Styling isn’t all fun and games… Or is it? Powerhouse Sally Lyndley tells us more about the biz and her first educational venture, Styling Seminary

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You know, I’ve worked with some of the biggest names in fashion, and while I’ve been around them, helping each other out has always been the spirit of things. We want to support each other, especially when we’re all working with people who are really talented and good at what they do. — Stylist Sally Lyndley

Sally Lyndley is quite the entrepreneur. OK, we’ll put this into perspective for you: at just 17, she became an assistant stylist at the Dallas Morning News and moved to NYC a year later where she began producing runway shows for KCD (clients included Louis Vuitton, Versace, Chloé and Helmut Lang). While other kids were still deciding which colleges they were going to attend — places where these kids would continue to figure out their careers — Sally was already coming out strong and establishing a path that would lead her to style for Marie Amelie Suave at Vogue Paris, Katie Grand, Anna Wintour and celebs like Drew Barrymore and Victoria Beckham. In continuing with this sense of drive, she now seeks to fill the gap in her latest effort to provide aspiring or already established stylists a practical education to the fashion biz through her Styling Seminary, a web series discussing all the various forms of styling as well as healthy business practices. Check her and her Styling Seminary out cuz we just couldn’t get enough.  — MEGHAN FARNSWORTH

SHK: SINCE THERE’S NOTHING LIKE THE STYLING SEMINARY OUT THERE, WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS BEHIND THE SERIES?

SALLY LYNDLEY: A couple years ago, I had a blog for Fashionista. All of these people who were reading it started emailing me, “Oh my god, could you do some sort of weekend lecture thing?” I realized that things are so vast with the Internet, and you can pretty much access everybody all around the globe. So I thought that the whole way to do this talk was to put it online, so people could view it anywhere. I’ve always been interested in doing some sort of education type of thing because, after working with my assistants, no one ever really had any help even though some of them were coming from Parsons, Central St. Martins in London, FIT or FIDM in California. There’s no real styling course anywhere to help anyone get a really great job in fashion, working for other stylists or whatever, so I just wanted to create something to help my own assistants and interns as well as the other people who were reaching out to me through Fashionista. The first video I have up on the site is more of an introduction/overview type of talk, where I just discuss the philosophies of the business, who you’re taking care of and who your clients are — you know, all of the different ways to think about the various jobs that stylists do and how to build the business aspect of it, which almost no one really ever talks about. Luckily, I’ve had a very very fruitful, high-income business. But when you have no one to really talk to about the process of developing the business aspect of styling, things can get incredibly confusing pretty quickly, and you could make some really expensive mistakes. I noticed that there were some things out there discussing styling, like weekend seminars, but  I didn’t just want to make the Styling Seminary something for people only living in New York or Los Angeles. I’m originally from Dallas, Texas, and this is something I would have wanted when I was 16… So, I started thinking to myself, “What was I desperate for when I was a teenager? How can I really help people?”

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SO, INSTEAD OF TEACHING PEOPLE HOW TO STYLE, YOU’RE SHOWING THEM THE ROPES OF THE INDUSTRY.

Yeah! Actually, during the first seminar, we had four different types of people in the room — there were stylists who already had established careers, a few assistants helping top-tier stylists, interns and three girls who were either in college or high school (they were trying to figure out if styling was something they were interested in pursuing). What’s funny is that four of those assistants in my first seminar have become big stylists within the last two years. I’m also continuing communication with the other two stylists with full-blown careers, and they’ve been able to double their income. Many people think that the Styling Seminary is just for people who are trying to get into the industry, but I believe that it’s applicable to anyone in the realm of styling — whether you have an established career or not. This is crazy to say, but because I talk about the philosophy of styling and the various types of styling, people can become more aware of which direction they can take their career. With styling, there are three or four different ways you can do it — you can become a stylist for magazine editorials, a celebrity stylist, a runway show/designer consultant stylist or you can make a majority of your money styling for advertising and things like that. Each one of these types of styling has its own path. In the Styling Seminary, I talk about each one because I’ve done most of them extensively. But through the web seminars I create, I want to help people figure out what they’re interested in as well as find their creative voice. I also talk about the business aspect of the industry and the team you have to work with as a stylist. After all, there are photographers, videographers, assistants and hair and makeup teams. Right now, I’m filming a beginners series, which talks more about the technical aspects of each type of job. I’m also working on creating a type of trend reporting, which isn’t going to be like WGSN. Instead, we’re planning to deliver more quick trend information so people who are stylists know which shows they should be paying attention to, models, hair and makeup, magazines, stylists and photographers.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE BIZ?

