Debut is all about inspiring and helping young women to make their mark in the creative industry of their dreams. We meet up with Style My founders Elin Mai and Tanja Mrnjaus to get the low down on how to be a successful stylist. It’s time to turn your passion for fashion into a fantastic business opportunity.
Debut: Hi Elin and Tanja. Firstly, why did you set up Style My and what does it offer?
E & T: We both started styling over a decade ago, gaining experience and working across all areas of the industry. We launched Style My to offer a unique Stylist Masterclass experience ‘designed by stylists for stylists’. It’s for all those wanting to get into the industry; for retailers wanting to enhance the skills of their staff; and for fashion and retail course providers wanting to provide their students with hands on experience. After working for fashion and styling colleges in Australia and UK, we knew that the key to any student success is having exposure to real life scenarios and tools needed to be a successful stylist in 2016 and beyond.
Debut: For those that may not know, what exactly is a stylist?
E & T: A stylist is a creative editor who usually collaborates with the clients (private or across other creative media) to come up with the visual concept of the brief. It’s their job to make the people and also the clothing and accessories (props) look their very best for real life (or in shot).
Debut: Have you experienced any misconceptions about what fashion styling is?
E & T: Absolutely, there are many people that still have no idea what a stylist does and some think that all we do is drink champagne and skip from one shop to a party then to an event and it’s all glam 24/7. Obviously it is much more deeper than that. We actually change people’s lives and confidence which we think is pretty important! A stylist also has to have an immense love and desire to want to help people. A creative eye is simply not enough. We’ve had people break down in tears (of joy) during styling sessions!
Debut: What does a normal working day or week entail?
E & T: We usually have many tasks on the go! As a stylist you wear many hats and are project managing bookings, shoots, events and also running business operations. A day usually begins with checking emails for queries, social media for updates and industry sites for research and news. You also organise product pick ups and drop offs, see clients for private fittings and personal shopping, before perhaps grabbing a quick lunch and if you have time a bathroom break! Did we mention lots of coffee on the go too?!
Debut: What is the best part of the job and what are the worst and/ or most challenging aspects?
E & T: The best part of the job is seeing your clients face when they walk outside the changing room and they love what you’ve selected for them (sometimes even tears, of happiness of course!). Seeing your work published is also pretty cool! The most challenging part of the job is having to meet tight deadlines and never having enough hours in the day.
Debut: What has been your most memorable moment?
Elin: When a client came out of the changing room with tears coming down their face and said ‘ I never knew I could look this good’.
Tanja: My first memorable experience as a stylist was shopping for a client who was in a wheelchair. There was so much I learned from this wonderful lady, it was a truly inspiring, moving moment. Even though she thinks I helped her, she has in fact enriched me and my work through that experience.
Debut: How did you prepare for a career in styling?
Elin: I knew from a young age that a career in fashion was for me and started making clothes at the age of 6. After graduating from a degree doing Fashion Design with Technology I managed to get to experience in all sides of the Fashion industry. After learning about everything from pattern cutting to design to photography, I was able to embark on a career as a stylist
Debut: What words of wisdom would you give an aspiring fashion stylist?
E & T: Invest in your stylist training and work experience, don’t be afraid to work hard and network. Be prepared to work very hard to achieve your goals and don’t expect things to happen overnight. Most of all, be professional and friendly with EVERYONE you meet and work with.
Debut: What skills are vital for a stylist to have?
E & T: You need a love of people, creativity, knowledge of brands and designers, to be organised and a good listener! When we employ new stylists we also look for an ability and level of intelligence that means that they can mix with anyone from any walk of life. You must be able to get on with a physicist as well as you could a pop star!
Debut: Do you have a qualification in styling and do you think one is necessary?
E & T: Yes we have qualifications in styling and believe like any other profession, training is an essential element to personal development and credibility. Successful stylists can command high salaries for their work and just like any industry, their fee should be relevant to their level of training and experience.
Debut: What is the hardest part of breaking into the industry?
E & T: The hardest part is identifying what your potential client market is and where you want to be positioned in the industry, once you establish this you then work towards your end goal.
Debut: What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Elin: There is enough work out there for everyone so don’t be scared to share information.
Debut: How do you decide what trends to focus on each season/ what works on each client?
E & T: Trends are set by so many factors and global influences, what we focus on is how to translate and edit the most suitable options for either a story or our client’s needs. We will be directed by a brief coming from an editor, commercial client or a private client and we have to work in factors like availability, suitability, budget, personal style, taste, body shape and colour preferences. At the same time, you need to keep the persons lifestyle in mind first and foremost, you need to understand what makes them tick. From this you can deduct how far you can take them as far as tends go.
Debut: What styling advice would you give other women?
1. Embrace your body and work with it, dress for your body right now (not for what it was and what you hope it will become)
2. Take time to get to know and create your personal style; having inspiration is great but don’t focus too much on what everyone else is doing as they are not you.
3. Don’t be afraid to change, clear out your wardrobe and refresh your look more often than not.
4. Allow yourself time and budget for shopping (don’t rush and purchase items at the last minute),
5. If you’re scared of shopping, enlist a professional, allow yourself to enjoy this service and learn from a stylist
Debut: Do stylists have to be trendsetters?
E & T: As a stylist you should be well presented and showcase your personal style, but it is up to the individual stylist how far they want to take their look and what image they want to portray. Some clients might be overwhelmed if a stylist is too fashion forward, on the other hand some clients will love it!
Debut: What are your styling must haves?
E & T: A great satchel or backpack as you should always be hands free, a charged up phone (as your whole day is saved on there), a bottle of water and a smile (that is the stylish thing anyone can wear). Always be well presented. You’re representing either your own brand or that of the company you’re working for.
Debut: Have your jobs influenced your own style?
Elin: Absolutely! It has given us the confidence to try something new and have the skills to know what suits us best.
Tanja: Without a doubt! Even though your own style remains the same there’s also a part of you that needs to dress according to the type of client you’re seeing.
Debut: Do you have a favourite fashion piece at the moment?
Elin: My Zara white suit, I simply love it!
Tanja: Any scarf which I wrap into a turban, I’m obsessed with head wraps at the moment!
Debut: Which trends would you send to Room 101?
Elin: Crocs. Without a doubt.
Tanja: Rave trousers
Debut: Who would you love to dress?
Elin: Kim Kardashian & Tom Hiddleston
Tanja: Mila Kunis & Sia
Debut: Favourite designer?
Elin: I like Alexander McQueen & Marni. Then I also do love Australian designer Toni Maticevski…so many!
Tanja: Issey Miyake & Tome NYC (sorry I had to pick two I can’t decide)
Debut: What’s the best style advice you’ve received?
Elin: Invest in properly fitted underwear.
Tanja: Be yourself and make sure you feel good about yourself every single day.
Debut: When do you think someone can say ‘I’ve made it’? What qualifies as success to you?
E & T: We think you should always shift the goal post and continue to strive to challenge yourself. You’ve made it when you think you have, based on your own measures of success, we are all different.
Any entrepreneur will tell you that they never think ‘I made it’ as they usually have 10 other projects on the go and once one is a success, they’re ready to move to the next exciting step.
Debut: And finally, where do you see yourselves and the company heading next?
Style My was founded by Elin Mai, the Director of the UK’s most successful personal styling company, Style Doctors, and Tanja Mrnjaus, Style Director of an international styling consultancy ID Couture. Both Style Doctors and ID Couture are official stylists for Westfield Stratford and London.
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