THE 5 STEP GUIDE TO BECOMING AN INTERIOR STYLIST
Hey! Over the last few weeks one of my blog posts started ranking on the first page of google for 'interior stylist', because of my behind the scenes post about when I assisted on a DFS lookbook shoot. As a result my inbox has been full to the brim of people just like you, who are looking at how to make a career as an interior stylist.
I made some really key moves that definitely shortcut my path to success, and there's also a bigger lesson at play here about how you can shortcut your way to things, but that's another blog post (hint: act as if!)!
I also know that this is an industry which is a little bit mysterious, and like all creative industries can be hard to know the right way to get your 'foot in the door' so to speak.
Here's what I recommend.
1. SHOOT YOUR OWN SHIT
Seriously, if you're asking to assist stylists or even work as the stylist yourself, you have to be shooting your own shit at home to practice. The more important benefit of this is that you will have some portfolio images. OK they may not be magazine worthy, but you're just starting out, so that's ok. Get a good camera, borrow someones, hell, even shoot it on your iPhone if that's all you can do. Just do something.
You need to start to see things from the photographers eye anyway as this is what styling is all about, so learning more and more about photography will only do you good. You will learn lots about how materials catch the light, how to use natural light to your advantage, how to edit photos and so much more. Literally just style stuff at home; your bed, your bedside table, your dinner table, your makeup bag. If you can't see that there is beauty in everything and how to make a still life out of the most boring ordinary subjects then you need to practice.
My best tip is to use the VSCO app on an iPhone or iPad. It just instantly makes a magazine look magazine worthy, providing the styling and the lighting are good.
2. START BUILDING YOUR OWN BRAND (AND CONFIDENCE)
Start a blog. At least make a basic portfolio website. Use Pinterest and instagram. Put those images you have shot somewhere online that you can show people. And then get people to look at them! I started my blog literally a year ago, and because I've been proactive at writing about things, shooting cool images and calling myself an interior stylist (remember when I said 'act as if'?) I've managed to shortcut my way to a lot of things, because people can go onto my blog and see my level of understanding, my passion and my eye for style straight away. It also reeks of self assurance, because I know I'm fucking good at what I do and I work hard. I have confidence in myself.
Being an interior stylist requires being able to make strong creative decisions while you have a room full of photographers, assistants, creative directors and more looking at what you do. Plus then those images will go onto people at the brands or magazines and they might just come straight back and say 'we need to do this again'. Trust me, the first time I assisted I was so ridiculously nervous but on the outside I made it look like I knew what I was doing and I had done it a million times. If you are lacking in confidence, it'll show. Get your shit together and own it.
*P.S. I have recently launched the NO BULL BLOG SCHOOL . It's my new project and basically does what it says on the tin - teaches you to blog and shortcut your way to success with no bullshit added. Click below to sign up for a free taster!*
3. RINSE YOUR NETWORK
I got my first proper assisting job because I wasn't afraid to put myself out there. I literally emailed every single creative person I knew and said 'I want to be an interior stylist'. Because they know I don't fuck about, within hours I had my first e-introduction. The one of the still life stylists as Burberry no less. Now, I know that fresh out of college or whatever you may not have the same networks I do, these have been built up over years of being in various creative industries at different times, and then those people I was friends with rising up into great jobs where they could connect me, so you need to get out there and start networking. Do anything. Work for free. Style the crappest, smallest job that exists. Go to networking events. Join groups on twitter. Follow stylists on instagram. Because the person running that shoot that you're helping out on for free could be a big shoot producer or creative director in a few years.
If I told you about the people I 'came up' with in the music industry that I would have never guessed would be mainstream stars and now are killing it you'd laugh. Example, Tinchy Stryder, Professor Green and Charlie Sloth were all my peers. Look where they are now (Radio 1 presenters, top 10 chart stars, selling out shows and performing at the biggest festivals), but if someone had told me that back in 2007 I wouldn't have believed it, not because they weren't talented but I just couldn't see the mainstream music industry accepting them. I WAS WRONG. Don't underestimate anyone you meet or think you know better. You don't.
And seriously, you gotta grow some balls and just email people and ask them for their help. You will repay them one day, and let them know that. The amount of people I hear say 'oh I want to be an XYZ' and I'm like ok, so who do you know who is connected to that industry, even in the most far fetched way? Email them. They almost never do it, because they're worried about what people think. You gotta put yourself out there and not give a crap about what anyone thinks. Be shameless, it'll get you far!
4. ASSIST, ASSIST, ASSIST
I learnt more in my first 2 days of working with a proper stylist than I ever did on my own. It was like a crash course in styling, sourcing props and learning all of the inside secrets (like how to make pillows look super plump or make a single duvet cover look like a double to name a couple). It's also super humbling. I went from being a £40k a year editor at a well known business website to ironing sheets and having to make cups of tea for people who literally had no interest in even knowing my name. For free. I had a moment of resistance to it where I thought 'I'm too good for this' and then I bit my tongue and shut up. It was humbling and I learnt so much.
I may be nearly 30 but I am more than happy to work like an intern or a work experience girl if it gives me the learning like that. Plus, after a few weeks my background as a Barista at Starbucks helped me make the best coffee on set, and my 'can-do' attitude and open nature made sure that people knew my name and valued having me around (I hope at least)! I am still taking opportunities to assist and I'll never hide that fact.
Hunt down respected stylists in the industry and ask if you can assist them for free. If they don't have anything but say they will keep you in mind, drop them an email every 6 weeks or so, so that you stay in memory. Don't feel bad about doing this because they are very busy people who are often on set for long hours and don't get a chance to get back to emails right away. If after 3-4 emails (over a period of time) you get no reply, drop it and move on to someone else, because you don't want to be a stalker freak now do you?!
If you're lucky and make a good impression on set you may be allowed to do some proper styling. I was trusted to make up this bedding shot before the brilliant stylist added his finishing touches. I am so proud that it made the M&S Spring Summer 15 catalogue! I also got to make some pancakes that I think ended up in a shot too. MY FOOD IS FAMOUS, PEOPLE.
5. START PITCHING TO BRANDS
Having a blog can really help you here. If you can establish yourself then you can start being sent nice thing to style and shoot for your blog, which is where I am currently at. It helps me to have even more beautiful stuff to shoot and it pushes me to give them some great images, and then they may consider using me as a stylist one day. Once you have a few images of your own and some images from where you've been assisting you can start pitching yourself as a stylist to small brands and companies.
I say small because it logically makes sense to start here - they will be more open to having new stylists in, especially if you will do it for free or for an affordable fee. They may not have worked with a stylist before, and the same as what I said about networking applies here. That small brand you start out styling for now could be the coolest interiors shop or magazine in a few years. People can get big really fast, and if you've been there from the start then you'll be in good line to get that work. Look for people who have a product that fits within your signature style (if you don't know what that is then work on it), so that not only will u have the bigger name stuff from where you've been assisting but also have some cool more indie stuff that really showcases where you want to go with your styling work in the future.
I hope that's been useful to you. I think this will help you if you're not sure where to start. if you have any more questions please feel free to leave a comment below and I'll come back to you!
P.S If you'd like more tips then check out my video with 5 things that all great interior stylists have in common.