Fashion stylist – a dream job for many of us – girls (maybe for some guys out there as well). It seems to be the most desired job at the moment, but do we actually know what a stylist does? I heard many amusing opinions including that her/his main responsibility is to carry a bunch of free clothes she/he is constantly receiving and hopping from one fashion party to another. Obviously people who formulate such phrases, do not have a clue what this job is all about. Hence, let me help you to understand this profession a bit better.
Let’s go back to 2008, when I bought the first issue of InStyle Magazine – Polish edition. It was like a breath of a fresh air – finally some magazine in which I could find all the tips and hints about the latest trends, or how to put together some cool outfits. Everything nicely categorized by age or budget. No useless gossips or teenage articles about broken hearts etc. Extensive bazaar pages – that was something I was looking for a long time! When I browsed through few InStyle pages, I had a feeling that all fashion stylists working there were sort of artists and the proposed outfits were something like a ‘fashion art’. Seemingly, unmatched clothes created a wonderful ensemble.
Few years since my first contact with this magazine, I am sitting in a cute French cafe in the center of Budapest with Tekla Tankó, an ultra-stylish and breezy fashion market editor from InStyle magazine – Hungarian edition and her cute (also very stylish) French bulldog. All those questions which kept popping in my head through years could finally be released.
The Spoiled Queen: How did you become a professional fashion stylist?
It started 10 years ago when I moved to Milan as a model and I got to know many photographers and industry insiders. I started to help as a stylist assistant once in a while than had the opportunity to style some catalogues, etc. Then I moved to Budapest and decided to drop it for a while, proceeding with my university studies. After graduating I also studied at KREA, a school for fashion and arts. Right after my first semester, I’ve got the opportunity to work as a fashion stylist assistant at InStyle magazine. It’s already been 3 years since I started to work there. Step by step, putting all my passion, time and effort into my work I became a senior stylist and now I am the fashion market editor for InStyle Magazine Hungary.
The Spoiled Queen: How does the preparation for a photo shooting for InStyle magazine look like?
It all depends on the type/theme of the shooting we are planning to organize. There are two main types of shootings we usually do. There is the editorial, which may be either a cover +cover story with an in-depth interview, or a fashion story, as we call it, which doesn’t include a cover. And then there is the “spotlight” story, which usually consists of only two pages and a smaller interview. The most important policy of InStyle magazine worldwide, that applies to any type of editorial is that we only shoot with stars. And being a Hungarian publication, mostly Hungarian.
After we decide who we want to shoot, the brainstorming sessions take place where we create mood boards by picking up some inspiration from “Tumblr” or “fashion gone rough” or from the works of well-known photographers. Basically we search the archives to find the inspiration to create something new and unique. Of course it has to fit to the personality of the featured star (actress, singer, etc.). Than we check the collections of Hungarian designers as we love to work with them and try to find outfits which could best describe our theme and story. We send emails to designers with particular pictures and request those looks. We need to pick up those clothes right after. When it comes to cover and cover story shootings we work with high-end designers and their showrooms, but the process of requesting clothes is the same as with the local designers. Except that we receive the requested samples directly in the office. These are pieces that are created to travel the world and be shot for fashion stories in every possible publication, from Vogue Paris to InStyle Hungary.
Then there are the bazaar pages where we show the trending pieces, organized by themes as the most “IT” color, material or the best skirts, trousers, trench-coats you can find, etc. In these pages we focus more on fast-fashion brands, like F&F or H&M, to prove to our readers: style is never a question of income.
“This is the “Editorial wall” at the last day of the issue closure. It’s the best way to get an overall look of the issue.”
The Spoiled Queen: Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
I love to browse the fashion websites, such as style.com where you can check the latest trends, or whowhatwear, but I’m also a huge fan of tumblr (I collect my inspiration at frenchbystyle.tumblr.com). I love to buy magazines, mainly the international publications as Numero or CR Fashionbook, I’m a true collector, organizing the issues by release date, although there are a few issues I missed. But at the end one’s work is always a mix between trends and personal style. And of course in a fashion magazine the focus is on showing a trend in the most affordable and stylish manner
The Spoiled Queen: Let’s talk a little bit about Hungarian fashion – do you happen to use outfits in the photo shoot advised by some local Hungarian designers?
As I mentioned before, we love to use Hungarian designers. We believe in the joint power of the industry. Hungary is a very small country, therefore the fashion sphere is even smaller. We need to support and help each other in order to grow and be recognized in the fashion world.
The collaboration usually starts with the designers sending us an email with their look books or an invitation to their fashion shows, presentations. There are a few designers that are already well known, and we tend to work with their clothes from issue to issue, and then there are the new faces that always bring some sparkle to the industry. Sometimes they send us an introductory email about their brands, but most of them are still too shy (or lazy?) to reach out to a magazine, so it’s our work to look them up and be up-to-date with the new talents. We choose the outfits with quality and interesting designs. But then it’s not only about talent. We have to be sure that the brand we start to work with is professional enough to work with a magazine. By this I mean that they have the collections ready in time, which means at least 5-6 month before the season, as the magazine always work at least two month in advance. For example we worked on our September issue from the end of June till the end of July, and now we are already finishing the October issue, although it’s only the end of August. But of course by time and experience this process becomes natural for any designer who is serious about his or her work.
