Becoming a Fashion Stylist, Event Producer, and Art Director w/ Florinda Fiore
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fashion stylist? Join us as we interview stylist, event producer, and art director, Florinda Fiore! on her journey of becoming a fashion stylist and starting her own business! For more live interviews and fashion biz advice join our Fearless Fashionpreneur Facebook Group!
Christine: So, Flo super excited to have you here. Thanks so much.
Christine: So, anyone that has any questions about fashion shows, styling, Flo is like the jill-of-all-trades and she is going to tell us a little bit about yourself. So, tell us a little bit about your background, how you kind of got started in the fashion industry?
Flo: Sure, my pleasure. So, my family originated from Italy and so I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, so I love Chi-town although I love New York City too. But I was born and raised in Chicago and my family has an Italian Deli, so I was raised with an entrepreneurial spirit. I knew that I was in love with fashion as well, so I decided that I wanted to dabble a little bit in the fashion industry and I went to school for fashion, so I went to the Illinois Institute of Art and I majored in fashion marketing, merchandising and management, but I thought I was going to go to fashion design and I said no I wanted to try it a little bit to see if this was going to be my future and I was more the businesswoman of fashion. So I majored in marketing.
Christine: It’s definitely better to go to the business route. I was saying that it’s a good thing you didn’t go in to design because I went to design. Marketing was a way better choice, not as many jobs in design.
Flo: So, I did dabble a little bit in it and I did design for a little bit. I had constructed a couple of things and designed hats. They were in trunk shows, so I did enjoy it. I also reconstructed clothing, so remember when the fashion craze of safety pins was in style on jeans, so I did that about five years before it was in style and I was like I’m going to try this out, why not? So, I started that and I thought I don’t know if this is really what I can do and so I was like I think I am more into the business side, let me just stick with the business side of fashion.
Christine: Awesome, and so how did you get into fashion show event production and fashion styling and all that stuff?
Flo: Sure. When I was in LA I did my internship at Five and Spin magazine. I had done so much work in Chicago and I decided that I wanted to try something different and do an internship somewhere else because I wasn’t really able to go to school out of state. So, I met this woman in Los Angeles and she was in charge of a production agency. She took me underneath her wing, we totally hit it off, trained me the whole business on producing events, I was working with her for Soap Opera Digest as well as Why magazine and she flew me out to LA, New York, New Jersey and Chicago which was fabulous. I learned so much from her and from that part I knew I just fell in love with the whole production and the whole fast-paced energy that events have to offer. So, I said I want to try it out when I get back home, so I did. I started freelancing and I started my own business and I started producing fashion shows for independent Chicago fashion designers. So, this was back 15 years ago and I did that for quite some time and then I started working with another agency here in Chicago that was producing shows and art shows as well. So, I was coordinating about two shows a week for them as well as working part-time in Corporate America.
Christine: That’s what you have to do, you have to kind of hustle on the side.
Flo: You know it right, that’s the name of the game and it was great. I learned a lot working with them as well, made so many connections and I’m still friends with some of the models till this day. I used to book models and do casting calls and book designers and you know hair and makeup the whole team, so that was 15 years ago, took a little bit of time and I decided you know what let me go to Corporate America and see if they like it, did that for a couple years and then again you know what fashion is my passion, I need to get back into what I loved to do. So, I started doing it again in fashion styling and doing a little bit more art direction because I built my team already but had my whole team of hair and makeup and photographers, videographers, model.
Christine: Yeah, that’s really important, having the right team it can make or break whether a photoshoot goes well, whether your fashion show goes well, like everything.
Flo: Yeah, definitely! So, then I said well you know what I am going to start doing art direction now considering I have a full team with me so I started doing art direction and also the fashion styling as well as fashion show production, so I started freelancing and worked with another company and to this day I am still freelancing and I am working with great organizations here in Chicago and as well as if anyone wants to book me out of State, I’m willing to travel.
Christine: That’s awesome, so she will travel everyone. So, Daniella has a question already, she wants to know how would you describe the fashion scene in Chicago.
Flo: Well I love Chicago and I’m involved in the fashion scene and the music scene here in Chicago. But what kind of scene like fashion show production, design, what’s really the question Daniella?
Christine: She probably wants to know design I am guessing.
Flo: Yeah, I have several jobs here in Chicago. So I am a freelance sales rep/manager– I work with all fashion designers within the Midwest and I sell fabric, lace, trim, buttons, interfacing, leather lace, anything to make a garment. My job ranges from concept to production in the fashion industry. So, I do work with several designers a day and I help them, inspire them, create their garments, so yeah, it’s great, I love it here, you know, everyone starts here and they branch out to other places but there’s great manufacturing here as well. So, just really depends on what product you’re producing and we would send you in the right direction. You know, I love to collaborate and help and spread my knowledge to others.
