Katie Shillingford's assistant that I had interned for messaged me, "I'm leaving. Are you interested in potentially taking over as her assistant?" At first, I didn't respond for a day or two, and I was thinking no way - I couldn’t see myself being an assistant when I didn’t even want to be a stylist, but I spoke to my mom, of course, and my friends, and I knew that it could really be an amazing opportunity to be a part of the magazine as more than an intern, and to work with those people at such a high level. So I went for it. I did a trial run for 2 months and at the end, she asked me to be her assistant.
Was the old assistant there during your trial?
Yeah, it was a really busy time for Katie so together we prepped like 5 shoots within 2 weeks, if I remember correctly. Then I prepped one shoot totally solo, and it went really well.
It was on location outside of Brussels with Pierre Debusschere. I didn’t go on set, but I confirmed all the samples, coordinated with PR people to organize their arrival in Brussels, and then handled the returns.
It went really well and I think she was impressed. After that she was like “Okay, let's do this.”
So now that you graduated to an assistant position at AnOther Magazine, what’s your role?
It’s been just over a year now. Long term, I want to be an art director so in a way I think they geared my role towards that. I do a lot of image research for each issue. I’m often in the library at Central Saint Martins.
We start planning each issue months before we start shooting. Then when we start shooting that issue, we’ll find out about a specific shoot maybe 2 weeks before it happens.
So then when I know a shoot is coming up I start to send out requests for different looks that Katie wants. She’ll say "These are all the designer looks that I want," and, "I'm thinking about maybe some vintage pieces that look like this. I also want some costume pieces like this," so I'll request all the looks via email to the press officers. Then I'll go to vintage stores and take pictures of stuff that I think might work and go to costume places and do the same. Then I have interns that help me check in the samples, lay them out, pack them up and then we shoot it.
Do you also assist on set?
Yeah. I'm always on set. It’s my favorite part because I admire photographers so much that getting to meet them and work with them is so cool for me. The hair and makeup people are always so nice. I love seeing it all come together. Katie appreciates my opinion as well, so she often asks, "What do you think? Which option is better?"
So you also manage interns?
Mm-hmm. I usually have two, maybe three to help me. I'll have one come on set, whoever I think is best on set. They help in the beginning to unpack everything, and then they help to pack it all up and send it back afterward.
Has there ever been an intern that stood out to you?
I had this one intern, Katherine, for almost six months. I could always rely on her. She always packed things up neatly. She always got things back to where they were supposed to be. She never lost things. You have to be so organized, and smart, and know how to get everywhere in London. Just being on top of it.
How would you describe AnOther Magazine’s company culture?
AnOther Magazine has an amazing group of inspiring women who I look up to, and they're all encouraging and want to help you out, and bring you up. They're intelligent. They have a good eye for things, and they're really passionate about their jobs, which is nice - working with people who truly want to be there and make the magazine what it is. There are no men at AnOther interestingly, but we share the office with Dazed, and there are a lot of men there.
How do you keep the two magazines from being blurred together?
The magazines have completely different teams so I think they really stay separate because it’s always a different perspective and a different opinion portrayed in each issue. And I think each magazine’s voice is quite distinct. Dazed focuses a bit more on youth culture, whereas AnOther has a bit of an older audience.
Do you still have the pool table?
Nope. I know there used to be one though.
Shit. I was hoping it was still there. I read about it in 'Making It Up As We Go Along'.
We have office meetings every month, which is really nice. We just had it today.
How was it?
It’s everyone from Dazed, AnOther Magazine, AnOther Man, and Nowness. Jefferson comes in, and we all have breakfast together, and we talk about what's going on. We’ll go over what’s coming up, how things went, who’s coming and going, everything. So today Jefferson was talking about the next issue of Dazed that comes out because it’s their 25th anniversary, so it's a huge thing. He was just talking about old memories and the pool table in the office days. I think there was a bar and a skate ramp too.
Whoa that’s cool. What have you learned from your role so far?
I'm a completely different person from last year because when you’re given that much responsibility you grow so quickly. I've learned to be very, very organized, and independent because Katie was on maternity leave. Since she lives in the countryside, she was hardly in the office so I would prep the whole shoot and then just meet her on set.
Yeah she put a lot of trust in me. Some weeks I would get to the office at 8 am and just work until 10 or 11 pm. It's incredibly rewarding, though.
Another really important thing that I’ve learned to do is introduce myself to people on set, and connect with them - so many of them have become really good friends of mine now. Like hair and makeup artists, and even photographers. So when I visit another city that they live in, I’ll see them.
It's so nice to know people like that. They're all so nice and open, even if they might intimidate you at first. And it can make almost any job a lot more enjoyable if you’re working with your friends.
Another major thing I’ve learned is how to balance my life a bit better. Being an assistant can be so exhausting and the hours can be really long, so when I have time off I really make the most of it. It’s so important to have that time to yourself and with your friends.
Do you like your role now?
Yeah. I mean there are still days when it’s just ridiculous, and you’re overworked and underpaid, but it’s been so worth it. The experiences that I’ve gotten to have, traveling and meeting all of these people; it’s remarkable.
Do you also help Katie with her other projects, like Gareth Pugh?
Yes. I help her with everything that she does.
Yeah so I’ll help her with Gareth Pugh, and then most recently she styled a ballet at the Royal Opera House in May, so I worked a lot on that.
How did her styling techniques change when she had to prioritize the dancer's ability to move in the clothes?
It was a real challenge, for both of us, it’s not really something that’s been done before, “styling” a ballet with designer clothing. And yeah, a major struggle was making sure the dancers could have full mobility in the clothing. She had to choose things that were fairly mobile, and we asked certain designers to custom-make pieces as well, but there was also an amazing team of seamstresses at the Royal Opera House that altered things to help them move better.
Oh, I saw that.
Yeah, it was amazing to work on that. And she shoots a lot for Vogue and other magazines as well.
That's cool because you get to work on the magazine but you still get to expand your network to all these other places.
It was perfect. It's so nice to have an office to go into everyday and friends to see - I know people who assist freelance stylists and they might just be in an apartment receiving samples all day. Where as I get to be in an office environment but also be a part of projects that are separate from AnOther Magazine.
So I know that Dazed and AnOther Magazine share offices and sometimes people cross over but how does that work?
Well as of recently each publication under the Dazed Media Group has their own editor-in-chief actually. But still, there is one person who crosses over, which is Jefferson Hack. But most of the stylists/editors are also contributors to the other publications. Katie and I just shot for Dazed in July actually.
Has AnOther Magazine changed under the new editor-in-chief?
Definitely. Susannah Frankel is so incredible. She's the woman I want to be when I'm her age. She's down to earth... just doesn't give a fuck. She says what she thinks, and she's honest and funny and kind, and extremely intelligent.
When Jefferson was the editor-in-chief, obviously it was still great, but he wasn't in the office that much because he’s really busy and always traveling. She’s in the office a lot of the time. It's nice to have someone who’s more present and who can be approached at any time. It's interesting now how it's an all female dynamic. Also, the editor-in-chief of Dazed is a woman now too, which is cool.