The Fashion Foodchain

It’s acollaborative effort to reach the finishing line (you), where you hope at each turn, that, dear God, don’t let that man drop that baton!

Parallels and hyperbole aside, the race to get a product to the consumer is the work of many disparate individuals, and on a pulse-racing track like fashion, you can be sure it’s a highly charged and creative process along the way. These 5 fashion peeps – designer, fashion marketer, stylist, models and photographer – are just some of the people responsible for you chocking up those bills on your credit card at the malls. They’ve figured you out to get those clothes on you, now find out more about them.

>>>Enter: The Designer

I Dress, therefore I am. | In our highly complex society, fashion designers at some level get to define not only your clothing, but your lifestyle and self-image as well. Couture is now so widely visible, so provocatively polished, but these works can be traced back to an individual designer’s vision. Fashion designers work with sketches, design templates, fabric, colour, sizes and require as much technical expertise as well as artistic flair in order to be successful. Designers need to acquire not only drawing skills but also knowledge of production processes, fabrication and drafting.

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Business or art? | As much as many aspiring designers dream about their own labels and designing clothes that appeal to them, fashion design, ultimately, is a business. Artistic types may incline towards disregard of the need to design for the market but recognition of market trends and your target customers is critical for success. Ana Liew, designer of Kooshi and Stiletto, is a more commercial designer who understands the commercial aspect of the trade, “Normally, a full-fledged designer needs to have a partner to handle the business side of things. Even as a designer, there’s also the operational side of things. You have to do stock take every month, which is important but tedious. You have to do price tagging and delivery and accounting. It’s not just designing; it’s a very physical thing as well.”

Top of the food chain? You decide. | “I’m the creator of the product, of course I’m God. You know what, my product has to sell itself. Marketing and PR is a bonus, but I have to make sure that my product will sell without them. It will sell itself even if it’s just hung in the shop.”

>>>Enter: The Fashion Marketer

It’s all about branding. | Marketing and public relations people don’t usually restrict themselves to only marketing fashion items, but the fashion industry does give an added oomph to the work they do, simply because of the nature of the industry, or the fact that looking at new designs is really quite fun. Jeanne Leong, principal consultant at One Giant Leap, elaborates on the fashion market, “It’s ever changing. To market fashion, you need to have a faster reaction time. People’s taste change, it’s seasonal. You have to be more in tune with their lifestyle, whims and fancies and predict the action for the next season rather than work with what you have now.” Marketers sit down with designers to discuss their target customers and the communication action needed to reach them. This might include having to write press releases, speak to the media, talk to potential sponsors and plan action timelines. While the job might seem glamorous (Jeanne informs me people equate the job to attending lots of parties and drinking champagne), according to Jeanne, “There’s so little truth in that. It’s a lot of hard work and back room work.”

Baby-sitting? | “For designers who are more artistic, they will require more hand holding from me. Sometimes you sit with them and even talk them through their designs because the designs are not commercial enough. They’re usually quite open to discussion, because these people design for art and they welcome the commercial input,” explains Jeanne, who works regularly with up-and-coming designers.

Top of the food chain? You decide. | “I’m the person who puts everything together to make sure the images and the messages go out. I’m the gatekeeper, the brand manager; I ensure that everything keeps to a certain image. Everything that goes out to the public,

I have to make sure that it is the right thing for the designer. I will help them even down to choosing their models.”

I love you Monika Lahodna!>>>Enter: The Models

“I do my little turn on the catwalk.” | Models may appear to get the best end of the deal (stand around and look good, how hard is that?), but as Jackie Hu and Fereh Tay, both aspiring models, reveal, the job is no walk in the park.

“Sometimes you work outdoors, and the sweat is coming down your face and you need to keep smiling. You have to endure,” mentions Fereh. The selection process of models for a fashion shoot is also more stringent. Physical requirements are tight on fashion models, requiring them to possess a certain height, build and unique look that can fit in to the client’s needs.

Groomed to perfection | Jackie and Fereh undergo training to understand the tricks of the trade, from posing, to etiquette, to grooming. At each shoot, a tedious process of hair styling, make up, and fittings are executed before heading for the shoot where models have to work closely with the photographers to bring out the look needed. In a competitive and demanding industry like fashion, a good working attitude is essential.

Top of the food chain? You decide. | I’m the person people on the street look at, the one who makes them want to buy whatever I’m wearing. Without me letting them know how good that really looks, the product won’t be able to sell well.

>>>Enter: The Stylist

Getting the look | Stylists work out the tiny but essential backbone details in a fashion shoot, from make up to hairstyles down to the outfits. Fashion shoots are like stage shows where hours of preparation are needed before and even way in advance for a shoot. Jean Toh explains, “You have to first find the appropriate models for the visual. Then you start to find visuals for the hair, makeup, and outfit that suits the model and given topic of the shoot.”

These details are planned before hand before they are executed on the actual day. The job might sound fun, but it’s back breaking work which requires a sharp eye for detail on set. Jean elaborates, “As a stylist, you’re expected to check the shoot thoroughly. You need to be knowledgeable in every aspect. For example, if you’re not knowledgeable about make up, how are you going to recognize that the makeup is wrong?”

Keeping up with the trends | Jean offers some tips on how to be a better stylist, “Read more magazines and have a better understanding of the looks you see in fashion spreads, rather than just trying to copy them. In that way, you can add more of your personality into it and make appropriate changes. For example, some people think that changing looks means adding more colours to the makeup. That doesn’t change a look, but rather you have to understand how colours work and how to achieve a look.”

Top of the food chain? You decide. | “I’m doing bits and pieces of everything. If I’m not around, if you look at the picture itself, you may feel that there’s something missing in it. But if I’m there, everything will be perfect.”

Marc Chow>>>Enter: The Fashion Photographer

Trigger-happy? Definitely. | Who wouldn’t, when the raw materials you work with are ravishing models, the hippest (and usually expensive) clothes, and oft-times bewitching back drops?

Fashion photographers capture the images that have taken hours of preparation to sculpt to perfection, adding their own style and creative vision to enhance and more critically, create an image that will seduce the pants off the consumer, namely, You. The nature of work of a fashion photographer usually puts them into the most glamorous of social circles, rubbing shoulders with the famed and fabulous.

Reality-check | Mark Chow, fashion photographer and owner of M. C. Models Agency, helps us remove the hype from the job, to the actual nitty-gritties, “Before every shoot, you have to study the models and outfits to plan the choreography of the shoot. During the shoot, the models need a lot of direction, so you have help to inject the mood in them. I’ll usually ask them to imagine a scenario, like trying to hypnotize them so you can catch the shot.”

The camera phone photographer vs. the fashion photographer | “Fashion photography is more avant-garde. It has to be really stylish. There’s a fashion statement in everything you shoot. There’s a message in the story,” Mark Chow explains. Fashion photographers aren’t merely whizzes with camera settings, but more importantly artists who create a fresh vision of each product.

Top of the food chain? You decide. | “I’m the person who’s going to produce the pictures. Without the photographer getting a good shot, no matter how good the models, or stylists or designer want it to be, the shot isn’t there.”

Photography by Jeffree Benet