by Wilfred Okiche
So what exactly do fashion stylists do? In these times when it seems like everyone and your friend’s sister is a stylist, we caught up with pioneer, uber-stylist and Editor-in-Chief of StyleMania, Dimeji Alara, and he puts us in the know.
What exactly does it mean to be a stylist?
Being a stylist entails different things; it has various aspects that different people focus on. We have the wardrobe stylists who are more like fashion consultants; advising people on what to wear, more like personal consultants. They shop for clients, advice them what or what not to buy. Then you have stylists who are more focused on the creative side; who specialise in editorials, bring ideas to life and even do TV shows. That is where I fall into, the editorials.
How much work exactly is involved?
It is a lot of work depending on what aspect you find yourself. It is not all glamour; you take meetings, source for materials. A lot of hard work is involved.
How long have you been styling?
I started as a journalist until the fashion editor of the magazine I was working with left,so somehow I stepped into her shoes,;but of course I had studied fashion a while back. It all started for me in 2003.
Yes, I have been doing this for quite a while
Is there a process to qualifying as a stylist?
I would say that no knowledge is useless so if you have a passion for something, there is nothing wrong with trying to learn more professionally and going to school for it. But most important of all is the passion. You need to understand what you do completely, that it is not necessarily about being a fashionable person; you need to be creative , open-minded, very particular about detail. You need to always notice those little things that people take for granted.
“She is 70 and has been styling Vogue now for 40 years; 20 years at British Vogue and 20 years at American Vogue and in all that time, she has always brought out the most creative and fantastic shoots. She is a genius.
Is there a problem with everyone wanting to be a stylist?
When people say everybody wants to be a stylist, or actor or musician, I smile because I see things quite differently. I try to look more on the positive side of things. It is not a bad thing that everybody wants to be a stylist, in fact, I think it is a great thing. It portends well for the industry, shows that the industry is growing; so if you have more and more young people wanting in and coming in to make a living for themselves, then I think they should be encouraged.
Who are your style influences?
I am highly influenced by Grace Coddington, the creative director of Vogue. She has been around forever and she is such an inspiration. She is 70 and has been styling Vogue now for 40 years; 20 years at British Vogue and 20 years at American Vogue and in all that time, she has always brought out the most creative and fantastic shoots. She is a genius.
So what part of your job do you find tedious?
That would be sourcing. Sourcing is the process of going around, looking for materials and props, searching for the clothes, fabrics and accessories you need. It tends to take a toll on me and is the part I dread the most.
Stupid question: Who was the first famous person you ever styled?
*Thinks* I honestly cannot remember but there have been quite a number.
Who is the one person you are just dying to style?
Carla Bruni, wife of the French president, Nicholas Sarkozy.
Finally, so how lucrative is the styling business?
I can only speak for myself when I say it is very lucrative. I don’t know about my colleagues.