I’ve been styling since I was 17 at the Dallas Morning News as an assistant stylist in their fashion section. In 1998,  I began going to NYC on and off and then officially moved moved there in 2000. It was in 2001 that I began producing shows for KCD. While I was there, I worked with Versace, Louis Vuitton and Phoebe Philo at Chloé, Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang. Then I started styling on my own when I went to work for Marie Amelie Suave, one of the fashion editors at Vogue Paris. For about a year, I worked and lived in Paris, which was amazing. After that, because I had worked with Katie Grand on the Louis Vuitton shows at KCD, she invited me to work at POP Magazine in London. After two years there, I started working at the American Vogue, which had always been my dream as a kid. Now, I style on my own while still working for Vogue and LOVE Magazine.

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WHOA?! THAT’S CRAZY AWESOME. SO AMONG ALL OF THAT, WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO CREATE THE STYLING SEMINARY?

I just launched the site on January 25, so it’s brand-new. In 2001, I filmed the first video featured on the site. The blog I did for Fashion Week on Fashionista was in 2009. Because building a website takes time, all of this has been a super slow process. I moved out here to CA to really focus on the site because the Styling Seminary is something that I’m so passionate about. I just really want to help people now. I’ve been talking with many fashion schools about doing some couple-hour talking gigs just so I can get out there and have conversations with kids who are trying to figure out what they want to do. Every week, I get so many emails from people asking me, “Hey! How do I do this, and can I come and assist you?” With the Styling Seminary, I can still reach out to these people because it’s a place for anyone, no matter where they are in their careers. They can learn more by watching the web workshops and taking courses.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE NAME STYLING SEMINARY? DOES IT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH ALLITERATION….?

The Fashionista blog I had was called “Sally’s Styling Seminary,” but when I decided to create my own website, I just cut out “Sally.” I didn’t want the site to be entirely about me because I have plans to bring in stylists who I respect and have known for years in order to do lectures and other things like that. Also, I just like the word “Seminary” because it has a religious undertone. In my case, and for many of my friends, fashion tends to be a religion because we can use it as some type of mental escape. When I was an eight-year-old, I got into fashion and started reading Vogue because my parents were getting divorced. At that time, fashion was such an escapism thing, and it was something healthy in which I could disappear. Aside from that, many people take fashion so seriously, like it is some form of religion, so I just thought that the name “Seminary” was a funny, especially when you think of it in terms of how serious people take it sometimes. Also, when you get into education, you see so many cheese-y names that make things appear really obvious, like “Styling 101.” But with the word “Seminary,” there was something so funny yet so cool about it.

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RETURNING TO YOUR TIMES AT THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU FOUND OUT YOU WERE APPOINTED AS AN ASSISTANT STYLIST? AFTER ALL, YOU WERE ONLY JUST 17?!

I had just quit modeling. (I started out in fashion as a model, and I hated it.) I did one photoshoot for the Dallas Morning News, so that’s how they found me. The creative director said to me, “Why don’t you come and be a stylist with us?” Luckily, I had just found out what a stylist was. You know, this happened in 1996, where accessing the internet was much more difficult than it is now. I mean, I knew what a fashion editor was, but I just didn’t know anything about stylists. When I started working for the Dallas Morning News, I just thought it was the most awesome job because it didn’t really feel like one at all. I was thinking to myself, “This is fun.” Another cool thing was that, among many of our high-end fashion advertisers, like Prada, Chanel and Neiman Marcus, there was also Kmart and Target. Because of that, I would have to solve this crazy puzzle of how to combine clothes from Kmart or Target with clothes from Prada, and to me, that was the coolest, most fun thing, I could possibly do. Like pairing a $40,000 beaded Prada vest with a Fruit of the Loom wife beater from Kmart? That was so awesome!

