Theriz Interviews: Taurie Small

April 30, 2020 Nova Iorque, NY, Estados Unidos


From Fashion to Costumes

From the series unpredictable New York: today I'm sharing with you an interview with an amazing NYC Fashion Stylist that I met (believe it or not) at the bathroom of a Lower East Side restaurant, the 'Beauty & Essex'.. ladies and gentlemen, may I present you: Taurie Small!





1- First of all, Taurie, thank you for giving us this interview. We met and worked together in New York and I wanted to share this awesome experience with our readers here on the blog. Now, before we start could you tell us a little bit about you? Who is Taurie Small, where do you come from and what do you do for a living?

Thank you for having me.
I’ll start off by telling you a little about me. And what influenced me to work in the world of fashion. 

I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. I am a Local 764 IATSE Costumer Registrant in New York. 
I grew up really appreciating art and fashion. I collected fashion magazines and would spend hours reading through them at home. Detroit has really nice museums. I’d spend hours in the Detroit Institute of Art. I spent my childhood and teens mesmerized by everything around me involving art and fashion. Books, museums, and fashion magazines were my escape. I spent a lot of time drawing while growing up. I would enter drawing contests, and after winning my first contest in grade school.I just knew that I wanted to work in the world of art and fashion, in some capacity. Fashion has always been a form of art to me. Fashion and Art are both parts of visual culture. They increasingly intertwine. 

Growing up, I would shop all around the city with my grandmothers who had impeccable style. One loved classic clothing from second hand stores and the other loved the fashion forward looks from the higher end stores. We would take our time and comb through beautiful garments. My Grandmother Lorraine made sure that I understood how impeccable style and class could turn the heads of Kings and Queens. She also introduced me to sewing by letting me help her make clothes for my dolls. And my other Grandmother Sammie taught me the importance of choosing quality over quantity, when it came to choosing classic staples for my wardrobe. 

I’d also watch my Mother when she dressed. She could transform herself into something fierce. She has a lot of style. When she was younger she did some modeling and styled the models in fashion shows...probably way before it was called Fashion Styling. I got my fashion sense from these women in my family. They were very stylish, each in their own special way. My maternal Great Grandmother was a seamstress. All of these ladies loved to sew. So I guess it all rubbed off on me.

I have always had this insatiable love affair with fashion for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Detroit, I didn’t have the money to buy the most expensive things, but I knew how to shop at off-price stores, hit those sales racks and second hand shops. I’d make a $10 outfit look like a million bucks. I had a knack for taking something and turning it into a work of Art. Creating something beautiful out of plain ole clothes. Adding the perfect accessories to make an outfit POP. 
Tying, tucking or turning something a certain way to make it look GOOD. I’ve always had this passion for fashion. I’d dress my girlfriends before they went out on the weekends. I would sketch garments for friends. As a teen I worked at a popular fashion boutique at the mall. I loved styling the customers there. I was in heaven. I’d also shop for and style several family members. I was the go to person when it came to getting dressed for events. My closet was like a little mini boutique. And my neighborhood was my runway. I was styling before I even knew that all of these things that I loved to do could actually be a part of a real career in fashion. 

I actually started out working in the Fashion Industry. I got my start assisting a variety of Fashion Stylists for about 4 years in NYC. I’ve just recently made the transition into the world of costumes. Some of my assisting skills from Fashion Styling were transferable to Costumes.


Photographer: Micheal Daughtery Styled by Taurie Small
Model: Mea Wilkerson
Location: Brooklyn, New York


2- Did you always know that you wanted to be a wardrobe stylist? Do you remember a moment in your life, maybe in your childhood, when you figured this out.. I mean when did you decided that this was what you wanted to do and work with for the rest of your life? Did you study for it? What school did you attend, what courses did you take?

No, I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a Stylist. When I was younger, I thought that I wanted to be a Fashion Designer. So I decided to attend this Art school in Nashville. I studied Fashion Design, and Patternmaking at the International Academy of Art and Design.
I’ve always thought of myself as an artist. Half way through my first semester of Fashion Design School, I realized that I’d rather style people. It was around this time that I actually met a Fashion Stylist. His name was Milton White. Meeting him lit the fire under me, and made me want to learn more about this elusive industry. I had to figure out ways to get into the fashion industry while living in Nashville. I made a way.I started my own fashion blog and online fashion boutique in 2009. And I began to work at an online Styling Company, called Keaton Row a few years later. I dabbled in everything fashion while in Nashville. Fashion Shows, a bit of modeling for some local designers. I even started to do some fashion marketing for a clothing company. 

