Ever wonder what life is like for an up and coming fashion professional working her glam squad magic behind the red carpet, designer gown, flashing lights side of business? Well, judging from the number of inquiries we receive here at Clutch from hopefuls looking to get their well-heeled foot into the industry door, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Enter Kim Maxwell, a driven entrepreneur, stylist, personal shopper and fashion consultant, who chronicles 30 days in her career journey in a new book entitled, The Career Diary of a Fashion Stylist. We talked to this Atlanta-based taste maker who has worked with artists like Tweet and fashion designer Mychael Knight about what the daily fashion grind is really like.
Q: Kim, what made you decide to write this book?
The publisher that I approached had a different series of career diary books and I noticed that they didn’t have anything regarding careers as a fashion stylist. So, I approached them with the idea and they really liked it. Another reason that I decided to write the book was that when I first started I really didn’t have a mentor or anyone that really gave me a chance to learn the business. Everything I learned was from trial and error and just researching. I had so many people that would find me via MySpace or people would call me wanting to know more about the fashion industry. I wanted to help people understand the reality of what it’s like to work in the industry and this book serves as more of a reference guide.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved in the industry.
I started at this when I was 19. I’ve been studying fashion since high school when I was taking visual and fashion merchandising classes. I always wanted to be involved in fashion. I started out doing window displays and I wanted to put my fashion ideas on people for the world to see. I knew fashion would be a good outlet for me. I went on to college and got a degree in fashion merchandising and marketing, and through research I realized that I wanted to get involved in fashion styling. I ended up obtaining an internship at a modeling agency by talking to the owner. That’s how everything really got started. I worked with various photographers in Nashville and was supposed to end up moving to L.A., but every time I got ready to move it didn’t work out for me and something crazy would happen. So my mom suggested that I move to Atlanta and I said no, but it turns out that I’ve been able to build a base for myself here. So I ended up moving to Atlanta, building a name for myself, getting my name out there working with different photographers and artists.
Q: In Career Diary of a Fashion Stylist, you give a very detailed account of your daily activities and there seems to be a lot of variation in what your work entails. So what would you say a typical day is like for you or is there any such thing as a “typical” day?
A typical day for me starts around 9 a.m.; checking emails, returning calls, or doing research on-line at Style.com or Women’s Wear Daily to see the latest fashion trends. I’m usually getting my portfolio and marketing materials together to show people for freelance work. I also network and meet with designers and clients throughout the day.
Q: What characteristics do you feel are necessary to succeed as a stylist?
You have to have and eye for detail, a good fashion sense, and a very thick skin because you have to learn how to be able to hear people tell you “no” and learn how to accept rejection. It’s a very competitive and political field. Also, you need ambition, the ability to be optimistic and focused with your eye on the prize. You also need to be very organized in order to stay on top of things, be up on fashion trends and be aware of how fashion is changing by reading magazines and other fashion publications.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you had known before you got involved in the industry?
That it was going to take so long (we both laugh), and that it takes a lot of money; well it’s not like you need a large amount to start a company, but you definitely need to have your finances in order to run a business. Whether it’s for your portfolio, mailing things out, or getting business cards; that all takes money. I wish I would have known how political and competitive the field was. I didn’t know how it was going to be. It’s going on ten years for me, and I’ve been in Atlanta for five of those years and I’m finally starting to get my clientÃ¨le together the way that I want it to be. I’m finally getting my name out. I just didn’t think that it would take THAT long to get my name out there and for people to start respecting what I’m doing.
Q: In the book you maintain such a positive attitude as you chronicle your journey. Was there ever a time where you felt like giving up? If so, how did you get through it?
I feel like giving up everyday. Well, at least once a week. It gets really frustrating. I just rely on my personal strength, God and my family and friends to support me. What keeps me going is that I have so much time invested in this and I have come too far to give it all up now. If I was going to give up it should have been a long time ago, but this is my dream so I have to keep going. There are days though where I do feel like, I just don’t want to do this anymore.
Q: What do you think people will walk away with after they read your book?
I think they’ll have a better understanding of the reality of what goes on behind the scenes of being a fashion stylist. It’s a thirty day diary so it’s very realistic. I’m very detailed in describing what I do on a daily basis; you get to see the problems I deal with and the lessons I learn each day, which will be helpful to others that run into the same situation. People who aren’t familiar with certain industry aspects will walk away with knowledge. I’ve included a glossary in the book explaining key fashion terms. Also, I think people will be motivated and inspired.
Q: We always hear about stylists and their magic tool kit. Do you have one stylist trick-of-the-trade that all women should know or could benefit from?
I would suggest that women look into Spanx. They give such a slimming effect. Also, you don’t have to worry about panty lines showing in your nice fitted jeans or sweater dresses. It just makes you look toned and slim. Great accessories are another thing every woman should have. If you have some really hot accessories, like a nice necklace or bracelet, it can totally take something simple like a tank top and jeans and make it look really amazing.
Q: What are a few of your fashion must-haves for spring/summer?
Definitely color! Bright and vibrant colors like orange, pink and even blue. A great summer dress is a must, along with a nice pair of peep toe shoes or sandals.
Q: So Kim, If we were to look in your clutch right now, what would we find?
My leather planner, sunglasses, and my makeup bag.
Q: So what’s up next for you? Can you share any future plans with us?
I’m working on getting more A-list clients, which is very important to me right now. I’m also in the process of looking for an agent as well. I’m working with Nina’s couture. She’s really hot so be on the look out for that. I’m just working on taking my career to the next level. I think that this book is a great start for me, it puts me into a different category with other stylists who are also published authors.
Photo Credits: Kim’s photo by Hannibal Matthews. Book cover by Drexina Nelson