Defunct & Un-Creative: The Capitalist Styling Problem


Styling, image-making, and wardrobe management are pockets of the fashion industry that people often neglect, or fail to give fair credit to. Considered by many as “un-technical” or something “anybody can do”, there is an unfair consensus that styling is a fundamentally unserious sector. But today, this sector has been transformed into a successfully lucrative business, most obvious amongst the elite, where stylists can request thousands in fees to curate looks for the glitterati.

There is a skill involved in pairing clothing, staying abreast of the trends, and visual storytelling. But, when everyday people style themselves each day, armed with nothing but their own vintage wardrobe and a bathroom mirror, the cost vs value of a personal stylist can seem frivolous. Nevertheless, at their apex, these creative roles are both highly paid and highly sought after; they are also highly based on who you know and who can recommend you!

In an era where models’ bodies and paparazzi photos are expensive marketing spaces, VIP stylists have been absorbed into the machine that is celebrity money making. But, can the creativity of styling remain unperturbed at the celebrity level? Or, has the industry at large been comprimised by commercial interests?

Toptier stylists can reap substantial monetary rewards by positioning their clientele with key brands, who are willing to pay large fees for the opportunity to showcase their collections on celebrities. Under the scrutiny of the public gaze, there is lots of bidding and pitching to lay your fabric on these public bodies.

It is difficult to believe that truthful and authentic decision-making can survive in this environment which is over-saturated by money and deals. Can stylists stay neutral, and should they? Or is their role about tactfully balancing artistry and valuable deals?

GLITCH touched base with a number of stylists in the industry to understand their thoughts on this matter, and see what was really happening inside the industry.

“In 2024 it isn’t possible to give a univocal definition of a stylist”, Elena Rossini, an editorial stylist and content creator, tells GLITCH. “It covers various roles, but quintessentially styling is an important profession because it is a way of expressing different personalities and emotions, and it becomes a great communication tool. The problem lies in the fact that today styling is much more aimed at marketing products rather than telling a story, and those who manage to continue this storytelling are certainly not part of the mainstream world.” Jazmine Gould, who has worked as a freelance wardrobe image consultant summates, “The task at hand is a lot bigger than playing in clothes”.

Suzana Popa, a certified Styling and Image Consultant, tells GLITCH that “this shift towards commercialization has also led to a homogenization of styles and a focus on trends rather than individual expression”. Simply put, everyone ends up looking the same.

Unpicking the world of celebrity styling is difficult, “I think this concept of stylists themselves becoming famous tends to overshadow the image of celebrities and brands, the dynamics are complex” Rossini further explains to us. “There is a sadness that stylists are pushed to go commercial in order to make money. However, I also think that fashion as a whole has lost its creativity – collections now just conform to the market, and so styling has lost the very thing it was created for, it has now just become a mere sales tool”. 

When speaking with Gould, she agreed that money has tarnished the industry, and claims that this is why so many celebrities stick with the same brands and continually look drab, but she also was quick to highlight that we shouldn’t criticise stylists for following financial incentives,  “collect the check if that’s your prerogative!”, she jests frankly.

“Celebrity styling also involves building relationships and understanding the clients’ personal style, and creating looks that align with their image and the event they are attending. While financial considerations are a part of the industry, successful celebrity styling is also

about creativity, vision, and emotion – it is’t entirely a money game”, assures Suzana Popa, who has worked to devise campaigns with major brands such as Hugo Boss to Mercedez-Benz. Suzana left us with a lasting statement, about the onus of being a stylist “We have a responsibility to remain authentic” she commented, “In a world where everything is changing faster than ever before, where so many services seem to be threatened on a long term-base by the introduction of artificial intelligence – staying real and authentic is the only chance to survive & to showcase unique skills and creativity”.

Written by Hebe Street from GLITCH Magazine


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