So So Gay’s ‘Fashion Faces’, is a series of articles, designed to introduce you to the faces behind the fashion industry. We’re all aware of the power players, the super yachts, the parties and the celebrities, but what of the people trying to make a name for themselves in the renowned cut-throat industry? Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, takes time to realise how fortunate she is to be working with people of such stature and experience which means she eventually realises that the sweat and tears aren’t really worth it – sorry to spoil the movie if you’ve not seen it but, come on, its 2012! There is a generation of young gay men and women attempting to forge a career and make a name for themselves on the pages of Vogue and GQ, so let’s meet one of them right now.
David Bartlett, a Yorkshire boy, moved to London at the age of 18 to study menswear design at the London College of Fashion. He later moved onto the iconic Central Saint Martin’s. He soon discovered that he was more suited to styling than design and began building his future in fashion.
During the early years of his career, Bartlett was lucky enough to work with the late Isabella Blow – fashion icon and mentor to Alexander McQueen. Jobs at numerous publications enabled the graduate to build a network of high profile connections. Working today from his base in London’s Soho, Bartlett has built an impressive CV.
He has styled Nike commercials and BBC adverts. Fearne Cotton and Zane Lowe have been dressed by him. Cheryl Cole’s ‘Parachute’ video? That was him too.
So So Gay Fashion managed to grab some of his precious time and find out what the role of a stylist entails.
So So Gay: Hello David. Thanks for stopping to chat with us. We’re curious, out of all the roles in the industry, why did you choose ‘stylist’?
David Bartlett: Originally I thought I wanted to be a designer and I went to the London College of Fashion and Central St. Martins to study menswear design. Whilst there I interned at various fashion magazines and realised that fashion media was where I wanted to be. I enjoy the fast pace, the variety of working as a freelance stylist, working on different projects from week to week, so nothing is ever the same.
We can imagine each day is pretty hectic. Could you describe your typical day?
Being a freelance stylist who works across different mediums I don’t really have a typical day. The only constant is countless cups of Starbucks coffee and repeatedly checking my emails. For each shoot a lot of time is spent prepping and there is more logistics involved than people realise. From researching what is out there, to persuading the PR’s to lend the pieces. So most days involve countless emails to designers press teams trying to secure the right item of clothing for the magazine or celebrities I’m working with at the time.
On a shoot day, I need to make sure that everything has arrived on the set. I’ll have pre-edited the looks but will also have options with me as things may need to change. A fabric may not photograph well or certain styles not hang well on the model. Once the models are dressed and on set I need to keep a constant eye out to make sure that the clothes are shown at their best by clamping and pinning and removing any marks.
You must have exceptional attention to detail, hence your impressive CV. What has been your proudest achievement?
I always tend to like the last thing I’ve just worked on or more often the next project, as I don’t like looking back. It is too easy to be over critical and I always think how I would have done things differently. However, styling my first music video for Sam Sparro’s ‘Black and Gold’ was definitely a proud moment, when we shot the video we knew it was a great song but didn’t know how big the song would become. Seeing the video in bars and clubs when I was out and hearing people appreciate the work was great. Also, the first time I saw a cover shoot of mine displayed in stores I felt a sense of achievement.
You did that? We love that song. It’s going to be in our head all day now. Everyone knows crazy fashion stories – Naomi throwing mobile phones, celebrities being hours late. What’s the weirdest day you’ve had as a stylist?
Every day has weird aspects so you begin to accept it as the norm. One that sticks out was getting up before dawn to make harnesses, which we couldn’t prep before the shoot. It had to be made out of around 250 belts for 24 dancers, whilst my assistant was spraying their sleeves with silicon lube to make them shine. This was for a Take That video. I was certainly glad they weren’t filming a behind the scenes feature.
Take That? Lube? It’s all too much! We feel the role has become more prominent in recent years. Why do you think this is?
People are definitely more aware of stylists and their role. This is partly because the internet has opened up the industry to a wider audience by live streaming fashion shows so the people attending can also be seen. Magazines are also putting behind the scenes videos of fashion shoots up on their websites and blogs, featuring the creative team behind a the shoot. As well as this, TV shows focusing on celebrity stylists, such as the Rachael Zoe Project, are making stylists household names. This is all great and I love knowing who’s worked on what. But I do think fundamentally a stylist’s role is behind the scenes working with the photographer and art director making sure the images are looking their best.
You mention Rachael Zoe. She’s been called an über-stylist. Which other stylist’s work do you admire most?
As fashion and styling are constantly moving forward, so stylists are always pushing the boundaries and coming up with great new ideas. It is hard to name just one; it also varies across the different genres.
True. If you weren’t a stylist, what would you be?
Who knows, but I would hope it would be creative.
Rachael Zoe has launched a clothing line; other stylists have become TV presenters. What are your hopes for the future?
I’m hoping to increase my client base and to continue working on great editorials, music videos and with celebrities making beautiful images.
You can view more of David’s work at DavidBartlett.net or follow him on Twitter @Stylist_David