I saw you studied at fashion school. Do you think that gave you a leg up to make it in the industry?
Absolutely. I learned so much. It was 3 years in total, and it was a business school that’s directly specified for fashion. I took history of fashion classes, law classes, English that specified in industry vocabulary, and marketing which I find so interesting because you learn what makes people buy. For me, it was just the best, and most of my instructors worked in the industry as well.
When you first entered Parsons, did you have any idea of where you wanted to be?
I knew I was interested in fashion, but I had little knowledge about the industry and the kinds of jobs that existed. It was very black and white to me. I actually wanted to be a buyer. I feel like when you first go into the industry, you think, “I want to be a buyer, a merchandiser, in sales, or a designer.”
Do you think the Strategic Design and Management program at Parsons helped give you the tools to get you where you are today?
The great thing about Design and Management, like a lot of the majors at Parsons, is that it gives you a wider scope of the industry with an understanding of the different areas you could be involved in, and from there, it’s really up to you to take the classes that fulfill your own personal interests. For me, I turned towards the business side of the fashion industry.
Another great thing is that Parsons always pushes you to do a lot of internships. You can pretty much tell a Parsons resume, because they always have some 20 internships on them. The school prompts you to just jump right in.
Was there a specific class that had the biggest impact?
Interestingly enough, I think it was a combination. I loved the business courses because that’s the direction that I was headed in. I actually worked at Parsons School of Fashion as a work study student for 3 years, so I was able to work on the CFDA Scholarship Program from that side. It’s full circle because now I’m working on the same program at the CFDA. I didn’t take any fashion design classes, so I observed bits and pieces of design creation working in the fashion office. That’s the side I got to know, and probably never would have unless I was taking introductory design courses at the time.
Why is it important for someone who’s in the business side of the fashion industry to understand the design side of it as well?
You can’t understand something if you don’t know anything about it. If someone asked you to make a t-shirt by tomorrow, it might seem reasonable. But certain business decisions need to be taken into consideration - the creative process. When you think about the production timeline, you have to consider how the garment is made, how long it will take for approvals, and the time for shipping. Knowing the full cycle from design to consumer helps the “business” people create a realistic timeline and make thoughtful decisions.
So in your opinion, were your experiences in school paramount in your development as a photographer?
Not really actually. Maybe school just helped me with some technical stuff, but really the best thing about it was the access to connecting with fashion students, because it's really a fashion academy. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts is famous for its fashion department. Meeting and talking to those students was so valuable because it opened up my point of view on everything.
How was your time at Central Saint Martins?
I studied my BA at Brighton and my tutor Jane Shepherd recommended that I apply for the CSM MA for the Textiles pathway. It was the best decision I made because before then I always struggled a bit, and found pattern cutting very tricky. Once I began approaching design through textiles, I felt everything fall into place. I spent the whole first year experimenting loads, and learning a lot form my mistakes. The course taught me to recognize my strengths and edit my ideas to deliver a focused and refined outcome.
A lot of stylists that I’ve interviewed so far have some background in fashion design. Did yours have an impact on your career?
Yeah, I think so. It’s important because you learn about how fabrics fall, what goes well with what, what looks good in what light because it has this shine, or will this stick to that; what’s going to be a nice fit on this person, how to pin and alter things, etc. I still even need to learn more. When you’re on a commercial job, you’re a seamstress or a tailor sometimes, tailoring a suit to someone. Often, it’s not that creative; you’re just polishing.
Does having a background in fashion design affect your viewpoint as a stylist?
Yes. It's really important to know how to make clothes, how to make a shirt, how to make trousers because when you're dressing someone, you know exactly what's going on with it and the way that it should be fitted. It gave me a different eye than someone who hasn’t studied fashion design.
What did you study in school?
I studied at University in the arts program for my first year and then transferred to Blanche Macdonald where I completed the fashion program.
Did it prepare you for where you are now?
Yeah but I’m always a little bit unprepared for every job that I start, which I almost think is the way that it should be.
You just learn as you go and you rise to the challenge. Now I feel like I could do this job no problem, but in the beginning it was overwhelming.
Do you want to touch on your decision process for leaving Parsons?
Parsons was great. I was studying communication design, which applies to fashion in a sense, but doesn't apply to what I'm doing now. It's a lot of graphic design, typography, and stuff like that. I was interested in that and I was good at that and it was always just kind of a backup. I excelled at working in fashion and styling and being an assistant, so I kind of just jumped ship without thinking twice once Ben offered me the position. I was always in school as I was assisting, but this was a full-time job and I wanted to be here full time and be completely in it. I just did it, and I don't have any regrets and I think sometimes life hands you these things where you don't know exactly what to do, but your instinct is always right and my instinct was always just to go with my dream job.