I wanted more so I continued to search for actual styling programs, and finally found one.
My Fashion Styling training was taken at a boutique Fashion Styling School in New York called The School of Style. I received a Certificate of Completion in Fashion Styling.
I was taught the business of styling, which included the following: learning about important eras in fashion history and research, set etiquette, prepping and wrapping up a shoot, styling for clients, liaisons with showrooms, creating mood boards, merchandising racks, how to to do check ins and returns and pulling for shoots. They had a great graduate job placement program that introduced me to a lot of established stylists in the industry to work under. One of them being Wardrobe Stylist and Fashion Editor Mindy Saad, who taught me a lot about working behind the scenes on commercials and ad jobs. I worked with her for about 2 years. With her I learned the importance of being extremely organized and always paying attention to details. 

But, I still had more work to do. I really wanted to work in Television and Film. So, I searched for more classes to take. 
I found a great program in the city. I began taking classes at The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. I completed the Wardrobe Technician / Costume Design Specialist course. Wardrobing for Theatre Film and TV. This intensive course acquainted me with the costume and wardrobe world, the roles of costumers and stylists shoppers, designers, and wardrobe supervisors. And afterwards I snagged my first job working in the costume dept on a television show last year.

And I am currently taking online production accounting courses while I am on hiatus (due to Covid19) from my most recent job in costumes. A lot of people don’t know that accounting is a very important part of a styling job. You may have to deal with budgets and do expense reports as a Stylist. And accounting is good to know if you’re thinking of moving into Supervisory or Coordinating positions in a Costumes Dept.

Most styling careers don’t require a college degree. But a degree is always good to have. Having a degree may greatly improve your career prospects.

If you want to become a Costume Designer, you should study fashion design or major in costume design, you’ll learn how to design, select, and build costumes for characters in plays and other types of performances. In addition to sketching and building costumes of your own design, you’ll study theory and criticism, costume history, and period styles.

While searching for ways to break into Costumes, I ran across an online platform for costuming called S.A.L.T. Style and Leadership training. It’s taught by Costume Designer Rebecca Force. 
She trains aspiring costume designers, stylists, and costumers/professional shoppers, to prepare them for working full-time in television and film. She offers a full course and webinars. And she also has an agency that represents Costume Designers, Costumers, and Costume Production Assistants. I took her network building webinar which I think was very instrumental in helping me to get my most recent jobs. It’s a good idea to spend your time learning. Read everything on Costume Design. Reach out to other Costumers, Stylists and Designers and get advice from them. The best training that you can get is on the job training. Try to work with people who you’re going to learn from.

Even if you have a masters degree in costumes. The top jobs are very hard to work up to, it can take years of hard work. The unions are also tough to get into and jobs are often a jealousy guarded secret. Getting to do the work that you want to do can be a long and arduous road, you really have to pay your dues.


3- What is it like to be a stylist in New York City? What are the challenges the city offers and what’s the most exciting about it?

I’ve learned a lot from working under some great stylists. It’s not all glamour and glitz. Being a stylist is demanding. There’s a lot of competition for the jobs...because everyone wants to be a stylist here. Everyone wants to be a stylist...but they don’t want to put the work in. They don’t want to pay their dues. Some people think that it’s super easy and you become a stylist overnight. It’s not...and the journey can be strenuous.

The most exciting part is seeing the end product. 

What looks like an effortless image of glamour is the result of a lot of hard work, from the directors, hair and makeup , the set design to the styling. It feels great to see it all come together and turn into something beautiful.

Styled by: Taurie Small assisted by Kelly Mederick and Thereza Rebouças (me!)
model: Francés DeLancey
Location: Coney Island Beach, NY
Shot with an iPhone


4- Do you believe the city still offers opportunities for newbies?

Of course, there are definitely opportunities for newbies in NYC. In fashion styling. You’ll just have to find a stylist to work for. And then start as an intern and work your way up. In Costumes you can start as an assistant, and then apply to the union as you work your way up.


5- What was your best experience in this job so far? Is it the one where you had the chance to work with Madonna for a video music or something like this? (I remember you told me something, am I right?)

