be blasted into smithereens.  Luckily, with a few, carefully chosen words, I was able to steer her away from the thigh highs and into a pair of dark tights.

4) Pick your battles wisely– Sometimes when styling a musician, you really have to ‘Let Go, Let Flow’.  Meaning, if you are styling a brother and sister, or a couple whose ‘beyond tight’ relationship means that after every item you put them in; they go out of their way to avoid your comments, feedback and instead prefer to discuss amongst themselves- as long as they come to a conclusion that works for your PR  contacts and portfolio- let them be.

5) ‘On To The Next One’– always have that next styling job lined up.  It makes the pill easier to swallow when for instance, the artist is super late after you have traipsed to Calcutta and beyond searching for ensembles to put him/her in.

Ask Biki...

Fashion Week: Model Casting Tips

Melanie W (East/West Models Agency) from AFDB Castings- she was one of my favourite models of the day!

Having recently done the model castings as Head Stylist for the AFDB Runway and with it being Fashion Week, A/W 13; here are my model casting tips for new models who wish to walk the runway-

  • Come to your casting on time I cannot stress this enough, with a fashion show there is so much to coordinate due to the various teams involved; so it’s important that models can show they know how to be punctual.
  • Confirm the address of the casting  with your agency– this is somewhat linked to my first point, as not knowing where your casting is beforehand, will inevitably make you late for your casting.
  • Bring something to read, eat or/and drink– castings tend to lead to long waiting times so ensure you bring something to read, eat or/and drink to keep your spirits up.
  • Come with a nude G String– sometimes at castings, you may be given some of the designer’s clothes to try on.  Sometimes, these outfits can be on the revealing side, so it’s best to bring a nude G string.
  • Bring a pair of stiletto heels– this is because you will be told to do a trial walk for the casting team, and they will want to see how you walk in stiletto heels.  My advice is that you watch endless re-runs of Naomi Campbell on the runway and practice, practice, practice.
  • Come with a good attitude– so many models don’t realise that a  casting is an interview.  You are there not only to show your great face and body, but to illustrate to the production team that you are a good person to add to the team.  For e.g. at the castings, there was a very charming, stylish model who in my opinion, was too short for the show and her face did not quite fit with the project- but she was so entertaining and lively that I found myself rooting for her to the very end of the selection process.
  • Be ready to model ‘outside the box’– At the castings, I asked all the models to give me two ‘model poses’ for me to photograph- a serious and a fun one.  For me, the real tester was to see how the models used their initiative with their ‘fun’ poses; and the ones who put some effort into the latter got high recommendations for me when selection time came.
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