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So You Wanna Be A Stylist?

Last week, I attended the talk 'so you wanna be a stylist', apart of the Sarabande Foundation: Established by Lee Alexander McQueen, with speakers Sophia Neophitou, Oliver Volquardsen and Dan May, (all fashion stylists) moderated by Tamsin Blanchard. It was an insightful and inspiring look into the career of a stylist. I learned so much from this talk and have accumulated some key take away points.

Sophia Neophitou

Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou has been helping to shape the modern fashion landscape. From her beginnings as an assistant at Vogue, through to the launch of her own publishing empire where she serves as Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of 10 Magazine, launched in 2000, and 10 Men, launched in 2003, she has strived to push the boundaries of creativity. She has helped create a new visual language in her role as Fashion Director for magazines as diverse as The Independent Magazine, The Sunday Times Style, Vogue China, Japanese Vogue, Russian Vogue and Harper's Bazaar UK, bringing with her a relevance and authority to their fashion editorials. She has also contributed to Dazed & Confused, Dutch, i-D, Italian Vogue and Purple.

Becoming a stylist can be an exciting and rewarding career, but there are many steps to take to achieve your dreams. In this guide, I will walk you through the necessary steps to become a stylist.

Step 1: Understand the Role of a Stylist

Before taking any further steps, it's important to gain a full understanding of what a stylist does. A stylist works in a variety of industries, including fashion, photography, and television. Their primary job is to select and coordinate outfits and accessories for individuals or groups of people. The goal of a stylist is to create a cohesive and visually compelling image that is aligned with the specific needs of their client.

Some of the key responsibilities of a stylist include:

  • Understanding current fashion trends and forecasting future trends

  • Sourcing and selecting clothing and accessories for their client

  • Providing guidance and feedback to clients on their personal style

  • Maintaining relationships with designers and fashion retailers

  • Adhering to budgets and timelines set by clients

  • Creating a visually compelling and cohesive image that represents the client's personal style and/or brand

Step 2: Educate Yourself

While a formal education is not necessarily required to become a stylist, it can be very helpful in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in this career. There are a variety of educational paths to consider, such as:

  • Studying fashion design or merchandising at a university

  • Enrolling in a certificate program or continuing education courses focused on styling

  • Apprenticing with an established stylist or fashion designer

Fashion design and merchandising programs at universities typically include coursework in fabrics, textiles, fashion history, garment construction, and fashion illustration. These classes provide students with a solid foundation in the fashion industry, preparing them to work in a variety of roles, including styling.

Certificate programs or continuing education courses focused on styling can be a great option for individuals who already have experience in the fashion industry or are looking to transition into styling from another career. These programs can typically be completed in a shorter amount of time than a full degree program and can be more focused on practical skills.

Apprenticing with an established stylist or fashion designer can be another path to gaining experience and education in the field of styling. Apprenticeships typically involve working closely with a mentor and gaining hands-on experience in the day-to-day tasks of a stylist. This path can be a valuable way to learn about the industry and build a network of contacts in the field.

Step 3: Get Experience

No matter what educational path you choose, it's important to gain experience in the field of styling. One way to do this is to intern or work at a retail store as a personal shopper or stylist. This can help you gain experience working with clients and learning how to create cohesive, stylish outfits.

Another way to gain experience is to work as an assistant to an established stylist. This can provide valuable on-the-job training and networking opportunities. While assistant roles may not be glamorous, they can be a great way to build your skills and reputation in the industry.

Building a portfolio of your styling work is also crucial to gaining experience and showcasing your skills to potential employers or clients. You can start building your portfolio by styling friends and family for photoshoots or events, or by creating your own photoshoots to showcase your work.

Step 4: Find a Mentor

Finding a mentor in the field of styling can be extremely valuable in terms of gaining knowledge, skills, and connections. Mentors can also provide guidance and feedback on your work and help you navigate the industry.

To find a mentor, start by networking with professionals in the industry, both in person and online. Attend fashion industry events, meet and greets, and conferences to connect with other professionals. You can also reach out to stylists you admire on social media or professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

Step 5: Build Your Brand

As a stylist, it's important to develop your personal brand and establish yourself as an expert in your field. There are a few key ways to do this:

  1. Develop a personal style: Just like fashion designers have a distinct aesthetic, successful stylists develop their own personal style that sets them apart from others in the field.

  2. Create a website or online portfolio: An online presence is key in today's digital age. Create a website or online portfolio where you can showcase your work and build your brand.

  3. Build a social media following: Social media is a powerful tool for stylists to showcase their work and connect with others in the industry. Consider starting an Instagram account to showcase your work and connect with potential clients.

  4. Network with other professionals in the industry: Building relationships with other professionals in the fashion industry can be invaluable in terms of gaining exposure for your work and building your brand.

Step 6: Pursue Professional Opportunities

Once you've gained experience and built your personal brand, it's time to start pursuing professional opportunities in the industry. Some potential career paths for stylists include:

  • Styling for fashion magazines, commercials and films

  • Personal styling for clients

  • Fashion show styling

  • Styling for e-commerce websites

As you pursue these opportunities, it's important to remember that building a career in styling takes time and dedication. Be patient, stay focused on your goals, and continue to educate yourself and develop your skills.


Becoming a stylist requires a combination of education, experience, networking, and perseverance. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can set yourself on the path to a rewarding and exciting career in the fashion industry. Remember to stay focused on your goals and never stop learning and growing as a professional.


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