Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Albanese
Imagine an aspiring stylist trying to break into the cutthroat world of fashion: freely interning for three years, operating a series of six different costume houses, and holding two waitressing jobs all at the same time. Albanese gives us a glimpse of her journey, advice in styling and how to break into the industry.
How did you get into styling?
I went to FIDM and graduated back in 2001. I had a Fashion Design degree, and I hated Fashion Design. The pressure to turn out different collections six times a year just was not appealing and so I thought, “Hmm. I want to be a fashion stylist.” Back then, no one even knew what a stylist was where as now, these schools tailor curriculums and classes to them. From that moment on, I pretty much just googled the heck out of it.
I read trade magazines and I took every single opportunity as anything remotely close to wardrobe in the production world, regardless of pay. I didn’t make any money for about three years because I was working for free, and then waiting tables on the side. I was fired from both of my waitressing gig because I was always taking a time off when a styling gig would come up last minute, because that was my passion. I would always be calling in like “I can’t come in” because nothing could get in a way of what I ultimately wanted to do. I got my first huge break by answering a job posting on a website. I applied to it, and called, and called, and finally got an interview, and it was to be a stylist on Entertainment Tonight.
The reason I got to work at Entertainment Tonight – you have to be in a union for most of these television jobs. While I was taking every opportunity in the production world, which oh my god, some of the jobs I took were ridiculous but I didn’t care. I heard that you have to get in a union to work on television shows so I heard that you could get into the union by working at a costume house. These costume houses are rental houses that provide costumes for all those movies and television shows you watch. So, twice a month for an entire year, I would work into a series of about 6 different costume houses in the LA area. Twice a month, I would do my round and just be like “Hi, is there any opening?” and finally a year later, I got a call and I got hired, and that’s how I got into the union. That’s how I was able to take my job at Entertainment Tonight.
So I pretty much got this whole situation just by good old-fashioned hard work. I had no ties to the Hollywood business. I don’t have family in this business. I didn’t know a soul in this business. It was just all tenacity and just determination. It was a turning point in my career. My life forever changed with that first job at Entertainment Tonight.
You’re a style expert as well. How did you get into that? Is it through relationships or connections?
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I had been styling at Access Hollywood for six years and then on the side, contributing little tips and tricks for various magazines and shows. And that really inspired me, and I kind of tapped into a whole other expertise, if you will, where I could actually share my knowledge based on the credibility I had as being a stylist for so many years in the entertainment business. When I had left Access, I was like “I want to be the style expert for the next generation.” I then left and pursued a freelance styling career and a style expert career.
And absolutely, the relationships that I nurtured through the years and years of being a stylist definitely helped when I wanted to be a style expert in, let’s say, be on different shows or contribute to magazines. I could pull from those relationships I’ve had in being a stylist to now be like “Hey, why don’t I do a segment on this show.” And it all just came from there, and to present day, I am 50% style expert and 50% stylist. I’m 50% behind the camera and 50% infront of the camera because you have to keep both going, because the styling gave me the credibility to be able to say, I’m the quote on quote expert. It also keeps me out there in a different way, you know.
Since you have two different positions, what’s a typical day for you?
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A typical day. There is nothing typical. (Laughs). The only consistency is inconsistency with what I do. That just means that everyday is different. It can’t be typical because one day, I may be on a shoot all day styling and then the next day, I may be waking up in the morning, emailing a bunch of designers to get clothes for my next E! News segment, and then maybe in the evening, I have a fitting with a client. A typical week would definitely be a combination of a lot of emails whether it’s pitching my producer, pulling clothes from showrooms, emailing my editor, and contributing to different magazines to pulling clothes, arranging looks whether it is a shoot or a segment, delegating tasks to my assistant and intern, and being infront of the camera. It’s a juggle.
What do you like the most about your line of work?
I love the unknown part of it. The inconsistency. The variety. The variety. I love the variety of it and the excitement of the unknown of what my next job is. What the next opportunity is. That makes me tick. Why I love being a style expert is because I love talking, connecting with people. It is my ultimate passion. To marry the two, to be able to style and talk about it to people, it’s my perfect harmony. It really is. As a stylist, you just do it and you talk about it with your client, or your family, and your friends and maybe you’ll get some recognition for it. But when you’re styling and talking, and also being able to talk about it to people on camera – to get that message out there, to be able to share all that knowledge, it’s my ultimate.
