Before I started working in the fashion industry (nearly 10 years ago), the term “stylist” didn’t mean anything to me. A few years into my career as a fashion journalist, I realized the term “stylist” was a bit of a mystery to most people.
I found myself declining styling opportunities, confused as to why writing about the fashion industry lead people to believe I had the skill and know-how to dress someone well. Hiring stylists for Poppy Barley’s photo shoots over the last 3.5 years has proven to me that styling–successfully–is no easy career path.
Talia Brown has been working as a personal and celebrity stylist for over a decade. From magazine editorials and online projects (she styled LOULOU’s #366DaysOfLooks with Jessica Mulroney) to ad campaigns, TV shows and the TIFF red carpet, her portfolio of work has touched many facets of the Canadian fashion industry (check out her work on Behance; “It’s not even up to date!” Talia tells us) and it’s not slowing down.
Here, Talia gets real about what it means to be a stylist, how to become one, and what it takes to make it in the Canadian fashion industry.
Talia On: Pursuing a Not-so-Typical Career Path
I’m doing exactly what I said I was going to do the first day of kindergarten. When everybody said they wanted to be a police officer, a teacher, a firefighter, I wanted to play with life-sized barbie dolls. My parents never told me I couldn’t, they told me I could do whatever my heart desires. I had a lot of people saying, you should think more realistically, think about a real career and how you’re going to get there. And I just kind of knew. Fashion was always what I was most passionate about, even at a young age. I didn’t want to wear polyester, I wanted to wear specific shoes with my tights and my tights needed to match my dresses, I needed a headband. The more I grew into myself, I realized that if this is what I wanted, I’d just have to make it work.
Talia On: Getting “Inside” the Fashion Industry
I actually studied Art History and English in university. I interned in California at Marni. I worked at the Gap in university. My first job out of university was at a Holt Renfrew where I worked on the sales floor, so I really gripped onto any aspect of fashion I could. And I really always loved the fabrics. Working at Holt Renfrew really showed me the difference between luxury and fast fashion. I feel like I just fell in love with silks and cottons and cashmeres, just the way things sat and the way things were cut. As a stylist I get to be creative. I mean, not every job is creative; sometimes it’s styling business attire, but other times its using ball gowns and jewellery. It’s always different, I get to work with a ton of people that are passionate about what they do.
Talia On: Making It Work
A typical day for me definitely means being up before 7am, on set anywhere between 8 or 9am. Your car is so packed you can barely see over the steering wheel. My trunk is full, my back seat is full. I typically have someone helping me because it’s a lot for one person. You take in all the clothes, you get it ready when the model is in hair or makeup, and then when she’s out, you’re basically steaming or getting right to work styling. And then at the end of the day you have to repack it and hope to dear God it all fits back in the car.
The days that I’m not on set, I’m typically pulling clothes or returning clothes. You really get to know the people at all the stores on a personal level during that time. They know who you are and they know what you’re working on. I also think it’s pretty inspiring to be able to talk to people at the store level, because a lot of them really know what they’re doing, and they know they’re top sellers, and they push certain things your way. I always find that really interesting going into stores and talking to sales staff.
I love celebrity work because they have personality and they know what they like. But editorial is where you really get to be creative. I mean, with models, they love what they wear, but you literally can have a vision that’s so far out there and you can create this magical piece to make it work. So that’s the most fun.
Talia On: Returning All those Clothes You Just Pulled
It’s so much part of the creative process. It’s got it’s moments when I’m like, I really just wish somebody else could take all of these clothes and bring them back to where they need to go. But that’s where I get my research for the next thing that I’m working on. It’s being there, seeing something I might not have yet used, but grabbed my attention. It’s all about being as creative as you can and being inspired by whatever you can, even the tedious things.
