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BY ROCHELL "E"

 FASHION STYLIST

ISABEL DUPRE

When asked about her transition from a model to becoming a fashion stylist; “It was a very slow process”, says the former ELLE America Fashion Director, Isabel Dupre.  Isabel was introduced gradually into the fashion industry by a group of friends who were photographers and stylists.  She gained experience by assisting with one of her friends, who is a stylist.  Isabel then decided to move to the Miami area for two years, working at a modeling agency and working with her stylist friend.

 

Isabel was approached with the opportunity to meet with people at ELLE Magazine for an interview.  They asked her if she wanted to start as an assistant, she responded “sure”.  Isabel worked at ELLE for 15 years; first, as a Market Assistant Stylist.  “It flourished to assisting them more, and then I began starting my own stories.” 

 

Working for ELLE American for 15 years as a fashion stylist/director and transmitting your passion into a full-time freelance stylist can be quite a transition.  After Isabel left ELLE five years ago, she began to freelance.  “It's a lot different from magazine life”, she says.  “With 'magazine life', it's like a 24hr everyday job; you are always on the road, if not you’re in an appointment, you never stop working.  You’re home at midnight and you get an e-mail from the office, it never really stops.  With freelance you have some breaks and when it's like a break then it's 'really' a break and you go from one client to another.  It's a lot less of a responsibility.  It seems that way,” says Isabel. “You do a job and it's finished and you do another one.  Working for a magazine, it's like raising a child.  You do the job from the beginning to the end.”

 

With being a freelance stylist, don't expect to have a daily routine.  “Every day is completely different,” says Isabel.  “I really have no idea what tomorrow is going to be.  When I'm shooting I leave early in the morning, get to the studio, put the look together and shoot.  If I'm not shooting, then it's shopping day.  If it's advertising, you go to all the stores and you just shop like crazy for free” [we laughed].  “If it's editorial you go to the showrooms and look at all the clothes.  Isabel draws her inspiration from various resources.  “Every day is completely different.  It depends on the job,” says Isabel.  “If I work on a fashion show, I would go meet with the designer, talk about story ideas, and if it's advertising, do mood boards for inspiration.  It's a lot of things to do.  It depends on what the job is.”

 

Theory.com came up with an idea of having 8 to 10 stylists to create looks for their online customers.   “I think it is a great idea,” says Isabel.  “Every stylist has a different eye on putting clothing together differently.”

 

Isabel work on a regular basis with clients; InStyle Magazine and Marie Clare.  And her recent client is the new designer Jeffrey Monteiro for Bill Blass.  “We did a presentation for the Resort and now we're working on the fashion show for Fall [Spring/Summer2011].  Isabel says this will be a fascinating project.”

 

I love shopping and I'm obsessed with it, says Isabel.  “You travel a lot.  I like the fact that you meet a lot of new people from all over the world.  It's a great social job.  Not like going to the office seeing the same 15 people every day.” 

 

Working in the fashion industry for more than 15 years; one may ask, what are the lessons they have learned?   “Not to care too much about how you look.  “I learned that beauty is not just a physical thing.  I could work with the most beautiful girl and find her absolutely dead and not interesting and not beautiful, and then meet somebody who's not like perfect.  Isabel says that she learned to not judge on the upper end.  “It's so weird because working with these beautiful girls you would think that you would become obsessed with beauty, but it's like the opposite.”

 

Isabel says that she got lucky when she started as a fashion stylist.  “It wasn't so many fashion stylists and it was sort of the beginning of people starting to realize what it was.  You were able to keep your job for a very long time and keep your clients for a very long time and now I feel like it's just a society of 'I used you and I want something new'.  So it's very hard to make a 'name'.  It's the same for the models.  Isabel gives an example; “Why did Cindy become so important, because they started at sixteen.  Now you see these amazing beautiful girls, she’s successful, and then for the next job they say, 'uh we’ve seen her before we want something new’.  So it's very hard to make a name for yourself because most people don't let you grow and show what you can do.  The more you work, the more you learn, and the better you become.  There are more people out there, no one wants to 'assist' anymore, and more girls want to be a stylist after six months.”  Isabel says that it's kind of shocking to her when she began to look for an assistant; girls would say to her that, ‘no I really want to become a stylist fast’.  It took her four years to become a stylist and that is how she learned.  “Everybody wants to do everything fast”, says Isabel.

 

She adds; “I think people don't realize the importance of 'experience'.  It's like, if I have one thing to say.  The key to be able to assist somebody that you can learn from, assist as long as you can, because you learn how to deal with the clients.  It's important to watch the stylist that you assist.  People will give you a chance but not that many.  I think that assisting is like going to school.  If you're like one of those people who doesn't like assisting and start doing your own thing; unless you're like exceptionally talented  and lucky because it's a lot of luck in this business.  'It's not the best way.'

 

Why do you think that it's so hard to work for a fashion magazine; some magazines hire 'in house'.  “A fashion magazine becomes your family, you don't have a life.”  Isabel gives an example:  “Oh I'm getting married on Saturday.  Sorry, you need to cancel your wedding because we're shooting Beyonce` for the cover.  And that's how it is.  The magazine comes first.  It's like an Army.  Your family becomes 'second'.  You need to be very devoted and ready to work like crazy.”

 

With so many aspiring fashion stylists, some would die to have a chance to work at one of the top fashion magazines.  But how difficult can it be?  “It depends,” says Isabel.  “When you work at a fashion magazine, if you're a working stylist, advertising, and consulting you will need to find a magazine that will let you do that, because a lot of magazines don't allow you to do freelance.  If you work under a contract it will allow you to work on other freelance jobs.  Isabel adds; with the way the economy is going the fashion magazines can't afford big contracts, so they are hiring freelance. “It's hard to get in as a stylist in a magazine now.”

 

Isabel gives her advice to the aspiring fashion stylists.  “Always put your suitcase on your bed.  That was the first advice someone gave to me.  Isabel said to me, never pack with your suitcase on the floor.

 

“You carry so many trunks and so many bags; if you don't take care of yourself and be careful you'll break your back.  It's a very physical job and when I see those young stylist carrying trunks bigger than them with 'high heels' on, I look at them and I'm like, you're not going to be a long carrier because your back is going to break.  Physically take care of yourself, go to the gym.”  Isabel adds that she had to have knee surgery, she guesses, because of the high heels she was wearing.  She couldn't work for three weeks. 

 

“Always look at the fashion shows, read everything about fashion.  It's like you almost need to be in that circle, if not, it's like not going to school for six months.  When people ask you what's the new pants, you should be able to answer them right away.  You need to be an expert in fashion.  I think that it's very important during fashion week to follow what's happening at the shows.


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