Creative Careers: Styling
Judith Rita Nanyonga pays homage to London’s creative crowd.
In this segment, she talks to stylist Sean Azeez-Bright, who has worked with the likes of Gorgon City and Tinie Tempah, and styled editorials and commercial projects across the globe.
J: You’ve stated that your interest in styling started in your early teens. What sparked this?
S: I was watching this show called The Rachel Zoe Project. It was about this big American stylist and it showed an insight into her career. I’d always been interested in fashion, and that show made me want to find an internship to gain experience, so I started researching on Google to see how I could get into fashion styling and what it really entails.
J: How accurate would you say the Google searches were?
S: At the time I knew of something called Fashion Week. I stumbled across a company that were running an off-schedule fashion showcase, emailed them, and they brought me on board. I worked on a lot of their show’s backstage as a dresser. From there I just started interning for stylists.
I’d always wanted to be in fashion, but I wasn’t keen on the design aspect. Often you’d think the only way to be in fashion – from the outside looking in – is to be a designer. But there’s other ways to make an impact in the industry.
J: Are there any personal shoots that you would like to do like yourself, if you had complete creative freedom?
I would definitely love to explore the idea of more GQs in Africa. I’d love to see a GQ not just in South Africa, but maybe one in Nigeria or Ghana or somewhere where they’ve got a high spend in luxury fashion. I feel like in Nigeria I see a lot of Nigerians wear a lot of luxury clothes, so it would be interesting if they could produce a GQ there. That’s something I would love to embark on.
Another personal project would be to expand my new business, which is Focus Man, an online e-commerce retail store. Whereas you may go to your well-known boutiques or department stores, I can get authentic designer for a really good price and give you a discounted rate.
J: What’s your advice to anyone who wants to get into styling?
S: I would personally say intern. I say this again because I meet a lot of the younger generation who think I’ve got a cool Instagram, I know how to dress, but when it comes to the executing – let’s say they get a big client or they get a musician that’s willing to work with them – they don’t know how to contact PR agencies. That’s important, you can’t run away from the graft.
I’m not saying that everyone should work unpaid, I do believe people should be paid, but get some experience because it’s vital. Also, when it comes to talking to, let’s say celebrity talent, knowing what’s respectful and how to behave around them counts.
J: What you’re saying is, there’s a lot unsaid in terms of the business side and knowing how to socialise with people who can help you.
S: I’m very big on it. At the end of the day, it’s important who you know. For myself, I assisted, and I’m grateful for the knowledge that I’ve gotten so far. I’ve used that knowledge to get where I am now.
J: Would you say one of the most important points regarding unpaid – which people are very reluctant to do, especially nowadays – is knowing what’s worth your while?
S: It’s a tough one, to be honest. I see it from both angles, but it’s all down to you. I was doing unpaid work on the side and going to uni, but it’s all down to personal preference and how badly you want it.
A lot of the unpaid stuff I did got me into rooms that I would never have gotten in otherwise. If it was a paid opportunity at that time, at my age, I don’t think I would have got in, but because they saw I wanted experience and I was hungry, people gave me the chance. It’s just life, you know.
J: Is there anyone who deserves more recognition?
S: Jefferson, my manager and agent, he runs Lamarche Fashion. About two years ago I approached him about managing me because I felt he was the most suitable person to enhance my career in terms of setting budgets and getting new features.
I think we bounce off each other well. Having an agent is something that as a creative you sometimes need to take your work to the next level, regardless of whether they’re taking a 20% cut. It can help to elevate your work and put you in front of the right clientele.
J: Any final thoughts on your career or styling?
S: Being a person of colour, it’s not been bad or anything, you just have to keep pushing. I find it’s an industry where I’m seeing a lot of people who look like me. It’s a diverse and inclusive place. Don’t hesitate, if you want to work in this field, it’s open to everyone. You just have to pay your dues, and I’m still, you know, paying my dues.
For more from Sean, please visit his page