The hunt for a stylist’s assistant is a tiresome and gruesome task. With all the talk of glamour and designer outfits it might seem like a dream job, yet you would be surprised by the lack of enthusiasm, hard work and selflessness required for the position...
In my previous job, you would not believe the amount of blow-dried prima donnas who stumble in on five inch Louboutin’s, mouths agape when given the check list of the afternoon’s drop-offs and pick-ups… “What… by hand?” Of course by hand! Needless to say after four hours and only a handful of bags done, they do not return.
I am not sure if it’s the rise of reality TV, the internet, celebrity, or all three, but there is an interest behind the scenes in fashion now. There is also this mind set that you need to stand out, to be the centre of attention, that it's all about 'me'. When I was assisting I remember when we once had a girl on set, it was her first time. We were shooting in an old warehouse that stunk like piss and had no lights (this is very normal, by the way). There was a whole array of club kids there, dressed to the nines in tinsel and god knows what. She proceeded to pop her head out from amongst a pile of samples in a Marchesa feathered gown. "Do you think I can be in the picture?" She said, vying for the eyes of the photographers and barging past Lara Stone and Joan Smalls, trying to present herself like a pink sparkling peacock to the photographers in question… You shouldn’t even speak to anyone, especially on your first day on set, but then I should have been warned by their CV, which was predominately pictures of them dressed up as a Rainbow Space Prostitute. Here's some good advice - do not attach pictures of yourself in your 'best looks' as they aren’t lgoing to take you on their books.
At the moment I am luckily blessed with not one, but two, young women who could win Knicker’s Down in Ru Paul’s Lip Sync For Your Life finale. Much more than just a fag hag - this is a new breed of super assistant, all the infatuation with fashion and models of a young gay man but poured into a feminine silhouette with ample cleavage and an uncanny resemblance to Kate Moss in a selfie. There is also the humour factor. Good wit and a quick come back can lift even the darkest of styling dilemmas.
Apart from the #glamour and #drama they are built like oxen, with their long lashes and strong thighs. Their love of all things #fashion is more than enough to see them through a vigorous cross-town sojourn from Hackney Wick to Battersea, hands full but never relenting, they just get it done because no one else is going to do it for them. That’s the key! It’s up to you - no one will understand or forgive you if you are ill, if the samples are thrown in a bag like a bin full of used undergarments, or if things aren’t checked in and checked out properly.
It's always nice to have a connection with someone you work closely with, a sense of friendship and the ability to have a laugh together. Times get hard, stressful and tiring, so to have someone to share the madness with is actually the best kind of relief. Take note though, when on set with male models a muzzle or lead may be needed as these girls are gagging for it, spending all day surrounded by so much oestrogen and fashion chat, the female fashion assistant tends to be longing for the touch of a real man. They are young though, so this behaviour must be forgiven and even sometimes rewarded. Have an ice pack in the kit just in case.
This vigour and lust for life is an essential tool in developing the right skills to do well and move on as their own 'woman'. Obviously there are all types that are wonderful at what they do, but from my experience it’s this passion that is the essential ingredient to someone who you will be sad to see leave when the day comes.
Even though this sounds like a relaxed approach to having someone work for you - they are young, usually in college, and doing it for the experience. My girls are English via Eastern Europe, so do not send an invoice after scanning an image over the weekend like American counterparts. They wouldn't even dream of it. Manners are of upmost importance and they realise that real experiences are priceless. There is very little that can be taught in the classroom that compares to the 'real world'. A tutor putting on a Madonna video is hardly the kind of fashion education one needs to take on the relentless pace of a stylist’s life. They do that in their spare time anyway - sponges - suck it all up! The knowledge, that is, never miss a drop. Who knows when you may be asked what issue of Pop it was that Guido did the hair story in with Natasa Vojnovic, Leticia Birkheuer and Madleine Blomberg. It’s this kind of useless information that now fills up so much of my brain that I can barely function when doing everyday tasks. It’s spring/summer 03 in case you're wondering. And if you knew that please send me an email with your CV.