How To Stand Out For a Fashion Assistant Role
Styling by Catherine Hayward, photography by Tom Craig
In the ‘How To Stand Out’ series, we ask industry professionals what they would love to see on a job application, breaking down the barriers to the ever competitive job market. This week, we’ve asked Catherine Hayward, freelance menswear stylist and ex Fashion Director of Esquire to tell us about how she would be wowed by a fashion assistant application.
Name: Catherine Hayward
Job Title: Freelance Menswear Stylist
How did you break into the industry?
I studied Fashion and Textile Design with Art History – a three year BA course at the University of Gloucestershire – after undertaking an Art Foundation course and having a year working abroad to brush up my French after A Levels (I studied French, English Literature and Art).
After graduation – and working three part-time jobs to pay off some student debt – a call from an ex-tutor alerted me to a possible internship at GQ in London. I leapt at the chance although, at the time, I didn’t really know what an internship would entail as there were so few opportunities around at the time. I didn’t know anyone at Conde Nast so it was a baptism of fire. Within five days of that call, I had started the internship.
After four months, another internship at GQ came up with the Photography Director. I went for that and got it. I then had some ‘right place at the right time’ luck; someone in the fashion department left while I was working with the Photography Director, so I applied for a job as Fashion Assistant and got it! I worked my way up from Fashion Assistant to Fashion Coordinator to Junior Fashion Editor to Assistant Fashion Editor, and finally, Fashion Editor over a period of ten years. I then moved to Esquire as Fashion Director and worked there for 16 years!
Why is a fashion/styling assistant a crucial role for a stylist?
Assisting at a magazine, newspaper or website is crucial. Learning from the bottom upwards means you acquire a solid background of styling, editing and writing skills, as well as the all important interpersonal skills. Watching and listening is key as you gradually build up confidence and contacts. And, of course, hard work and enthusiasm.
What skills do you look for when recruiting a styling/fashion assistant?
A sunny disposition and enthusiasm are key ingredients for a job in a busy fashion department. No-one wants to work with grumpy people! When I’m interviewing for potential fashion assistants, I like to find out the personal stories and the personal journeys of the applicant: What makes them unique? What makes them interesting? What makes them tick? It’s always in the details.
A fashion editor or stylist spends a lot of time with an assistant – so there is creative chemistry too. I’ve become great friends with a lot of assistants I’ve worked with over the years who now have successful careers of their own.
What would you recommend an applicant do to get themselves noticed when applying for a fashion assistant role?
It helps to be ‘clued up’ and informed about the company you want to work for. Do you have a favourite photographer who works for the company? Is there a favourite writer or journalist who writes regularly for the publication? What do you think of the style of the most recent edition? What has been your favourite cover of the past 12 months and why? All these details matter too. It shows you care about the bigger picture and you care about the details too.
When interviewing a really great candidate, he made a fascinating comparison between the magazine he wanted to work for and the nearest rival, building up a colourful and funny story about the ideal ‘reader’. It was entertaining and a clever approach to how he saw the industry as a whole. It got him the job!