Noor Alali

Stylist Intern,

Patti Wilson


@noorxalali
www.nooralali.com

Noor is a sophomore at Parsons and has spent her past year interning for Patti Wilson. Her unique eye has developed throughout her time with Patti and having the opportunity to work under the very best in the industry.

This interview took place between Tate and Noor at Ootoya in New York
For Noor's update video with Adair Smith, click here

 
 

TVPS:  Hello, there we go.

NA:  Hi. Cheers.

The glass is empty.

Really, oh God, this interview's going to be fucked now. 


Okay, brief us, what are you up to?

I'm having lunch at a Japanese restaurant with you, and I'm really excited because it's one of our favorites.
 

No, your life.

Okay, well I'm going to be starting my second semester at Parson's doing the Integrated Design Major, but I’m still not sure if it was the right choice.
 

Why?

Because it's so broad. It's like freshman year all over again. You know I had to do that fish tank, I had to do charcoal sketches, I have to take a bar of soap and carve it. I had to make an anchor, and it looks like a piece of shit. You know like the ones you buy in those prank stores?
 

Yeah.

In fashion design, people are already making collections their second year. I feel like I'm wasting my time, but I also feel that for what I want to do which is styling and creative directing, you don't need school for that. No one can teach you that. You're either born with the eye for it, with your specific style, and you keep building your library of inspiration in your mind, and no one can teach that to you, you know? It's just what you feel emotionally.

 

I'm also interning with Patti Wilson right now. I've looked up to her since I was a kid. She teaches me more in a day than I learn in an entire semester at school. When I'm in the office, I hear her on the phone. I see her pin up the mood boards. I see her grab books. I see the whole process, and that's what I want to do.

I also think half of these internships isn't just about what you do there working; it's the connections that you make.

 

What is your role at Patti Wilson?

 A lot of it is sample trafficking, so picking up all of the samples, checking them in, photographing them, sorting them for fittings with models to get everyone’s look together before we go on set, and then packing trunks for set.

The day of the shoot, we know what we're doing, so we will usually put shoes, gloves, and other accessories into plastic bags and hang it on top of the dress or something and put it in a garment bag and label it with the model's name, so we know who it’s for when we get there, like it’s "for Sergio.” But sometimes we will just have the clothes sorted and labeled by the designer.

 I assist on set so that basically means helping Patti and her assistant Taylor Kim in the wardrobe by organizing and keeping looks together, sorting, and dressing models. Steven [Klein] always brings his three Great Danes River, Roman, and Harlow on set which always makes my day. Then at the end, we separate priority pulls which means that certain samples have to go directly to another shoot from our set. We bring the rest of the samples back to the office and do mass returns.

Then some things are packed after the shoot is over, and go directly back from set to their locations, which are usually PR firms, such as KCD or Karla Otto, that are both based in NY and abroad.

I'm just so happy and grateful to be there and to be doing it because I'm doing what I love. I don't even feel it. Literally, I wake up smiling every morning because I'm so happy. I pinch myself every day. “How am I meeting these people? How am I involved in this? How am I about to go on set with my idols?” I never think, "Wow, I'm so tired," or "Wow, I'm acting like a 30-year-old when I should be still a kid.

Just this past week they asked me to make a mood board for an upcoming shoot. I'm so nervous when I do that, you know, are they going to like it, are they going to think I have shit taste? Then Patti walked over and said, "Oh, that's awesome, I love it." That took a good four months to get to that baby step, you know? Up until then, and still now, I’m mainly just the delivery and packing girl.

 

How did you land the internship with Patti?

 It was actually on Fashionista.com. They have a careers page, and that's where I found her email. I was like "Oh, okay it's probably not going to happen but why not try.” This was last February [2015]. I sent her an email. It was so embarrassing. It was literally like a good five paragraphs long, not sentences, paragraphs. It was one chunk, like a letter. I literally sent my whole life story, my background, what I'm into, my favorite authors, my inspiration, etc.

LOL

Yeah… so I learned. They don't have time. They want to see someone who literally delivers exactly what they want to do, why they want the job in 3 sentences. Split up too, always be airy. Don't group it into one letter but attach a cover letter.

 Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Double space, double space. Not too lovey-dovey because that's creepy. You have to be professional, but friendly, so like "Hi, Patti," and then end it with "Best," Not “Talk Soon!”, etc." No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Then follow up a week to 2 weeks later.

That’s when I got the interview with John, her other assistant, he’s the sweetest.

 

What's his role?

