What It Takes to Style an Iconic Music Video

Even before the advent of filmic video albums like Beyoncé’s 2017 rip-roarer Lemonade, the fashion-centric music video was very much en vogue—but it's been a long time coming. There are some truly iconic style moments tied to music videos from way back when (hi, Cher, Madge and the Spice Girls), but in the ’90s, overstyling was out, and in the noughties, the look was really focused around sexy—not hunting down some rare Rei Kawakubo, for example—and therefore you’d often find that the location, vibe and story were prioritised far far above the message that a wardrobe could actually quite neatly convey to a keen audience.

Now trends are starting via YouTube’s trending videos, and even political and social values can be translated through the clothes that artists choose to wear. But that all, of course, comes with the hugely influential input of a professional stylist. As I was pondering what exactly it takes to produce something that garners fashion press as much as it does the attention of a mass audience (and hopefully a decent spot in Apple’s download charts), I knew the woman to speak to: our regular columnist and super-styling guru Avigail Collins.

Not only has this A-list stylist been working with music stars for years, she’s just fresh off the set from an extravaganza of a magical video shoot she "literally cannot get out of her head" with Jess Glynne in Mexico. I caught up with her to discover everything there is to know about the modern phenomenon that is the fashion/music video hybrid, and what it takes to be a celebrity stylist for a modern music artist.

How do you become a stylist to stars of the music world?

Photo:

Courtesy of Avigail Collins

“Sometimes you’ll know the artist before they become a singer or a celebrity, and it happens really organically—they see my work, or they know me through friends—but most of the time it’s through the record label and word of mouth,” explains Avigail. “With it being through the record label—even if it is someone you know who’s a friend, even if you’ve known this person your whole life—you’re still officially introduced to the record label, and then you have to pitch for the artist. The record label will tell you the kind of vibe they’re going for, as they will have already worked on the creative direction. So you have a creative director and a stylist who work together to build the image of the artist."

There’s a rigorous process to get the right concept in place for every video.

Photo:

Courtesy of Avigail Collins

“I think people would be surprised as to how quick the music video process is,” says Avigail. “Once the song is ready, it gets sent out to a selection of directors, who then write a video treatment to pitch for the job (a thorough presentation of what the music video could be like). The best ones that could work for the song are shared with artist and management, and then the artist and creative director pick the best treatment. It’s not until the treatment is confirmed that the stylist gets involved. Once I get the treatment, we’re usually shooting a week later. The longest I’ve had to prep is two weeks, which is quite unheard of.”

You have to be even more prepared than on a magazine shoot.

Photo:

Courtesy of Avigail Collins

“I recently did two shoots in Mexico (including the video BTS pictures featured here for Glynne’s ‘I’ll Be There’). The first video we did the fitting in L.A. and then flew onto Mexico, so this meant I was travelling with double the amount then usual—five suitcases, a huge hat box and me. Even if I have done a fitting, I like to take backups for each look. When you’re filming a video, it’s visually so far away from a white room where you do a fitting: You might get into the light and see the outfit looking completely different, so you need to have something on standby."

“Also, there are all these things that happen when we do music videos. You have to think about continuity, for example. And something might happen to the look; when we just went to Mexico with Jess, she had a Jacquemus dress that got drenched as she jumped in a cenote. The next day, the dress was being filmed again, so it was a case of hand-washing the dress overnight and steaming on set the next day in the middle of the pink Himalayan salt lakes before its next venture underwater."

On-stage and promo tour looks are really different from video outfits.

Photo:

Courtesy of Avigail Collins

“Just like us when you go out to a party, you’re not going to wear the same thing as you would every day at the office. So you have to think of TV and everyday promo outfits as everyday work clothes, but lifted to another level. So that would be something casual, but it’s still got to have the star quality and be a little bit better than what us ordinary folk would wear!

"Then there's the difference between TV performance outfits and a festival or arena tour outfit. When you’re performing on tour, you’re usually going to have backing dancers, backing vocalists and a whole band, and also you have to work with the creative director to think about what the stage looks like, plus the outfit needs to reflect the stage and the colours of the album. Whatever you’ve done for the album cover will be carried on through to the tour, so it kind of becomes a uniform. It also needs to be something that moves really well if the artist is going to be dancing—it can’t be anything that’s going to be restrictive.

“I love doing tours because I get the creative freedom to do things like outfit changes—I’m very into an on-stage outfit change or a big reveal. Whereas for TV, you’re working depending on the set of the show you’re doing: You might be thinking about what the colour of the chair is that your client will be sitting on, what colour is the studio background, and there are also restrictions on TV—for example, you’re often asked to not wear white, and you won’t be able to wear the same colour as the TV presenter.”

You’ll soon learn what does and doesn’t work on camera.

Photo:

Courtesy of Avigail Collins

“Fire! It’s always so exciting and so many videos have fire—the trick never gets old,” says Avigail of what she thinks works best on film. “Fashion-wise, I think Latex works really well because it’s a fabric where you can tell what it is through the screen. I think the fashion sense in music videos has got so much more streetwear-inspired, so it becomes a little bit more wearable. As a little girl, I used to be so excited when MTV Base would drop a new J.Lo video—I would literally run home from school. I think that feeling was lost for a lot of people a few years ago, but I do feel like it’s coming back. I stopped watching music videos for a while, and now I’m getting excited about them again. And that’s probably down to Instagram too."

The future of music videos lies in shoppable tech.

Photo:

Courtesy of Avigail Collins

“These days on a video shoot, you create content that’s just for Spotify and Instagram, for example, and you take stills on the day for social media, so it has definitely changed things, but I think that’s what makes it exciting again,” says Avigail, confirming that the exposure for brands to have their creations featured has created a switch from stylists having to get items made or costume designers involved for music video shoots to having designer labels keen to be included. “There are now apps where you can watch a video and either buy that exact item or something really similar, which is incredible. The future is seeing a music video and clicking to buy, and brands being able to see the sales generated out of these moments.”

Without further ado, watch Jess Glynne’s “I’ll Be There” video below.

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