Beneath the glamor, a stylist's job has its fair share of hardship.
We hear the comment very often - that so and so has style, or this or that is stylish.
We might find it difficult to explain why someone has style or something is stylish, but there are those whose job it is to proffer advice on such matters and whose work is key in creating a distinctive visual image for an individual, a product or a company.
With individual values and expression occupying a central position in modern life, the stylist has come into her or his own, particularly in the fashion, art and entertainment industry.
"For me, putting the noodle and herbs inside the hot pot to make pho is the same as having the stylist at a shooting," said Henri Hubert, creative director of the Bao Hoa Company. Hubert has been working in the fashion industry for almost 29 years and used to work in his homeland, France, as a fashion model.
Behind the scenes
The life of a stylist or creative manager may be filled with glamor, light, fashion, discovery and beauty but it is not a bed of roses, most of the time.
Donia Medini, stylist and creative director of Sunflower Media, who came to Vietnam 2 years ago says that for her, "The biggest challenge is about models who do not understand they need to go far beyond their personalities. They need to be trained to act with the eyes, body and attitude."
Another problem the 25-year-old woman from France faces is the "limited stuff in town for styling." Finding a good location in HCMC is also difficult, she says. "Somewhere nice for shooting is always destroyed later (such as La Fenetre Soleil Coffee, Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 1) to build high buildings. So I plan to get lost in trying to find nice places, especially in District 5 and District 7."
Talking about differences in working in the fashion industry between France and Vietnam, Hurbet says, "I still can create but I cannot go too far, I have to stay within the limits. It is very important to respect the culture and traditions. I can do something different, totally different but slowly."
And the job is energy consuming. Donia recalls: "Some months ago we traveled to Ha Giang Province for a shooting. The road was very dangerous and everybody was scared. But we tried to climb the mountain anyway and during the three days on the road we stopped for shooting on seeing something nice. And we got very great pictures which made me love my job even more. This Sunday I have to wake up at 4 a.m. to travel to Long Thanh Town in Dong Nai Province to start shooting at 8 a.m. It can be a bit difficult for me because I will have a late party the night before."
"If you work as a stylist for an advertising clip, you will be paid around US$2,000; for a commercial film, it can be from $3,000 to $5,000," said Long Kan, creative director of the Long Kan Advertising Company.
Stylists for magazines get lower pay.
"When you have just started, some famous magazines can ask you to work for free. In general the magazine doesn't pay much because they depend on advertisements and they think they make the stylist famous. My ambition is to work as a stylist in more fields such as movies and also as a personal stylist. I like the idea of meeting someone who wants to change her style. I prefer to focus more on the person, not the industry, and do something with real impact," says Donia.
So why is stylist such a hot job now?
"I have been working as a stylist for Dep (Beautiful) magazine for several years. My job is creating the concept, choosing the clothes, running the program for the cover and shopping section of the magazine. Thanks to my job I am able to travel a lot in Vietnam and abroad. The payment for a stylist for the magazine is not high, enough for traveling, but it is very helpful for my private business as I have many contacts. Also I get to know more about the fashion industry," says Minh Ngoc, the stylist for a number of famous magazines as also the representative of the Kenly Bui brand name in HCMC.
A stylist is the one who brings the fresh spirit to the team so their energy is important.
Says Hubert: "A stylist must love what he or she does.The more you create, the more energy you have and use."
Long Kan, who worked for Miss FTV 2006 in the Philippines, Mr. Manhunt International 2008 in Korea, and is personal stylist for a number of stars in Vietnam including actor Jonny Tri Nguyen, singer Ho Ngoc Ha and actress Do Hai Yen agrees with Donia and Henri. He says, "Being a stylist can be a stressful job and you need to be full of energy. You should be the first to know that you are going to run out of energy. Personally, I travel abroad to refresh myself, discovering the world and other cultures at the same time."
"Good eyes and visual skills, the ability to manage people and bring energy to the model and the team. If you lose the energy, everyone in the team will lose it as well. "You also have to be a good organizer otherwise you will waste a lot of others' time," says Donia.
"A stylist should also have knowledge about the world and fashion. She/he must be a good observer of everything, people and society," Hubert says.
Through the movie and art industry, many countries like France, Italy and Korea have been promoting their fashion industry here. Talking about his current ambitions, Hubert says, "I don't shoot in the office anymore. The landscapes here are so diverse with mountains, forests and beaches. Making people dream through pictures is my job. It is time for me to work a bit more with foreign clients to show the country. I am in touch with different magazines abroad; so in 2010 I hope to show more of Vietnam to foreign readers."