How to Break into Fashion

Be really, REALLY sure that you love it, because it ain't easy, it ain't (always) glamorous, and most fashion people are effing crazy.

Still want to work in fashion? Fine, but you've been warned. 

They say "It's all who you know" and I agree, but let me take that one step further- "It's all who you know to get yourself in the door, and what you can do to keep you in the door." I don't care who your father is, if you can't hack it, you won't last. How did I get my start?

Find yourself a Fairy Godfather 

As a sophomore in college in New York City, I was very fortunate to have a fairy godfather enter my life. Michael Bevins was a real estate client of my mother's, who is an extremely talented costume designer for theater and film. He also happened to be a pattern maker for The Row. I also happened to have been obsessed with the Olsens since Passport to Paris, and jumped at the opportunity when he asked if I would like to intern for The Row. It was a new operation at the time, only two seasons deep into the line, with a handful of employees, myself being the first intern. I worked in the tiny design studio in the garment district two days a week, for nothing but the experience. I wasn't being paid, but I did get to play with vintage Alaia, rare Balenciaga (a shearling coat that weighed more than Ashley), and attend meetings at the offices of Solbiati (manufacture of some of the finest fabrics in the world) amongst others. It was the golden era of Olsen style- the witchy, super tall Balenciaga boots that MK wore constantly, dozens of fur coats, and all the vintage Cartier jewelry. I got to see how a piece was produced from inspiration to fabric sourcing, pattern making, first draft samples, second draft samples, production, to market meetings with buyers. I learned about product licensing, design, and the chain of command (designer, technical designer, financial controller, pattern maker, sample maker, sales executive, etc...) It was exciting to hear stories from The Girls upon their return from Paris Fashion Week, and how Karl loved the fur capelet that Mary-Kate wore his cruise collection party. It was a bizarre parallel, as we were all excited 19-year olds basking in one's Karl Kompliment, but I was a broke college student, and they were billionaires. I absorbed every moment I could, and when it was time to part ways and finish up the school year, I knew I had achieved something really special, that I would one day write about in my book (as soon as I figure out how to get around all the non-disclosure agreements I've signed). 

Take a Risk and cold-email

A shot from a Hollywood Hills shoot with Emily Vancamp

A shot from a Hollywood Hills shoot with Emily Vancamp

So your foot is in the door, now what? 

In 2011, after six years of working in fashion and film in New York, I decided that I needed to move to Los Angeles, where big budget things were happening. I knew no one. I moved in with my gracious aunt and uncle in Newport Beach, and was quickly connected to a colleague of my uncle's, wife (sounds complicated, but you should mine contacts anyway that you can). She was the head of PR for Stella McCartney, and agreed to have lunch with me. Evidently she saw something in me, and asked me to make her a list of the celebrity stylists that I wanted to work with. She laughed when I opened my notebook and had already done this. She provided me with some email addresses, and I took it upon myself to cold-email each one. This is a very important skill to master if you want to work in the entertainment industry. You must make yourself sound smart, capable, eager (but not creepy), like you know what you're talking about, and are worth having around. A week later was my first day of work for Petra Flannery, on the set of a Revlon commercial starring Emma Stone. Petra hadn't even met me in advance, I spoke to her assistant briefly on the phone the night before, and met her for the first time in the dark parking lot of her Beverly Hills studio at 5am. We jammed her Range Rover full of racks and raced off to the rose gardens in Pasadena for the shoot. For three years I worked consistently between LA and New York, assisting several major stylists, and doing styling jobs on my own as I cultivated a network of fellow assistants, agents, and producers that I still rely on today. And boy do I have some good stories for it (stay tuned for that time Justin Timberlake high-fived me backstage at The Hollywood Palladium after the Grammys)

Find a mentor

Be fearless and reach out to people who you want to work with

Work harder than everyone else

Take what you've learned and do your own thing

I'm summarizing my complicated, hilarious, and terrifying journey (which I am still on, by the way) to hopefully provide you with some insight and inspiration if you too once watched The Rachel Zoe Project and thought "I want to do that!". I've glazed over the fact that most of the very successful 'fashion people' you will encounter, are unfortunately, bat-shit crazy, and generally unhappy. I've been burned more than I've been helped, which is why I feel compelled to let you know that it doesn't have to be that way- you CAN be nice and work in fashion and be a boss bitch- without being a bitch. Stay focused, stay centered, and never forget to treat people well, because people always remember how you treated them. One day, that assistant whom you snapped your fingers at in front of Robert Downey Jr., will have her own shit going on, and she will write a book, and she will tell that story. (Again, as soon as I hire legal counsel to navigate the NDA's that I've signed.)

If you'd like to know more about about how to get started in the fashion industry shoot me an email or comment down below! 

