As far as fashion goes in Nigeria, the most common job titles are fashion designer, fashion consultant, fashion brand consultant and fashion stylists but of all, that of a fashion stylist is the most misunderstood.
I once had a conversation with an upcoming ‘stylist’ who wanted to provide me services. He seemed to talk a good game and toward the end of our discussion, I asked him when I could expect a mood board from him and he had no idea what I was talking about. Let’s just say I ended up styling myself.
As far as fashion goes in Nigeria, the most common job titles are fashion designer, fashion consultant, fashion brand consultant and of course fashion stylists but of all of these job titles, that of a fashion stylist is the most misunderstood.
First, let’s get the definition of a stylist straight. A stylist is a person who takes the burden of figuring out what to wear and how to wear it off a client and helps them out with the entire process from brainstorming to walking out the door.
In addition, you cannot be a stylist without possessing an in depth knowledge and good eye for fashion and diverse styles. But it doesn’t end there. More importantly, you must be a good listener and have a great understanding of the human anatomy.
Being a stylist isn’t about looking good on a daily basis. The fact that you get compliments when you step out in clothes does not mean you can style someone else.
In a recent conversation I had with a reputable PR agent, I discovered that she represented only one stylist in all of Lagos. When I asked why, she explained that a lot of proclaimed stylists don’t seem to understand what the job entails and she couldn’t represent mediocrity.
The major issue with most ‘Instagram stylists’ is what I like to call the ‘overnight success syndrome’, which plagues most millennials. The idea that instead of putting in time and effort into doing something that you absolutely love, you find someone doing something that appears glamorous and puts them in the spotlight and you immediately aspire to have their lives and think you will be celebrated just as they are by the next week.
Dear ‘Instagram stylists’, life does not work that way. Most glamorous jobs on the outside are actually annoying, frustrating and dirty most times behind-the -scenes.
You can ask the likes of Zed Eye, one of the foremost celebrated stylists in Nigeria, as well as Dimeji Alara, Veronica Odeka, Jane Michael Ekanem and Rhoda Ebun and they will all tell you how they had to put up with so much before they became the successes they are today. In fact, they still put up with things like client excesses and difficult fashion designers till today.
On the other hand, you can also tell an untrained stylist by their lack of knowledge of the business aspect of styling. Yes, styling is mostly creative work but it also very much about getting paid, honey!
This is ‘Naija’, where the economy is not smiling at all. If you want to be a volunteer stylist, cool, God is your muscle. But if you want to work and eat and hopefully flex in this economy, you must have contracts in place that will secure your money because we all know Nigerians love free things and we can be funny.
Although there are some Nigerians who simply don’t seem to appreciate good service and look down on good stylists or treat them like trash, untrained stylists are mostly the reason why styling as a profession is still largely seen as a joke in Nigeria.
So what’s the way forward, first off, make sure you are willing to be a servant, not slave biko! Understand that styling is a lot of service and putting up with crap. Next up, have a great knowledge of fashion and style, beyond what you like for your personal wardrobe.
Also, because styling is artistic, there’s no specific master plan or blueprint but do your research on what it entails and if you can, start out with learning from an already established stylist, maybe through an internship. Going further, have a good knowledge of fashion designers home and abroad and network with them. And if they loan you a piece from their collection, please return it in mint condition.
Finally, when you are ready to be your own brand, hire a lawyer, draw up those contracts, register your business, hire a good photographer or learn to be one and use social media to push your brand; make it legit! And never feel the need to do just about any job that comes your way. Know your worth and don’t settle for any client that doesn’t understand nor appreciate the hard work that goes into transforming their images.