John takes care of more of the administrative work, such as dealing with emails, phone calls, deliveries and orders, and the calendar. Then Taylor, her other assistant, is basically Patti’s right hand, who travels with her everywhere. He’s her second brain, so that's the whole team. It's just three of them, plus a couple of interns. For me, It's going really well because there have been a lot of interns coming in and out, but they never came back after their first days.

 

So why didn’t you fizzle out like the others?

I would say I'm super organized, dedicated, professional and polite, but also you can't be a robot. I've seen other kids who sit there quietly the whole day. I'm more like, already from day one, I was kind of making jokes, and they looked at me like "Who do you think you are? You're not our friend." I'm just like that naturally, I'm a really outgoing person and I just immediately was so warm.

I wanted to make them feel immediately, which I think I did, that I'm a person too and I'm here because I love it and I love the people in this industry, and it's a big family, and I want to be part of that family so accept me.

 

But there are boundaries, no?

There are. You can't be too much. There's a fine line between being outgoing and being obnoxious.

 

How do you judge that line?

Don't be all over the place. Nothing too personal. It does take time. Now obviously I'm much more comfortable with them, and we joke about things, and Patti will kiss me every time I see her and whatever, things like that.

In the beginning, though it was more like I would say a joke, and they'd kind of smile, almost like "Why is she joking but that's cute, she's nice," kind of thing.

Sort of like work is first, be professional but when there's downtime, you can try and get to know them a little bit. It also completely depends on the place, you have to match the energy.

 

Did you start out knowing people in the industry?

Zero.


Who made you, you?

I would say, my parents. My dad is the most hardworking person that I've ever seen. It was hard growing up and being raised like that. I'd fight against SAT prep and all that, but he really built that never give up, hardworking drive in me. He was pretty against me going into this industry. I mean now he completely supports me because he realized how much it makes my heart pump, literally and that so far I’ve been doing pretty well. My mother too is an amazing woman. She's an artist. She does hand-painted tiles.

 

 

Where did you grow up?

Everywhere. My background is the most complicated answer. I was born in San Francisco. Because of my dad's job, he's a brain surgeon; we moved all the time everywhere all over the country. Then I moved to Southern California, Charleston SC, Virginia right by D.C. Then I lived in Michigan, Ohio, and now I live here. I lived all over the country, but ethnically my father is Syrian. My mother is Hungarian and grew up in Paris. I feel most at home in Paris. That's where most of my family lives, and I continue to go there many times a year, as often as I can. I always say Paris is probably my biggest inspiration and just having this multi-cultural background; my Middle Eastern heritage too is really interesting to fuse with classic Europe. I speak 4 languages fluently (Hungarian, French, Arabic, and English) because of my parents and my upbringing. All of that exposed me to meet all different types of people, and have traveled all over the world.

 

Who do you look up to in the industry?

I look up to and am inspired by many in the industry, as those that made it to the top are truly special, and all have something unique to offer. However, I would say that nothing matches the work of John Galliano. His extreme creativity and storytelling that he creates with each collection never fail to take my breathe away. He’s a dreamer, like me, which is also why I feel so connected to his vision and work, as he can effortlessly mix historical eras with modern day haute couture. I am still so sad about his departure from the House of Dior and miss his work for the label every day. Tim Walker is another one whose work I can never get enough, and Carine Roitfeld is my ultimate legend. She symbolizes sexy yet effortless Parisian chic and dares to display the taboo, making her fearless and bold, which is so attractive and important for a woman especially. My dream is to lead a career like hers, becoming an Editor in Chief of my own fashion magazine one day, as well as continue styling. I also love Craig [McDean]. He is one of the most down to earth people I know, as well as intelligent, sharp, and very funny. It is so refreshing to be around someone like Craig, as he doesn’t let the industry get to his head. Then there is Kate Moss of course. She is my greatest icon, both as a model and in dressing. I credit her for making me fall so deeply in love with the industry. I remember when I was in fifth grade, so about ten years old, I began flipping through fashion magazines and fell upon her face. From that day I never looked back, and I began to tear out her photos and plaster my bedroom walls with them. Then it was through her that I started paying more and more attention to the photographers that shot her, to the designers she walked for and wore, leading me into the entire industry, and choosing it as a career path, both in modeling and styling.

 

Who are your favorite designers?