The Spoiled Queen: What is your opinion about Hungarian look books? Do you see them as a professional piece of work? How about the campaigns?
The bigger names in Hungary really have good look books, but of course they also have more money and investors to work with good photographers in the best studios. On the other hand, sometimes you see incredibly original material from smaller brands, as they are forced to boost their creativity to compensate the lack of money. I see that nowadays the look-books are getting better in general. And you’ll never be disappointed in a “UsedUnused” or “Nanushka” campaign or look book.
The Spoiled Queen: Coming back to your work, do you cooperate with some local designers and help them to style their models for any particular campaign?
I am mostly working with InStyle magazine and it consumes most of my time because I also write for them. Although there are a few singers and actresses I work with as a personal stylist.
The Spoiled Queen: Do you have any private clients? If so what problems do they usually face?
It happened in the past that somebody called and asked me to be a personal shopper, but it’s not really my thing. I love the mood and buzz of fashion shootings, the work with the whole team –make-up artist, hairdresser, photographer, art director, etc. Personal shopping is a completely different job, with different aims and approach, such as building up a functioning wardrobe, starting with the most important basic pieces, than facing and dealing with body-image issues, and at the end teaching the person the art of being his/her best self every day. A personal stylist is a mix of a psychologist-dietician-interior designer-best friend-stylist, as are all stylists, but on contrary to my work, there isn’t a touchable end product as are the printed pages or pictures.
The Spoiled Queen: What was your most stressful situation during those 3 years of working for InStyle?
There have been a few. There is always the stress of the star having a bad day, or not liking the outfits you brought, but at the end, with routine, patience and 4 semesters of psychology there was never a situation we couldn’t resolve. Or there are the days before closing the issue when the office is like a beehive, everybody is stressed and running around, and you have to change a complete page or come up with a new, 5 page story. But I believe that this stress is a huge part of the reasons I love my job: it keeps me going and forces me to be better and better every day.
“Sticking the shoes before the shooting, so the sole doesn’t get ruined.”
The Spoiled Queen: What’s your favorite brand/s and how would you describe your personal style?
I really found myself in tom boy style. I love this junky, French, rock&roll, but still minimalist approach to dressing. It’s something that I mix – it depends how I feel on a particular day. I love to buy clothes from Nanushka –they have great sales!-, and I love Szegedi Kata and of course, Nubu. I am really glad that Nubu has ”Nude by Nubu” now that is more affordable, but still has the essence of the brand. Nowadays, I started to visit more second hand shops like Retrock or Ludovika. You can find amazing, unique clothes for a price of an H&M piece. I like my shoes and bags to be of high quality but then I also mix them with clothes from popular fashion apparel stores like Zara or COS. I also try not to buy too many clothes as I am finally aware of my style. I rather choose few pieces and wear them for long time.
I love this junky, French, rock&roll, but still minimalist approach to dressing.
The Spoiled Queen: Any tips on how to achieve a great look without spending a fortune?
It’s all about finding pieces which have quality and personality. I do shop in Zara, Mango or H&M but always try to avoid the pieces that are too popular, or too typical for a season. I believe in having a quality basic wardrobe and spicing it up with some really good finds with particular shape or interesting material. The most important thing is to find your own style, and then doesn’t be afraid to explore. I really hate when people focus only on brands: of course it’s nice to have a few designer clothes, but it’s usually my H&M or Zara piece that people ask for where it is from. Oh, and fitting. The fitting of a piece is the uttermost important. Nothing ruins more your look than something being too small or too big (and I do not mean the oversize). People should really let go of the importance of a size ticket: you may say that you are size 36 but does it really worth it looking ridiculous? No.
The Spoiled Queen: Plans for future
I would like to shoot more. It has only been 3 years that I am working as a stylist in Hungary, so I still feel the need to learn and experience. And I would like to travel more for work and pleasure as well. In my opinion nothing gives you more inspiration than getting to know different cultures. And I really plan to become the Editor-in-Chief for Vogue Hungary! 😉 But it’s a 20 year-plan, so no pressure yet.
There would be some key takeaways from this comprehensive conversation.
First and foremost, find your own style. Think what type of clothes you like to wear the most. What are your favorite colors or patterns?
Second of all, you should really try to avoid copying the same look which has been presented on the mannequin. You don’t want to look like half of the city? Do you? And of course my favorite suggestion – if your size is 42 it means its 42 not 36! I know that most of us, especially women want to be deluded that small size make us look skinnier and sexier but if you really wish to get this type of body and the DREAM size – start working out to have a healthy lifestyle!
I think this interview would allow you to have a deeper understanding of a fashion stylist’s role – which, as we can see, is a really important and a complex one. A good fit and interesting clothes can totally change our look. Sometimes it’s a bigger task but in many cases, just a few, small tricks can boost your body confidence and give you additional strength.