When I tell people I am an Interior Stylist they usually reply by asking 'is that like an Interior Designer?' Fair question, really!
Then I to go on to explain the differences. Yes, there is some overlap but there are also a few major differences. Mainly the fact that Interior Designers design spaces that will be installed permanently but I create the same thing but it will only be in situ for one day and then it will be taken down again!
Mainly as a stylist, I create imagery for magazines, catalogues and web to help a client sell their products. I have to create a concept that helps to make their products look desirable so that people want to buy them. Then I bring that concept to life on a photoshoot.
Quite a number of people don’t realise that the images that you see in a magazine/catalogue/website/blog had a team of people including a stylist, photographer and art director all part of the creative process- mostly people think that you simply turn up to a property and just shoot what you see. That couldn’t be further from the truth! So, here are the basics: (I also want to say that all shoots are different. Some are huge and some are much more simple. Some require weeks of planning and some don’t. Some require a huge team and others I do on my own. This is just an overview of what is possible on any shoot that I undertake).
I call myself a Project Manager as well as a Stylist. This is because I am creatively in control of most of my shoots from beginning to end. There are often many other creatives involved i.e a creative agency, an editor, designers, art departments, marketing managers etc however on a lot of the projects I work on it is just me and the client that see the project out from beginning to end.
The pre-shoot creative process
Stylists are used for a range of projects from advertisements to press lookbooks, magazine shoots, web shoots etc.
The creative concept comes together after researching trends, (usually a lot of research is involved for each project and takes up a large percentage of my time) mood boarding looks and ideas, colour palettes, surfaces, lighting effects, camera angles and anything needed to get your vision across.
You need to find the perfect location for a shoot. Stylists have a number of contacts with location agencies to help with this but once you find a location there is a usually a recce involved to make sure it fits the brief, also to make sure there is good access to the property (you have to make sure that sofa fits through the door!), you may also need to measure up areas for when you brief the set builder.
I had to source ninety vintage cameras and ninety pairs of black high heels for a shoot a few years ago and without the knowledge of where to source these- I would have been stumped to have found them in the time frame. If you need period furniture, retro technology, flat surfaces like marble, stone or timber, or a twenty-piece table setting in an obscure colour – you name it and a Stylist or their assistant can source it. That’s half the fun of the job! Then there is the crafty side where I might find myself spraying fruit with gold paint, squeezing an 8ft willow tree into the back of a cab, dip-dyeing curtains in my bath on a Sunday (yes, I have done all of these) and this is what makes my job such a joy- you never know what your next job will entail!
It goes without saying that the photographer is as important as the Stylist. They bring knowledge, skills, equipment, some put their Stylist hat on too, lighting expertise, re-touching skills and other things to bring your vision to life. I’m lucky to have worked with some absolutely incredible photographers and they are one of the reasons I love my job so much. When a Stylist and Photographer come together with the same vision- it’s such an incredible buzz to know you’re creating visual imagery that is new and unique.
Interior Stylist Assistant
Using a great assistant can make or break a shoot too. A brilliant assistant knows where to source the best props, has high street and high-end designer knowledge is able to get things done quickly and is strong (physically) and very creative. I have a number of assistants that I have been working with for a while and who know me well and are usually one step ahead of me!
I often use set builders if my concept requires me to build a set or add to/alter an existing location to fit the brief. Other specialists may also be required for the shoot i.e seamstress/artists/craftsmen and all bring their own invaluable experience. This is along with using a reliable transport company to pick up my props and take to the shoot and return afterwards.
Then there are the admin duties of keeping to a budget, all the email conversations, changing the concept if need be etc.
Bearing in mind all the things detailed above happen PRE-shoot and often in a very short time scale and with multiple jobs at once- so I have to have my eyes on the ball at all times!
The day of the shoot
The morning of the shoot
I get up and go to the flower market in the morning usually at around 6am (this is actually one of my favourite parts of the job!) Then, the idea is that I have prepped so thoroughly that when I arrive on set and meet the client, the photographer, my assistant/s, the set builder, the seamstress and everybody else involved- it should all run smoothly and it’s time to make the magic happen!
Often there is a lot of moving existing furniture from the house so you can take over the space, set up the shot, shoot it and move onto the next one.. until all the shots are taken- in a time frame that can vary from one day to many weeks depending on the job.
Then, when you stand back and look at what you have created on screen it is the best feeling in the world- to think that you have succeeded in creating your vision that started from an idea all those weeks before!
Needless to say, there is A LOT that is involved in a shoot. The actual day shooting on location is only a small portion of what needs to happen to make it all come together- but it’s the best bit. The part where everyone is excited to be there on set. After a while you start to feel a bit like an extended family- often seeing the same team of people on different shoots in different locations. I feel very lucky to be part of this world!
Hopefully, this has given you a bit of an insight into the crazy world of styling. Everything that you have read above is what can happen on a project, however, sometimes not all the steps are needed and sometimes there are even more elements that are required.- but hopefully, it gives you a broad overview.
Tips for getting into the Interior Stylist Industry
If you want to become a stylist there are a few ways to get into the industry.
- Shadow/intern/assist a stylist. Get in touch with a number of stylists on Instagram or email and ask them if they have any opportunities to work with them. I have a waiting list of people who want to work on shoots with me. It's the way I got into the industry and it's the only way to really know if you are going to like it!
- Get in touch with magazines and ask them if they have any job openings for interns or assistants. I interned with World of Interiors, Country Living, Wallpaper* and Livingetc before I landed a job as the Style Assistant at Livingetc full-time.
- Start testing with a photographer to build up a portfolio. Get together with a photographer you might know and find some props from your house and start mucking around and practising to build your confidence behind a camera. Even established Stylists and Photographers continue to test with each other throughout their careers.
- Create an Instagram account dedicated to your creative work. I get a lot of work through Instagram- it's the best platform to be discovered on!
- Write an interiors blog and do the same as I have said above for Instagram. Get sharing and be discovered!
- There is also nothing wrong with reaching out to companies and asking if they have openings for in-house stylists.
I hope this has given you some insight into the job and how to become a stylist if you think you are up for the job!
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