Christine: Do you find it’s growing, do you find there’s more startup designers now than there used to be in Chicago?
Flo: Definitely, yes.
Christine: And I think it’s easier now to, I mean it used to be right back in the day like you had to live in New York or LA, and you had to really be in a fashion hub and now with I mean the technology the way it is, we can have a Skype call, we can do a Facebook live right virtually and you know someone could even come to your showroom and find fabrics that maybe weren’t available before because you didn’t exist as the sales rep in the Chicago area before right, so I think it’s making a lot more possible.
Flo: I agree.
Christine: Destiny wants to know your Facebook and your contact information?
Christine: Let’s talk about fashion shows, do you recommend that new fashion designers do a fashion show, yes or no?
Flo: Yes, I agree, the more the exposure the better for you. If you’re starting off in business, you need to promote your name and your brand and I look at designers all the time for my fashion shows and they get so much more exposure just by our advertising, the photographer, videographers, social media which is a big key right to market your work. Yeah so I agree, I say yes hands down– definitely do fashion show production.
Christine: And is there something specifically that you look for in your designers when you’re kind of approaching them or vetting them to see if they would be a good fit for the show?
Flo: Yes, so I cast designers depending on each production that I produce. So if I’m freelancing for a specific corporation, then it depends on the venue and the theme of our show. So, you know it’s really depends on the concept so I can create the concept to then go from there.
Christine: Yeah, I would always tell my clients you really have to have your social media kind of going. Your samples have to be pristine for production. if someone sees it walk down the runway and they want to buy it, you need to be able to produce it and sell it. What’s the point of getting all this press if no one can link to anything. If no one can link to an Instagram or link to a website– what’s the point? It’s like all down the drain, so I kind of think that’s really-really important. Okay, we had another question come from Daniela, would you say it’s more modern, couture, urban, or Bohemian? I wonder what designs sell the most around that area in Chicago, she is talking about?
Flo: It just depends on the market you’re trying to target. So I work with a lot of custom designers as well. I mean I work with a variety of designers throughout the whole Midwest. In Chicago specifically, you have a variety of markets, you know, we have the bridal market, we have urban markets, we have tons of womens and menswear. So it just really depends on what market you are in, what you are designing at that moment, and where you want to see yourself selling. Then you ask yourself where should I put my money? Should I put it in a tradeshow, should I put it in a trunk show, in a fashion show or all of the above, you know if you really want to launch your own line.
Christine: Awesome! And what would you say is the key component, let’s say somebody wanted to be an event producer– what would be a key component that they kind of need to have in order to be successful putting on their own fashion line?
Flo: Organization is key. Yeah, I consider myself a professional planner. I have three planners, I have two on my phone and two old school planners.
Christine: Old school, like with the paper? I am so old school, it’s ridiculous! I used to have a small planner and I had to upgrade to the larger one because I just had too many things to put in there.
Flo: Definitely, organization is key and just being on top of it making sure you’re following through with everything and just being really organized because things can slip and you just want to make sure you’re on top of everything.
Christine: And being a people person too! You’ve got to have a great personality to get along with all the different models and the hair and makeup and the photographers and the media and all of that kind of stuff, right?
Flo: Yes, definitely, I agree on the personality.
Christine: So, you also do styling for photoshoots as well.
Christine: Yeah, talk about photo shoots and how styling for a photoshoot is different from styling for a fashion show. And what goes into planning for a photoshoot?
Flo: Sure, for a photo shoot. I do fashion styling and art direction together. I organize the dates, I call everyone to make sure that everyone is available. So, I call my hair, my makeup, my models, photographer, videographer and book the venue.
Christine: And what are people typically using the photo shoots for? Are they doing Instagram stuff or press?
Flo: Yes, so it’s for look books, editorials, social media, or their website and just advertising themselves.
Christine: Okay, cool! Do you spend a lot of time shopping for your clients? Will you go and shop for accessories and shoes to make the whole outfit come together?
Flo: Yes, of course, and you have to build relationships which is very important as a fashion stylist, I work with a lot of independent designers so I have to collaborate with them and pretty much connect everyone together. I have borrowed clothing and shoes and accessories from boutiques, but you have to have good credit if you’re going to try to buy it. So there’s a lot involved in fashion styling and I also do fashion consulting, so that is one of my packages and I can teach that and offer that to clients if they’re interested in really knowing what part of fashion they want to go into and seeing if it fits for them.
Christine: Yeah, you’re totally right, relationships are really important and I tell my clients all the time if you want your stuff in photo shoots start contacting fashion stylists because they are constantly looking to borrow stuff to mix-and-match, to put with other designers and you could easily get your stuff in a photo shoot or fashion show. Okay, so we have a question again from Daniella. Is there any trade show that you recommend for emerging designers in Chicago– what are your recommendations for startups before going to a trade show?
