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! 

 

A look inside my styling kit

Ah the styling kit... a collection of useful, bizarre, and heavy objects that, together, arm me for almost any fashion emergency. 

1. Gaff tape- after a few years of batting my eyes and begging some grips (the guys who handle the lighting and rigging on set) to use some of their gaff tape, I finally bought my own. Then I learned why they're always so reluctant to let me borrow some- it's freaking expensive! But I can't tell you how many times I've blocked out a logo, or performed a make-shift boot alteration with this stuff. 

2. First aid kit- Because for every time I've borrowed some gaff tape, some guy on set has asked me for a band-aid. 

3. Lint roller- Because an HD camera will find the lint on that tuxedo jacket. 

4. Needlenose pliers- Because zippers and necklaces only ever break on set- why is that? 

5. Shout Wipes- Many an actor has wiped his hands on his pants at lunch time. (I'm looking at you Guttenberg.) 

6. Measuring tape- To convince the lady that her size 4 Balmain pants are actually a size 2 by normal standards. 

7. Safety pins- The classic large silver ones, and the infinitely better matte black ones- imperceptible on camera. 

8. Manilla labels- These little buggers are how a movie is made. Ok, fine, not totally, but they are what keeps wardrobe continuity straight. 

9. Cheese grater- For the block of parmesan you bring for lunch. Just kidding. It's really for distressing things like jeans, tee shirts, anything you want to have a lived in look. 

10. Belt hole puncher- This damn heavy thing has rescued me a few times, when a belt is too big, or too small. 

11. Makeup bag- My little stash of girl things one might need during a 12-14 hour day. Deodorant, tampons, lipstick, you know stuff like that. 

12. Spill-able stuff- Fabreez, bug spray, sunblock, anti-bacterial gel. All imperative especially in the summer months. 

13. Baby wipes- For stain removal, cleaning up shoes, hands, baby butts... makeup stains... etc...

14. Topstick- Originally invented to adhere a man's toupee to his head- hence the name. I use it to tape down collars, buttons, and other annoying things. 

15. Umbrella- Cuz it's gon rain (at some point), and everyone knows actors melt in the rain. 

16. Breast petals- What a cute name for these little band-aid stickers that prevent nippelage on camera in thin tops. 

17. Hand steamer- Throw away your iron and get one of these. They're the best for de-wrinkling, and de-stinking. 

18. Le pièce de résistance, my Luis Vuitton fanny pack- This baby's been with me since my first film (Down The Shore, starring the late, great, James Gandolfini) Snatched from my mom's closet partly because it was so bad it was hilarious and I couldn't bear to see her wear it, and partly because it's the PERFECT set bag. Slim, durable, fits my camera, phone, topstick, scissors, loads of safety pins, lip balm, pens, and anything else I can shove into it. And it's as fake as the day is long, but every fashion person I've ever met on set has thrown a fit "Oh my God!!! I DIE! The 90s were so good, I wish Louis still made that." I just smile and say "I knowwwww right?" 

Now I have to pack it all back up and drag it into the city for this week's shoot... 

So you're gonna be on set all day...What's in my bag

Being on the set of a fashion, commercial, or film shoot is always a long haul kind of day; with hours usually clocking in around 12, and sometimes climbing painfully towards 14 or 16. For such a day, there are a few absolute essentials that I must have with me to survive (yes, dramatic, I know). Here's all the stuff I throw into my DKNY bag (which fashion people always think is Margiela) 

1. Comfortable sneakers- Non-negotialble. These Vans are what I'm feeling lately, but frankly, there doesn't exist a pair of shoes that are comfortable enough for a 12 hour day in a concrete-floored studio, which is why these Doctor Scholl's 12 hour inserts are an absolute must for me. Glamorous, I know. 

2. Notebook/cellphone- For taking down sizes, making lists, and (unfortunately) being reachable for sudden wardrobe demands. 

3. Hand sanitizer- Because its New York City. 

4. Ibuprofen- Nothing is more satisfying or needed after a full day on set than a glass of wine and two of these babies. 

5. Sustenance- I always bring some granola bars or something of the like to sustain myself. Especially when I was assisting, there was rarely a minute to eat the delicious catering. Good for my skinny jeans. Bad for my temper. 

6. Magazine- A little entertainment for the commute. 

7. Perfume/Lipstain- I don't know about you, but Happy Hour is my favorite hour- especially after a grueling 12-14 hour shoot. A little roll of Elizabeth and James Black, and this Revlon Moisture Stain in Miami Fever, and I'm ready for a Cosmo or two. 

8. Sunglasses/Wallet- Because duh. 

Stay tuned for a peak into my styling kit this weekend! 

Freelance to Fulltime

I've been on the freelance styling grind since I was 19, when I started in NYC. That's eight years of steaming, hanging, pinning, tying, re-assuring, nodding, and chasing down paychecks. Styling in Hollywood is everything you thought it'd be from watching The Rachel Zoe Project…. times 10, and minus the 'glamour'.

I'll tell ya what- We who've assisted the best and biggest, do NOT run around town in 5 inch Loubs and Range Rovers, it's not physically or, more importantly, financially, possible. We stuffed our 2001 sedans full to the roof with garment bags "Sorry Officer, I know I can't see, but I have to get these back to Gucci NOW!". We blew through red lights chasing our bosses who wouldn't divulge the address to which we were speeding for a fitting "No! You just have to drive faster!!!". Our 2001 sedans have even broken down in the Neiman's parking garage, 20 minutes before a fitting. We worked 15 hour days with no lunch, for weeks on end (but our skinny jeans fit!), only to chase a paycheck for several months. Unfortunately, that part is a truth that is impossible to deal with for me. 

This year, I have been transitioning from working freelance jobs, which are undoubtedly more exciting and high profile than any full time styling job will ever be, to trying to land a secure, creative, DAILY gig with a weekly (!) paycheck. I wouldn't trade my experiences in freelance for the world, but as they say… the grass is always greener when you can afford a gardener.