What’s in the name or the many faces of a Stylist.
Updated: Oct 3, 2019
Remember how ten years ago only celebrities could afford working with a personal trainer or order diet appropriate meals to their homes? Reality is this: helping someone achieve their professional or private goals through the way they dress (i.e. personal style) is becoming more and more common practice. Technology contributes to this development too: if you cannot see your Stylist in person, you can get your appointment
online, through a phone app, on Facetime or Skype.
Hiring a stylist is getting as commonplace as going to get a manicure at the place on the corner – and it will only grow from now on.
“Do you know how many people are dying to do what you do for a living?” is the question I get almost every day. Yes, the profession of a personal stylist is becoming more and more popular. So is the chance of scam, unprofessionalism and confusion Because virtually anyone can wake up in the morning and decide to call themselves a Stylist. We hope that this article will help you distinguish between all the “Stylist” types out there and choose the one right for your needs.
The term “Stylist”
There are many ways people call my job: “personal shopper”, “image consultant”, “style advisor”, “fashion stylist”, “personal stylist” and a mix and match of the above. I usually do not correct anyone, but some navigation in this area could be useful.
Image consultant is a very broad profession where people with very public careers, like politicians and celebrities, hire image consultants who work with a team to help shape the public perception of them. Often image consultants are trained in the area of etiquette, public speaking, media training and other areas of visual communication. However, not all image consultants specialise or are required to have training in any of these areas. Image consultant is a broad term that can have many different meanings.
Personal shoppers are also different from Stylists. Personal shoppers usually focus solely on the shopping aspect of a client’s needs. They usually do not do at home appointments, closet edits or anything beyond helping a client to shop. This is only a fraction of what a stylist can do for you. Personal shoppers can either work for a store or independently. They also can be hired for things beyond fashion, like shopping for gifts.
Style consultant is another tricky term, simply because many retailers have started calling their sales associates style consultants. This name does us no good because usually Sales associates are not trained beyond doing typical sales associate things (no matter how the retailer is trying to persuade you otherwise). The issue with store personnel, irrespective of how well they are trained, is that they seldom stay long with one company, as this is one of the most demanding and yet financially unrewarding jobs in fashion. Everyone who ever worked for a retailer knows about certain product that needed to be “pushed” and how store personnel gets trained to push those.
Stylist is also a tricky term, as there are many different types. There are editorial stylists, celebrity stylists and personal stylists. And oh boy, there is some confusion for general audience in here.
Fashion stylists or editorial stylist would primarily style photoshoots for magazines and ad campaigns. Their primary aim is to sell the product, and they are not necessarily well trained on making a person look best in their clothes. They are the people responsible for those often “weird” and unrealistic looks you will find in fashion magazines. In my opinion, they are rather artists, than down-to-earth realistic analysts of your everyday wardrobe needs.
Celebrity styling would include not only “off-duty” looks (still “cosmic” for most of us) but also red carpet styling, photoshoots, commercials etc – things most people do not come across in their lives. So do not be impressed by a celebrity stylist because he is excellent in red-carpet looks. The chance is big that they are less comfortable with sorting out your business or mommy wardrobes.
And then there were fashion bloggers. I am risking of getting beaten to death for saying this: bloggers are not stylists. As a rule, they are creators of online content. Beautiful content, sometimes, sure. But their experience comes from dressing themselves. They have not spent hours dressing various body shapes, for various occasions, for various lifestyles. Their aim is to attract attention, in better cases, provide some inspiration, sell product (sorry) and to express themselves. I am amazed how often people forget about these fundamentals of blogging.
Some stylists/bloggers claim to be able to do it all: from fashion magazines, to celebrities and wardrobe organisations. Personally, I am a bit wary of these types. I would prefer to have someone focused on one area and who has become a master of the trade there. These people usually know the market better and understand client’s needs better. Ideally, you would have a separate professional for fashion styling (magazines and campaigns), celebrity styling (tv and red carpets) and personal styling (colours, body shapes, wardrobe edits and shopping) – leaving bloggers to the production of inspiring content.
I often compare personal stylists to translators. Just because you know how to speak another language, does not mean you are able to translate poetry. No publisher will ever hire you to do so. Same here: just because you have good taste does not mean you are qualified to dress others, or will be good at doing so. And the other way around: just because you know which jeans to buy for an hourglass body type will not guarantee you will be able to style those for Vogue.