Flo: So, first go to the trade shows that you think you can see yourself selling at. You want to make sure you go to as many trade shows as possible just to see because they are very expensive and you want to see where you fit, and what buyers are coming to these trade shows. So definitely do your research before you spend your money on anything but specifically in trade shows.
Christine: And Daniella, you are in our FSI Course, so obviously the whole class on Successful Sales Secrets we talk about what you need to have prepared before you go to a trade show. But yes, Flo is totally on point– I totally recommend doing your research, making sure that the buyers that you actually want to sell to are the ones going to that trade show and that it’s the right fit for the type of clothing that you’re making. There are some that are totally more contemporary, some that are more for moderate market, better market. So it really just depends what market you are in.
We have another question from Marissa. How can I find a fashion styling expert in my local area to do a photo shoot? What is the selection criteria? I live in Maryland between DC and Baltimore. My 11-year-old daughter is starting a brand that specializes in handcrafted infinity scarf and hair accessories for women. Flo will fly to you?
Flo: Yes, you got it!
Christine: Let’s say she couldn’t get you, what would you say as far as what should people look for in a stylist?
Flo: Ask other designers if they’re using any fashion stylists and see who is in the fashion community in your town or city and collaborate with everyone. See who would work best for you. You can always get online and check them out ahead of time to see their work and see if you can afford them also. I mean, a lot of people do collaborations, especially students starting off in the business. But I would just do the research in your market first and if you find me, I will come!
Christine: So, yes definitely Marissa. Look at their work– if you like the photos, if you like the style or you like how it looks that’s great. If you don’t like it, obviously you are not going to want to hire that person right, so that’s the number one thing I always look at when I’m hiring a photographer. Okay great question though. Any advice for someone becoming a fashion stylist?
Flo: Sure, so if you want to be a fashion stylist, well I have a certificate in fashion styling and I went to Fred Segal LA for my fashion styling course and really learned the ins and outs of the business. So, if you are interested in becoming a fashion stylist, definitely educate yourself and there is a lot of free research online these days compared to 15 years ago and then partner up with modeling agencies because they’re always looking for stylists as well. But before you go that route, you’re going to have to have a portfolio. You’re going to have to do a lot of test shoots.
Christine: What’s in the portfolio for a stylist?
Flo: So there are a few portfolios, so your actual portfolio is the photos that are going to showcase your styling techniques. It should have a variety of different looks. It could be commercial or editorial. It just really depends on your future client is looking for. So I style a variety of photo shoots. I’ve done bridal, womenswear, menswear, have not done children’s yet, but I will do that next and show the actual portfolio of pictures. And make sure that your portfolio book is in sequence and it makes sense to the eye. And you can’t forget your styling kit!
Christine: I used to dress models backstage at New York Fashion Week and I even did Miami Swim Fashion Week and I mean I have all kinds of things in my little styling kit that I carry around and people are like why do you have extra underwear? Because you never know when you are going to need all these things, I finagled so many things.
Flo: Exactly, I have done that as well. I was a dresser as well back in the day too so I can relate Christine. I’ve done that in many markets, the bridal market was the fun market!
Christine: Okay awesome, so any last-minute questions for Flo, we have got a couple of minutes here. Again, her Instagram is @Fashionistaflo. It is posted in the description of the Facebook Live video and I am going to be posting more information of where you can find her and how you can contact her and her new company, the Fashion House of Fiore & Co.
Christine: Awesome, well thank you so much Flo for joining us. It was so awesome having you. Oh, we have a last-minute question, I’m showing my collection of women’s apparel during Fashion Week in New York. Can I use the photos from the show for my online store? Sure, I think. What do you think Flo?
Flo: So, are they runway photos? If they are runway photos, I would advertise those more on your website and social media, but I will do more of a look book on your website just so it’s cleaner and you can see the garments better when the shopper is actually looking at details because when the photos are taken live in runways you don’t see every texture or detail in the fabric per se.
Christine: Yes, I totally agree. I would say you can use them on your website but use them more like maybe on the homepage or something like that if you are actually going to be using them to sell from your shop, they should be very clean with white background with a lot of detail, close-ups all that kind of stuff so that people can really see the garment. And Marissa wants to know are local style magazines a good source for finding styling experts?
Flo: Sure, we have several here in Chicago and I’m always looking at who is doing styling or who is the photographer. and If you are interested in following them to see their work, of course.
Christine: You could also reach out to photographers as well and models because they all work with stylists typically. So you could say who’s your favorite stylist that you work with that sort of thing.
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