We keep hailing the revival of the film industry but what that revival is bringing in its stride is a bigger film industry, one that has opened up opportunities for an intricate support system. One small and yet very significant peg in the new system is the ‘stylist’, the men and women who ascertain that celebrities look like stars. Gone is the time when a celebrity picked out their own wardrobe or just called their favourite designer for a fashion fix. Celebrity styling is an art that requires insight, aesthetic and of course, a deep understanding of the profession.
So what do celebrity stylists exactly do? While there are countless stylists out there today, we spoke to five of the top names in the industry, to figure out the young dynamic and also, why celebrities are making such massive fashion faux pas despite having all the professional help they need at their disposal. Here’s what they had to say…
When you’ve styled the Coke Studio clan, Arjun Kapoor and the Manchester City football club, you’re bound to be a difficult man to get a hold of! But when we did manage to find Ehtesham, he was a delight to speak to. It would be safe to call him a pioneer in the styling business, “I was told to pack up my bags and leave, ” he tells us when he speaks of the initial days when he decided his career path.
Ehtesham puts emphasis on the fact that for any celebrity, having a stylist is as important as having a manager or publicist. He believes what usually goes wrong in a styling process is when celebrities lack trust in their stylist, or feel like they know everything. Which is why Ehtesham makes it vital to sit down with his client, before he accepts the job, and makes sure he is going to be heard out. Most celebrities already have a set idea of what their look is going to be, and if that’s the case “they don’t need me, they can just go to a designer,” he says.
“A stylist’s job is to give you a complete image and bring out your personality,” Ehtesham clarifies. “I would love to work with Mathira, and keeping her image in mind I would take away the vulgarity and make her look sensual.” He said, coming to his second point that along with good aesthetics and a keen sense of design, a stylist needs to know how to evaluate the client’s body type and personality to get the job done right.
Even though most stylists we see today have no relevant background or experience, Ehtesham is glad that the industry is finally growing. He agrees that sometimes new stylists might not do a great job, but claims that they will improve with time, practice, and relevant critiquing.
With Ehtesham being a forerunner in the industry, we know there is a lot of scope in the field, and we sure are glad he didn’t actually pack up his bags and leave!
We have always been fans of Haiya’s quirky and out-of-the-box style, on and off the red carpet! She has been the face behind many successful fashion campaigns for known brands, such as Sapphire, Pepe Jeans (those smoldering Mahira Khan and Ayesha Omar/Sikander Rizvi campaigns), Saira Rizwan and of course, Haiya’s favourite styling experience – the current season of Miss Veet Pakistan.
So our belief that you need a background in design to become a stylist was proven wrong when we spoke to Haiya and found out she doesn’t have any! Though Haiya has styled looks for celebrities like Humaima Malick and Ayesha Omar, she prefers working on fashion campaigns because she believes it suits her style more. And also because “models are easier to work with than celebrities,” she tells us with a laugh! Haiya believes a celebrity’s ‘bad’ red carpet look is usually due to the fact that they don’t understand the concept behind styling, and those who do hire a stylist just refuse to listen. “It’s insulting for us when we are investing so much in our work,” Haiya states. Yet she feels that red carpets are finally picking up, and will slowly reach an international level.
When asked to comment on the self-proclaimed stylists, Haiya chuckled and told us there is no way to actually tell them to stop, even though someone should! And we can’t help but agree…
Anber Javed – A Wardrobe Affair
Being one of the initial few, and having styled the likes of Mahira Khan and Humaima Malick, Anber has made her significant place in the industry.
“Celebrities need to be more disciplined,” Anber claims, “there is a difference between outsourcing and styling.” She recalls the times when she started her work and was mistaken for a hair dresser or make up artist, and to date she is often called up and asked to get a certain dress from a certain designer. The concept behind image consultancy still isn’t clear amongst celebrities, according to Anber, and neither is it clear amongst most stylists themselves. She calls the profession “a rat-race”, with minimal thought and effort being put into the work, comparing it to the likes of blogging and how everyone who had an Instagram account started calling themselves a blogger.
Anber tells us that convincing celebrities to trust their stylists is a difficult task. She speaks of her personal favourite styling experience when she dressed Humaima Malick in a ball gown-esque Elan outfit for the ARY Awards, before the ball gown trend started. According to Anber, Humaima needed some convincing, but in the end that look was a game changer for Humaima’s image. Anber was also the only one who answered our query about her worst styling experience candidly. She wasn’t happy with the TVC she styled for Metro shoes starring Urwa Hocane, since it had to feature accessories that she didn’t have a say in.
Amna Niazi – SiddySays
Though she is relatively new in the styling business, Amna happens to be one the few celebrity stylists who styles men too. She believes it is essential for a stylist to not transfer their personal style onto the client and that her profession is more suitably called image consultancy. “Knowing the latest trends and piling them onto a person isn’t called styling,” Amna tells me. “It’s called being Lahori!”
Amna has only styled a couple of campaigns for designers, since she prefers working with people she knows personally. When speaking about the stylist trend catching on, she believes since the profession is still new in Pakistan people are finding it exciting. Those who are not meant for it will soon get bored and move on to the next new thing, while those hiring will eventually realize who’s good and who isn’t. When asked about a bad styling experience, Amna told us it’s when your client thinks they don’t need to pay you for it, which she says used to happen a lot initially when her job wasn’t taken seriously. Perhaps it’s because Amna is still building her way up, or maybe because she’s an easy-going person. Hence, the biggest problem Amna faces is when super skinny celebrities claim “mein moti lag rahi hoon!”
Samiya Ansari – SwearUponCoco
We’ve all seen Tooba Siddiqui looking super hot these days for the Dobara Phir Se promotions, and Samiya (who happens to be makeup artist Saba Ansari’s daughter) is the stylist behind most of those looks. Another relatively new name in the industry, she started two years ago and is currently working with the team of upcoming film Arth 2, as a stylist.
Samiya too has the same complains as the others. Along with being over confident and believing they don’t need a stylist, celebrities also tend to be too headstrong. They tend to change their look, without the consent of their stylist, from the time they are styled till they arrive at the red carpet! Like the other stylists we spoke to, Samiya agrees that a stylist will only dress you in what they believe you can pull off, they don’t just follow the trends.
We do believe that all celebrities need stylists to hone the perfect image for them; it’s just impossible to do it themselves. And while we may have been pointing fingers at stylists for the red carpet disasters we have been witnessing of late, it turns out that the celebs themselves are as much to blame! As Ehtesham puts it, “a stylist needs to be part of your entourage, without your entourage you aren’t a celebrity!” It’s a vital investment in building your image, which only gives you better business. For our beloved celebs who believe their fashion sense is too good to need a stylist- it’s not. If Princess Diana didn’t find shame in being styled, why do you?