How to Make It as a Stylist, According to Zanna Roberts Rassi

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A stylist’s work is never done. Forget about the cushy, glamorous caricature you see in the movies—you know, the one that involves dressing models, rubbing elbows with celebrities, and sipping champagne out of shoes. Not even close. The reality? A stylist is the person grinding through every photo shoot. Constantly on the clock, they’re pulling an outfit together with clients in the wings. Sometimes they even pull the clothes off their own fashionable backs for the sake of a shot. They work weekends, they mend clothes on the fly, and they’re a living, breathing index of the latest trends, designers, and shops.

It’s a tough gig, and breaking into the industry is equally challenging. So, when you’re just starting out, it’s essential to have a great mentor by your side. Iowa native Grace Rosson can attest to that fact: Rosson was selected for the #SORELstyle mentorship program and got the chance to learn from fashion editor Zanna Roberts Rassi. The idea of working in New York City alongside one of the industry’s elite (Roberts Rassi is also an E! correspondent, a Project Runway All-Stars judge, and the co-founder of Milk Makeup) would have had any other fashion fangirl shaking in her boots, but that wasn’t the case for Rosson. "Zanna is the best at what she does,” Rosson tells us. "She has trail-blazed her way through the industry with poise and determination”—and naturally has a lot of insight to share. 

Curious about what it takes to make it in the industry? Below, we share six things every aspiring stylist needs to master, straight from Roberts Rassi herself.

Learn About the Roles the Crew Plays


Pictured: SOREL 1964 Premium Wedge Boot ($230); SOREL Addington Strap Bootie ($180)

A good stylist is also keyed into what everyone else is doing on a shoot. "Producers, art directors, makeup artists, etc. It will serve you well and ensure you never undervalue someone else’s role—BIG mistake,” Roberts Rassi advises.

Take Advantage of Every Opportunity


One of the biggest thing Roberts Rassi stresses is saying yes when opportunities come your way: "Even if it’s inconvenient or something you’re not sure about,” the stylist adds. "Regrets are worse than fails.”

Value Your Ideas


Roberts Rassi’s motto for building your creative chops? It’s about reminding yourself to speak up and that your ideas are valuable. Rosson agrees: "The worst anyone can say to you is no.”

Read, Read, Read


Roberts Rassi also stressed the importance of keeping up with the news. "The industry news along with other news,” Roberts Rassi tells us. "Information is not only power, it’s inspiration. I’m inspired by anything and everything: the color of a fish in the bottom of the ocean for a new Milk Makeup eye shadow shade, a headline in a newspaper for an E! News fashion segment, the style of a cool girl on the train for a photo shoot vibe.”

Muses Are Important


Pictured: SOREL 1964 Premium Wedge Boot ($230); SOREL Conquest Wedge Boot ($275); SOREL Lolla Boot ($190)

When starting to collaborate on a theme and look of the shoot, “Rather than finding inspiration in a certain garment, [Zanna recommends] creating a story about my muse and incorporating the garments in her life. It reinforced that I need to have more confidence behind my ideas, and how to think of a full story to present,” says Rosson.

Keep Things in Perspective


According to Roberts Rassi, the trick is to not sweat the small things. "Sometimes you’re ahead; sometimes you’re behind,” she reminds us. "The race is long. Thanks, Baz Luhrmann.” She also instructs aspiring stylists to keep after the internships—as many as you can score. "It’s the best way to learn the job and make connections,” she says. "Be willing, be kind, be flexible.”

Are you an aspiring stylist? What’s the most interesting piece of wisdom you’ve picked up on an internship? Tell us in the comments.

Nairi Najarian
Nairi Najarian