If you have creative flair, thrive under pressure and like to keep up with the latest trends, a career as a stylist could be for you

Following a design brief, stylists use their creative skills to produce visually appealing displays, photo shoots or outfits. This is a fast-changing, highly-pressurised role that would suit someone that thrives on being busy, solving problems, collaborating with others and being creative.

Communication is key as you'll need to work with a variety of people and agencies to get the job done on time and to a consistently high standard.

Types of stylist

There are different types of stylist, each performing a vital role in the positive communication and promotion of a person, product or environment.

Stylists could work in any of the following areas:

  • personal styling
  • e-commerce/online styling
  • photographic styling
  • catwalk styling
  • still life styling
  • product styling
  • blogging/social media.

Responsibilities

As a stylist, you'll need to:

  • work on both still life and model shoots
  • assist on set during shoots including steaming, pinning and fitting clothes or products
  • accurately follow styling guidelines
  • work collaboratively with models, photographers, studio coordinators, content managers, producers and creative directors
  • develop strong, up-to-date knowledge of designers, brands and trends
  • achieve daily and weekly targets and deadlines
  • ensure sets, mannequins, styling props and shoot areas are well maintained and tidy
  • be capable of working on ad-hoc projects while maintaining your core job role
  • ensure sample stock is not mishandled
  • provide expert knowledge on products and styling ensembles
  • confidently merchandise products
  • communicate workflow and discuss any issues with the senior stylist
  • source and obtain clothes, products and accessories for use in shoots
  • direct make-up and hair
  • create mood boards
  • source and cast models.

Salary

  • Employed junior stylists can expect to earn in the region of £18,000 to £20,000.
  • Senior stylists earn higher salaries of between £23,000 and £30,000.
  • Being a freelancer is very common and you will therefore be paid either a daily or hourly rate. An assistant stylist can earn anything from £50 to £150 per day. If paid hourly, it can be in the region of £7.70 to £8.20 per hour.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Employed stylists usually work between the hours of 9am and 6pm. During seasonal peaks, and to meet deadlines, additional hours may be required. Part-time work is also possible.

As a freelancer, your hours will be more varied and therefore greater flexibility is required.

What to expect

  • Most of the time you will be studio based but you may also spend time on location or travelling. Some of your working week may be spent at home or in the office.
  • You'll be expected to demonstrate your own style and creative flair through your attire, as well as by paying attention to personal grooming.
  • With the growth in e-commerce, an increasing number of stylist roles require those with experience and knowledge of social media and online retailing.
  • The majority of opportunities can be found in London and the South East with retailers and studios across the country.

Qualifications

Academic qualifications are not as important as creative and practical skills. It's possible to become a stylist without a degree or HND.

However, some employers will require applicants to have studied towards a relevant qualification.

Several colleges and universities have a variety of two-year foundation degrees as well as three-year Bachelor programmes in subjects such as:

  • fashion communication and styling
  • fashion image making and styling
  • fashion product and promotion
  • fashion styling and creative direction
  • fashion styling and production
  • interior styling and design.

Other acceptable and relevant subjects include art, photography and visual merchandising.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • an eye for visual composition and proportion
  • commercial awareness including a good knowledge of designers, brands and trends
  • the ability to meet deadlines
  • an excellent work ethic and can-do attitude
  • an exceptional eye for detail
  • a positive, proactive and assertive approach
  • initiative, idea generation and problem-solving skills
  • strong communication skills
  • the ability to work both autonomously and collaboratively in a team
  • competent numerical skills
  • organisation, time-management and project-management skills
  • the ability to multitask
  • general knowledge of photography and lighting
  • the ability to deliver exceptional customer service
  • experience of using social media
  • IT literacy including the ability to use InDesign, Photoshop, Capture One and Microsoft
  • flair and individuality.

Work experience

Competition for styling opportunities is fierce so relevant experience is essential. Many employers will require at least one or two years' experience in a retail or studio environment. Experience of styling products, merchandise and interiors at fashion shoots or personal styling is highly desirable. This experience could be gained during placements and internships or through a part or full-time job.

Get involved with student magazines, fashion shoots and films and start your own style blog. Building a strong network is important as stylists will need to contact public relations agents and brand showrooms to lend them clothes, products or accessories for a shoot. Employers will be keen to see examples of your work via a portfolio, uploaded images or website.

Internships provide you with valuable experience, networking opportunities and possibly offers of employment. The fashion industry used to be renowned for offering unpaid internships, but this has changed dramatically in recent years and unpaid opportunities are now unusual. Most interns are being paid at least the national minimum wage. The majority of internships last between one and three months, although some can take six months to a year to complete.

Employers

There is a strong demand for stylists within image production teams, large retailers, the fashion and music industry, magazines and PR events.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

The main route for progression within this industry is through increased experience, knowledge and reputation. There are some professional courses available to further enhance your skills, or to help you specialise or broaden your skill base. Some of these are offered by the Fashion Retail Academy.

A small number of Graduate Diploma and Masters courses are offered by universities across the country, in subjects such as fashion media styling and creative direction.

Career prospects

As a freelancer, you'll need to ensure that you are always on the lookout for the next opportunity. Maintain good relationships with editors, producers, photographers and directors. Be proactive and seek out opportunities rather than waiting for the phone to ring.

Most stylists start as an assistant stylist or shoot coordinator and, with several years' experience gain promotion to a senior stylist position.

Once you have built up a good reputation you may choose to set up your own business or consultancy.

You may also like to consider jobs in:

  • brand development
  • image consultancy
  • trend forecasting
  • writing and editing.