For an Insiders special, Kin Woo meets three of the industry's stalwart fashion assistants
The Dazed & Confused fashion cupboard, tucked at the back of the offices on Old Street, may play host to the season’s most desirable and directional creations, all waiting to be turned into the stuff of fashion fantasy; but for 25-year-old fashion assistant, Katy Fox, the most fascinating thing is the box of personal objects and custom-made items owned by the magazine’s stylists that are pulled for shoots from time to time. “That’s what I love about Dazed – there could be something that sits there for months and they pull it and it can make the image. It’s the way they mix these personal touches with high end designers that really puts the Dazed mark on it.”
Coming from a sculpture and textiles background, she says, “Fashion wasn’t on the agenda but I stumbled into it from my first love, fine art.” After degrees in womenswear at Central Saint Martins and Nottingham University, Fox scored a transfer to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York for a year, an experience that oddly made her appreciate London even more – “After living in New York, I definitely had more of an appreciation for young British artists and designers, it’s so free here”, she muses. In addition to managing the cupboard, Fox also assists each of the magazine’s stylists – fashion director, Robbie Spencer and fashion editors, Emma Wyman and Elizabeth Fraser-Bell – on shoots.
“Dazed is like a family so it’s a relaxed creative environment. It’s a nice community of all the people I admire"
No one day is ever the same for the voluble, intrepid Fox who, in her year of assisting at Dazed, has done everything from managing the hectic Fashion Week schedule for the magazine’s editors to assisting on a shoot for S/S14 menswear looks on a snowy winter’s day, all of which she takes in her stride. “Dazed is like a family so it’s a relaxed creative environment. It’s a nice community of all the people I admire.” While enjoying the ever-changing nature of the job, she’s continuing to hone her own aesthetic of intricate craft-based design on the side (she cites McQueen, Prada and Margiela as some of her favourite collections) whilst harbouring plans to return to New York. “I’m not thinking of a market yet, I purely like to express and explore ideas.”
“I grew up with music around me as opposed to fashion,” 23-year-old Reuben Esser says of his upbringing in Essex with a musician brother, “I didn’t get into fashion until around the age of 21 when I moved to London. My friends were in fashion so that’s how I gravitated towards that. I was meeting people in the industry and I found it exciting and wanted to know more.”
"I'm really excited about the history of men's clothes"
After he assisted AnOther Man’s senior fashion editor, the late Bryan McMahon, on the shows he styled for Topman and James Long, McMahon offered him a job at Another Man where he has been working for the past year and a half. Working at the magazine has exposed him to photographers of the calibre of David Armstrong and Cedric Buchet, an experience he finds inspiring “just for seeing how they operate at a different level.” Assisting McMahon gave him a new appreciation for research, frequently pounding rare bookshops, libraries and vintage dealers in preparation for a shoot: “Bryan would make a sketchbook of all his upcoming shoots – he was very visual and tactile. There will be a lot of research involved which I really love doing. It really makes me think about where clothes come from. That’s what I’m excited about – the history of men’s clothes. I like looking into the history of cultures in fashion and how they relate to where we are today.” While it’s early days yet, Esser insists he’s a quick study, adding, “I’m starting to form my aesthetic – the fact that I’m doing all this referencing, I’m learning so much. I’m starting to form an opinion of who I am.”
Esser worked with McMahon until he passed away after a long, brave battle with a brain tumour late last year."I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Bryan. He was was such an amazing and inspiring person to work for and I have learnt so much from my time with him."
In the five years that French-born, London based Clemence Lobert has been assisting the stylist, Jacob K, the most memorable shoot that springs to mind for her is a trip to Las Pozas, the fantastical jungle paradise in Xilitla, Mexico to shoot Tilda Swinton with the photographer Tim Walker for W magazine. She shudders at the memory, “That was quite a trip. The travel was scary – we had to fly on the smallest plane from Mexico. From there we had a 6-hour drive in the dark, in the rain and the military stopped us two or three times!” Of course working with K who is known for creating rich, decadent fantasies for the likes of Dazed & Confused, AnOther Magazine, W and Italian Vogue has seen Lobert travel to the most exotic locations and unlikeliest of situations, all in the pursuit of creating the perfect image. But, as she grins, “I really enjoy the travelling – so when it’s mixed with work it’s even better.”
"I really enjoy the travelling – so when it’s mixed with work it’s even better"
Growing up in the suburbs of Paris with a mother who was the epitome of “classic French taste”, Lobert studied fashion design at school before going to intern for the Parisian jewellery designer, Yazbukey “doing production, PR, everything.” After assisting at a few independent magazines, she was introduced to K and jumped at the chance to move to London.” In Paris the fashion world is very small whereas in London they are doing their own thing and it’s a bit more more lively and happening.” In addition to working with K on his editorials and campaigns, Lobert relishes working on the runways shows he styles for Christopher Kane and Balenciaga. “I really like doing the shows – the adrenaline of it all. Then it’s not a personal thing but about making a clear message of the collection.” With no plans to branch out on her own anytime soon, Lobert says she is continuing to learn on the job, enjoying the working relationship she’s building with K. “I think I’m learning how to look at a photoshoot in another way – to look at the girl, the photographer – it’s not about the clothes but about the picture. I love helping to make a beautiful picture with all the elements together.”
Text by Kin Woo