The Madonna experience was nice...because well she’s Madonna and her stylist was the iconic Bea Akerlund. I was thrilled to work with both of them. Bea was very pleasant and nice to me. That was cool. But that wasn’t my best experience in Fashion Styling.
My absolute best experience in fashion styling would be working with the Italian Vogue Editor Patti Wilson. She is fabulous and so is her whole team. I was with them for about a year until I started working in TV and Film. I dreamed of working with Patti. I would read up on her and study all of her work. I emailed her company for years. And I never heard back. One day I saw an ad to work with her somewhere online, so I applied. Come to find out, I had the wrong email
all along. Her old assistant had quit, and that email wasn’t working. I eventually interviewed with her Studio Manager and got the gig!
She was so nice. So genuinely nice. I had the pleasure of working on some amazing jobs with her. She just warms my heart. I loved working with her. Her whole team was just a breath of fresh air. I’ve met some really snotty "Devil Wears Prada" wanna be Stylists and Assistants here in NY and NJ. Patti was not one of those.
Patti and her team showed me that you don’t have to be a nasty and mean person to thrive and survive in this industry. You can actually be pleasant and nice. It really is okay to be nice. She was a dream to work with. Hard work, but the experience was really beautiful. Definitely like a dream come true.


Magnolia Silks NYFW show backstage
photographer: Tolganay Seitkazina


6- Why videos and TV and not print media? What are the differences between these jobs?

I actually like doing both. But working in TV and Film gives me more of a rush. I love helping to create characters and I love watching them unfold on camera...it’s extremely interesting to me. I had a taste of Costuming when I interned on a short film a few years ago with Costume Designer Theodora Chytoudi. Working on that film opened my eyes to the world of costumes and I fell in love. I was shopping and helping on set. It was really cool. Different from Fashion Styling.

With TV and Film a Costume Designer is creating a specific look for characters. Following a script.
Editorials on the other hand can give the Stylist more creative direction. Stylists can really create outlandish, artsy, super creative looks in their own editorials.They can get really wild and outrageous, if that’s what they’re going for.


7- Do you have a dream of producing someone specific, like an actor or other famous people you admire?

Oh my Gosh...I would looooove to assist Erykah Badu. Although she said that she doesn’t use a stylist. On some projects, I’ve noticed that she will work with them. I would love to work with her one day.


8- What inspires you? Where does your inspiration to create come from?

My inspiration comes from a variety of Books, magazines, movies and art. Really just about anywhere. I love to people watch. That’s the best, just walking around the different boroughs of New York taking in all of the diverse styles and fashions. I’m a very visual person. 


9- Did you ever feel some kind of racism in the industry? Did you have some experience with it? (I hope not) And what do you think about this? Do you think we have equal opportunities in fashion now?

I’ve never really dealt with overt racism working in this industry.
I do find that I’m the only black person on most jobs. There usually may be one or two others. But I’ve definitely been the minority for the most part. 

I think that we do have equal opportunities, we may just have to work harder at proving ourselves due to some preconceived stereotypes about Blacks that others may have (from the media perhaps.)


10- Could you describe a day of work in your life? What do you usually do, the places that you go, people you meet and how is it to work as a fashion stylist in New York? Is it as glamorous as we believe when we read a fashion magazine, like Vogue for example or watch supermodels Instagram’ stories?

A day of work in my life?

There is more to styling than just shopping.They have to attend lots of meetings.There is definitely a business side of it. There’s liaising with showrooms and studio services. They meet with producers and directors. They’re constantly in the go. A day in the life of any type of stylist can be extremely hectic. 

And no, it’s not glamorous. 

I’m not working in Fashion Styling at the moment. 

I do know some stylists that work as both Fashion Stylists and Costume Designers. Although most choose to do one or the other. For now I’m focusing on Television and Film. 

Now that I’ve started working in costumes my days are long. Monday through Friday 8 am to 8 pm. And I do a lot of driving. A drivers license is a must if you’re working in costumes. 

Here’s what a day in my life might look like now. I’m usually the first one in the office around 8/8:30 and the last to leave. I start my day checking emails and prepping the wardrobe. Checking the returns and seeing what needs to be picked up. On some jobs, I assist the Designer while she shops. One some jobs I pick up shopping from the shoppers. One some jobs I assist with shopping. It can get hectic, we have to juggle ad hoc office duties, and sometimes coffee runs and lunch orders. Some days I’m basically the girl Friday for the entire Costume Department. 

Because I’m also a Costumer Registrant, some days I may be asked to work as an additional Costumer for a Wardrobe Superviser. Costumers may assist with dressing the actors and other wardrobe maintenance jobs. Such as Washing and sorting the wardrobe. Job duties can vary from day to day. You have to be very flexible, and adaptable to change. The plans for your day change often. Meetings are cancelled. Packages are late. The script is constantly revised. There’s always something changing. You have to be able to work well under pressure. And you have to be able to multitask. 

