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The Fashion Narrative

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

Sometimes our truest passions have a way of coming back to you in ways that you least expect. That’s what I learned the most about myself. The years of me playing dress-up with dolls and my mother’s clothes should have prepared me for a life that was dedicated to fashion and beauty, But it didn’t. I took a detour, and a long one at that.

Between the ages of nine to fourteen, I devoted hours to the craft of sewing and fashion design. However, fashion wasn’t necessarily a career one would take in an Asian household, and yet being an Animator was somehow more reputable. Eventually my focus diverged elsewhere. There was a time where I devoted myself to fiction and comic books, anime and films. In some way the world of cinema and fantasy always resonated with me. I enjoyed dissecting nuances in every cut and detail, trying to understand how imagery often plays with the narrative.

I wanted to build worlds to push the limits of what our current reality could be, and as “Rina” I played into that role. I lived this sort of weird ideal in my head of being the example of change I wanted to see in this world, and damn right, I wanted to look and feel like it. I dressed weird and I didn’t care. I shaved half of my head, dyed it blue, played video games and attended comic conventions.I rejected the norm, got myself a Tumblr account, and distanced myself from the mainstream. So, you guessed it. I was a hipster.

Just kidding.

Or am I?

I did go to Art School and listened to Vampire Weekend (and I still do).

Jokes aside, I flaunted being an artist, and I thought I was hot shit. Anyone who didn’t meet the standard wasn’t worth my time. (Yeah, I was that bitch). I thought that an art degree was going to define me. Then five years later, it didn’t. So what changed?

It turns out that I’m not necessarily built for a job behind the desk. Who knew that centuries of monks drawing and writing in the dark would persist in the career of a video game artist within the twenty-first century?

I would transit from home in the peak of the morning hours, and it would still be dark. Go to class and have class in the dark, and then return home around 11 pm. It was the worst and it took a toll on my mental health. But one thing often got me through the day, and it was the same thing I always loved as a child: playing dress-up, but this time it was as a character designer.

A childhood of watching Final Fantasy, Sailor Moon and Harry Potter brought forth dreams of power, magic, and a magical wardrobe. In a way, I wanted to be a part of their world, or at least build my own. Soon, years of sewing and crafting have re-emerged, and I accidentally became a Fashion Stylist.

How I specifically became a fashion stylist would be a story for another time, but now I’ve come to terms with my own reality by learning that being a geek and character designer aren’t mutually exclusive from being a fashion stylist after all. Art school has armed me with the knowledge and history of people, and their need for tangible resources in order to exert imagery and power. Now, I help people bring their innermost characters to life, and make fashion an extension of their being. I help build narratives for people to control, and build worlds for people to fantasize. In many ways we all wish to be a better version of ourselves, and I make it my passion to see it through.

How I process my work as a Creative Director and Fashion Stylist has been an interest of many, and my answer is research. I’m not kidding. You thought leaving school would free you from the detriment of it, but nope, this work requires A LOT of researching. One needs to be able to gauge the needs and interests of the brand prior to executing the idea, because only adhering to a trend or an aesthetic limits the potential of where a concept could grow. This week I’ve had the honour of arranging a spring themed photo shoot for a jewelry brand called Horace from Montreal,Canada. With Horace, the goal was to create a shoot that differentiates from their current editorials, but still remain coherent to their target market. Here is how I broke down my creative process prior to photo shoot day

As mentioned, research is key! Horace Jewelry creates pieces that are upscale and minimal, creating accents of femininity with hints of individuality. I look through their photo shoots and e-commerce shoots, and I ask myself “what has been done?”, and “what hasn’t been made yet?”

Based on their website and Instagram, their editorials have been very warm, with fabric play and neutral tones. I also take into account what colour palettes they’ve already done for their lookbooks, taking into detail how they photograph their products. Now I think about how I can make an editorial that is uniquely mine while simultaneously adhering to the Horace brand.

The largest chunk of my process is done here; it's hours spent on Pinterest, Instagram, and portfolios. I look at books and images for inspiration, thinking about how to express the aesthetic of the brand

Following the current season, I wanted to create a palette that reflected the colder springs of the northwest. Dried flowers, and tones of mauve, copper and dusty pinks have been the rage of this year. Now I begin to think about how the elements of dried flowers are executed within the realms of the brand. Sometimes, creatives can only be focused on the theme, while forgetting that their goal is to highlight the product or model in the first place. Therefore, I begin sketching, wondering how I can present the product while adhering to the theme. Sketching helps me grasp a specific idea on how I want to showcase the product, how I angle the shot, what props can I use.

There are multiple ways to get the right shot that best highlights the product, and preparing helps me waste less time on set. It is also around this point I begin to consider talents and locations that can best assist me for this photo shoot, to make sure that the team I work with can help best see the vision through.

Around this point I begin to imagine what would happen on set: what could go right, and what could go wrong? Improvising on set is good (see step four), but never leave anything up to chance. Therefore, I start to make notes on alternatives I could consider when I’m on set. I start considering what I could also bring on set: props, clothes, clips, tape… the whole ordeal. You can never really be too over-prepared (unless you’re filming on a mountain. Lesson learned)

Now the photo shoot is happening, and around this point you begin to discover that whatever you may have sketched or planned isn’t going as you had hoped. With all the tools you have planned or brought, be sure to communicate with your team and play around the same concept, making sure to always stick to the intention of the shoot.

In the case for Horace, the goal is to always make sure the jewelry is the main focus of the photo, and not getting lost amidst all the texture and shine of the props and theme.

I’m looking through the photographs with the photographer, and observing other elements and props around the studio that we can potentially play with and use to help deliver the strongest shot.

The saying that “time is money” rings true in the context of a photo-shoot. A lot of time and talent is devoted over a period of six to eight hours, and the last thing you want to appear is unprofessional and unprepared as a creative. Planning and researching ensures that no time is wasted on set and it helps best secure the vision of the project, leaving the entire team and your clients with something exciting to look forward to.


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