 

Girl Crushes

I'm a bit of an enigma when it comes to female vs. male friendships. I'm a girly-girl, I love makeup and fashion and bad TV, I don't really like sports (except for the Yankees, I possess a surprising knowledge of baseball), and I definitely don't ever want to PLAY sports. I'm what you would call "an indoor type of girl". I've always found the idea of a sorority nauseating, as I've never been much of a "joiner". And while I do subscribe to the old When Harry Met Sally hypothesis stating that men and women CAN'T just be friends, I've always found myself with very close male friends- gay and straight. None of which I've ever had 'feelings' for beyond friendship, or vice-versa. Which is kinda weird. What the hell guys, why aren't you in love with me??

Anyway... as a woman who respects and loves other women, but doesn't always (or usually) want to hang out and bask in the typical womanly insecurity, there are a few women whom I totally have a girl crush on. Not in a sexual way, but if we were the last two women on earth, I'd be totally cool chilling, and looting all of the Whole Food's wine departments, as we lament the loss of all the hot men. 

Chrissy Teigen

If there's one celebrity's wardrobe that I would love to raid, it's hers. I first came across her instagram via a delicious looking pasta dish, and several recipes from her sodelushious.com I'm totally gonna buy her cook book. She and John Legend- #relationshipgoals. There's no other celebrity couple who I actually believe is that in love, and I love them for it. Their baby is going to be the babiest looking baby ever, since they both kind of look like gigantic babies themselves. And their New York apartment in Architectural Digest- #apartmentgoals.

Lauren Conrad

Since the days of Laguna Beach, we've all loved LC haven't we? The business that Lauren has built, from what could've been a flash-in-the-pan reality TV stint, is admirable and impressive. More impressive is her Beverly Hills condo (now for sale), her Laguna beach pied-a-ter, and her adorable husband. And, not for nothing, but her LC Lauren Conrad Runway collection for Kohls was kind of great, and this jumpsuit had me lookin fine at a wedding this fall. 

Leandra Medine

Back when blogging was first invented, Leandra Medine sliced through the sea of Peonies & Pancakes/Roses & Waffles/Sweaters & Macaroons-themed blogs with her truly unique, Manrepeller.com. The antithesis of her blogging peers, she made her mark by not giving a fuck what you, or any man, thought of her fashion choices. Brilliant sartorial selections aside, Leandra is most importantly a whip-smart writer who leans towards conversations of feminism, objectivity, and philosophy. Her book, Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls. is much more than fashion commentary. Leandra gives a naked-honest account of her life from conservative Jewish student, to launching and developing Manrepeller.com, through meeting and marrying her man (clearly not repelled).  

The Torment of Liking Justin Bieber

As my dad once said after watching Selena Gomez on Entertainment Tonight, "She dated that Justin Beaver? Even with all his jack-assery?". But, just try and resist the new music. You can't. It's like junk food. Junk food that makes me want to dance on the elliptical machine. Plus, he's kinda hot now. 

I like to give celebrities the benefit of the doubt- if you're in the public eye, it's easy for people to take cheap shots at you. And while I have never worked with Bieber myself, I have heard several stories of his horrendously childlike behavior. 

My former boss, a contributing editor for THAT mens' magazine, styled JB for a shoot. Justin scoffed at the sneaker selection (roughly 100 pairs- from Nike to Givenchy) "Have those. Had those. Hate those....". He then proceed to tell my well-groomed boss "Bro. You gotta clean your nails man!" I assure you, this fashion editor was the definition of well-groomed. 

During my time at the SNL studio I made friends with the wardrobe team (obviously). I asked them, "Who is the worst celebrity guest you've had to deal with?" Resounding answer: "Justin Bieber." He had recently bombed as the guest, and left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. 

And there was the time Justin cut me off in his leopard-print Audi R8. Yup. At Cahuenga and Franklin, flying off the 101.

Justin,

Since you're reading this, please stop being a douche bag. We all love your music now. No need to over-compensate with chair flipping and audience abuse. Maybe go get your GED*, leave Selena alone, and just fucking chill bro. 

Love, 

Erin Hughes

*I don't know if he has his GED or not... I can't be bothered to research that. 

Photo by Steven Klein for Interview Magazine 

Photo by Steven Klein for Interview Magazine 

The Kendall-Gigi Thing

I am a grown woman with an expensive education and an aversion to all Real Housewives-type programming. That said, I can work for hours with the Kardashians on in the background. It's a guilty pleasure. That, and ghost hunting shows, but I digress... 

Forgetting for a second that they are reality porn gypsies, Kendall (I'm pretty sure it's Kendall that I'm talking about here, the one with the Estee Lauder contract) and her BFF Gigi Hadid just have a style thing going on that I have to respect. They're like Cher and Dione, but with Instagram accounts and agents. 

