Student networking mixer brings together designers, stylists, and photographers looking for rewarding collaborations
By Nina Tabios
As a freelance stylist, Richard Kenwright always knows when he wants to work with someone.
Aesthetic is important, yes, assured the Academy of Art University School of Fashion (FSH) student, who described his style as “a little less commercial, a little more unconventionally polished,” yet engagement really makes or breaks the deal. At the Academy U Styling Network event, Kenwright chatted with fashion designers, makeup artists, and models, but felt particularly good about a possible connection and collaboration with School of Photography student Anthony Hudson.
“I feel like I have a more specific type of style, but I definitely feel like our work would mesh pretty well because he has a lot of clean-cut styling [in his photos],” said the B.F.A. fashion styling student. “He has a sort of approach that I don’t have—I think his angle would really mesh well with mine.”
Kenwright and Hudson are among the Academy designers, stylists, and photographers, past and present, that attended the networking event on Feb. 19 at the Art Café at 655½ Sutter. According to FSH Associate Director Flore Morton, the event is in effect a semesterly in-house student mixer for young designers, stylists, and photographers to mingle and exchange business cards for future projects, both in and out of school. Partnering with School of Photography Acting Associate Director John Vano to also bring in models, hair and makeup artists, 200 creatives made up the diverse pool of talent represented that evening.
“It’s like a one-stop shop for a photo shoot,” Morton said. “We have so many programs that are complementary to us, it works to our advantage. We have good photographers, good stylists, good designers. Let’s use that.”
“I think it’s imperative to do this,” Vano said. “It’s a perfect opportunity and we’re using the resources that we have here at the Academy. Stylists have the closet, they can pull the clothes—as photographers, we can pull equipment, we can get permits, we can do all the necessary things to get these shoots to come together. One feeds off the other.”
These connections aren’t just mutually beneficial but there’s always the potential for a long-lasting working relationship. Senior students like Hudson and B.F.A. stylist Anastasia Smith recall portfolio-worthy work and on-going partnerships that were fostered at previous styling networking events. But you’re only as good as your network, and there’s always new faces and fresh ideas to mine.
“All the students here at the Academy, their stuff is so innovative. It’s so different from what I see anywhere else,” Hudson explained. “That’s why I keep coming back, to see what’s fresh, what’s new, and how I can apply some of that to my work, and how I can work with these different people to create something that’s bigger than ourselves. It’s not just an assignment; we’re actually producing for portfolios and different things to be seen.”
“There’s always a new styling student, there’s always a new photographer, there’s always a new designer that wasn’t here last year,” said Smith, who connected with a graduate photo student who wanted her to model. “I’ll model for her, she’ll do some shoots for me. It’s a trade-off.”
Even as an alumna and working stylist, Quannii Bell still wants in on the networking action. Nearly all her photographers are Academy-trained, she said, specializing in various genres and aesthetics that could fulfill whatever conceptual or commercial needs are required for her gigs with companies like Gap, Walmart, and Levi’s. This year, Bell was looking for a styling assistant. “A second me,” she said.
“The styling program was really hands-on. Our projects, homework assignments gave me the skills to do what I’m doing in my career now,” said Bell, who graduated in 2017. “So I’m really looking for someone who is hard-working and has that same little bit of experience.”
Based on sheer headcount, it was made clear to Morton and Vano that the networking event was successful and that perhaps a bigger space may be needed for the Fall 2019 edition.
Kenwright, who plans to move to Los Angeles following graduation this spring, said the event opened his eyes to not only how “cutting-edge” Academy students are but how a professional network, one that will carry him throughout his career, started with his classmates and peers at the Academy.
“A lot of these students are very professionally ready where we’re all definitely trying to get that grind of ‘we’re ready, we’re here and we want to be in the industry,’” Kenwright said of his contemporaries. “That is what you have to bring when you come to these sorts of events: ‘Here’s my business card, here’s my portfolio, I’m ready to show what I have to offer.’”