Chloe Beeney is irreverent; she’s bold, memorable and loaded with fashion knowledge. When I first met her (to discuss styling the Donna Ida Look Book) she was a force to be reckoned with, wearing a shiny black trench coat and Christian Louboutin boots with her hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. In a world of image, she surely knows how to make a first impression which mixed with her Californian/London accent and attitude makes her totally unforgettable in this era of increasingly homogenized society of fashionistas/press/stylist/bloggers. I was delighted she agreed to this interview because I knew she would be honest. I knew I could ask probing questions, find out how she scored her first job as a fashion assistant and how she came to be a top London stylist. After all, this is a woman who has styled countless celebrities including Claudia Schiffer, Tilda Swinton, Eddie Redmayne, Gillian Anderson and Amy Schumer, plus she’s been involved in more fashion campaigns than you can shake a stick at! So it is a dream job right? But how did she get there. Get ready to meet the inimitable Chloe Beeney.
Claire Etchell aka NakedPRGirl: How did you get your job as a stylist?
I finished my university degree, landed an internship at MTV and then randomly met someone who was working at a Hair and Makeup agency who needed an extra pair of hands. Through that, I met the Fashion Director at Condé Nast Brides. She was looking for a new fashion assistant; lucky for me, I got the job. I had sent a lot of speculative letters to companies I truly wanted to work for and I was fortunate at the time to simultaneously land a long term internship with Chanel. It isn’t often you have to write a letter to say thank but sadly ‘No’ to a Chanel opportunity. I kept the letter though for years in my keepsake box!
NakedPRGirl: What was it like to be a fashion assistant at Condé Nast Brides?
Chloe Beeney: I locked myself in the bridal cupboard for several years. Wonderfully, the Fashion Director allowed me to shoot her least favorite story every issue (eight full bleed pages – unheard of for a fashion assistant) although admittedly, it was the budget dresses for under £500 (the most flammable, nylon Disney Princess nightmares). Starting on a bridal magazine teaches you a lot; I learned an appreciation of gown construction often seen in high fashion but without the pressures of being an assistant on Vogue or Harpers. You’re dealing with high end luxury brands using old couture techniques; the gowns often had built in corsetry and petticoats so I learned all about construction and how garments move.
NakedPRGirl: How did you come to be in London?
Chloe Beeney: I was sent to boarding school in Kent when I was 12 and I stayed through my GCSEs. To be slightly closer to California, I completed my A Levels at a School in British Columbia. Missing London, I came back to attend, for want of a better word my gap year at a finishing school before going on to University. Technically this ‘trip’ started in 1991 and here we are almost 25 years later!
NakedPRGirl: What’s your USP?
Chloe Beeney: That’s not an easy one to answer. Ultimately style is subjective; it’s always in the eye of the beholder. As someone once said to me, “you can’t teach taste” and that’s because everyone’s taste is slightly different, so someone else’s view of my USP might be different to mine.
NakedPRGirl: What do you think the role of a stylist is?
Chloe Beeney: In the end I’m part of a team with a photographer, hair and make-up, model, etc. and our job is to sell a well curated dream to the public, to motivate them buy the look or items - to trigger a person’s inherent desire to shop. It’s not like we’re accountants, it’s not like we can add up a spreadsheet and ultimately the answer is either right or wrong. As a stylist, if you’ve not ironed the clothes properly, for example the materials don’t lie properly or it doesn’t look good on film, then you’re not doing your job. Whether it’s straight forward ecommerce shoots or a shoot on location, all stylists have to remember that you’re there ultimately selling clothes.
NakedPRGirl: What was your big break?
Chloe Beeney: Life is about recognizing opportunities and going for them. One thing leads to another, which leads to another. I wouldn’t have met certain people and certain jobs if I hadn’t put in the groundwork. From a PR point of view, you have to do a lot of work ahead of time to be the name on someone’s lips. There is no such thing as an overnight success, it’s the graft you put in before.
NakedPRGirl: How important is networking in your job?
Chloe Beeney: I’m a gregarious person, I like people. You look at any business course and they’ll say if you don’t ask you don’t get. You can only get out of the universe what you put in. Networking should be organic and some things resonate.
NakedPRGirl: Has the industry changed?
Chloe Beeney: Magazines have changed hugely, we don’t consume our media in the same way anymore. If you asked a group, “when was the last time you bought a magazine?”, you’re lucky if two hands go up. But ask them; “Have you looked at Periscope, Snapchat or Twitter in the last hour?” - the whole room of hands goes up. You can see how magazines and the big publishing houses looking at how to place themselves in the present market. That uncertainty has changed the way that magazines staff up. Until recently a magazine had a full complement of full time staff in the fashion department, now it is often several freelancers. Publishers are looking at alternative income avenues because they can’t rely on bulk orders of newsstand sales and have to share advertising revenue with online businesses. The fashion industry has changed too and now we’re seeing the backlash, as designers like Raf Simons resign. You sometimes have to have time to percolate an idea. Designers can’t be expected to do 12 collections a year. The internet has broken the old fashion industry or is in the process of breaking it. And it is how it rises like a phoenix from the ashes and what takes its place that’s so interesting.
NakedPRGirl: Have you had to look at marketing yourself as a stylist and as a brand?
Chloe Beeney: Stylists have changed from being people in the background, through television and various other mediums, to becoming a profession in the public eye. You do have to be aware of yourself as a brand. You have so many platforms to get your point of view across; long before a client comes to see you, they will have been following you on Instagram for example. Authenticity is key, and making sure that is reflected on all platforms.
NakedPRGirl: How do you use social media as a stylist?
Chloe Beeney: For me it’s a way to connect with top people in the industry and show them another side of me so I’d rather be genuine there. My feed is thankfully fairly selfie free, it is my point of view down a lens. So if I’m at a cooking class for example it shows I have more than fashion in my life. My Instagram has the odd quote, the rare picture of me and my general life. It shows you’re a well-rounded person. As a stylist you’re always looking at details. We are just observers and using our observations to create a unique point-of-view which other people will either appreciate or at least be challenged by.
NakedPRGirl: Do you think menswear is a growing industry?
Chloe Beeney: I look at the baby boomer generation and men loved their colour and fashion but something got killed during the 90s. Then menswear got very, very boring. Now we have a generation where men are encouraged to wear colour again coupled with media activity to encourage them to spend on their attire. The big fashion conglomerates have carved out womenswear, but now in the march to maximize profits, the key opportunities are in menswear and childrenswear. I believe men should embrace this creative side of themselves. For a long time men weren’t encouraged to explore that aspect of themselves. It was seen as very un-masculine to dress well. But you look historically this wasn’t the case, women were often drab and men were all in their gold buckles.
NakedPRGirl: Do you have a favourite shoot that stands out?
Chloe Beeney: I shot a story for Wall Street Journal styling LVMH’s Chairman Bernard Arnault and the photographer was Mario Testino. We were shooing in Mr. Arnault’s antechamber to his office and Mario got him to perform a beautiful piece on the piano. The memory is burned on my brain like polaroids in my imagination.
NakedPRGirl: I’ve been on shoots where small things have gone wrong and big things have gone wrong, how do you deal with that?
Chloe Beeney: Things go wrong all the time and you just have to control the aspects you can anticipate. The biggest skill is being a person that can think on their feet, looking outside the box and problem solving. There are always things that are beyond your control – for example it’s raining and it’s a bikini story. You work with what you’ve got.
NakedPRGirl: What’s next?
Chloe Beeney: What’s next? Have a cup of hot chocolate. That’s what’s next.
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