industry insi-Der: tabitha simmons

Industry Insi-Der picks the brilliant minds of the fashion world’s creative stars. Want to know how your idols got their foot in the door? How they made it to the top? What made them want to work in this fast-paced industry anyway? In our latest...

by Lynette Nylander
11 November 2016, 12:10pm

Photography Steven Pan

Stylist Tabitha Simmons' ability to make forever chic and eclectic pairings have made her one of the industry's most feted stylist. Always in demand, her work regularly graces the pages of American Vogue, where she is a Contributing Editor and Vogue Italia and brands that call upon her expert eye include her long-time collaborators Dolce and Gabbana as well as Tory Burch, Tiffany and Co. and DKNY. Born in the English countryside, her fashion induction came by way of her Saturday shop job in a designer boutique that opened young Tabitha's eyes to a brand new world. After a stint as a model, she began styling full-time working with photography heavyweights Peter Lindbergh, Craig McDean and Patrick Demarchelier. Seven years ago, Tabitha added another string to her bow, creating her eponymous shoe line; marrying her British eccentricity to classic shoe shapes and garnering critical acclaim and a multitude of stockists that include Dover Street Market, Selfridges, Matches, Browns, Harrods and Net-a-Porter. We picked her busy brain for answers about how to follow in her well-heeled footsteps.

When and how did you get started in fashion?
I got started in fashion when I was working a Saturday job in Joseph. That is where I learnt about Helmut Lang and all the labels that were popular at the time. From there, I began to model and Edward Enninful was the one who said I should start styling. I met when doing an editorial for him and he said he wanted me to do a story for i-D.

Where did you study?
At Kingston University where I did a degree in set design.

What was your big break?
That's a difficult question. You never think one moment might be it, you are always trying to think of the next thing. Katy England couldn't style Givenchy one season, so [Alexander] McQueen who was Creative Director at the time said I should do it. I was working at Dazed at the time and I think he just took a risk with me, I had never ever done a show before so that was something that was really huge for me.

Do you think there is a person who has been instrumental to your early success?
I guess Katie Grand when I was working a lot at Dazed. Jefferson Hack too. I call him the Godfather of my shoes. He introduced me to people, he was so instrumental to me starting my shoe brand.

How do you manage the dual roles of being a editorial stylist and having a global business?
When I am doing editorial, I am very much thinking what is right for the picture. With my shoes, I think about who is going to wear my designs in everyday life, I think about where the shoes will go and how they will function. When I style, it's very much a collaboration with other people on the shoot and it's a lot less practical, it's about the image.

What did you think was missing from the industry that you wanted to create with your shoes?
I think when I brought out my shoe line, everything popular had massive platforms. Nina Ricci had huge platforms, the Alexander McQueen Armadillo shoes just happened, everything was so extreme in height. I came along and my reaction to that was wanting to do something that was more timeless, single sole, completely the opposite I guess.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Absolutely everywhere. I take a lot of inspiration from my British roots. Travelling helps; even seeing a piece of furniture, it really varies for me.

What fashion photograph or show has inspired you the most?
Craig McDean did the cover of i-D with Kate Moss with 'God Save The Queen' on it, I still think that image is super inspiring. There are so many images though.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the industry, past or present, what would it be and what would you collaborate on?
Well it would definitely have to be a shoe, I would love to collaborate with Francis Bacon. He's an absolute genius and his work is so iconic.

If you weren't working in fashion, what would you be doing?
I would probably have been in a band [Laughs]. I can't really sing or play any instruments, but I can dabble!

What has been the biggest change in the industry since you have started?
It's definitely social media. It's changed everything. It used to be so insider, fashion shows, clothing collections... you wouldn't see anything for so long. Now everything is available online and now everyone has a voice and you have really seen that change everything.

What part does social media play in your life?
I love it because I get to see who wears my shoes and I get to talk to my customer more. I think that is a really good way of connecting with people.

Is there anything you haven't done in your career that you would still like to?
I think there is so much room for growth for me, entering different categories is always on my mind. A store is something to think about too.


Text Lynette Nylander