how to become a freelance stylist by...britt mccamey

Dreaming of an incredible career in a creative industry? Let i-D Australia's Fashion Editor share her stories, experience and worldly advice to making it work.

by i-D Staff
14 December 2016, 8:50pm

When i-D launched in Australia in 2014, Britt McCamey was our natural choice for local fashion editor. Her innate understanding of i-D's vision as well as her incredible attitude, style, unwavering commitment and her experience attracted us immediately and we've enjoyed every minute of working with her since. But where did it all begin for her? After dropping out of a communications degree, Britt began a freelance career and has never looked back. In demand for her styling skills around the world, Britt is regularly on a plane on her way to work with celebrities on editorials or with one of her many regular commercial clients. Britt's work is distinctive and she works tirelessly to get the shot. Generous with her advice, she has helped many young stylists achieve their goals and here she shares her secrets and tips to a successful career in styling.

What I do and why I do it...
I tell stories through still or moving imagery. Hopefully they're stories that are interesting enough to grab your attention. I do it because I can't stop. Believe me I've tried. If you have something you just can't give up then you're probably doing what you were meant to do. 

A day in my life...
My days are varied. I'm not a morning person so first thing you'll find me doing is struggling to get out of bed - I'm more likely to get a million things done after, say, 10am. I travel a lot. This season I'm spending most of my time in America. For my advertising or commercial clients I work with the creative director, designers and marketing teams to take their ideas and turn them into images. We usually build the concept by identifying what the brand is delivering for the season and how they want to communicate those trends to their customer. Then I collaborate with a team of people, including the photographers and models, to bring the ideas to life.

Then there's my editorial work. When I'm shooting editorial, my days are spent meeting with agents, photographers, editors and models. There tend to be a lot of fittings, showroom appointments and tons of research. I don't read or look at heaps of magazines. Typically I'll have an idea in my mind regarding how I want the final product to look, so my research involves how to physically make things or how to distress a certain way...more technical based details like that. I recently worked with the actor Mahershala Ali and because I'm obsessed with the incredible lighting in his film MoonlightI basically spent the whole shoot asking him questions about it and trying to understand it. I've never been a manual reader so asking too many questions is how I learn.

At the moment I'm in America in the wake of Trump's election so I'm researching the effects that an unwanted conservative government has on pop culture and young people. For me, this is where my job becomes super interesting.

Lastly, I also make videos and clothing with my friends as Club Paradise. I've just finished making a collection entirely out of pink bubble wrap! I love it but it's a bit of a Faulty Towers type thing where I get orders that I have no time to fill. 

The moment that made me...
I remember someone once saying that it had taken 20 years for a certain actor to become an overnight success. It rang so true. I think the moments that makes us are smaller, less noticeable ones. Probably so small that we don't even notice them ourselves. The moment things seemed to change for me was when my Iggy Azalea cover for Oyster Magazine was named by the Guardian UK as one of the 20 Most Influential Covers of that year. People started to pay attention. But then is attention what makes us? When I think about what made me I think more about late nights in Carine Roitfeld's office making 50 page PDFs on how to tie a Turban, or sharing a room above a shitty pub with my best friend, eating nothing but 2 minute noodles because we were so poor.  Those were the moments that made me. The rest is just catching up.

To degree or not degree...
Degree! I'm probably just saying that because I never finished my degree. I think a degree gives you a minute to breathe. To consider things. I don't necessarily think you need a fashion degree. My brother has a physics PHD and we have a lot of conversations about collaboration and our creative processes. We both plan, predict, experiment and then go with whatever happens; and we both find it preferable to have a surprising outcome over a predictable one. I'm not saying you need to get a science degree but I am saying that skills and processes transfer. Some people (like my brother, who is super creative) are suited to learning that way and other people are better suited to learning through doing. Figure out what kind of person you are and do it your own way. And to begin with, assist the busiest stylist you can find, regardless of whether you degree or not.

What I wish I knew then that I know now...
I want to say, don't do anything that you don't want to. You hear people throw that sentiment around all the time and it irks me because it's not realistic. Most of us have bills and expenses. When I was starting out I said "yes" to everything. I had to pay rent and I find it hard to say no. I didn't want to let people down. Trust me when I say it's your least favourite work, the cringiest test, that comes up first when you're googled. In not letting other people down, I was letting myself down. I was stretching myself too thin and doing things half-assed because I wasn't into them. You have to believe in a project to work on it, otherwise it shows in your work. My advice is, go work in a bar on the side instead. Make money outside of your art so that you don't have to compromise. And be open to things going wrong. Sometimes things going wrong can make for incredible results. My favourite example of this was a W magazine shoot where the clothes didn't turn up. They were in a remote part of Scotland with a ton of models and the trunks didn't make it through customs. So what did they do? They shot the models naked and ran the clothing credits as if they were dressed. It's a shoot that's constantly referenced and it's unlikely we'd be thinking about it now if they hadn't owned their disaster?

I'm excited by tomorrow because...
I'm about to go to New Zealand to make a film with a model that I've always wanted to shoot. I'm really into video work right now. Directing is something that feels really fluid and natural. Most people think stylist, clothes. I disagree. Styling is a way into doing things and I'm excited to keep experimenting with that.


britt mccamey
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