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Is the stylist the most important role in music right now?

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The music video has gone through quite a process. From Zig-a-Zig-ah to Lemonade it’s obvious how the artistic integrity of the music video has evolved, developed, and its visual style has sophisticated over time. 

The music video has been an important part of the commercial success of a song for decades. In the 80s and 90s the expansion of MTV meant that if you didn’t have a video to accompany your latest single there was no way your music was going to climb up the charts. Today, with the advent of platforms such as youtube, it is now more important than ever that your music not only sounds great but has strong visuals ready to go viral.

It’s no wonder then that music videos present a fantastic opportunity for artists to express their individual style – with many opting to tell a carefully crafted story about who they are, what they believe through the clothes they wear. When the queen B released highly visual album Lemonade in 2017, the music-video-come-fashion-show was very much in vogue. Beyonce and her stylist took this trend further and layered symbolic and often socio-political messaging within the clothing choices they made.

All this means that stylists and costume designers (although these two worlds are now blurring in the modern media world) are some of the most important creatives on set for a music video. Their influence knows no bounds especially when top fashion houses and clothing designers clamber to have their latest creations adorned by a superstar. If Beyonce is wearing one of your outfits then that is publicity money can’t buy!

More important than ever…

This trend shows no signs of slowing down with brands pouring ever more money into the industry to ensure they are ‘visible’ to a mainstream audience.

This means that the stylist is more than ever, front and centre in calling the shots when it comes to an artist’s visual messaging – and are able to influence fashion in a powerful way.

With all this in mind, what does it take to style a modern music video? Fashion conscious magazine Who What Wear spoke to A-list stylist Avigail Collins to get the low down on some of her biggest styling credentials.  Having styled some huge names in music she has recently been behind the looks on Jess Glynne’s video ‘I’ll be there’

Jess Glynne – I’ll be There (via YouTube)

But how does your average stylist get to the point where they are working with artists like Jess Glynne? Talking about how a stylist gets to work with star performers, she explains that sometimes you might have a connection with the artist before their career takes off, so in this instance getting the job happens fairly naturally. It’s about making your work visible, you never know who is going to ‘take off’ and love your work. But this way in is rare, and usually, as Avigail reveals, it is the record label who is picking up the phone.

“With it being through the record label—even if it is someone you know who’s a friend, even if you’ve known this person your whole life—you’re still officially introduced to the record label, and then you have to pitch for the artist. The record label will tell you the kind of vibe they’re going for, as they will have already worked on the creative direction. So you have a creative director and a stylist who work together to build the image of the artist.”

Quick turn-arounds…

It’s surprising how quickly a music video actually comes together. Avigail explains the creative process to Who What Wear, revealing that the stylist usually joins the team very late on and has to deliver within a very short space of time.

It’s not until the treatment is confirmed that the stylist gets involved. Once I get the treatment, we’re usually shooting a week later. The longest I’ve had to prep is two weeks, which is quite unheard of.”

The preparation involved with styling on a music video can be much more intense than styling on a shoot. Avigail advises having several options available, particularly as the light on set can be so different from where you have done the fittings, turning a good styling idea into a bad one.

“When you’re filming a video, it’s visually so far away from a white room where you do a fitting: You might get into the light and see the outfit looking completely different, so you need to have something on standby.”

On this she advises you have more than one of the same look:

“Something might happen to the look; when we just went to Mexico with Jess, she had a Jacquemus dress that got drenched as she jumped in a canoe. The next day, the dress was being filmed again, so it was a case of hand-washing the dress overnight and steaming on set the next day in the middle of the pink Himalayan salt lakes before its next venture underwater.”

Working between video shoots, TV and promo work, Avigail gives some great advice on how to think about styling for these different looks.

“you have to think of TV and everyday promo outfits as everyday work clothes, but lifted to another level. So that would be something casual, but it’s still got to have the star quality and be a little bit better than what us ordinary folk would wear!”

On touring a look she gives this interesting insight:

“Whatever you’ve done for the album cover will be carried on through to the tour, so it kind of becomes a uniform. It also needs to be something that moves really well if the artist is going to be dancing—it can’t be anything that’s going to be restrictive.”

Current trends…

Talking about fashion trends in music videos Avigail talks about streetwear’s influence on an artists ‘look’

She said:

“I think the fashion sense in music videos has got so much more streetwear-inspired, so it becomes a little bit more wearable. As a little girl, I used to be so excited when MTV Base would drop a new J.Lo video—I would literally run home from school. I think that feeling was lost for a lot of people a few years ago, but I do feel like it’s coming back.”

Brands are now so involved with music that it is possible to buy the clothes you see on screen almost instantly, further confirming fashions influence on music and the artist’s influence on fashion.

“There are now apps where you can watch a video and either buy that exact item or something really similar, which is incredible. The future is seeing a music video and clicking to buy, and brands being able to see the sales generated out of these moments.”

With the advent of visual apps like Instagram and the ability to share music videos instantly across platforms, it’s obvious that the work of a stylist has become one of the most important in a music artists team.

If you’ve not thought about working as a stylist within the music industry perhaps now is the time to start,

You can read the full Who What Wear interview with Avigail here.

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