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“Stylists are the people who push each celebrity to make the best dressed list”

The job description of a stylist has always proven to be a tricky one to explain. What exactly is a stylist and what do they do? Everyone has their own definition as to what a stylist does.

A stylist can generally be thrown into one of three different categories; Fashion Editor, Wardrobe Stylist & Personal Stylist. Each sort of stylist plays a very different role but the one most commonly known is a Personal Stylist. Among being one of the most popular emerging professions in the fashion world across the globe, the role of a stylist is still very unclear and often open to interpretation.

The Devil Wears Prada

As new as the concept of styling is to South Africa, we are still potty training and learning as we go along. Our pool of stylists is close to non-existent thus our local celebrities often make the mistake of relying too heavily on designers supplying them with the best gowns for the best events and not so much on the overall curation and styling of that gown.

TV Host Lalla Hirayama for Previdar Magazine

Looking through the Instagram pages of many of our female celebrities who are said to be in the forefront of the fashion industry in this country, it is very rare to find stylist accreditation for big fashion events. The only accreditation one will find would be the photographer, hair stylist, makeup artist and designer. So my question is, who sourced that dress for you? Who picked that specific dress from a collection of dresses for you to wear to that specific event? What was the thought process behind the selection and the creative direction of it?

Bonang Matheba and her glam squad

Definition: A personal stylist is a person who independently helps individuals shop, curate their closets and define/refine their client’s image. The role of a personal stylist is to give professional fashion advice to ensure that clients will be able to showcase their desired fashion images. A stylist is there to provide insight on how wardrobes should be worn, what accessories will complement a particular outfit, what outfit color will suit the client’s personal taste and so on. In general, personal stylist profession must be able to combine the latest fashion trends with the client’s personal taste.

Actress Amy Schumer and Stylist Leesa Evans for THR

When we look at the fashion front of our local entertainment industry, there is always one or two people who shine more than the rest. With perfectly styled looks, they are the ones we often look and refer to as “showing up”. Then there’s the few who could’ve gotten it right but something could’ve been tweaked and fixed here and there. With all the different kinds of styling (or lack thereof) that we have witnessed, there really is no way of telling whether or not a stylist was used.

TV Host Ayanda Thabethe styled by Kgosi Lesego of FearLesAfrika

Just in 2017 alone, we have seen society fashion events come and go and mostly leaving us underwhelmed but there have been a few that count when speaking of styling. Bonang Matheba hosted the Namibia Annual Music Awards with, of course, three stunning outfit changes; two by local South African designer and one by a Namibian designer. She showed up in a gorgeous green floor length halter neck gown with sexy cutouts and geometric embellishment by Ruberto Scholtz. The simplicity in her styling made the dress speak all the volumes that it needed to. Then at the SAMA23 Awards, Nomuzi Mabena had her style turning point when she showed up in a beautiful red ruffled skirt and intricate embellished sleeveless top that had one little yet incredibly sexy cutout by Gert-Johan Coetzee. The simplistic short wavy hair with just the right kind of earring made that her fashion moment.

Nomuzi Mabena in Gert-Johan Coetzee

Whilst we have seen great styling occur, we have also seen those instances where bad clothes happen to good people. Pearl Modiade showed up to the Metro FM awards in a yellow creation with subtle mesh paneling by Zama Zarth of Zarth Designs. The dress, with the right type of altering, could’ve tried to save the day but the overall styling was just off court. The dress wore her instead of her wearing it. Lerato Kganyago is another victim of bad clothes happening to good people. At the SAMA22 Awards, Lerato was dressed by Quiteria & George in a black mesh creation with gold embellish detailing. Again, another case of bad styling. The dress by itself was not right for her. She looked uncomfortable and squashed and the overall styling of hair and makeup didn’t help her case either.

Radio & TV host Pearl Modiadie in Zarth Designs

So what is it that we just aren’t getting right?

Almost a year ago, Celine Dion rose to new fashion heights during the Paris Couture Fashion Week in July of 2016. She was draped in carefully curated pieces and gowns ranging from Saint Laurent to Christian Dior and the likes. This came after she had gone into a seclusion of sorts after burying her husband in going into her grieving state. The emergence of a new fashion queen was on the brink. And who do we have to thank for this new approach on fashion? Celebrity stylist Law Roach. Law Roach has been at the helm of one of fashion’s most shining rising stars. Zendaya Coleman was a Disney star who landed in Law’s hands by chance and he catapulted her to the fashion star that she is now. So how different is what Law has done with Zendaya and Celine Dion to what Jason Bolden has done for the likes of Lala Anthony, Gabrielle Union and Taraji P. Henson?

Celebrity Stylist, Law Roach with clients Celine Dion and Zendaya Coleman

Understand your client! This is the core basic of styling; understanding your client, their brand and what it is that they like and don’t like. The role of Law and Jason will to then take this direction and interpret into what it is they want to say and more importantly, what their client wants to say. Time and time again, it has been said that style speaks more about the person than what actually comes out of their mouths. Style is an interpretation of everything we may want to say at a particular point and the stylist is the interpreter of that message.

Celine Dion in a Law Roach curated look

The job of styling is to curate an aesthetic that will long continue to speak for you even when you aren’t around. This is something that has to be carefully thought out, drawn out and then executed with such precision and finesse.

Celine Dion styled by Law Roach

A stylist does more than just pull designer dresses off the runway or from a department store for a casual look. A stylist has to build the look from the ground up. Every element of the look has to tell a cohesive story. The importance of the relationships between stylist and glam squad is imperative to the success of the execution. All three styling components have to share the same vision and speak with the same voice.

Jennifer Lopez with stylists Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn for THR

With everything that is built, the foundation is the core strength of the structure. Every other material has to sustain and support the foundation to elevate it to its greatest heights. The common misconception with stylists is that they just pick the dress and put it on the muse.

Celine Dion wearing Stephane Rolland Haute Couture during Billboard Awards performance

At the 89th Academy Awards in February of 2017, Jason Bolden put Taraji P. Henson in a stunning navy blue velvet Alberta Ferretti gown accessorized with a 103 carat Nirav Modi diamond necklace. That look shot Taraji straight up the best dressed lists and the entire Award show season cemented her and Jason as the dream team. This is what happens when styling is done meticulously. Everything from the hair to the shoe, right down to the most delicate and dainty stud earring, must work harmoniously. It needs to tell a story and evoke emotion and this is why styling is still uncharted territory in South Africa.

Captured by Getty Images at the Academy Awards

It takes more than just the right dress to make a fashion moment.

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