I travel all over to showrooms and boutiques and shopping centers all throughout New York. And I meet everyone. The sales reps, managers and sometimes the owners of these places. That’s always exciting. You’ll be surprised at how many people will began to remember you. 

It’s important to develop strong networking skills. You must network with designers, fashion business owners and other industry professionals. Get to know everybody! 

Everyday is different. I love it. 



11- How do you see the future of fashion/ styling? I mean, is there a future for it? What are you expecting for the new decade that's beginning now? I’m asking this not just because of our new Corona Virus and self isolation situation but also, and way before that happened, Vogue Italia released its 2020 January issue filled only with fashion illustrations.. no photoshoot production was required in the making of that mag issue for sustainable reasons. It was a beautiful and powerful statement but what about the people (and we’re talking about a lot of them.. stylists, photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists, models, assistants, etc) who work on these photoshoots? How about their jobs, right?

Unless the jobs are virtual. As of now, jobs for these people in the fashion industry hair stylists, makeup artists, photographers, models and assts don’t exist. We are all supposed to be on standby. We really have to adhere to the guidelines. Everyone involved in jobs in fashion and the TV and Film industry can’t stay 6 feet from each other with face masks during shooting. This disease is deadly, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

After the states have opened up. We should all eventually be back to business as usual. With extra precautions taken. I think production companies and studios will enforce higher standards of keeping the areas cleaned. We will not have the crafty tables anymore. And work areas will not be as crowded.

Maybe everyone will wear gloves and masks on shoots...except the models and actors. And maybe some production companies will be required to test the workers regularly. And then afterwards test them for antibodies. 

I don’t know how we’re going to move forward. This virus must be destroyed before we can move forward. I think it’s going to be pretty hard to do without a vaccine. I really don’t know what things will be like when NYC opens back up.

As far as styling I see a lot more E-commerce styling. And a lot of virtual personal styling in the future. Because people are using the Internet now, more than ever. 

I also see that it is becoming over saturated with everyone wanting to be a stylist. 

The competition is fierce! 
Only the strong survive. 

It’s really tough. 
A lot of people just want to hurry up and become this super celebrity stylist overnight. 

It doesn’t happen like that. 
One things for sure. I’m not a stranger to hard work. 
I’m in it till the end. 

And I’m really just getting started. I’ve officially made my move from Fashion to Costumes. It will be a year in September. And it’s been a pretty cool ride.


12- Any tips or advice for those who are seeking this career?

Working in costumes, whether you’re interested in designing, supervising, shopping, working on set, or building costumes is a freelance job. Getting work is all about who you know. Knowing how to collaborate and be a great team player is key to building and maintaining a career in film costuming.

Some people don’t like to use the word assistant. They think it’s a bad thing. It’s really not.
I’m not a big fan of the fake it till you make it camp. I’d rather work hard and pay my dues and be transparent about where I am and where I want to go in this industry.

If you want it bad enough, work for it. Be humble. Get down in the trenches and do what you have to do, to get to where you need to be. No short cuts. When you accept a job listen more than you talk. And absorb everything like a sponge. 

Work hard.
Be a team player.
Don't be lazy.
And be nice. 

Really learn your craft and excel at it. If you need to take some classes or get a degree...do that. And then reach for the stars.



Taurie Small photographed by Alissa Small


Learn more about Taurie and follow her stunning work on her website here, LinkedInInstagram and Facebook






Giggliani said...

What an delightful and interesting interview! Your insightful questions and the transparency in which Taurie responded had me connecting the dots even more. She is a passionately, skilled artist in every sense. Taurie is #DaughterOf beautiful women who passed on their knowledge by their lives and through their skills. In all directions, there was a glow that embraced her. As a moviegoer, I am that person who stays to the end because each and every person who worked on the film is key. I love reading all the different roles that it took to make this movie I just thoroughly enjoyed come to life. I know you may not go to school for some of these specific roles but they unfold as that desire to be in this industry introduces you to a menagerie of people. Thank you for the learning! I would love to know, see, hear and/ or introduce others to this potential of their talents and be a cheer leader. That’s how we are called to roll for each other! Sis! Boom! Bah! Go Taurie!!!

Theriz said...

Thank you for your kind comment dear! It means a lot to us!
xx
Theriz