Image courtesy of Gabrielle Kannemeyer

What it really means to be a Stylist – the creative profession that is becoming an extension of a multitude of art disciplines

Thinking back to the creative industry a number of years ago, creatives of all types generally operated within a specific field and seldom dabbled outside of its borders, unless they were of course, “against the grain”. It is my opinion that institutions of higher learning beg of their young students to specialize in one medium, and to be proficient in this medium exclusively. Multidisciplinary crafts are hardly ever encouraged. In a world of rapid change and instant gratification, the demands of clients ask more of creatives today. I state this as currently there are many stylists who have become proficient in an array of creative expressions to such an extent that they have the capability to wear every hat needed for the execution and completion of a project. We spoke to three of South Africa’s trailblazing all-rounders about their multifaceted creative exploits.

Photography by Anees Petersen

Anees Petersen

Anees, known for his designs, fashion label and styling, is becoming well versed in the medium of photography. He has set the tone and image (as both digital pixels viewed on electronic screens, and a physical dresscode) for what South African youths look like. Young & Lazy and the Corner Store have assisted in creating an image of our youth that is more versatile and heterogeneous. Looking through the duplicity of lookbooks created by this creative auteur it is almost like seeing Larry Clark’s 1995 ‘Kids’ in still form; yet unlike ‘Kids’ filled with messages of doom, Anees’ message is one of positivity – a celebration of youth.

At the start of Anees’ solo venture he only occupied the position of designer and handed over his collections to stylists and photographers to create lookbooks for him. Regarding it as an act of “letting go” to another stylist, he did not feel capable of styling at that early stage.

Photography by Anees Petersen

“Eventually, I made more collections and I started feeling that by ‘letting go’, the vision that I had, became watered down or changed…” Anees’ persuasion to be more hands on in this regard came from a sentiment that each stylist and photographer inadvertently added their own signature to a specific shoot – a style that he didn’t necessarily want to portray.

From there, Anees took it upon himself to style his designs and worked closely with photographers, making sure he took the lead in the art direction. It took Anees a while to step in behind the lens despite having experience with photographing on a point and shoot.

Photography by Anees Petersen

A boost of confidence intercepted when Anees needed to do some product shots with models and he could not find a photographer for the job at hand. Taking the leap, he photographed the set of images himself. Public review of his images was exceedingly in his favour.“It’s something that I really enjoy. It’s almost [at] a point where I would stop designing to become a photographer, if I could be a photographer.”

His process has become a union of image creator and designer pushing the focal points of his designs for consumers – this differentiating factor is what sets him and his deliverables apart. His style verges on blandness without any frill, lace or prettiness – yet these images should not be construed as unappealing. In fact, they draw you in and mesmerize their viewer.

Photography by Anees Petersen

Gabrielle Kannemeyer

Gabrielle is a name so embedded in Cape Town’s creative culture that it’s hard to speak about the scene and leave her name out of the conversation. Known for her immense talent as a stylist her hand brings styling to the foreground of any image. But Gabrielle does so much more than styling. A former student of Michaelis school of Fine Arts, she is also a producer, creative director and photographer.

Curious about when her creative disciplines started intersecting, Gabrielle tells me that the process already happened during her school years when she started a clothing business with a friend. Here she took on a chameleon like role of a photographer, stylist and co-director for their lookbooks.

Image courtesy of Gabrielle Kannemeyer

She unpacks her creative process as one that relies on documenting experiences. Her documentation takes the tangible form of drawing, creating mood boards and writing her ideas as they come to her. “Most of my work starts as something I see in my mind’s eye…” She shares that her process is ever changing and doesn’t necessarily take place in a linear pattern, stressing the importance of collaboration in her practice.

The Gabrielle Kannemeyer aesthetic can be defined as one with strong styling and simplified backgrounds. As a child growing up in the Northern Cape area she explored many landscapes which influenced her. She later moved back to Cape Town. She shares with me her strong belief that South Africans should tell our stories in the spaces that we are native to.

Image courtesy of Gabrielle Kannemeyer

The singularity of her styling practice arose from Gabrielle’s ability to recognize that what she wanted to bring across is something that she had not seen in the glossy pages of fashion magazines. “…No one was layering garments in a sculptural way, or in a way I thought was interesting.”

She explains that she thinks of the human body as a sculpture on which silhouettes can be changed to no end by adding elements or tying cloth and fabric to limbs. Inspiration also lends itself via the interpretation of clothes within our country she tells me. “I am incredibly inspired by the individuals I dress / collaborate with and it excites me to see the interaction they have with the silhouettes I build and all of that in relation to the spaces they are shot in is something I continue to explore today.”

Image courtesy of Gabrielle Kannemeyer

Chloe Andrea

Chloe works as both a stylist and a creative director honing her skills at Vega where she studied Graphic Design and Branding Communications, and later completed a short course in Personal Styling at Fedisa. Growing up in Durban as an only child, she cultivated a vivid imagination that has carried over into her adult life; spilling into her creative practice.

Her artistic interests came at a young age and was met with a similar fixation with dress up. Rummaging through her mother’s closet she would put together outfits that she called “characters” and insistently begged for an audience to admire her various ensembles.

Image courtesy of Chloe Andrea

“I started dreaming about my label in high school where I’d often sew myself up a top to wear out for the night. Later, launching my first collection in college called Ramble, which was completely ridiculous and outer space themed. My friend Nicci modelled the outfits, with my cousin behind the camera. It was then I realised I had discovered a new interest – the photograph.”

In the world Chloe creates for her clients framing takes a classical stance and every element within a picture frame is carefully thought out and placed. Her hand is known for its versatility and that is what she believes makes her projects distinct. From beautiful white on white to edgy pairings each project translates into human beings draped in such a way that they themselves become human artworks. “I’m inspired by creating characters and telling stories about them through fabric and images.”

Image courtesy of Chloe Andrea

Chloe tells me that her working in Nigeria has been her favoured project up to date. “Working in Nigeria – you learn a lot about self-identity and where you fit in. It’s also very challenging working in a new place where you don’t speak the languages. That being said, what a beautiful, colourful place! Everyday people rely more on local tailors to create garments for them rather than commercial retailers. It’s quite special.”

When it came to advice for young creatives with similar career aspirations, Chloe had the following to say, “The best advice I ever got was from Caroline Olavarietta. ‘Assist. Assist. Assist.’ I’d say, don’t chase fame and earn your stripes.”

Developing her skill set to encompass that of a fashion designer as well Chloe looks forward to a year of growth. She will continue creating garments for her own shoots as a costume designer while pushing the bill towards launching a full-time fashion label. She is currently being mentored in pattern making by a fashion designer.

Image courtesy of Chloe Andrea

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