Fashion’s Leading Stylists Weigh In On What They’ve Been Up To In Lockdown and How the Industry Will Evolve Next
As part of our ongoing series examining how our favorite creatives have been keeping themselves occupied whilst self-isolating, we turn the focus on stylists. Recognizing how much harder it is for a stylist to work in lockdown (their role often necessitating direct contact with models – having almost been cut out of the equation as brands and magazines work direct with photographers without the need for styling), we were particularly interested to hear what they had been working on and how they saw their work – and the industry as a whole – adapting as restrictions are relaxed and we start to ease back from social distancing…
‘In the beginning of the lockdown, I was just catching up with a lot of sleep, coming out of the A/W 2020 show season for men and women,’ says the influential Belgian stylist (Prada, Prada Men, Maison Margiela Artisanal & RTW, and Coach). ‘Obviously I missed my family and friends, hoping everyone was (and will stay) safe. We all travel so much in fashion, and are away from home so often, that it was strange and beautiful to witness the full change of the season, seeing the trees bloom day by day – I haven’t really lived that so vividly for years.’
Willy Vanderperre and I did a project from home to support the graduating Masters students from the Fashion Academy in Antwerp, which will be launched in early June. We are very happy to be able to support young talent and creativity: they are the future of our industry, and it was great that we were able to count on the spontaneous support of our friends in fashion for this. We also did some editorial shoots at home – just the two of us – no models involved, more abstract, fun.’
How does he think the industry will emerge from lockdown?
One day at a time I think… testing what we can still do and what not. And maintaining the goal: to create “the dream”; to inspire.
– Olivier Rizzo
Mark Anthony Bradley
‘Funnily enough I seem to keep myself just as occupied as I was prior to the lockdown, in the sense that I can take advantage of catching up with the normal, every day chores and activities that I would normally neglect,’ says the legendarily dapper British menswear stylist Mark Anthony, who has been busying himself researching ‘historical costume and film material that may further inspire me to collate imagery in readiness for when I can feasibly return to styling for a living!’
To keep his creative juices flowing, he has devised weekly assignments involving styling and photography – as evidenced by his Instagram account.
‘Recently I’ve given life to a character called Norm – a homemade dummy that serves as an alternative to a model and sports a variety of outfits that I style from my own wardrobe and then photograph. The refreshing thing about Norm is that he never complains about what I style him in, unlike other models…
As I’m running out of wardrobe looks, I’ve slightly diverted into honing my montage skills, fusing some of my styling and photographic archives. The end game is to stay productive and engage in as much home-based creativity as possible…
Obviously we are experiencing a current crisis within our industry and there has to be a degree of re-evaluation and feasibility in which we can safely operate. In times like this, we have to remain strong, and I believe the fashion industry will emerge better educated and resolute in our will to survive, with the progression of sustainable fashion at the forefront.
Personally I believe it’s never going to be quite the same again, and we may have to concentrate on working with seasonless collections to minimise risk and spending within the industry. That said, we have devoted our lives to this profession and we will adapt and collaborate in order to create the safest anti-viral working environment we possibly can. Radical changes need to be embraced and fresh creative innovation is foremost in my mind.’
– Mark Anthony Bradley
‘Life in lockdown for me has been in two distinct halves,’ says the British stylist, fashion editor and consultant, whose CV includes styling Madonna and Michael Jackson, working for Prada and Versace and acting as Fashion Editor for Arena Homme Plus and GQ Style. ‘For the first few weeks when things were tighter and the sun brighter, l gave the garden as much undivided attention as it has ever had, l re-read Schama’s ‘The American Future’ on my shed roof, recalling how much of a pioneer l felt moving to Hackney all those years ago.
When the rains came l found myself longing for some sense of purpose, so I set about moving my archive of books, magazines, clothes, shoes, accessories – the detritus of a life in and around fashion – cataloguing along the way, and decanting what of it all l wish to keep into a smaller studio space. All in all and alone, a mammoth, often cathartic process, but one l’ve been thankful for. This is the only project I’ve been focused on recently, but I’ve been trying to make it one of imagination, creativity and hope for the future.
Will our industry change? Absolutely. How? I’ve not much idea of that – but that will of course depend on how we all as individuals feel on the other side of all this. I’m optimistic though, of better things to come.
– David Bradshaw
I’ll be selling a lot of my old stuff on eBay – my own private “new normal”, until the stifling dust storm of Covid-19 settles enough for a future – my “California” – to emerge.’
‘I am watching documentaries, films, listening to podcasts, doing research, browsing through social media, signing various petitions, sending emails and making phonecalls to fight various topics like the war on black people, climate change, the trade in illegal wildlife, housing for people – to name a few,’ says the Martinique-born, NYC-based stylist and founder / editor-in-chief of Ubikwist magazine.