However, what felt weird about working at such an old establishment like the Dallas Morning News was the fact that I was so young. I mean, everybody in the fashion section was amazing. They were super creative and knew their shit. That’s where I learned about Helmut Lang, Raf Simons, Jil Sander and all the Belgian Five from the late ’90s. Basically, they were obsessed with all of the minimalists. But even though many people would assume Dallas fashion to be lots of big hair, tons of makeup and old Chanel and St. John, the people in this fashion section were the exact opposite. They really knew their shit, and I just though it was so cool. But at the same time, this fashion section was still a part of this old stodgy newspaper. I had a mini-mohawk, bright orange hair and crazy clothes from a local designer (half of them were see-through). I just remember everyone looking at me and acting like, “Who is this crazy child?” There were a couple of times where I was sitting in big newspaper meetings with all of these writers and editors… During one particular meeting, one of the big editors discussed how they were losing the younger crowd and asked how the newspaper could appeal to teenagers. I remember raising my hand and how everyone just ignored me. I thought that was so weird because I was obviously the only teenager in the room. After that, I just learned to keep my mouth shut and continued moving forward until I found someone who would listen, like the creative and fashion directors I was working with. They totally cared about what I thought and had to say, and that’s why our little fashion section was so awesome. They even let me go to NY with them and helped me get into shows. Even though Dallas is a huge city, it was great to be able to work in a small town in terms of fashion and to be surrounded by two people who were so supportive and who taught me everything I needed to know — even at such a young age. I feel like that is the spirit. You know, I’ve worked with some of the biggest names in fashion, and while I’ve been around them, helping each other out has always been the spirit of things. We want to support each other, especially when we’re all working with people who are really talented and good at what they do.

HOW DID YOU MEET MARIE AMELIE SUAVE?

I met her the same way I met the creative director at the Dallas Morning News, who asked me to come work for them after she noticed my style at a photoshoot. When I met Marie Amelie Suave, I was producing fashion shows. She saw me and said, “You need to come work for me.” Really, it’s all about working with the people you’re most inspired by in any capacity. When you’re moving up in the world, you have to stop and think, “How do I work with these people? How can I contribute and help these people?” From there, your whole work relationship becomes a very supportive one.

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YOU’VE WORKED WITH BOTH CELEBRITIES AND SUPER MODELS. WHAT’S THE PROCESS LIKE FOR WORKING WITH EITHER? IS THE CREATIVE PROCESS DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER OR SIMILAR?

In general, models are just different because they know that their job is to make whatever you put them in look good. For celebrities, though, their strategic business in life is to portray a certain image, so celebrities usually have something that they’re either trying to protect or promote. Also, there’s usually a manager involved, so you have to deal with other factors outside of the celebrity. In fact, I’ve gotten many celebrity clients by just making friends with the publicists, the managers and the assistants (like friends for real), and then they end-up calling me when they needed something. But celebrities are just different in general because they already have a certain image or look within the public eye. From the earliest stages of the shoot being scheduled, you have to communicate with them what you plan to do. As long as you’re honest and communicate between the celebrity and their people, you usually have a great time. If you’re working with a celebrity one-on-one for something like a press appearance, you have to figure out what the strategy for where they’re at in their career and what they want to look like. For instance, when I worked with Drew Barrymore on her Big Miracles Tour, she was pregnant, but hadn’t announced it yet. All she wanted to do was feel comfortable and look like herself. In other words, she didn’t want to look like a doll on the red carpet, so we put her into pieces like Isabel Marant and things like that, which felt comfortable but were still very cool.

