“A good team is half the battle”
PART 3: Hire a fashion stylist and your products will look their best.
In the fashion industry, we usually say ‘stylist’ when we’re referring to the fashion/wardrobe stylist. Therefore, they are often confused with the hairstylist or even the make-up artist by non-professionals. Many people aren’t aware of the fact that a photoshoot with people requires a fashion stylist but they are indeed a necessity even if you advertise a car or a new toothbrush – not to mention when you want to sell the fashion itself. In the following, I’m going to name a couple of reasons why hiring a stylist will make the photos you commissioned look as professional as you imagined them in the first place.
The stylist guarantees a beneficial presentation of your product
Stylists are garment specialists in the sense of knowing how to wear, combine, and adjust any wardrobe piece and accessories. Many of them have studied fashion design which gave them an extensive knowledge of fabrics and cuts plus a feel for how they work on humans. It’s the duty of a stylist to be on notice of contemporary styles and the manner of wearing clothes according to the zeitgeist. And their knowledge about these things can be of advantage when you shoot your campaign. As it is the subconscious sensations that make a photo composition genuine the devil is in the details, e.g. the way the sleeves are rolled up, where the waistline is considered to be accurate, or which kind of necklace the model is wearing and how. Such little things have a distinct influence on the viewer’s associations and therefore, they co-determine your target group. If you’ve read my previous tips you can probably guess what I’m going to praise now: communication. The better the fashion stylist is briefed about your brand and your marketing goals in association with the new photo material the likelier you’ll get that result. Their good understanding of the product and the customer manifests in an authentically designed protagonist (performed by the model). With that said the fashion stylist, oftentimes, also functions as an art director, at least partly. What is true for the hair & make-up artist’s expertise (as treated in my last article) who brings us down to earth if our initial ideas turn out to be unrealistic also holds good for the stylist’s work in respect of the bigger picture. They (should) have the power of veto when the clothes look odd in combination with a certain pose, prop, perspective, or some such, and if they use it I would encourage everyone to listen to them. By implication, any setting, position, or expression that doesn’t look accurate to the styling might be the wrong thing to integrate into the scene whatsoever.
What you see of a stylist’s work is just the tip of the iceberg
Being the fashion stylist at a shoot requires lots of preparation time and a decent budget (on top of their fee!) with which they can work. Unless you previously book both the model and stylist for fittings it’s usually the shooting day when they meet for the first time. That implies that there has to be enough clothes, shoes, and accessories on set to replace whatever doesn’t fit or match eventually. Even if your fashion brand covers the most components, there’s usually just a couple of products in the focus of the shoot and they need to be combined adequately which again may require third-party supplies. These procurements are the stylist’s responsibility which is demanding smart organisational skills and a strong imagination. It involves research at large, communication with agencies and partners as well as it entails costs for shipping and lending. In general, for ‘just’ one production day, you will be invoiced with several days of work by the fashion stylist, and ideally, you also grant them a certain amount of extra money which allows them to do some shopping for you.
When the shooting day has come you will recognise the fashion stylist for the overload of bags and parcels they are carrying – if you’re an early bird. However, it’s more likely that he or she has a prior call time so that the clothes can be unpacked, steamed, and arranged before the model comes in. The steaming can be particularly time-consuming but it needs to be done on set to avoid new wrinkles – and it’s one reason why many stylists bring an assistant to the shoot. As soon as the model is dressed adjustments like e.g. clipping and lint removal are made and occasionally re-done. All these measurements convey an upmarket impression better than Photoshop could ever do. Then, while the model and photographer perform their magic, the stylist is observing every movement and is ready to interrupt for re-arranging the clothes if they shift. And when it’s finally a wrap the actual wrapping of the styling is next on the agenda. Depending on the content of the shoot this can be like Tetris but trickier – namely with more delicate modules worth many thousands of euros.
After the production, the stylist usually has to deal with the logistics of cleaning some of the fashion pieces and sending them back to the suppliers which again implies shipping and other costs. This indicates that the stylist has to bear a high risk of loss or damage wherefore they have extra liability insurance.
I’m convinced that, by now, you’re a cheering proponent of fashion stylists but put the case that you still have doubts please have in mind that all the work stages mentioned above still need to be done during production. This means that having no stylist on board puts more workload on the rest of the team – who might not be as versed in terms of clothing – and it keeps them from their actual work. The result is a stressful day where mistakes can happen or things stay half-undone. Due to the dynamic during shootings, people tend to turn a blind eye on details that aren’t perfect when they like the overall picture but at the point of no return, the selecting and the post-production, blemishes will make themselves felt painfully.
Conclusion: choose your team wisely
With that said, from my point of view, a successful campaign shoot is performed by a team consisting of at least a photographer, a model, a hairstylist, a make-up artist (or optional a hair & make-up artist) and a fashion stylist. As the case may be, all these players can use a helping assistant’s hand or two – except the model of course. Depending on the production’s scale and concept there can be even more areas of responsibilities requiring a larger team. If you want to think that big, plus have a shoot that goes like clockwork, you can also hire set designers, set runners, food stylists, caterers, drivers, a digital operator, and an external art director, just to name a few. So before you start doing calls to collect all kinds of offers you should get clear about your visions and create a concept. Thus, the following articles are going to be focused on the development and to the point visualisation of your idea.
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