Looking into the stylist profession

stylist behind the scenes kendi sapepa

Style can be defined as; a distinctive way or method that a particular item is worn. As life would have it, not all of us are great at style, which is when stylists come to the rescue.

Being a stylist is fast-becoming one of the quickest emerging careers of the fashion professions. Stylists generally source, borrow and return clothing (if not bought) for various jobs. Most importantly, stylists are there to show how the clothes should be worn. Meaning, whether a shirt should be tucked in or not, sock folded or scrunched, top off the should or not, which turquoise clutch suits a look better etc.

stylist kendi sapepa
Photo credit: Kendi Sapepa

Their jobs vary, from styling photo-shoots, events, TV-shows, music videos and celebrity appearance, just to mention a few. On these projects/jobs, they often work hand-in-hand with hair-stylists, make-up artists and designers to put together complete looks.

How it works

How it works is that a stylist will decide on a style or theme for the specific job then start sourcing items for it. While sourcing, there may be some boutiques or clothing stores that require a deposit to hold.

This is as a form of security should the clothes not be returned or come back damaged or dirty. Others require a payment and refund when clothes are returned, while other boutiques and stores may loan clothes free of charge.

Once everything has been collected for the job, the stylist will ensure that they get to the client on time, in good shape (ironed, clean, no missing buttons etc) and are ready to be used. The stylist will also source shoes and other accessories to complement the looks.

  • Stylists can work in various publications such as magazines, on a permanent or freelance basis, where they source items for editorial photo-shoots or write articles on latest trends, personal style, do designer features and so forth.
  • Some stylists work with models and actors on set when recording films, soapies, adverts and so forth. They co-ordinate the clothes worn and may help with props as well.
  • Another option is wardrobe styling where stylists work one-on-one with the client in order to get rid of clothes that are no longer worn, source new ones and arrange them in such a way that everyday dressing becomes easier for the client.
  • Show styling is another option, where the stylist will dress all the people going on stage. For example, hosts and award announcers will be styled by the stylist.
  • One very popular profession would be celebrity styling, which is done by stylist who dress celebrities for all their appearances.
  • Another interesting career option is Brand Consulting, where a stylist can be hired to style a collection by showing the client how it can be put together to achieve various looks for the advertising campaigns, websites and all other media.
stylist kendi sapepa
Photo credit: Kendi Sapepa

How to become a stylist

So, how does one become a stylist? Having a fashion-related degree would be a great start. If you’ve studied something else and wish to start a career in styling, you could easily;

  • Start off with trial shoots, where you work with a team that is shooting, by helping around. This will be the start of you building your portfolio. Although some companies may not want to pay, due to little or no experience, you could work for free or reach a compromise with them and request that the company at least cover your petrol/transport expenses.
  • Build a contact book by building relationships; this will go a long way especially with referrals and word-of-mouth being such an effective marketing tool.
  • Lastly, advertise yourself and services that you offer. Have what you do in you your social media bio’s along with an email address or phone number that you check regularly.

The skills you need to become a stylist

These few points could go a long way, but there are some skills that you would definitely need as well. They include;

  • Having an eye for detail really goes a long way.
  • Being organised will help with deadlines or when you’re working on more than one project.
  • Doing your research when meeting with clients. Be it for a certain era, colour or mood, you will need to be well-prepared.
  • Being aware of latest trends and styles. Also knowing when and how to use them and also, when not to.
  • Knowing how to conceal body flaws (should the client wish to do so), or how to accentuate them, should the client want to.
  • Having patience for when business is quiet and when clients keep sending thing back and are not happy.
  • Being well presented, in dress, speech and how you are in general as you are a walking portfolio.



About Kendi Sapepa

Kendibone is a BCom Hons Marketing graduate who resides in Johannesburg, where she is the founder and fabric-sculptor for her clothing brand; Barbara McKenzie. She's a lover of dry-humour and good food, and when she isn't laughing, eating or sewing, she is trying to learn how to whistle.

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