In between ‘brainstorming, finding new ideas and concepts for the next issue’, she has turned her mind to how the industry can best face up to the new landscape…‘Reset everything,’ she suggests. ‘Take time to rethink everything and find ways to be more creative and sustainable. It will be great if all those big corporations start helping the young designers/creatives who are struggling.’
And what does she think the effect will be on her role personally?
I don’t think the effect will be different from my original purpose of being sustainable, having integrity, being kind, compassionate, and having empathy for what’s going on in general
– Giannie Couji
‘As the founder of Ubikwist, my mission has always been about celebrating diversity, inclusivity – to be an authentic source with a progressive vision. As a fashion stylist, I will have to find a new way to work; some questions will have to be answered: for instance will it be still possible to use samples from brands – how do we know it’s safe to use those samples? Have they been sent to the dry cleaners in between each set of returns? If I am going to buy clothes for my clients, I’m not sure if will be possible to return some of the items that they didn’t select to the stores: I will have to show to the client that it’s safe to work with me and vice versa…’
‘I was due to fly to Milan to shoot a campaign with one of my clients, but that was cancelled as Italy went into lockdown. Then I was scheduled to go to LA to see a client and meet with some publicists, but then the US went into lockdown,’ says Wales-based stylist Gareth Scourfield, who after senior fashion roles at GQ and Esquire UK now works freelance for clients including Golden Globe winners Taran Egerton (Rocketman) and Richard Madden (The Bodyguard).
With photoshoots postponed, he has been working on some designs for a potential collaboration with an accessories brand for SS21. ‘The process has been quite therapeutic, getting back into design and drawing – which I haven’t really done since graduating from art college. Sometimes we are all sat around drawing or painting or making (my wife is also an artist), so its been quite liberating to freely choose to pick up something again without the pressure of a deadline or particular brief.’ He is also launching a new venture, Scwair One (www.scwair1.com). ‘It’s about connecting creatives, a place to bounce ideas around, face challenges in real time. I think the Mentor Exchange programme within the site will be a really important space to share ideas with like-minded creatives, particularly now and post-pandemic.’
As for how he envisages the post-pandemic world, Scourfield is circumspect but hopeful. ‘Naturally, for a stylist, we have to work in close proximity to a team on set, so we are going to have to adopt new practices of working. Collectively figuring out what that looks like will be a bit of trial and error.’
None of us has ever faced a challenge like this before in our workplace. I think brands, magazines, production houses will all have their own codes of conduct, but hygiene and limiting numbers on shoots will be the first priority when we get up and running again. With less crew and equipment, we may see a new creative style develop as we ease back into work, images that are more emotive, have a sense of realness to them. They certainly need to represent the times we are living through. Although the flip side of course is our need for a sense of optimism and escapism. As an optimist, I think we will see inspiring approaches to work. I think we need to be kinder to each other – and be more collaborative. Being adaptive, learning new skills, and how we interact with each other, with a more open and honest approach, must surely be a positive way forward.
– Gareth Scourfield
While I can ‘style’ a shoot remotely via online lookbooks or websites, it’s not the same as being physically up close to the clothes and accessories… Right now, I’m not even sure what season I’ll be working with. The industry will still need to produce new images for content, arguably even more so as we all shift to looking online more. Styling for online audience will continue and those brands that don’t already have an online presence will certainly need one if they are going to stand a chance of surviving this pandemic. So they will all need to shoot product. I see more online content for sure, more creative story telling for brands, rather than just a very straightforward e-com site. If these smaller craft led brands stay true to their ethos of being more sustainable, more responsible, providing personal customer service, then they should come out of this pandemic with an even stronger voice and message.’
‘I work with two amazing menswear designers, JordanLuca (Jordan Bowen and Luca Marchetto), who would normally show in June during LCM,’ says Davis, the former fashion director of Arena and Arena Homme Plus and creative consultant on the relaunched edition of The Face magazine. ‘We have talked a lot about the collection and ways in which to show – while doing fittings on stockman dummies over zoom.
This is the reset button the fashion industry needed. We have all realised that traveling around the world to watch fashion shows or shoot campaigns is so dated and not cost effective. I hope that everything becomes more localised and the industry looks at the facilities and talent of locally: models, locations, hair and make up and crew.
With Brexit looming, it was going to be a nightmare shooting in Europe anyway – tracking samples from other countries and paying import duties on everything, special visas for models and talent. If I’m on a shoot with one groomer, one director, one model and maybe a lighting technician with no assistants, then that’s the way it has to be. Maybe with the client on Zoom watching.
I also like how whole crews have been tested and are all isolating together – like what recently happened with the crew for the new Mission Impossible film. They have been filming all through lockdown: no-one from the outside comes in.
How will my role change? I have often felt on shoots that I’ve come up with the concept, found the location, sourced the clothes, decided on grooming, even art directed the shoot. Changed the lighting! I think a lot of stylists do everything except push the button. Maybe I should learn the skills needed for taking the picture and lighting and I’ll become a one-man band!’