… It’s just more of a conversation of strategy when you’re dealing with celebrities. But when you’re shooting with super models, you’re usually shooting for someone else, like a brand or a magazine, and the super models are a part of another person’s creative strategy rather than their own.

DURING THE FIRST VIDEO YOU LAUNCHED ON THE STYLING SEMINARY WEBSITE, THERE IS A SECTION WHERE YOU TALK ABOUT THE “QUALITY OF LIFE” YOU LEARNED WHILE LIVING IN PARIS. TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS.

The French are so interesting because they’re so passionate about everything in life. While I was at Vogue Paris, I was so used to this type of American mentality where I was in the office by 8 a.m., have lunch at my desk and not leave the office until 8 or 10 p.m. the same day — and it wasn’t unusual for me to work one day on the weekend either. In NY, everything was about convenience… Everything from the food to the clothes I would wear, so I wouldn’t break my budget. But as soon as I started working at Vogue Paris, no one would be at the office when I got there at 8 a.m.. However, at around 10 a.m., the other editors and assistants would come in and always be like, “Okay, who is this weird American girl who shows up at the crack of dawn?” After that, they would take a two-hour lunch and leave the office at around 5 or 6 p.m., and I thought that was so weird! Also, many of the girls who worked would invest in buying vintage pieces or nice designer pieces instead of just wearing H&M or Zara. There was always a conversation about longevity and in taking care of yourself, like how every meal you eat is special. You would always ask yourself, how can you do your job and still be creatively fulfilled if you’re constantly burnout, lacking energy and not healthy? Slowly, my American mentality started to change. Because I was working with Nicolas Ghuesquiere of Balenciaga and Marie Amelie Suave, who’s very French, I received so much exposure to this type of lifestyle where everything was quality. You wanted everything that you owned — whether it is a dress, T-shirt or bag — to be of nice quality, which is so unheard of in American culture. The more I began working for Louis Vuitton and Phoebe Philo of Chloé, I started to realize the care and quality that went into creating these garments. I’m kind of a hippie in a sense because I believe things have energy. The  energy I feel from watching someone who loves what they do sew a dress versus the energy of  someone who is underpaid, unhappy and making it in a factory is so drastically different. Paris just gave me exposure for the first time to people who were just so passionate about something as simple as the cheese set on the table for dinner or the piece of leather on a shoe. Everything was just so well-thought out, and that was the first time I really experienced that over the fast-paced nature of America.

Living in Paris was one of the biggest learning curves I ever had in fashion. Anyone who is in fashion seeks to gravitate towards luxury fashion, because it’s what essentially sets the trends. Everything I see on the streets is usually set by a runway somewhere, especially on a runway in Paris, more often than not. And the products you see on a runway in Paris are all luxury goods, so you know that the people making products of this nature, like Céline, Comme des Garçons, etc., live a type of quality lifestyle, which also informs the conversation they have when designing and creating the clothes. In this way, their idea of quality gives you a perspective into why so many people want to wear these clothes.

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SO WHEN YOU WENT TO LONDON TO WORK FOR POP MAGAZINE, DID THIS IDEA OF QUALITY STILL RESONATE THERE?

For me, London was really different than Paris because fashion there is more focused on creativity rather than luxury, which was fantastic for me. While I was living in London, I was working for POP Magazine, which was being edited at the time by Katie Grand, who now edits LOVE Magazine. The greatest thing about working under Katie was the fact that she wanted me to do the most creative work I possibly could, which is such a rare position to be in. That may sound really crazy, but in America, fashion is more about commercialism and selling products. In Paris, everything has to look chic and expensive, and in London, fashion is about just how creative and interesting you can be, which I thought was so cool… Being able to get my feet really wet as a stylist by working under someone like Katie was really amazing. I think my first assignment at POP was to fill 50 pages of the magazine. I mean, even though half of it was still life, I didn’t give a shit. I was having so much fun! I was getting to shoot guinea pigs with luxury watches.