What do you like the least about your line of work?
The business can be very, very cutthroat and sometimes brutal. But that’s why it’s important that for every job you get, to be so grateful and always have a smile on your face. And be thankful because to be able to style at this level is in the end, so incredible and so wonderful that you have to keep it in perspective. If you’re playing with the big league, you’re going to rise high and you’re going to fall hard. It’s the constant up and down. That’s one of the things that isn’t something that I hate, it’s just the reality of business.
Would you say it’s mostly in the fashion industry?
Yeah. It can be very intimidating. It is very intimidating, and I think that’s why I’ve chosen the niche to go more on the affordable, relatable side because that’s the core of who I am. I’m marrying who I am as a person to the fashion that I talk about, and that is why I’m in my ultimate place right now. I can be myself and speak about things that are relatable to the masses.
What advice could you give aspiring career individuals who are looking for opportunities in the styling world?
To forget about the money, initially. To seek every single opportunity regardless of pay. To always follow up and keep in contact with your networks or the people from the job you’ve worked on, because it’s true when they say that you will thrive off of your relationships. Because of the inconsistency of this business, you never know when you may be the right person for the next job that’s coming up for somebody. You always have to keep those networks warm, and that sounds very overwhelming but you have to because the competition is so fierce in this business now. Everyone wants to be a stylist. Everyone does. Everyone wants to be on camera or everyone wants to be a wardrobe stylist, and you have to be that much more on top of it because that’s the only way you’re going to be able to set yourself ahead of the rest.
Can you share some rules you abide by when it comes to styling yourself or celebrities?
The rules for styling is comfort is always number one. And I just don’t mean comfort like sweats comfort. I mean comfortable in your skin. I can tell if a client likes it and says “I love it,” but I can tell and I’m like “You’re not loving it. Take it off.” So I think feeling like someone feels themselves is number one important, because if you can make someone feel comfortable and like themselves, that’s the job that you’re in right there. Even sometimes above anything else. As far as a style rule is – to not follow trends if that is not what you feel is your best in. For the sake of being trendy.
What would you consider the number one mistake that people make when it comes to styling?
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Over accessorizing. Huge earrings, big necklaces. Also, a stylist not understanding balance. Not doing their research on the client, or not following the concept, or inspiration board that the client or company has sent you as a guideline for styling. For a stylist, she needs to have an eye for balance. That’s something that when you’re hiring a professional, they need to know that. You need to assess the person, their figure, their personal style. You need to wrap that all up, style them based on that but also have that balance. That is what I think that people hire stylists for, because we have a refined sense of that.
I think that is important because that’s the only way you’ll be able to style everyone from Gwen Stefani to Anna Kendrick without all of them looking alike. It’s staying very true to what that person’s personal style is and also keeping that look and that balance. Sometimes you can see people and it looks like they’ve been styled by that stylist because all of their clients look the same. I think it’s really important to stay true to someone’s personal style. I think we’re hired for our opinion and because we have such a refined sense of what we do, refined taste, that it’s up to us to really look at, stand back, look at what it is we put together with our keen eye and figure out that balance. So when they go off and they leave, they are show-stopping perfection. Everything is just in that right. Bam, bam, bam, bam, spot. It’s like pulled together to the nine.
How would you describe your style?
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My style is moody. My style is all based on my mood and how I’m feeling. Because of that, it’s always a mixture. You will rarely see me in a head-to-toe, full-on girly look or a head-to-toe, full-on edgy rocker look. I like to offset feminine and masculine pieces but in one word, I would say my style is very moody, and mood-related to how I wake up and how I feel. My motto is personal style is all about dressing by incorporating your own personality, what’s right for your body and what’s appropriate for the occasion. I think dressing appropriately is so important. I think people dress inappropriately a lot through different things in life and I think there’s a lot of judgment in this world, and that’s just the world that we live in. Obviously, I love self-expression so it doesn’t matter but I think for certain things in life, I think dressing appropriately or sophisticated at the right times or professional at the right times is very important.
Is there anything that you would like to add?
There’s no monotony in this business whatsoever. If you want consistency in your life, you need to run the opposite way. If you want a sure thing, you need to run the opposite way. There’s no such thing as ‘Good, I’m here forever’ or ‘this is amazing.’ It’s all fleeting and that’s why you just gotta roll with it. (Laughs).