I am very excited about today’s post. I have interviewed a dear friend of mine that I have known for years. Several years ago when I worked in Textile Design and Product Development for Frederick’s of Hollywood, I worked with Allison Dickson-Brandt. She was the Fashion Stylist, working on different projects for our catalog. I thought it would be wonderful to interview her and show you a day in the life of a celebrity fashion stylist. Allison has a VERY extensive resume and is also the founder of The A List!
Owner Background Summary:
I’ve been a fashion stylist for 20 years now. When I started in the fashion/production business in LA. there weren’t a ton of stylists like there are now… So if you worked your butt off – you could pretty much always be working.
I also formed a great working relationship with a young photographer who needed everything from hair and make-up and styling to photo shoot assistance, studio management and even repping.
I did a TON of work for free to build my book and get experience and worked nights as a waitress and on the weekends at Macys at the makeup counters to get free makeup to add to my makeup kit. Sometimes on shoots I was the makeup artist, stylist AND photo assistant. I also had to get lunch and coffee.
Because I have done it all – literally – it helps me that much more in my styling.
I know how to read photographer’s moods on set, I can see how the light is affecting the clothing or makeup, I can even make lighting adjustments. Anything to help achieve a great photo.
How did you start your site?
TheA-List.com is inspired by an article I wrote for a group of women’s newspapers. One day the publisher called me and said he wanted to tell me that a very prominent woman came up to him personally to say that an article that she’d read in his newspaper…“Literally changed her life.”
It was my article. I thought it’d be nice to do that for more women. After all…. Why should only the beautiful & thin…rich & famous get to know all the insider tips and tricks? Now we all can. (the full article is here.
From there, I started doing Style and Lifestyle segments for television. I needed a place to forward viewers to so they could learn more about the products, fashion or and style advice that I was featuring on the shows.
I chose The A-List because 1. Its connotation is of ‘the best’…Of a well-curated selection or the cream-of-the-crop and 2. ‘A’ is the first letter in my name – so that was a no brainer 🙂
I still can’t believe the domain was actually available…. I own both spellings: TheA-List.com
with a hyphen and TheAList.com
(without a hyphen).
What is your site about?
The tag line is ‘Everything HOT & COOL’. I left it broad intentionally so that I could cover a wide range of topics, people, places, products – you name it.
It’s very style heavy of course – as that’s what I do – but we now have a Beauty Editor, Kendra Richards and an Entertainment Editor, Leeann Tweeden. And there’s a couple of others in the works! We have so many cool things planned. And now the personal styling services have really taken off – so it’s quite busy right now.
What are the things you like most about your career?
I love the constant, relentless challenge and never knowing quite what to expect. Ok – sometimes the stress is insane – but everyday you’re on set – you know it’s go-time and you have to have extra eyes, ears and arms to keep up with everything that gets thrown at you.
Being a stylist is not just putting together pretty outfits. You have to run your crew efficiently, always be present for the client, manage the sometimes delicate (shall we say) talent and also keep tabs with the buyers or editors or designers to make sure the two are happy. And that’s not easy!
I always tell my assistants that we are NEVER to go to a client with a problem without either a solution or several options.
Of course you have to report something that’s happened – but I always strive to be part of the solution. I kind of feel like that might be why I’ve been able to stay in the biz for so long. I’m a fixer.
What are some of your top sources of inspiration?
I find it everywhere! I always tell my assistants and new stylists that – for me anyway – I am submerged in my work. I see outfit combination ideas in even the simplest of things – like a dog’s jacket or a flower – for example: magenta petals, yellow center, green stem, brown dirt and patterned pot! – THAT’S an outfit combo to try!
Of course I follow all the magazines, top sites, trade magazines like WWD etc. but I also like to seek out the obscure. Tumblr is a great place for that.
I’ve also gone to a zillion fashion weeks… London is a favorite for the ‘anything goes’ style. Even though Fashion Week is a zoo – it’s a great way to really throw your brain in a new direction.
What are the best and worst things about being a business owner?
The worst part? LOL… careful what you wish for! Styling is only a portion of the business. You have to be aware of every penny you spend. Be aware of your taxes at all times. Get a great accountant and pay quarterly. Keep your receipts tidy and available at all times. You have to buy your own insurance, health, dental and car. You may want to get an agent. They take care of your billing and reporting – but you have to be aware of all that yourself too.
