She is known by many brides, bloggers and professionals by her nom de plume, GREY. GREY as in Grey Likes Weddings, Grey Likes Baby and Grey Likes Nesting. You’ve probably seen her work as a stylist for the wedding industry, including this recent gorgeous shoot for 31 Bits that was featured on 100 Layer Cake (also another Reverie contributor). She has also styled fashion shows for the uber cool weddings showcase/party/event The Cream (formerly known as Hitched), and has also styled photo shoots that have been featured in Utterly Engaged, Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, Oh Joy!, decor8 and every other major lifestyle or wedding blog and magazine you can think of. On top of all that, she is a stylist to private clients! With those demands on her schedule, what we want to know is this: how does she have time to breathe, much less look super stylish herself all the time?!?
Whether you’re a budding stylist, a professional in the blogging or wedding industries, or just a fan of well curated design, you’ve probably been following Summer’s work and are dying to know more about her process as a stylist and, of course, how she got to where she is today. We are delighted to share not only Summer’s Q+A with us, but also beautiful new images photographed by Bonnie Tsang from a photo shoot that Summer styled! You may have seen other images from this shoot over on Snippet & Ink - well, now you get to feast your eyes on photos from that shoot that have not yet been seen! We are absolutely over the moon that we get to share the gorgeousness from this shoot with you as we also share our very special interview with Summer!
Reverie: How did you get your start in styling?
SW: I got started in styling as a florist, actually. I was looking for a job in college and landed in a Conroy’s Flowers. I never could have imagined how much it would influence my future. I think I have a really natural bent toward interior design, which is where I pull a lot of the styling techniques I use. In terms of getting in the industry, it’s all about creating relationships with photographers that understand the value of having a stylist on set! I also just started some of my own projects…that seemed to allow me to set a precedent for my style and opened doors for new work!
Reverie: What would you say are different skills and experiences needed for wardrobe styling (for individual clients’ wardrobes) versus photo shoot styling and prop styling?
SW: I do a variety of styling types on set. I have one client where I do only wardrobe, whereas much of my editorial work is prop/set/table scape styling. I think when you are working with individual clients, the biggest difference is your client. You are working with someone who is actually going to wear the clothes in real life situations, rather than in a photo. It can take more work finding the ideal selections for a client wardrobe, however it can also be rewarding to see them light up when you help solve some of their wardrobe issues.
Reverie: Many people are not familiar with the process – could you explain how the sourcing and planning works in styling a photo shoot? (what are some of the first things you do when you are starting a styling project and how does that carry through and run on the day of the shoot?)
SW: Obviously the first thing I do after I get an assignment is discuss the look and concept. Normally, if I’m creating an editorial shoot on my own, these concepts are the driving force behind everything we do. These concepts/looks/feels that I start off with come from a variety of sources. Once, I did an entire shoot based on a display window I had seen at Macy’s. Other times, it’s perhaps changing the idea of what most people think of nautical by alternating expected colors. I may also see a fun activity and decide that perhaps we could play that out into an entire shoot. Once I nail down the concept, I tackle larger components that will need to be included in a shoot. So we might create a wedding, for example, but that means we want to source a table, a cake, models, etc… After we break down these components, it’s important to start thinking what elements are important to include in order to convey our concept. I’ll normally make a running list and then head out for sourcing. When it comes to sourcing, this is the most tiring/rewarding/difficult part. I hit up everything from chain stores like Pottery Barn to Home Goods to thrifts stores and flea markets. Typically I’ll be able to divide a list and have a general idea as to where I’ll be able to find each item. I also usually hit the cheaper stores first, which can help me save money.
Reverie: Do you call the shots in terms of how your styling is photographed, or do you set up and let the photographer have creative license from then on?
SW: Unless I have a VERY specific goal in mind, I normally let the photographer do their thing. I might say, here’s what I need from this shot or this table or this set up. Often times, I’ll ask the photographer to let me look at the back of their camera so I can get a feel for how things are looking. If I love a particular component that’s important, I make sure to let them know, “Hey, shoot that napkin treatment with a vertical perspective.” (**I always want more verticals than horizontals…in case any photographer was wondering). I think I have a unique perspective because I’m not only a stylist but an editor as well. So I know the importance of clean imagery when it comes to putting together layouts. That helps me direct photographers when I’m styling. As a note, because I rely on my photographers’ creative/artistic capacity to be spot on, it’s another reason why I’m extremely picky when it comes to selecting photographers for a shoot.
Reverie: What happens to the props and fashions that you use after a shoot?
SW: Sometimes we’re able to return items that aren’t used. I also have a storage space that allows me to keep most of the items I purchase so they can be used again on future shoots.
Reverie: When styling a photo shoot or an event, what kinds of inspiration do you turn to?
SW: I look at interior design, fashion (especially runway!), stationery, typography, cook books and food styling, merchandise display, set design on movies and tv, and anything else you can imagine to find out of the box inspiration!
Reverie: What is one of the most difficult challenges you have had as a stylist?
SW: Keeping people happy! It’s so scary! I find it’s also challenging to pull sources together at the last minute. It’s a crazy stressful time consuming job! That said, it’s also very creative and rewarding. I think you always have to be super resourceful and able to think on your feet. If something isn’t looking right or not fitting, you’ve got to find a way to make it work! One of my clients, 31 Bits, is a jewelry company. At the beginning, when I first started doing wardrobe styling for them, our budgets were a lot smaller for clothing, so we’d pull from the closets of the models and owners. Once, we had a shoot where everything was just not jiving. We didn’t have a strong direction for the looks and I was really grasping at straws to make it come together. So that’s a huge challenge if you are on set forcing something to look great with limited resources.
Reverie: Would you say that there is a “style” to your styling?
SW: Yes. One of my favorite things to include when I style is some sort of unexpected element that you might be surprised to see. It could be a pair of patterns, a pop of unexpected neon, or a frilly texture. Whatever it is, I’m looking for ways to surprise my viewers and get them to rethink typical associations they have with objects, colors, patterns, and situations.
Reverie: Any advice for newbie stylists?
SW: Hone your craft. And simplify. I always look at a table scape or outfit and think like Chanel told us to: “Remove something before you walk out the door!” The number one mistake stylist make is not thinking about the overall big picture. They get inconsistent and messy! Keeping a look clean is the hardest thing to do because it requires restraint, but it really makes a difference! Great imagery doesn’t take much.
Reverie: How would you style Bella Swan’s wedding?
SW: That’s a tough question because I’ve never seen or read the Twilight series (tragic, I know). But if you asked me about Hermione Granger…that I could tell you. I think Hermione and Ron would have a fall wedding with all kinds of rich autumn colors. There would be tons of food to appease Ron’s bottomless appetite and I see Hermione in a lace sheath kind of dress.
Reverie: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
SW: Sleepless in Seattle is my all time favorite movie. When I was young, my parents divorced and while we transitioned into the new schedule of life always missing either mom or dad, my three sisters and I would take Sleepless in Seattle back and forth with us, and watch it non-stop. For some reason, that movie reminds me of the comfort that familiarity and especially sisters can bring you. Turning that movie on is akin to curling up with a blanket and cup of hot chocolate.
Reverie: What’s currently in your handbag?
SW: Lip Venom lipgloss, business cards, gum, and bunches of receipts (from purchasing and returning items for shoots!!)
Reverie: Favorite cocktail.
SW: Greyhound. Mmmm.
Reverie: Heels or flats?
SW: Heels—even though I’m a hypocrite and choose flats for regular days.
Reverie: Current crush?
SW: Making coffee with our aeropress and equestrian inspired fashion.
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