WORKING IN FASHION
Working in Fashion
Alice's Top 5 Tips
July 22, 2011 by Alice Keith, of The Advocates
To start, I just want to say that I'm not writing this because I consider myself a success in the fashion industry. While I am quite possibly a failure at being fashionable, I am not actually in the fashion industry right now, and arguably never did "work" in fashion (see #5).
So what qualifies me to write about this industry? I would describe myself as a formerly aspiring fashion photographer, a part-time video marketing entrepreneur with some retail clients (in The Advocates), and a full-time advertising Producer (read: my beloved day job). I was inspired to write about my experiences in fashion because I was recently asked for advice by a university student on breaking in to the industry. In the process, I realized how much I know and how tough it is to know where to start. I offered this aspiring young stylist, who identified her career goal as becoming the next Grace Coddington (Vogue's Creative Director), as much realistic but hopefully helpful advice as I could. Having met with her, I wish to do the same for you, dear reader!
Although my examples come from my fashion experience in Toronto, they are aimed at aspiring creative freelance professionals everywhere — photographers, stylists, make-up artists — and hopefully will be useful to you no matter where you plan to offer your creative talents.
Tip #1. Go For Gisele And The Point-and-Shoot
I heard this once, and it really stuck with me as a way to sum up the importance of models: if forced to choose between the BEST photography equipment available, but photographing an unexceptional model, vs. a dollar store point-and-shoot camera, and having Gisele as your model – go for Gisele.
Gisele Bündchen, by Mario Testino for Vanity Fair
OK, look at the above photo. Now imagine a friend standing over this city vista instead of Gisele. I don't know about you, but I'm picturing something like a tourist snap.
While photography technique is still important (see Tip #4), don't forget this: no technique can make a photo "fashion" for you. By contrast, a good model who moves well can make it fashion for you, just about all by her damn little smokin-hot-Brazilian-self. Mario Testino is known for low-fi photography, so I don't think there's any fancy technique being overlooked in the above photo.
So what does this mean to you, dear aspiring creative freelancer? Make sure you're building your book with real models AS SOON AS YOU CAN.
Most of you will probably have to get started by networking with non-professionals like yourself (stylists, make-up artists and girls who want pictures taken of themselves) to get a few creatives under your belt. But don't get stuck in the Model Mayhem vortex of thinking you're not good enough to move on, or that there's "not really that big a difference between these girls and agency models anyways." Is that your fear talking?
As soon as you feel you might have a shot, go to the modelling agencies and show them what you've got. Keep visiting a few agencies every 6 months until you get a "Yes" to using their models. Once one says yes, the rest of the agencies will start to say yes. Once they say yes – throw out all your old pictures and start building a real book. (On that note, don't invest $$ into your pre-agency model photo shoots, e.g. on locations.)
A caveat: though a model makes a shot, fashion is ultimately about selling clothes. So for photographers, although maybe photographing people is the most interesting part for us, best remember to practice making clothes look good from the beginning (well lit, flattering to the model, showing texture, showing the movement – pay attention to all that stuff).
Tip #2. Make Sure Your Work Has That Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi"