Before I started A Girl in LA I worked in various fashion PR showrooms in downtown Los Angeles. One of the many aspects of my job was to assist the stylists that came in. This meant helping them find the ideal clothing options for their celebrity clients. The goal is to get the designers' pieces good press, which is done by being featured on the red carpet, at award shows, in editorial shoots, and at media events—basically anything that will get people talking because of who’s wearing it. My job consisted of showing the stylists new designs, offering style suggestions, photographing the finished look so the showroom has a copy to send to the designer, writing up invoices—these were just a few of the day-to-day tasks I had. I always considered my job to be hectic. From the moment I walked in there was rarely any time to sit down. I worked throughout my lunch break and ran from showroom to showroom. It was a high energy job, to say the least, but when I interacted with stylists, their job seemed even more demanding.
A few weeks ago I interviewed celebrity stylist, Gina Checchia for a blogging position and I hired her on the spot. I did, however, have a ton of questions, like how did she break into the fashion industry? Who are her favorite clients to style? What advice does she have for aspiring stylists? I came up with a list of 12 questions that I wanted to know the answers to (and thought were most relevant for those looking to enter the industry) and asked away. Gina responded with her candid insight on what her life is like as a celebrity stylist. Xo-Kristie
How did you break into the fashion industry?
My entrance into the fashion world began in high school. I signed up for a history of costume design class which ended up being a technical theater course based on costume design. I styled the characters for our musical productions with used clothing that people donated. This gave me the opportunity to be my school’s theater costume artist and I found that I enjoyed the creativity involved. I loved the various aspects that went into planning the outfits and accessories and that propelled me to want a career in styling.
I started college as a fashion merchandising major at California State University, Long Beach. While in school I had a visual merchandising internship at a local boutique and then I got hired for a retail job at Polo Ralph Lauren. Finally, I ended up getting what I had always dreamed of—an internship for a Los Angeles-based celebrity stylist, and I worked my way up to her full-time assistant.
What kind of jobs do you do as a stylist?
An average day consists of driving all over Los Angeles and picking up and returning pulls from PR or brand showrooms. (A pull refers to gathering apparel and accessories from the racks of a showroom or a store which are used for various jobs.) These showrooms are located in downtown’s fashion district or in Hollywood. Then I will drop off the pieces at the studio in West Hollywood or I’ll head to a photo shoot, an award show, press event, or clients’ home for a fitting. In addition, I’ll return the clothing that we purchased but didn’t use. Then there are the basic tasks that take place in the studio like answering emails, cleaning, and organizing the clothing.
My favorite part is gearing up for an editorial shoot or a red carpet event. This is done by pulling pieces from showrooms and boutiques. For the shoot itself, my job is to plan what the clients will wear and offer them style suggestions. I’m also tasked with setting up the racks, arranging the clothing, and taking pictures of the finished looks.
What is your approach to styling a client? Do you ask them questions, look through their closet or go by previous shoots?
The first step is asking them what kind of clothing they feel comfortable wearing. This is how I know that I’m pulling the appropriate options for them. I also glance at photographs of their past shoots and checkout their social media. This allows me to see their day-to-day style and helps give an insight into what to pull for them.
Our team will then make a mood board filled with images in accordance with the artistic direction we are going for. I find the pictures through Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram. We then create it using an online application called Canva, or in Adobe Illustrator.
The next step is the fitting with the client. This is when I show them the options and get their input on what works and what doesn’t. After this, I fashion the outfits and take pictures of each item so I’m prepared for the shoot. Fashioning is the method of putting together clothing pieces to form an outfit that includes shoes, accessories, and jewelry. Once I am happy with the results, I’ll take photos of the put-together options. This comes in handy on the day of the shoot, because now I’m able to refer back to the choices we have.
Do any projects stand out as your favorites?
One of my favorites was an editorial shoot for actress Melissa Roxburgh (Star Trek Beyond, Manifest). It was the first one that I worked on by myself. I set up the racks, laid out the jewelry and accessories, steamed the clothing, and styled Melissa. Then I took pictures of the finished looks to send to my boss. I loved all the variety of looks that I created, and I made connections with the photographer and the makeup artist. Overall, it was a gratifying shoot to be a part of.
Another project that rates high on my list is dressing Kirby Howell-Baptiste (The Good Place, Veronica Mars) for Hemisphere Magazine. I loved the final look and it was exciting to pull for this one since we worked with Tory Burch Sport.
What is the least favorite part of your job?
The long workdays and most of the job consists of living in my car. Another least favorite part is returning unworn clothing to stores. A lot of people would love to spend their days at the mall shopping, but it gets tiring quickly. Going from store to store, standing in line, and dealing with annoyed sales associates is one of the unglamorous parts of being a celebrity stylist. For example, I got kicked out of a store for returning a receipt of 25 items because they knew it was for styling.
What is the day-to-day life of a stylist like?
It varies—no day is ever the same. People assume it’s a glamorous career, but only about 20% of it is. There are three parts to being a celebrity stylist. The first is my job at the studio where I do routine office work like answer calls, write emails, organize clothing, and tidy up. The second is running all over L.A. doing pulls, returns, and shopping. The third is styling clients, which can be for movie premieres, music videos, editorial shoots, and press events. It is not a career for the unmotivated—you need to have a go-getter drive since this kind of lifestyle will take up all your time.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from various sources like Instagram, fashion magazines, runway looks, and street style. I’m constantly inspired by social media and the fashion that I see on there. I’m also influenced by Los Angeles and its culture.
Who were your favorite celebrities to work with?
Actresses Lynn Collins (True Blood, Bosch) and Katherine Cunningham (Yellowstone, Condor) are two that come to mind. I styled them for red carpet events and they were both kind, respectful, and easy to work with. Another celebrity that stands out is U.S. women’s soccer star, Christen Press. I worked with her multiple times on magazine shoots and red carpet events. She’s very sweet, fun to work with, and insanely gorgeous!
How do you go about finding jobs? Are there websites, or is it mainly word of mouth?
Any advice for someone looking to become a celebrity stylist?
Get a job interning or assisting stylists—this will help you get the necessary experience that’s needed. Make a point of establishing relationships with other stylists, photographers, makeup artists, and others in the business, and work on building your portfolio—I can’t stress this enough! You won’t make a lot of money in the beginning and you’ll need to put in a ton of hours (like 14 hour days), but if it’s something you love doing, it will be worth it when you land your first celebrity styling assignment.
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