Line up all the famous men shaping fashion trends today and chances are the majority of them are going to stand well over six feet tall and have washboard abs. NBA pros haven’t always dominated the style conversation, but they certainly are today. Courtney Mays is one of the stylists responsible for that shift. With her clients Chris Paul, Kevin Love and DeAndre Jordan, Mays has helped turn the arena tunnel into a new kind of runway—a place where you can spot the hottest sneakers, flyest suits and best bags in the game.
1. Work for Free and Listen
Stylists are always looking for reliable, self-starters who are eager to learn and want to help. We're usually working on 17 projects at once and need someone to just run returns, sort the studio, pick up supplies or research new designers. I know working for free is not ideal, but all of the greats before you did it, so you can't be too good to do it as well. Plus, it gives you the gritty experience you need to understand the underbelly of the business.
Before moving to LA, I lived in New York and interned with a few stylists for over a year. The first day I quite literally sat in the car to make sure the stylist didn't get tickets while she ran in to pick up PR pulls and shop at stores around SoHo. Sounds awful right? Well, the next day I was pulling jewelry for Ciara for a late-night TV appearance—and she actually wore it! And the day after that, I was packing Jamie Foxx for his upcoming press junket. Plus, that time spent in the car was actually an opportunity for me to get to know the stylist and ask her as many questions as I could about working in the industry.
2. Be Someone People Want to Work With
Although styling requires skill and talent, like most jobs, it’s also about how well you get along with others and your ability to build good relationships, not only with your client, but the assistants, vendors, stores and all the people you come into contact with that help you accomplish the task at hand. This goes without saying, but I offer a smile and hello to every valet, every store employee, everyone—not just the big men on campus.
In an industry where who you know seems to get you the furthest, I stay true to the Midwest girl somewhere inside me that remains less interested in what someone can do for me and more interested in how I can just be a good person. Sending thank you notes go a long way, packaging returns correctly and neatly makes a difference, paying attention to details is crucial.
3. Know Your Craft and Study Your Industry
Unless you happen to be friends with Michael B. Jordan or Steph Curry, you probably won’t have access to them. Cold-calling agencies or DM-ing celebrities on Instagram works once in a blue moon, but most people have to work their way up the old school way, one step at a time. Find stylists and industry professionals who work you admire and try to connect directly with them instead. Ask them for advice, offer to intern for them, or pitch them ideas that could help their business as a way to show them how passionate you are.
Because we know you want to look just as fly as an NBA guy, we’ve asked Mays to answer some of your style questions.
In the age of Instagram, it seems like everyone is a stylist. The cynical part of me gives a bit of side eye to all the glamorous street style stylists dressed head-to-toe in designer clothes, posing in front of graffiti walls, heading to “fittings.” If only it was that easy. Let’s have a real conversation: Being a creative and working for yourself is fulfilling and empowering but also that means you are the CEO, the assistant, the barista and the FedEx driver. Multitasking is an understatement and the fun celebrity-filled events only come after all the hard work and schlepping is done. Remember you are not the celebrity: You work for and with the celebrity. Given that, I’ve mapped out three key thoughts on how to get into the business.
If you want to be a stylist you should be reading about fashion, watching the runway shows, looking at endless photos, and figuring out what your point of view on all of it is. In addition to that, you should study the industry and who the players are. There’s a difference between the stylists who are responsible for the red carpet moments of the Oscars or ESPYS, the ones who work on Nike ad campaigns, the personal shoppers who manage closets and day-to-day style needs, the editors and style teams at GQ and Esquire, and the ones who are developing wardrobe for TV and film. Decide which niche suits you best and start there. If you’re successful, you’ll be able to do more than one of these things, but it’s always helpful to have focus when you’re just starting out.
By: ONE37pm Editors