Regarding the above, I am not referring to the obvious things a freelance fashion stylist can do to avoid not having to pay financial costs to a press office for pieces borrowed like not damaging, losing or never returning the loaned pieces.
The tip I am about to share also includes situations where the freelancer has ensured that the company he/she is styling for has insurance, and that his/her commissioning letter clearly states that, that company will be financially responsible for any loss or damage of the pieces.
When I began styling I thought that all I had to do to avoid financial reparations was to follow the simple rules above but a frightening experience soon taught me otherwise. And this is why I strongly believe that as great as fashion styling school can be, there are some vital things that simply can’t be taught if one wants to embark on a career as a freelance fashion stylist.
Since starting my blog, I read a lot of fashion blogs and some are written by stylists in the industry and as well as seeing and reading about their latest press parties, being informed about the latest trends, street style pics, how they wear their clothes etc- I wish I knew more blogs written by stylists where as well as their positive experiences, they share their negative fashion working experiences and give tips on how to avoid the potholes that are easier to fall into as a freelancer.
This moves me swiftly on to what happened to me a few years back- I had returned pieces which I had borrowed from a London Press Office, when I got a call from the Account Executive informing me that one of the pieces- a very expensive designer blouse- was missing. I’ll always remember the icy-cold fear that hijacked my heart because although my commissioning letter stated that the magazine was responsible for the pieces loaned- it was my first dealing with the magazine and I did not want to report such unfavourable news to them, and I did not want to damage my reputation with the Press Office. And most importantly, I am meticulous when it comes to press returns and have a ticking system on photocopied press dockets to remind me that I have returned a piece to a PR. However, it was my word against the Press Officer and that ticked press docket didn’t prove legally that I had returned the blouse.
That evening, I turned my flat upside down and with 3 floors, it was no easy feat. The next day, I called the Press Office in the hope they had found the blouse- they hadn’t. So I went back to the location of the shoot (even though I knew the blouse was not there), and rummaged through there as well, I also called the creative team- all this was fruitless. And you know when you are in a panic, the crazy things your mind begins to taunt you with? Well my mind had a field game with me and I began to think irrational thoughts like- maybe the blouse slipped out of the sealed press bag in the taxi on my way back from the shoot!
Eventually, I decided to go back to my original thought, i.e- there was no way I had misplaced the loaned blouse and it was in that Press Office, and true enough I received a call from the Account Executive telling me jovially that the blouse had ben found. Apparently the confusion had occurred due to a new press office assistant! And of course, I had to be professional and answer lightly when after all the trauma the Press Office had caused me, what I really wanted to say involved a few unseemly curse words.
After that I swore to myself that I would never, ever be put in that situation again. At the time I had no one to ask for advice on this matter; so I put my 5 years of legal studies to use and came up with a solution that when I return press pieces, I would write on the press docket, ‘This confirms that on XDate Biki John returned all of the above borrowed pieces to XPress Office’ and then I would get a press office representative to name, sign and date the document.
This system has served me well, in fact last year after I returned accessories to a press office, I got an email from one of the Account Executives stating that one of the pieces had not been returned. But this time around there was no cold sweats or running around London like a headless chicken- I simply sent an email saying that I had and for proof that I had, she should look at the attached signed document which stated that I had in fact returned all of the press pieces. After I sent that, I got an email back where she apologised and that they would sort the problem in-house.
More or less, press offices have been co-operative with my system, I do get the odd smug ‘too cool for fashion school’ PR intern who smirks when I pull out the form or ones who tell you that they are too busy to count the pieces to ensure they have been all returned. With the latter, I stay firm and offer to wait in the reception till they have the time to look through the press bag and this always works. The older and more experienced press officers take to my system more favourably and I always remember one saying, ‘If all stylists did this, it would cut out all the drama’s that can happen with loaning pieces.’
I hope this experience and what I learnt from it is able to help at least one stylist out there.