Mixing Balmain with Adidas, and Stella with Wang, Kendall and Gigi have created a unique chasm in the fashion trend space, driven by hashtags and selfies. For a couple of 20 year old millionaires, they possess a sense a style that is akin to the minimalist supermodels of the early 90's, a refreshing turn away from the glitz and glam of the Kardashian-era. I have no desire to hear them speak, but damn these girls can dress. 

Brooklyn.

It's been quite a few years since I've seen a movie that I knew immediately, I would love forever. It was October, 1997, I was in 5th grade, and Rose DeWitt Bukater was my spirit animal. Since that fateful night, when I learned that True Love was letting your man freeze to death because you couldn't scoot your ass over on some floating debris, a few films have grabbed my heart, but none so much as Brooklyn. 

Having started my career in costume design for independent films in New York, I need great costumes, hair and makeup, and production design to really be immersed in a film. Brooklyn's costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux (sidenote: also the costume designer of another one of my all time favorite wardrobe moments An Education... click to read me wax poetic about those costumes) transports us to 1950's Brooklyn via Irish import Eilis. 

Boarding her ship to America with barely enough to fill a suitcase, Eilis moves to Brooklyn on the good graces of an Irish priest, falls in love, becomes a working New York woman, and shows her hometown what she's made of. What I imagine my Great Grandmother Agnes did back when she was my age. Without ruining the whole film, I will simply say- go see Brooklyn. And bring some tissues (that's saying a lot since I am not a cryer).

The Assistant Files: Beverly Hills

Great stylist assistants are damn near impossible to find. Now that I've had assistants myself, I know just how good I, and a few others were. One such brave soul is Masha Ossovskaya, my sample-sized counterpart (bitch always got to try on the Givenchy) on many a 12 hour shoot and hellish fitting. Throughout our time as assistants to the best celebrity stylists in Hollywood, Masha and I endured it all together, and thus developed a timeless bond of Hollywood veterans (who sometimes have flashbacks)...

Get Emma the size 37 Louboutins and Zoe the size 38 Choos!!!!

WHO was supposed to do the pull at Neiman's for Faith?!?! 

WHERE is the Bottega belt for Salma?!?! 

Someone go get my dress from The Row from dry cleaning at The Peninsula!!!  

While I am now based in New York, Masha is still killing it in Hollywood, channeling her avant-garde style into fabulous editorials and chic red carpet looks. We recently caught up and reminisced about some of our crazy styling stories.

  • How did you get into celebrity styling?

To be honest it was a "right place at the right time" kind of thing, I had a friend who was assisting a big stylist and she called me the day before the Oscar's saying they needed an extra hand, and then I never really left.

  • Have you ever been starstruck by a client?

Not by a client, but I get totally starstruck by meeting fashion people. I once worked on a Tom Ford shoot and nearly thought I was going to faint in his presence.

  • Did you ever think something that your boss had pulled was awful, but had to play along?

Ha, yes...it always makes things a little awkward! I'm not the best at hiding my opinions but luckily I've been fortunate enough to work with people that appreciate that honesty. However, ultimately the final decision is theirs.

  • Sometimes, the assistant gets lucky and scores a ticket to a fashion show or event, tell me about your first NYFW experience.

My first fashion week experience was actually before I started styling. It was the Marc Jacobs F/W 2011 show and it was totally amazing. I remember the models stomping down the runway to Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People".  My friend happened to be working for the company at the time and managed to snag me a ticket.

  • What are your favorite designer, and jewelry showrooms to pull from?

KCD for clothes, but I love jewelry! There are so many great designer's out there it's hard to pick just one! I would say pulling from Broken English is my favorite because they have an amazing collection of designers and a very well curated vintage selection.

  • What was the best/coolest shoot location you've ever worked on, and what was it for?

Morocco, for a campaign with Rosie Huntington Whiteley.

  • Who are your favorite designers right now? 

Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, his romantic, gothic, beautifully detailed pieces are the stuff of dreams. And I love what Alessandro Michele is doing at Gucci right now.

  • What blogs/magazines/sites do you read? 

Sites: Jean Stories, The Thick, Garance Dore, Into the Gloss. Magazines: W, Paris Vogue, Cr Fashion Book.

  • Did you always want to be a fashion stylist? For me, I watched the Rachel Zoe Project and literally said "I'm going to do that." I also said "Why is this girl Taylor ALWAYS complaining!? I'll take her job in 2 seconds!" Little did I know... that show was NOT an exaggeration! 

I always knew that I wanted to be in fashion but I didn't necessarily think that I would be a stylist, I interned at a magazine in San Francisco and when I moved to LA I started working in fashion pr. I always loved planning shoots and being on set so I started assisting a stylist on my off days and it was sort of a natural progression from there. 

  • Dream client? 

Diane Kruger

Check back soon for more from The Assistant Files!