The stylist has rapidly become a vital pa=rt of today’s fashion; Sophie Lioe talks to Carbon contributor and stylist Eimear O’Reilly, and explores how they came to such dominance

The source of power in the fashion industry is a difficult thing to ascertain. Where does it emanate from, and who holds the majority of it? One major player that has often been overlooked, and has only come to prominence within the last decade, is the stylist. Once a non-existent post within the complicated web that is the fashion industry, the job of a stylist has gone from model dresser to creative dominance over magazine editorials, runway shows, and high-fashion campaigns. Stylists, such as the influential Katie Grand, are responsible for the overall image of a brand in many ways – what would be the use of all those beautiful clothes if nobody had any idea how to put them together? To find out more about the stylist’s place within the industry, Otwo spoke to up-and-coming Irish stylist Eimear O’Reilly, who is a regular contributor to American online fashion magazine Carbon as well as commanding a growing presence at a more local level. According to O’Reilly, styling is not just glorified dressing-up; a stylist “will have more of an eye for it. She’s thinking about it … it’s more of an art form.” It isn’t just a random assortment of clothing according to the stylist’s own personal taste, “it’s basically marketing really” and “not just looking at magazines, looking at trends, but looking at the customer as well.”

The customer, ultimately, is whom it’s all about. In times of recession, perhaps it is true that the stylist has even more power in her hands – the power to pick and choose from companies and brands all vying for their presence to be felt, and ultimately for their clothes to sell. Take the crossover between the fashion and film industry, with the never-ending cycle of red carpet events and awards ceremonies that provide the perfect platform for not only the stylist, but the designer and the actor as well. Elie Saab, for example, enjoyed overnight success way back in 2002 when Halle Berry wore one of his dresses on the night of her Oscar win. Suddenly his name skyrocketed into the public consciousness, and now rarely a Hollywood awards show goes by without one or two of his glamorous works being showcased by a few A-list names. When the combination of players strikes gold, such as in this case, the stylists who make these momentous decisions take credit, and suddenly, they are an expensive, but crucial, commodity that every celebrity wants to get their hands on.

Ironically, in today’s celebrity-obsessed world, even the stylists themselves have become famous. Take the formidable Rachel Zoe, who has dressed everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Keira Knightly, and has become such a recognisable fixture in the fashion world that she landed her own TV series, The Rachel Zoe Project, and has even gone on to found her own clothing line and media group. She is the perfect example of the sheer power that stylists can wield when armed with the right clients and drive to make it to the top; enough to convince anyone that stylists aren’t merely over-priced personal shoppers.

Not even the music industry can avoid the seemingly unstoppable influence of the stylist. Do you love Lady Gaga’s out-of-this-world ensembles? Do you think Rihanna just wakes up looking insanely edgy and cool? Think again. Gaga would be nothing without her show-stopping outfits that never, ever fail to grab everybody’s attention, all thanks to the genius of her stylist Nicola Formichetti and assistant stylist Anna Travalyan, both named by O’Reilly as huge inspirations in the fashion world. “They have ensured her style choices have become so synonymous with her image that it is impossible to picture her in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt; she just would not be Lady Gaga.”
So are stylists are worth their high price tag and prestige? According to O’Reilly, “there are a lot of good ones out there who do deserve it,” and it is impossible to dismiss their significance in today’s industry. The publication of Stylists: New Fashion Visionaries by Katie Baron, due out next month, is another vindication of stylists and their creative influence, featuring twenty-five of the most prolific stylists who have “all transcended the role as it was ten years ago.” It appears that the industry has recognised and is commending the role, giving it the attention it deserves. Stylists may be only one component in the execution of an applauded runway show, or an iconic ad campaign, but their work provides the link between the consumer, the client and the product, without which the fashion industry would fall apart at the seams.