I love different designers for different reasons. For example, as an artist, John Galliano. I also really admire the late Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Azzedine Alaïa. But for more casual everyday basics, I love Isabel Marant, Saint Laurent, Joseph for leather trousers, IRO, and Alexander Wang. I also love the breezy, gypsy styles by Chloé and Bella Freud jumpers. Lately, I’ve been really into collecting fun, cool pieces from these new street wear brands, such as Zoe Karssen, Être Cécile, Rotten Roach, Each x Other, and Daily Mekong. And finally, always Alaïa for heels.

 

What are the challenges, or benefits of being so young in an industry that is still very much ruled by an older generation?

Energy I think especially being young now and because it is such a cutthroat, competitive industry, the younger you are, the more driven and passionate you are because everyone obviously wants to be number one.

Now that we're so young, at least for me, I have this fire under my ass every second like, "I need to make it. How am I going to do that? I'm not giving up." I could call in for exhaustion sometimes, but I won't because I'm like, "I don't want to miss a day. I want Patti to see that I'm there every day and I'm hard working because I want to make it." It's that drive.

 

What is the effect of the digital world having on the fashion industry?

Huge, but I'm not happy about it in every sense. I'm still an old-school nerd who likes to physically buy magazines and books, hold the pages, and not look at everything online. I also think it's made it a lot more efficient. The ability to just sit and search anything like motorcycle jackets and red lips. You're going to have endless results show up.

Also accessibility. Before, you had to be invited to see anything, and now everything is online.

 

Is it becoming less exclusive or more exclusive because everyone wants it now?

I would say it's becoming less exclusive in a sense that it's exposed to everybody. A girl sitting in a Montana cabin with a laptop can look at what's happening at Paris Couture live. I think it also made those, who are the elite, even more, closed off if that makes sense.

More famous?

More famous and even harder to get to just because they're maybe thinking, "Oh, everyone can see my life on Instagram, my runway shows, they see where I like to eat, whatever," but to actually get to know them and be personal around them is even... everyone has another life than what they put on Instagram.

Yeah.

They almost feel like, "I'm giving you all this, but I still have my personal life that you have no idea about. Don't even come close to me."

 

What about print?

Going into the world of magazines at a time that each day is becoming more digital is scary. I think about this every day, I will wake up to it at night in bed, thinking if I am making a mistake. But I firmly do believe that magazines will never go out of print. I think that our generation is just at a digital obsessed phase, but it will pass, and people will soon come back more to print. This happened with records and CDs when the iPod came out, and now it’s considered trendy to collect records. Staring at screens for hours is so unhealthy too, so I think people will always have the need for print. However, this digital craze has made people so impatient, because they’re so used to scrolling through their social media feeds, flipping through channels at the push of a button, and ordering things online, that it has also made us a lazy generation, which is also why so many people don’t read anymore or even take the time to look at a beautiful photograph. So I think for the future, magazines should focus more on the art of the industry, featuring more editorial spreads and articles, almost like a portable coffee table book, rather than what it is now: 90% advertisements.

 

What stereotypes bother you the most?

That fashion is superficial and shallow, the industry as a whole.

 

Why is it not superficial?

It's a whole world ... It's one of the biggest industries in the world. People don't realize that their pair of one-dollar white socks came from the same industry as a $150,000 Chanel Couture dress. People just associate that with the big sunglasses and the fur, but it's really an industry where the editors that you see and the designers wearing their fur coats, aren’t doing it to seem posh, it's just because they appreciate high-quality things, and take pleasure in creating a character based on their mood and inspirations. I like to wear my fur (I found it at an estate sale for almost no $$) because I like collecting nice quality and unique pieces. That’s why we choose to go into this world because it is what we breathe. It’s an industry full of truly passionate, dedicated, and hard-working people.

 

You're here because you love it and you're not doing it for the money.

No, not at all. The pay for most fashion industry professionals is not great; only those elite few who made it big. They dress glamorously because they're usually given those things. Doctors and Lawyers, for example, get paid a lot more, honestly.

But they're there because they're obsessed with it and they're so passionate about it. It's a business full of infatuated, curious, and inspired minds who want to create and spread beauty and dreams for all. I just love being around these creative people. I could never imagine not being surrounded by it every day. It is really just amazing to work with people who are always dreaming; they're always coming up with something new. Look, Lagerfeld is eighty-two years old, and head of three major companies at his age, but that's because he's so in love with it. You're not going to see that drive and passion in any other business, so that really irritates me that people throw this business and those people in this pile of, "All they care about are parties, champagne, and high heels."

That's our payment because we're not getting cash money.

Exactly.

 

What is your take on this generation and where are we headed?