ASIDE FROM THE STYLING SEMINARY, YOU HAVE A DAILY PERSONAL BLOG ON YOUR WEBSITE. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE?

I’ve always been passionate about writing because it was one of my favorite things to do in school. I left school when I was really young in order to model, so I never really felt like I had the chance to hone my skills as a writer until the last couple of years. I started with my blog at Fashionista, which was my first experience blogging. Because I was working with more commercial clients in America, like Reebok, J Brand and Target, I knew that people were going to be Googling me more often, and I wanted to have my own place and perspective on the Internet. I felt like I didn’t want people who were researching me to only find things that other people had written about me. Instead, they could read things that I had written myself. Also, there are a ton of politics behind fashion news, and I think it’s important for people who already have a perspective on fashion to share it. I think so much of fashion industry news is guided by advertising. But my blog is a place where I don’t need to follow anybody’s rules, and I can just free think. At times, I can be like, “Oh hey! This is what I like.” Also, my blog is a place where my clients or people who want to hire me can go and get to know me a little more personally. You know, everything is so personal nowadays, as it always should be! There are just certain things that I like — whether it’s a brand or even the food I buy from the same farmer. Rather than having everything be so cold and corporate, it’s important to gain a person’s own perspective on things.

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LOOKING BACK ON YOUR BEGINNINGS AS A STYLIST — WHEN EVERYTHING WAS STILL VERY NEW TO YOU — WHAT WAS A FUNNY HABIT YOU COULD NEVER SEE YOURSELF DOING NOW AS A MORE EXPERIENCED STYLIST?

Recently, I archived all of my work online. When I was going through my photos, I found that I still really liked everything I had done. At times, I do have regrets because I didn’t get more involved in something… However, I’m still really proud of all my work. Maybe I’m just a crazy narcissist! There was this time where I was shooting an editorial for POP called “The Handbag Olympics,” which featured this really beautiful Black girl. I remember having this crazy Grace Jones microphone-style afro on this girl, which is actually really difficult to create. [Laughs] And that was one of those moments where I said, “Oh my god, what was I thinking?”

WHAT’S THE NO. 1 BEST PIECE OF ADVICE THAT YOU COULD GIVE TO ANYONE WHO IS CONSIDERING A CAREER IN STYLING?

Whenever someone asks me this question, I just tell them to go to my website and figure out what kind of styling you want to do. Once they’re clear about what kind of styling fits them, then go to work for the most expert person you can find in the field of styling in which you are interested. When I started styling, I got paid nothing, and when I was producing fashion shows, I was still getting paid very little. What I discovered while doing this is that, even though you’re getting paid next to nothing, you’ll learn so much when you’re working under people who are the best at what they do. Don’t go and work for someone who’s mediocre because you’ll learn really bad practices. Instead, go and work for someone who is the best at what you want to do. You don’t have to work exactly like they do, but at least you’ll be learning from someone who is really experienced in the industry. Then you can create your own path from there.

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TELL US ONE THING WE SHOULD:

SEE: See everything. Grace Coddington once said that, whenever she’s in a car, she always has her eye on everything going on outside of the window instead of reading a book or sleeping. And I’ve always been like that… Seeing the people, the streets, what’s happening and everything else in between.

HEAR: Listen to and study the wise ones. Pay attention to the best.

&

KNOW: My whole thing with that is that nobody knows everything. [Laughs] You can never be certain that you know everything or anything at all. Shit, I’m moving into education for the first time in my life, and I don’t even have a high school diploma. But what I’m doing is totally working, and people are loving it. At the same time, though, I don’t pretend that I know everything. Instead, I’m certain that I know nothing. [Laughs] I went to this amazing business school in San Francisco, where the other students were people like head engineers from Google and other huge corporations like that (there was even a CEO from Sprint). But the one thing that the teacher told us was that certainty was the most dangerous quality any person could have because there is always more to learn.

x WATCH A SHORT VID FROM THE STYLING SEMINARY x

Video via Sally Lyndley

[featured image from onemanagement.com]

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