Do you often look at someone and think to yourself: Who dressed you? And do you think that you could do a better job of it? If you answered yes to both of these questions, you might, I said MIGHT, want to explore becoming a stylist.
Before you quit your job or do something else that might be considered equally as crazy, you might want to check out MTV’s new reality series, Styl’D (New Day: Saturdays 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific). On Styl’D, six junior stylists work with their senior counterparts at the famed Margaret Maldonado Agency (MMA) to create looks for celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Soulja Boy and Ashley Tisdale. As a reward for their hard work and impeccable fashion sense, one member of the junior crew will be awarded a highly coveted contact with MMA.
Recently, I got a chance to chat with Tara Ahmadi, 23 of Mission Viejo, CA, a contestant on the new MTV series. Since I am a walking cry for help, I looked forward to asking Tara questions about creating looks, misconceptions about the profession and her personal journey.
Okay, first question: How do you work with a client to create a signature style? According to Tara, it’s important not to throw someone out of his/her comfort zone. “The goal is to elevate them to something more glamorous. Turn the volume up to 11.”
Are you a rapper in need of a style update? Is the bling bling seeming a bit humdrum? Tara has the answer. “I’d jazz [the look] up a little with perhaps a leather jacket and some Balenciaga shoes. Make it all little more rad. More hip hop cool.”
But what if this person, who shall remain nameless, (No it’s not a real person, so stop guessing), thinks his style is perfection, no changes necessary, but in reality, it’s so not hot. How does she lead them to the promised land of great fashion? First thing you don’t do, is knock their style, said Tara. “The best way is to show them something better…You say, ‘That’s good but why don’t you try something else.'”
Since a stylist’s job is to get his/her client ready for their close up and since that close up can happen in numerous places, do you dress someone differently for still camera versus the motion camera versus the red carpet? Yes, said Tara. For editorial (still camera), you can “cheat”. You can do things like adjust the lighting. You are still mindful of how textures and fabrics appear on camera but with editorial you have the greatest latitude. Not so with a live motion/video camera. Everything has to fit perfectly for you can see every bump and bulge. It’s completely unforgiving. As for the red carpet, Tara said it’s best to stay away from white and prints — anything that might not photograph well. “You don’t want to come across looking like an optical illusion.”
For those of us who are not stars (and I think that pretty much covers all of us) but still want to look good this Fall, I asked Tara for a must-have. “I’m know I’m beating a dead horse, but it’s boots. All different heights of boots — every shape and size. Thigh high boots are good for layering. Also, there is a rock and roll revival. Bring out your inner badass. Leather, studs. [The look is ] very Judas Priest.”
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I do. You are saying to yourself, “This stylist stuff sounds like a piece of cake. I don’t get it.”. And you’re right, you clearly don’t get it. One misconception about styling Tara said, is that it’s easy. Even she thought so at one point. “I thought you sat around smoking cigarettes wearing fancy clothes, telling clients, ‘It looks fabulous dahling’. And the looks just happened.” Tara said that the business of dressing others is not a fabulous as one might think. “To get a glamorous result, you have to do a lot of unglamorous things.”
And you have to be tough. “You have to have a thick skin to be in the fashion industry. Everyone has an opinion. You can’t be the least bit sensitive.” When asked if the life a of junior stylist is anything like that of celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe’s proteges Taylor and Brad, who in addition to going dressing A-List stars, get to drive Mercedes Benz’s when running errands. Tara said that Styl’D paints a more realistic view. Tara said she and her fellow interns/junior stylists make their own car payments often with no help from Mom and Dad and are more likely to drive Pintos than Mercedes.
So are fashionistas born or made? I’d say in Tara’s case, she might have been born with the passion for fashion. (Sorry, I just had to say it; I couldn’t resist). Tara loved fashion for as long as she could remember. At 12, or perhaps 13, Tara and her best friend starting making their own clothes. “We used to buy vintage dresses. We’d cut them up and sew them smaller because things that I liked weren’t in stores. For $20, I’d get an outfit from the Salvation Army…All the stuff I made as a kid I still have and I love them.”
It was in high school that Tara discovered designers and fashion magazines such as Vogue. For her, it was like “opening Pandora’s box”. “Every paycheck goes to saving up for new shoes,” said Tara. So the breakdown goes like this: 25 percent goes to savings; 25 percent to food and 50 percent to shoes.
Before the visits to Salvation Armani and before the obsession with shoes, there was Barbie, Tara’s first unofficial client. “I begged my mom to buy me outfits for Barbie.” Tara’s attempt to create looks for Barbie often ended in disaster — bad haircuts, eye or two poked out, and dresses that were way too short. Like I would suspect any budding fashionista would, Tara always wanted a Bob Mackie special edition Barbie. But seeing what Tara did to the off-the-rack Barbie, her mom said, no way.
When asked if there was a defining moment in her life when she knew that she wanted to be a stylist and that nothing else would do, Tara said that there wasn’t one. Her decision to become a stylist came after the realization that she did not have the talent to become a designer but wanted to remain in the fashion industry. So she decided she would channel her interest in styling into a career. Tara interned with with designer Betsey Johnson but because she wanted to be a stylist, she knew should to seek an internship with one. So she decided to go for the”creme de la creme”, MMA. She visited website, got called back for the intership and landed a spot on the shot.
And what should we expect from Tara on Styl’D? Calling herself, “the voice of reason”, she said we will see her going through ups and downs due to the high tension, high stakes environment of styling coupled with the added pressure of having cameras following your every move. But she added, “I don’t know what you should expect. You just have to watch and find out.”
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