In our last Level Up class, we asked Riccardo Maria Chiacchio to share his insights as a fashion stylist on the importance of using moodboards to your advantage and knowing when to rely on your beloved team—and he delivered! But during this conversation, we further realised that the path to becoming a stylist, before you even start getting commissioned on some photoshoots and other projects, remains unclear to many. Understandably, fashion and styling as academic topics are quite recent. But what about before? Were there no fashion stylists, or did they manage to educate themselves without paying a hefty university fee? In other words, what should anyone looking to become a stylist study, and do they even need a degree at all? Here’s what the pro answered:
“The best way to start would be to study anything that has to do with fashion. From fashion design and fashion promotion to fashion styling, there are many topics you could start with. I studied fashion design, which gave me a 360 view on clothes, their meaning, the way you can build them to then build up a whole collection,” shares Chiacchio.
On top of fashion design, fashion promotion is also helpful because it gives you an insight into ways to actually become a stylist. That being said, Chiacchio adds that having a degree is not necessary.
“By assisting and gaining valuable work experience, you can become a stylist as much as anyone else with a degree,” says Chiacchio. That being said, he presses the importance of assisting other stylists, as it’s where you’ll learn the most about the job and what happens behind the scenes. From dealing with clients and requesting clothes from big brands, all of this will be revealed to you while assisting other stylists.
“We are very unique beings and whatever we think of on our own is unique. So anything that has to do with your aesthetic or with your way of approaching styling, approaching a photoshoot, and approaching a message would have to be something very personal. You would have to understand—of course, it takes time—what is your own way of seeing things? What are things that feel personal to you? And then learn how to express them through a series of images. That’s how you’ll build your own identity.”
According to Chiacchio, this is the only way that a stylist can compare his work to a fashion designer, “Fashion designers pick some specific types of silhouettes, colour palettes, and they bring it through their whole collection. The same thing applies when it comes to stylists; you need to understand your point and message, your colour palette and silhouettes, and learn to express those.”
His last piece of advice? Finding your identity takes time, and so does building a career, so be patient.
We previously spoke about the ins and outs of becoming a fashion stylist with Simone Furlan, who already had a lot of knowledge to share. But in order for you to really nail it, we understand that you need to get some advice from as many professionals as possible, which is why, we asked for some more tips from another amazing stylist and art director, Riccardo Maria Chiacchio. From the importance of using moodboards to your advantage to knowing when to rely on your beloved team, here’s what the fabulous Chiacchio had to share:
Born and raised in Naples, Riccardo Maria Chiacchio is a stylist based between London and Milan. His use of subliminal details and imaginary structures communicate feelings that characterise his work. He has shot with notable names like Jordan Hemingway, Laura Marie Cieplik, Laurence Ellis, Georgia Hudson, Francois Pragnere, Elliot Morgan, Clark Franklyn, and Luca Anzalone.
Among his clients are brands such as Nike, Ahluwalia Studio, Nike x Off-White, MCM Worldwide, Adidas and Napapijri, as well as publications like The New York Times, i-D, Dazed And Confused Korea and More Or Less Magazine. Chiaccho is particularly known for his gift at highlighting strong Italian roots through his work, resulting in nothing else but sensuality.
Like Furlan previously did, Chiacchio swears by moodboards too, “People will always ask for your moodboard, so you need to be 100% sure about the idea that you want to bring on set is very clear to everyone else.” And moodboards are the key to explaining your thinking and creative process to the rest of the team, as well as the client.
“You can either draw it yourself, make it with images, you can add music—there’s no correct way of creating a moodboard,” explains Chiacchio. Simply make sure it comes out as clearly as possible to the magazine or the brand you’re working for. In terms of starting your moodboard, Chiacchio recommends starting with one theme: “Let’s say for example your theme is white. I would research white in history, in music, in the contemporary world, in art, food—anything that has to do with the original theme that you picked.” Research it fully.
Once that’s done, “choose very specific images you’ll need and then from there go more in-depth with the help of those single images to start building your moodboard as a whole.”
“The team you choose to work with is very important. In a photoshoot, the team will be made of a photographer, a stylist, a hair stylist, a makeup artist, maybe a nail technician, a set designer, and then a photographer’s assistant. This is the team for a conventional photoshoot,” explains Chiaccho.
In order to build a strong image that conveys your initial idea, you’ll need the whole team to be on the same page. “Especially hair and makeup, usually they feel left aside in a way, so keep everyone on the same page during the shoot,” he adds. You’re responsible for all of these people, so don’t get too taken away by the adrenaline that your work brings you.
“That’s how you learn how to practically, physically, and mentally learn how to become a stylist.”
“You need to learn to look into yourself and understand what the message you want to convey is and the kind of stylist you want to become. What is your goal in being a stylist? This is something you should never stop thinking about, even if you’ve been a stylist for the past 10 years.”
“Always try to differentiate yourself from other people’s work, which doesn’t have to be stylists only. You can draw inspiration from moviemakers, photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists, whoever creates images.” However, be careful not to copy them, otherwise, you’ll end up on Diet Prada’s radar in no time. Mix your inspirations up to create your own aesthetic.