Honestly, I'm not in love with it. I think it's become pretty superficial in the sense that people care more about becoming famous or who they're friends with than actually creating art. That goes hand-in-hand with that lifestyle aspect, which I think is great, but I think there shouldn't be a loss of a sense of art, which is actually what it is. It's amazing art. It's like a painting.

 I feel like it's become this world of... look at with the models. It's all Instagram-famous girls. Or who their parents are, how much money they have to have to buy their contract at the Society, IMG, or Elite for example. It’s become that. In that sense, the industry has lost some of its authenticity and integrity.

It just makes me really sad. Designers too become... like Kanye. Because it's Kanye, people are going to buy his way over-priced sneakers, over a gorgeously designed hand sewed dress for example. Basically, it seems that if you are famous, no matter what industry, you can have a successful fashion line.

It’s become more commercial and digital, just shallow in that sense. Not about the art or talent anymore.

 

What's the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

I would say it's definitely the people I meet because this industry is a big family. It's so important to put yourself out there and meet people, always be open.

It's really a dream come true. For the longest time, I've collected endless piles of magazines, stacks of books, and tear sheets. I still do, I collect these photography books and magazines. Now I have the opportunity to see how these images come together by these legends that I’ve admired and looked up to my whole life. From the beginning mood boards to the fittings, and shoot on set.

I see how the concepts of that image are brought to life. Then, we start picking dresses, and I see how they chose the clothes that are going to evoke that emotion or bring that story to life, or that fairy tale, or that movie. I would say it's really amazing to see it come from start to finish and then you have that dream in front of you that's going to take you to that other world. I fell in love with fashion because I'm a dreamer, I would always be in another world, on another planet, and fashion makes me dream like that. Why I'm doing styling is because I want to continue to create those dreams and bring them to life for others.

 

Has this industry taught you any major life skills?

Yeah, I think to be very punctual, professional, and confident, because there's no room for slacking or hiding in your shadow. Let’s say, for example, we have a shoot booked at Pier 59 Studios. We have the space rented out for two days. We all know that the shoot has to be done in two days. It's really a lot of teamwork; it's not just like, "Oh, the photographer thinks this and this look good, and he's going to shoot the image and move on." You're working with the hairdresser, the makeup artist, and the models. I have also learned to think clearly and work under stress, as well as being incredibly detail-oriented, not stressed out and in control.

 

Why do you want to be a stylist?

It's bringing a dream to life. I personally think that I haven't really stumbled across my personal taste and aesthetic, so I definitely want to bring that into the industry and share with others. That would be a mixture of Tim Walker, who is super dreamy, and then Steven [Klein] who's more intense and sexy. I would like to combine those two, because Tim Walker’s work resembles more of dreamy movie set, like Edward Scissorhands, but it's still kind of like a cotton candy cloud. Then, Steven is always going to be more like-

 

Provocative?

Yeah and vulgar, in your face. For instance, you know the breastfeeding photo he did for Equinox like her breast is right there, and when you see it you're like Woah, and it's always those metallic colors with his work. I love those two. I love having that feminine sexuality and power, but with more of a soft, fantasy twist. I haven't seen that anywhere.

 

How would you like to see the industry evolve and how will you be apart of that happening?

For the fashion industry, I would really just love to bring back authenticity and make it more about the beauty, the story, and the art again. With social media, the internet, and pop culture, these elements that make the industry so special are quickly disappearing, as it is turning into a world of celebrities, high profile names, and money. I don’t believe that is a fair representation of this world, so I would hope to bring back its integrity and separate the reality tv stars from haute couture. I believe there is a place for everyone, but things that don’t match don’t necessarily have to be forced together and take the spotlight away from true, unique talent.

I also think that's a really big thing to take on for one person. I’d like to find more people who agree with me, and together we'll do that as a team because it is a big family. It's an industry. I don't think that should just be my job, but I hope there are other people out there who agree with me, and we'll team up together to actually sign models who are interesting looking and beautiful, not just because they come from an aristocratic name or Instagram.

 

What advice would you give to someone who looks up to you?

I would say you have to be obsessed with the industry and in your field, as well as in love with it, dead passionate, super-hard working, and extremely dedicated if you want to be in it and stay in it.

This industry is a lifestyle, not a job. It's a big family. You work so many labor-hard hours together. Literally, at the end of the set, I hug the lighting people because you just get to know everybody. You basically created from nothing, something so amazing. Just together, from scratch, you brought that image to life, that story, that dress. I think if you want to be in it you have to love the people, love the art, and love what you're creating.

 

Banner Photo: Talia Collis