The actual work of fashion is work. If You Have To Cry Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone, every issue you can find of Vogue and W, Womens Wear Daily and anything Suzy Menkes has ever said or written are the minimum requirements. Beautiful technology to troll through You Tube and queue up years of fashion shows and interviews. Not often mentioned is the ability to be gracious and lovely on whispers of sleep and memories of food during fashion weeks and certain other times of the year. The dearth of sherpas is real and I defy every pretty pair of heels that has wavered stuck on a loose bit of a cobbled street bearing as many belongings as a small donkey to not have cried a little because she (and he) will probably never have one. Cried outside (thank you Kelly), of course; stopped immediately because of mascara issues (are they really waterproof, any of them?)
I'd loaned clothes to stylists and wardrobe people from my Sunset Plaza shop to be shot by Herb Ritts, Greg Gorman, Michael Childers, Helmut Newton and Davis Factor often very happily because I knew the clothes would come back when promised and in pristine condition. And much of the time someone at the shoot would fall in love with the clothes and just keep all of them (sending a nice fat check: clothes were not free back then.) Very few European designers had sample collections to loan and the stylists needed to have very, very good relationships with stores.
Melvin Sokolosky had done fashion photography since the '50's and so I signed up for his class in fashion photography at UCLA. He'd behaved very badly on a shoot to a friend of mine while another friend adores him. Two all day classes at UCLA and the following weekend a studio shoot. Maybe twenty people were there taking notes and asking fashion questions. Strange indeed to hear my classmates hunger for stories about models, designers and fashion editors. Suddenly he stopped talking and grabbed a roll of kraft paper: we were all to cover the windows letting the unrelenting sun in. The kraft papered let kisses of golden light pool and we grabbed cameras to shoot with that exquisite light. All the camera talk about settings were over: it was only about the light. That was the lesson. Magic of light: that was what mattered.
The model stood still while the makeup girl, stylist (ah, the stylist), several photographers assistants and the class stared at her. Off to makeup and then oh so carefully into a Yohji Yamamoto kimono dress: a two hour process. She emerged to a four hour shoot before breaking for lunch. The amount of do nothing, stand still just waiting, is unbearable for many and that's the way it is. Similar to the rush to get seated at a fashion show only to wait an hour or so. The same on set when an actor is done with his scene and yet not free to go: hello crafts table and red licorice.
If this had not been for a UCLA class, the stylist and her assistant (intern perhaps) would have spent four-five days shopping. Taking a digital (ah, the polaroid of back then) of the possibilities and all accessories to winnow the selection. The assistant would be sent back to make arrangements with the store, anything from a signature and a PO number or payment to be refunded if it met all of the requirements of being pristine and returned by the agreed upon time. The collection would be assembled to show advertising people, the photographer, the model or celebrity, possibly the makeup and hair people. In some exacting (that means annoying) circumstances, there would be test shots. If a studio were behind the project, the stylist could get by on a Purchase Order and authorization letter: if not, the full amount might be charged to a valid credit card and the only way to get the money back would be to adhere to the terms. My store didn't have the stock to lend things out that weren't coming right back: the purpose (oh innocent simple days) was to sell things.
The stylist carts (her assistant rather) everything from tape and pins to spot cleaning solution and always an ironing setup. Things will be tried on in a hurry, discarded (NOT on the floor, please!!) and inventoried again and again. Any little losses will be charged to the stylist. The assistant's assistant, a p/a, may be sent out to return the things that won't be used. Thousands of dollars (that's without borrowing fine jewelry, which is rare because, umm, it's fine jewelry) borrowed. On a TV or movie shoot where there are multiples of outfits and accessories, the used things are dashed to an overnight dry cleaner. Carting things and knowing where everything is a big thing. Working stylists hardly ever show up in heels and dainty dresses: it's work.
Suddenly it's over and the stylist checks for any makeup smudges or worse. It's all about returning things immediately to avoid paying for them. And stretching the patience of a store, mine anyway, was not done. Never.
I sent an assortment of evening bags on memo with a stylist for an Oscar contender. Something went wrong and the lot were stolen from her car. A check was delivered the following day. No discounts, but genuine sympathy. That's never supposed to happen.
It doesn't take long for the hard-working (overworked?) assistant to be noticed and soon enough she's showing her own raw assistant/intern how it's done.