April 12, 2024

Apparel Creations Workshop

Crafting Fashion Trends

How To Build A Career In Fashion

6 min read

Careers in the creative industries still carry something of a mystique, not least because finding a way into them rarely follows the four-year college degree > internship > entry-level job route. In this limited series of interviews, I spoke with creatives that have built their careers in some of the most desirable fields. I uncover what it took to get there, and what it’s really like once you’ve landed that dream job.

The Fashion Stylist

Tracy Taylor began her career working on men’s trade publications in Los Angeles, before transitioning to consumer-facing titles in New York City. Tracy spent a decade at Marie Claire magazine, rising to the coveted Fashion Director role. Sensing the coming shift in print media, Tracy pivoted to digital and spent another decade at the intersection of content and commerce as the Style Director for NET-A-PORTER. Tracy is now a freelance fashion stylist with a portfolio covering advertising, editorial and styling celebrities for red carpets.

Did you always want to work in the Fashion industry?

“I always knew that I wanted to do something creative. I used to say I don’t want to work behind a desk. In that respect, I have never stopped moving and rarely actually get the chance to sit, which I love!

My first love was fashion: I read fashion magazines from a very young age, and plastered my walls with images, both men’s and women’s fashion. I was also really into photography and loved fashion photography almost as much as the actual fashion.

I took photography classes and worked on my high school yearbook staff. I wanted to go to photography school for college but when my parents told me that it was out of their price range and I would have to find a way to pay for it myself, I convinced myself that I wasn’t really that artsy anyways and decided to get a degree in something normal and easy

What did it take to land your first job in the industry?

When it came time to graduate college, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do, and one of my friends who was a surfer-turned-model, suggested I take photographs of their group. My pictures got great feedback, which led to the best men’s modeling agency in LA sending guys to me who needed pictures for their portfolios. I basically had to style the guys, telling them what to bring from their wardrobes and just like that I was a fashion stylist, creative director, and photographer.

At this point I was working as a waitress at a popular restaurant in Malibu and looking for a place to live. The head waiter introduced me to the girls who lived in the apartment above his, who had a vacancy because one of their roommates (another male model) was moving to Japan for work. I was very lucky because one of my new roommates turned out to be the west coast editor of DNR Magazine. She knew that I was a test photographer (shooting male models who needed pictures for their portfolio) and asked if I wanted to shoot a party for her. I said yes immediately, even though I didn’t yet know the proper technique for shooting at night.

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity, and I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by. I immediately went to the best camera store in West Hollywood and asked them how to shoot pictures of people at night so that they could be published in a newspaper. They showed me a flash unit to put on to the Nikon FE camera that I used to shoot the models, told me how to set it and boom – I was off. I shot the party and went on to shoot other events which eventually led to me shooting a men’s fashion story… and the rest is history!”

Were there points where you wanted to give up?

“Never. I was like a racehorse with blinders. I went on to shoot many fashion editorials for DNR and was basically their staff photographer in LA, which meant covering movie premiers (yes, I would be called a paparazzi now, I think) parties, and the semiannual men’s apparel trade shows. Covering the trade conventions meant spending a lot of time with the editors from New York whose reporting shaped the men’s apparel industry.

About a year after working steadily as their go-to photographer, my friend and now former roommate announced that she was going to quit the business altogether and make a career change. Almost immediately I asked the editor-in-chief if I could meet with him in New York (faking it that I was going to be there visiting a friend).

I sat across from this serious hardcore newsman, about four times my age, and said that I’d like to throw my hat in the ring for the job of west coast editor. He put me through the ringer: testing me out on numerous stories and covering a few trade shows, writing serious business stories. Eventually he caved and offered me the job. And that was it. My first full time job in the fashion industry”

What has surprised you along the way?

“In fashion, anything can happen, and I am always prepared for it. One time I was shooting in India: heading to the camel fair in Pushkar from Jaipur. We had to take a train with ten crew members, ten trunks of clothing, everyone’s luggage, and our kits. We had to figure out a way to get us all on, and our baggage, with only a sliver of time to get them all, and us, on the train. We decided to scatter ourselves along the narrow platform, each of us going in different doors. We hoped we would all make it on and we did”

What is the thing that you like least about your job?

“Accounting”

What is the best part of your job?

“The creative process. Working with the team and collaborating to make the mood-board a reality, using our collective expertise. Being on set is my favorite part of the job”

Your best advice to someone getting started in the industry today?

“Be professional. Treat the job as seriously as you would working in a bank or some other professional environment. Fashion is fun but the most successful people, who have long term success, take it extremely seriously and are businesslike. You need good communication skills, a positive can-do attitude, and promptness. Be on time. Don’t complain. Say yes. Be resourceful. And be ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Be nice.

Don’t be fooled by what you see on social media. Being a fashion stylist is a tough business to break into and it is taxing physical work with a lot of financial overhead involved. Fashion seems easy and fun. Fun it can be yes, but it is not easy. It takes a lot of manpower, hard work, grit, determination, getting your hands dirty, chipping your nails, not being able to make dinner plans, shlepping, shlepping and more schlepping.

There are other elements that people don’t usually think of when they see glamorous pictures of models and celebrities in editorial and advertising shoots. Behind those images stand huge crews of people, inclement weather, long days, rolling racks, hangers, garment bags, a lot of heavy lifting, many hours standing, acute time pressure, financial pressure, tiny budgets and a lot of stress.

It is not for the faint of heart, but if you truly love it and find great joy in not only the pictures but the process, you will never feel like you are working”


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