How does one become a luxury goods authenticator, stylist or creative director? Where do you begin when there’s no clear-cut path for your desired profession? In our Real Careers series, we ask members of The RealReal team about how they got started in the industry, their day-to-day routines & advice for navigating the world of fashion and its infinite possibilities.
The idea of being a stylist has an almost magical aura about it. Spend all day around the coolest clothes, working with creative people and making style come to life? Sounds amazing. But is it? And how do you get started when there’s so much competition? We caught up with Creative Manager Marissa Benedetto, and she shared what a career in styling really looks like, how to break into the industry, and how to stay inspired.
What’s your background? How did you get your start in styling? I studied fine arts my entire childhood and graduated from Northeastern University with a BA in Arts Media and Design which means everything from physical painting, drawing, and art history to digital photography, graphic design and mixed media concepts. That said I was always interested in fashion and knew I wanted to eventually end up with a career in that realm. My first job out of college was an internship (aka, professional steamer) for Gilt Groupe. I steamed racks and racks of clothing all day and whenever I had a spare second went to the studio to check on stylists and their assistants to see if I could help out in any way by lacing shoes, stuffing bags, getting them tea … haha you name it.
What does a typical day look like? Every single day is different, which I absolutely love. But typically the week begins with a prep day, reviewing work from the previous week, looking at the present week’s shoots, and then conceptualizing what is coming up. There is a lot of research involved in coming up with 8-10 photoshoot concepts a week. Different shoots will have different tasks depending on whether we need to location scout, book a model, rent or make props etc. From there we shoot Tuesday-Friday and cover anywhere from 2-5 stories a day.
What’s your favorite part of the job? My favorite part of the job is seeing a shoot come to life. There are so many moving parts and it’s rewarding to see it all come together as a physical product of your hard work.
What’s the most challenging part? I’ve always been a creative person so while I do feel it is a privilege to have an outlet to express myself in this way every day, it can also be challenging having to come up with new ways to make things feel exciting and fresh on such a consistent basis. Sometimes the ideas are flowing out of me too fast to catch up with and other times you get stuck in a rut and need to figure out how to push forward in order to make it work.
What’s your advice for how to get started? There are so many different paths you can take to enter the styling world or the fashion industry and the first is understanding the range of positions available. Just within styling there are roles specializing in different categories. There are Prop Stylists, Set Designers, Food Stylists, Still-life Stylists, Editorial Stylists, Celebrity Stylists, Personal Stylists and Shoppers, the list goes on. As a baseline to get started there’s a few things you can focus on …
1. Do Your Research Day in, day out, breathe fashion. This means not just reviewing new runway shows each season but looking at street style, editorial, e-commerce and fashion news. Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are great for this since they’re accessible on your phone and make it easy to save and share imagery. Recognize the patterns of what you’re gravitating towards whether it’s a certain photography style or a specific brand’s creative output you love, and go from there.
2. Assist Established Stylists Experience is key. Start as an intern or assistant to individuals that have already established themselves. Constantly observing and asking a ton of questions is the best way to learn in such a visual industry.
3. Hone Your Portfolio It’s important to have a digital presence to show your personal aesthetic and what you’ve worked on in order to progress in your career. While you may not have access to work as a stylist on set for a big brand, you can test shoot with other like-minded creatives in the industry via networking. Photographers, set designers, and models all need to build a book as well and may be in a similar position. Really great images can be created with little to no budget by borrowing clothes from friends, purchasing second-hand and playing around with an iPhone camera in your neighborhood.
4. Be Persistent The fashion industry and styling careers in particular have an alluring quality, and while it can have its perks, the day to day is filled with a lot of physical exhaustion and less than glamorous tasks. Without getting into details, you have to love it. A positive attitude and eagerness to learn go a long way.