Talia On: Networking
I do try to get out with brands that inspire me as much as possible, because you create a better bond with them. They know what you’re working on, who you’re working with, and I just think that it’s good to stay relevant, and knowing what’s coming out before it’s coming out. And also mingling with the bloggers, and the writers, and the editors, because really that’s the way you find new work. I think everything in life is really about socializing, and networking, and your interpersonal skills. I think, in the freelance world, nothing is more important than interpersonal skills.
Talia On: The Realities of Working as a Freelancer
I could work all the time. There are times when I look at my calendar and it’s like, wow, I have not taken a day off in so long. There’s also times where it’s like – oh my God, am I going to be hired again?! It’s been a few weeks! But now, when I do have downtime, I look at it as a blessing where I can get caught up on other things. It’s hard, when you have time, you want spend it with your friends or your family, or get out of the city for a few days. That’s the thing about being freelance; it’s about finding time to refuel your energy and be re-motivated. Things change so fast, and being relevant in every which way, it’s so important to take that time.
Talia On: Staying Up to Date With Trends
I’m very much a hands-on person. I actually love reading FASHION, Flare, all the British magazines. I’ll flip through magazines that aren’t in English–they’re in Spanish, from China or Korea, I’m really driven by pictures themselves, and going to the stores. I like everything being tangible. I do seldom go online, but I prefer having the copies in my hand because my computer doesn’t even work!
Talia On: Personal Styling Clients
Every client is so different. I always suggest doing a purge of their closet before we even go shopping so that I know what the gaps are, and knowing the things that don’t fit them. I don’t always make them get rid of those, because some people do fluctuate a few sizes here and there, but at least box them so that in your closet it’s only things you’re going to wear right now. I also really like the idea of doing a seasonal closet, if you can; I mean, not everyone has the space. I live in a condo, so that’s not the way my life goes. But I think it’s really nice to make it a space that really only has the things you’re going to wear.
Talia On: Knowing When To Hire A Stylist
I think people should hire a stylist when they feel like they’re in a rut. A lot of people have really great pieces, but they just don’t know how to mix and match, or they wear the same thing over and over again. They’ll mix all the pieces together in the exact same way. They’ll wear the same pants, the same shirt, the same scarf with the same belt. Sometimes it’s just having an eye there that sees how you can mix this, and this, and this. I also think when people change lifestyles, like their career, or they just had a baby and got their body back to where they want it, or someone who really wants a promotion, because sometimes dressing the part really does take you to the next level. With clothing, it really does build a lot of confidence. The more confident you are as a person, the more things come your way. People love confidence. Confidence breeds confidence.
Talia On: Choosing The Heeled Mule as her S/S ’16 Poppy Barley Shoes
What I liked about the mule is it had a little bit of height to it, and it can just slide on. As a stylist, I have to be able to slip my shoes on and off all the time, so I can walk on set barefoot. That’s what I liked about it. I can slip it off, but not worry about my feet. Also, I loved the leopard print, I just thought it was fun, because I tend to wear a lot of monochromatic looks, and a lot of black, and a lot of grey. I just kind of thought it’d match with everything and always have a little pop. They’re so fun.
Talia On: Fashion Industry Dress Codes
It’s a little bit edgy; we don’t want it to be basic, but at the same time we want it to be comfortable. For the summer, I am all about slides and sundresses. I’ll either throw on some sort of wrap or a trench coat or a leather coat or a denim coat, just really simple. I’m into layers, because in the morning and night it could be chilly and then in the middle of the day it’s boiling hot.
Talia On: Giving Advice to Aspiring Stylists
Be motivated and driven, and don’t let anybody hold you back. Just go for it. I think the best way to learn is under somebody. I think mentors are really the best way to get anywhere. I didn’t start off assisting, and I’m happy I didn’t, but at the same time, who knows where I’d be if I did? But I did let people mentor me. I would ask people a thousand questions, anybody that would talk to me or I was inspired by. Most people are so kind and so gracious, and they’re not annoyed at all. If anything, I think they find it flattering. They’re more than happy to talk to you and give you a buy-in.