Being a stylist sometimes can be a thankless job. Months of sourcing for samples of clothes that other magazines and stylists around the world are eyeing for, having to accede to the star’s whims while maintaining creative rights, lugging bags of samples around only to have all of them rejected — the world of fashion is really not as glamorous as the end product.
But for many stylists out there who pave the ground to create a look, those five seconds when the stars are out and about wearing an amazing look are what many stylists live for: that validation that their hard work caused many to turn heads. For stars, looks can even be career-defining moments, like how Lady Gaga’s bloodied white lace dress at an MTV performance marked her sartorial entry into the music industry.
(Before we go forth, here’s what you may not know: what celebrities wear at major events is often borrowed from other fashion labels, only to be returned after the event. Sorry to burst your bubble.)
Stylist Sharon Tan knows this feeling all too well, having juggled both writing and styling at several magazines in MediaCorp for over seven years. She left MediaCorp as a stylist a year back but that has not stopped her from securing big-name clients, one of them being actor Elvin Ng.
Recently, she was tasked to style Elvin for the annual Star Awards this year for both Show 1 and Show 2. She explains the process to Popspoken, including how Elvin’s Show 2 outfit only came about at the eleventh hour.
Popspoken: How far back have you been styling for Elvin and other MediaCorp stars? How would you describe your working relationship with Elvin — is it purely professional or are there elements of friendship in there?
Sharon Tan: About 3 years ago, I started freelancing as a stylist for some of the magazines at MediaCorp before I was contracted to Mediacorp as the entertainment stylist who covers the 8 Days, i-weekly and Manja magazines.
Elvin is definitely a friend to me although we got acquainted through work at the many 8 Days magazine cover shoots that he did. He was a regular 8 Days cover boy and I’ve always enjoyed styling Elvin at the shoots, so I asked him one day at one of the shoots if I could style him outside of our photoshoots.
Being one of the more popular actors at MediaCorp, he has many appearances that he would need a stylist for. He didn’t get back to me until after I left MediaCorp, which works out for the better because I had more free time and he (still) has many appearances to make.
PS: What was the Star Awards styling process for Elvin like, from sourcing to meeting up with the client? How long do you have to piece a look?
ST: I started securing the looks as far back as three months before Star Awards. As a lot of the Asian headquarters for luxury brands are based in Hong Kong and a lot of their samples are also based there, I had to contact Hong Kong for some items.
MediaCorp gave me ample notice on Star Awards so I had time to book and secure the looks but things always do not go as planned, as these brands sometimes share their looks among the other Southeast Asian countries. One of the looks that I had booked was given to an actor for a Hong Kong award show instead; that show was very close to Star Awards.
Some brands had also flown in looks from Los Angeles especially for Elvin and I felt so bad that we could not use it after all the effort that they made. We had about three fittings in total to agree on the looks as there was a delay in the looks being brought into Singapore.
At the end of the day, I’m glad I managed to put him in the two looks that I first picked via photos which both had a bit of an issue coming into Singapore. When it comes to Star Awards, it has to be perfect!
PS: Does Elvin choose everything or he lets you recommend what you feel works best for him? How did you piece both looks?
ST: (After) working with Elvin for a while, I have an idea on what he likes but I did throw in some outfits that I really liked, hoping that he would like it as well.
For Show 1, I wanted him to be more fashionable rather than just having a sharp gentlemen suit on. Leather-detailing is hot right now so I thought that it would be a great choice for the first show.
When I was sent a long list of outfits to pick from by Hugo Boss, I knew right away that he would like that leather-detailed jacket but that outfit was held back in Hong Kong for my fitting so he didn’t get to see it (on) the first round. Hugo Boss requested for it again and managed to get it in for our second fitting and he picked it right away, just as I had expected.
Since it’s a red carpet event for Show 2, it has to be a sharp and smart suit for sure. We had to change his outfit at the last-minute because he was asked to do an LG television commercial that runs in between the show — the PR team wanted a little bit of red as it is their brand’s colour. His original outfit was blue.
I was glad that Dolce & Gabanna came back to me at the eleventh hour to tell me that a suit I had booked a couple of months ago that they couldn’t bring in from Hong Kong was finally available. Elvin had wanted a silver tuxedo which I couldn’t find in the Spring/Summer 2015 collection, but the suit that I found had hints of silver in it, so it was perfect.
“At the end of the day, I would want my clients to be happy in what they are wearing because it makes them feel good in it and clothing boosts our confidence.”
ST: For such a glamourous event, (to look good is why) we wear those 10-inch heels even though we know that our feet will hurt at the end of the day.
It was unfortunate that there was a few falls but they did fall gracefully, so that makes it alright. I am sure that their stylists wanted them to look their best and had painstakingly found the gowns that suited them most and did not expect them to fall. I saw so many female artistes that had to carry their gowns’ tails backstage. The luckier ones had their stylist carry it for them.
If you fall, just get back up.
PS: How do you deal with the public (or the media) giving negative feedback on your client’s look and blaming you for it?
ST: The best way is to stay focused on what my client’s needs are. My relationship with my client is based on trust, respect for each other’s opinions and a lookout for their best interest.
I would foremost check on my client to see how are they dealing with the reviews and find out their opinions on them. An outfit is selected not solely based on my personal taste but recommendations on what the client may be looking to achieve with the look.
If I were to publicly address the reviews, I would try to take a positive spin on it instead of getting upset — everyone is entitled to their opinions and you just can’t please everyone. Perhaps the client is looking to be different this season. A breakthrough in outlook, a need to be different and a decision to change is not always a crowd-pleaser but, most importantly, it’s something my client is comfortable and happy with.
If I think that the critiques are constructive and relevant, I might take note of them and keep true to my own personal styling flair (while addressing) my client’s needs in the objective of the look. After all, my client’s image and reputation is of utmost importance and so is my creative integrity.
PS: Dream MediaCorp artiste you want to style for next year?
ST: I would like to style Jayley Woo. I’ve met her once at a photoshoot and she has such an upbeat personality which makes her a joy to work with. I’ve never said hello to her since then because she has a twin sister, Hayley, which I’ve never met and it would be embarrassing if I mistook them for each other.