You can get some really big checks from your major jobs. You’ve got to be smart and allocate that money accordingly to make sure that you have money for taxes at the end of the year.
Itemize EVERYTHING and hopefully you’ll get some good write-offs. Playing with beautiful clothes and accessories can be tempting – but remember – a healthy bank account is the best ‘look’ ever.
The “best” part? I don’t have to work, Monday-Friday, 9-5. When I was dating my now husband I would finish a big job and head to Boston, New York, London, Europe – wherever – to meet up with him. Of course I knew I was booked a week or two later – so it made it ok.
During those trips, I would absorb all the inspiration of each city and take tons of photos. I made a conscious effort to take that experience back to my client and my work.
Another thing I always tell potential stylists… You have to have the mind set that you are ‘never NOT working’. When you are on-set, you are working. When you’re not on set – you’re working to get work or bettering your skills. Networking, learning, testing etc. It’s a hugely competitive industry. You have to hustle.
What is a typical day like?
These days rather than being on-set as much – I am working on “The A-List’ with stories, trend reports, product recommendations, interviews etc. We also have to maintain our social media presence and that means that Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and our Facebook page have to be updated constantly.
We have also launched “Free Personalized Styling Services” and that has really taken off. Everyday I am working on multiple client’s wardrobes, fulfilling requests, sourcing special requests – you name it!
If you’re working on a catalog – it’s a bit easier because we would ‘load-in’ as we say. Set up our area and get all the clothes together and accounted for. There is a ton of prep work on the first day and I always carry loads of accessories and styling tools, tips and tricks to be able to add to the set.
Then each day after, we follow our well-oiled machine of accounting for each shot that is needed that day and making sure that come hell or high water it gets done for the client.
On editorial jobs – it’s like that too – but more creative. We often have a
client in Hair and Makeup for 2 hours or so – so that allows us to prepare. Then we usually get the talent for a bit of time to get the outfit on etc.
However if you’re on location you have to deal with the elements, your clothes/samples getting dirty or torn. You also have to drag everything from location to location. Just because you’re in Tahiti or Bali – doesn’t mean you’re are on vacation by any stretch! You have to be up before sunrise to get ready for the ‘golden light’ – and then you can be shooting until the light goes down – which can be around 9pm sometimes. Shoot days can be excruciatingly long and exhausting.
What are some of your greatest accomplishments?
I’ve appeared as a Style & Lifestyle Expert for most every major network in the U.S. including NBC, ABC, FOX, ABC Family & The CW and on shows such as TODAY, THE VIEW, Fox & Friends, Good Day L.A. and OPRAH. My style advice has been featured in The New York Post, Real Simple Magazine, The Woman’s Newspapers Group and Woman’s World magazine to name a few.
Mine and my sister, Diane’s design work has been featured on shows for NBC and ‘In-Style Magazine’s Weddings Special’ and in numerous publications such as Brides, Victoria, US, Weddingbells and InStyle. We’ve created accessory designs for celebrities to be carried at ‘The Emmy’s’ and ‘The Academy Awards’ where our company was credited as a contributing designer for three years in a row. It was also an honor to outfit the entire ‘Millennium Rose Bowl’ Rose Queen and Royal Court with custom accessories.
What’s your philosophy of life?
Hmmm… that’s a good one. I always strive for gratitude and to realize that for every fun shoot – there are people out there saving lives so a broken or missing shoe is just NOT a big deal. When things may not go the right way – I always say “Don’t be part of the problem – be part of the solution”.
I always tell wannabe stylists – that being a stylist is so much more than putting together cute outfits. You need to be able to sew (especially hand-sewing for on-set repairs), do minor design tweaking – be a kind of styling MacGyver. What seems like fashion emergencies to some are just a day’s work to me. I had a model who was closing the show of a live runway show outside in Miami in front of hundreds of people, celebrities etc.
She had a diamante-crystal bikini on with a bride’s veil and a gorgeous, long train attached to her tiny bikini bottom. (I made the veil and train). Just before she went out she took too deep of a breath and the top burst from behind. I could see and hear people backstage going nuts but I just grabbed some jewelry wire and my wire cutters, tools etc and kind of went into the zone and wired her together in a quick-fix. LOL… you just have to tune all those hot-heads out and figure out a solution – stat.
We were nervous because I was also afraid the wire might be digging into her back as she walked – but she made it out in time and people gasped and were cheering and the client was even teary. it was very dramatic… very cool. I’m glad we pulled it off.
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