Breaking it into Fashion Print Journalism and Styling

From Fashion Corporate to Solopreneur.

Meet Jade Chilton, former Fashion Director at one UAE’s top fashion publications and recently-turned freelancer thriving in Dubai. Below, Chilton explains her sudden push to change work gears and the pros and cons of  working corporate versus solo. Learn what it takes to break into the competitive world of styling and journalism. 

About Jade Chilton

Jade Chilton is a freelance Fashion and Beauty Director, stylist and editor known for her creative and inspirational styling and editorials. She’s worked in London, New York, LA and Dubai, where she now lives.

The British-born stylist began her career in 2007 as a fashion assistant on the women’s magazine More!, before taking on the role of Stylist at Now, a fashion and lifestyle magazine published by Time Inc in the UK. In 2012 Jade moved to Dubai where she took on the Fashion and Beauty Director role on Emirates Woman magazine, a position she held for five years before pursuing a freelance career. She works with a host of luxury brands alongside renowned photographers and models to produce editorials and campaigns for top titles.

In addition, she is Contributing Fashion and Beauty Director at Grazia Middle East and Acting Editor at Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.

1. Tell us about yourself.

I am fashion director, writer, journalist and stylist who’s worked in London and Dubai for the last 14 years.

2. Describe for us your typical workday.

As a freelance stylist and journalist a typical work day can vary vastly. When working on the Harper’s Bazaar Arabia desk as Acting Editor (currently on maternity leave) you would see me interviewing designers, meeting with brands and PRs, editing stories written by the HBA team, subbing proofs, writing articles and collaborating with the design team on layouts. Whereas, as a freelance fashion director you might find me casting models, styling clothes, scouring Satwa for shoot props and fabrics, doing on-location recess and directing the overall look of a shoot.

3. What made you want to get into fashion print journalism?

I remember when I was ten years old I read ‘A Day in the Life’ article of a model booker in a magazine called More! I thought it sounded so exciting and fast-paced so I wrote a letter to one of the major agencies in London asking how I could become a booker. I guess I’ve always been obsessed with print magazines, in particular, Elle UK and British Vogue, my heart would race as would pore over the beautiful imagery created by talented teams from all over the world. It’s long been an industry that’s fascinated me and I knew I wanted to be a part of it since I was a little girl.

4. When did you get involved with styling? And how does journalism & styling go hand in hand?

The first shoot I ever styled was for my final degree project at university while still a student. I cast the models from all over my university town, I styled the clothes from mine and my friends’ wardrobes, created a moodboard with my vision and directed the photographer, all of which is not too dissimilar to what I do now, albeit I’m now styling with the likes of Tom Ford looks not Topshop! The written word and the image are equally important when working with print magazines, both must be clear and carry a strong message that excites the reader.

5. What makes for a strong stylist? What makes for a strong journalist?

Styling isn’t something you can learn at university it’s a personal vision of how clothes will work together, it’s having a razor-sharp eye for detail and the ability to build a story from concept to finished fashion shoot. What I’ve learned over the years is how vital collaboration is between the photographer, stylist and hair and make-up artists to achieve a successful result. But also, how necessary it is to be malleable and take on other people’s viewpoints on set to create the best end product.

A strong journalist must be tenacious, meticulous and always be on the lookout for a story. Writing good stories is all about asking questions, finding information and transmitting that to the reader.

6. Can you explain differences between a personal stylist & editorial stylist?

These two job are hugely different. Personal styling is understanding the wants and needs of a client whereas as an editorial stylist’s role is to create a story with clothing and fantastic imagery that readers can aspire to.

7. As a stylist, what do brand clients expect you to offer? How has this role of styling changed over the past 5 years; do brands still expect the same type of work from stylists or has the relationship evolved based on the industry trends? 

I’m sure many fashion stylists will agree that we don’t often get the recognition we deserve. For a photoshoot it is often the stylist that comes up with the concept, creates a moodboard, builds a team that suits the story (photographer, model, hair and make-up artists), along with pulling together several looks from stores and brand showrooms and then on-set steaming, dressing the model and creative directing the shoot. All of this is now expected of a stylist, especially for editorial shoots in the region. It goes far beyond just turning up to set with a suitcase of clothes.

8. Please elaborate on the experience working as a stylist for a luxury brand versus lifestyle/street brand?

Prior to moving to Dubai eight years ago, I worked on the fashion desk as a stylist on one of the best-selling weekly magazines in the UK. We were shooting frequently and I would travel abroad on week-long trips to the likes of LA, Portugal, Paris and New York several times a year to bank as many shoots as we possibly could in locations outside of London. We only ever styled with high street clothing and it was on these trips, alongside the magazine’s fashion director that I learnt all the basics that have stayed with me. When I joined Emirates Woman magazine as style editor, I only ever styled high-end clothes, with one of my first shoots being Christian Dior. If anything, I found styling high street clothing more difficult as I had to create a mood and a look that would inspire our reader from fabrics that perhaps weren’t as glamorous as the mood we were creating. However Dior is Dior, these luxury clothes can sell the dream, set the tone and make a story. So for me, if the clothes are good that’s half the battle of making a good shoot.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

"I’m sure many fashion stylists will agree that we don’t often get the recognition we deserve."

9. What are the pros & cons of freelance when it comes to editing & styling?

As a freelancer the pros are many: picking and choosing the jobs I want to do, making my own schedule, creative freedom. The cons are chasing payments and the uncertainty of work flow.

10. What made you take the plunge from working at an established publishing company in UAE to starting your own freelance?

Simply, I was made redundant from my role as Fashion Director at Emirates Woman magazine in 2016 after five years. However, I had wanted to go freelance for a while and it was definitely on the agenda for me in 2016. I was excited by the prospect of working with a variety of clients on an array of projects. I often had brands approach me to style campaigns for them externally to the magazine so it felt like the natural next step for me. I had nurtured the relationships with a host of brands with whom I had worked closely while working on EW so when I took the leap these brands supported me by hiring me for campaigns and editorial shoots. It is proof of how important these relationships are.

11. What are your untapped tips for college graduates to get their foot in the door of fashion print journalism and/or styling in UAE?

Firstly, look beyond the Instagram squares, the perks and the designer labels. It takes hard graft and experience to get that ticket to a Chanel show. If you’re just as passionate after you forget about the glitz and glamour of the industry then perhaps it is for you. Secondly, work your ass off on as many fashion desks as you possibly can. Try to find a mentor and listen and learn. Make yourself irreplaceable. I reckon I’ve worked with 40 interns over the course of my 14-year career but I can name only five of them. These were the people who turned up and showed me that they wanted this job more than anything else. One of my interns went from fashion cupboard to Editor in Chief in double quick time, but trust me, it doesn’t come easy.