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the hazard of dressing

i-D Fashion Editor Jack Borkett, sneaks us behind the curtain and into the dressing room with tales of dressing and un-dressing industry icons, and the hazards that stylists face day to day.

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Many of you may frown upon the concept of a 'stylist.'

In the words of my parents… "so you’re a dresser?" Or in the words of more distant relatives, "Oh, how is the salon? Hair business doing well?" NO – I am not a hair stylist, I’m a fashion stylist, one that puts clothes on people, but is not simply a dresser! Styling does involve more than just that. It is the stylist’s vision along with the photographer, which leads to the creation of a story, a narrative or images to sell a designer or trend in a way that grabs attention and causes people to stop and take notice.

There are many different aspects to the stylist’s job: editorial and advertising being perhaps the two most important. Editorial is the creative outlet, a way to express your thoughts for the season, a model or a specific trend that is inspiring or visually arresting. The second is advertising, and these are the money jobs, where the stylist works with brands to edit, style and art direct as a team in order to promote how the brand in question wants to see and sell their most recent products. A great job for a fashion lover, styling is full of adventure, strange locations, even stranger people and all the clothes fresh off the runway!

Even though there may be a hint of glamour at the end of the day, at the beginning (and especially as an assistant) I would compare it more to a market trader… not in the city, but in Peckham. Kind of like Del Boy and Rodney but in Prada shearling and not hand me downs, with a constant flow of samples in and out, pick ups, returns, unpacking and re-packing - extreme packing basically. Split bags, make-up on clothes, missing jewellery and pushy PR’s are not easy work that’s for sure.

This leads me on to the hazards of day-to-day styling life. On set the atmosphere can change from relaxed to tense in seconds. Time is money and clients and photographers are paying big bucks to get these pictures done. I always noticed that hair and make-up can do whatever they please, they sit for hours, gossiping and deliberating over the lip or the eye, you know - free reign to get it right really!

Obviously it can get stressful for everyone but the hair and make-up area is like a green room whereas the stylist’s area is always manic! Production is normally standing over you with a walkie talkie screaming "Steven is asking how long… HOW LONG!!?” And all you can do is reply, "5 minutes…?" knowing that you still need to get Kate in this incredibly tight latex cat suit that is 2 sizes too small, and about 25 different accessories to position. "’Steven WANTS HER NOW," you see. It isn’t as easy as it seems putting latex on in 2 minutes with a chain smoking supermodel and 4 hours sleep, in fact, it can even be dangerous. I almost set Naomi Campbell on fire in a similar situation. Good piece of advice - keep silicone spray away from an open flame/cigarette.

Another small hazard is the common but devastating "knee in face." Now this can happen several times a day if unprepared. Being on your knees most of the day (and not in the way most would like) a knee in face moment can result in facial damage or at least an ice pack. When putting on shoes watch out for the models with incredibly long and sharp boned legs and knees - everything can go terribly wrong when crouched down and lacing up an Alaïa boot.

Another is the "flesh in zipper." When zipping up a dress or skirt, remember the samples are still small. Like, eleven year old girl small. Always put a finger in that zip. There is nothing worse than the sound of a model in pain. They are usually hungry and even though they don’t wish to be aggressive if someone pulls their hair or catches their skin, it is annoying and it will be your fault if they lash out. This is rare and most girls are lovely.

But this can lead to another problematic situation that could arise, the "M.O.E.N.B" or Model On the Edge of Nervous Breakdown. Be careful. Women in this state can be dangerous and unpredictable. These women are great beauties and although you might think they are confident and proud of the way they look, they were in fact that girl at school with braces, who was bullied for being too tall or generally a bit freakish. This can stay with them for years, through youth into maturity. If you sense a change in atmosphere, keep quiet and start steaming something.

Even though I have highlighted the hazards, there are many more. "Toe-steppers" (when a model, almost on purpose, steps on your hand every time it touches the floor), "Screamers" (self-explanatory) and the bleeding fingers... it’s basically Fashion Stigmata - you don’t know exactly how it happens, it just does…

See, told you it was more than just putting on a dress.

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