Jasmine discusses how different paths led her to New York and Anna Wintour.
After St James I studied philosophy at Leeds. At school I had studied art, English and philosophy and was torn between a path down a creative or academic route. Wanting an adventure I opted for Leeds. I had to work extremely hard at the library every day and found a team of good friends who were also as focused, together we found refuge in the library walls. I found it difficult though as I still had this burning creative drive.
My boyfriend at the time was studying photography and we would go on little trips on the weekends to northern towns and take photographs of disused Bingo halls, seaside villages and city arcades. Photography and art was my hobby and passion. I would collect magazines and admire Vogue editorials depicting adventures in the wild not knowing that styling was a job and lucrative career. I would gather clothes from vintage shops and style shoots which he would photograph.
I failed my logic module in my first year and, as it was a pre-requisite to the second year and despite getting high grades in every other module, I had to re-take it. I was determined to finish my philosophy degree even though I knew that it wasn’t going to lead me directly into the industry I wanted to work in. Whilst re-taking the logic module, I got a retail job at Vivienne Westwood in Leeds city centre. Although retail didn’t interest me, I became obsessed with the designer and her creations and researched every past collection, knowing them inside and out. I was inspired by learning about the collections. I used to speak to the London store and convinced them to allow me to come and work on a show in London and then Paris, dressing the models backstage. This was the world I wanted to immerse myself in.
Alongside my degree I would contact people in the fashion industry and offer to work backstage on shows during fashion week. After graduating from Leeds with a 2.1, I moved to London and began work at Wonderland magazine. After a few weeks assisting the fashion director, I heard about a role with Tamara Rothstein who was then fashion director at Pop magazine. I assisted her for two years both on Pop and with her consulting clients Daks and Emilio de la Morena. I loved the research side, creating worlds to inspire the designers’ collections. Sourcing and collecting inspiration from photography, art, history, all kinds of stimuli and then creating a specific and unique story package. I gained this ability to research from studying philosophy when I had to read multiple books, knowing how to scan them quickly to get the gold helped me to work efficiently.
I now needed a new challenge and wanted to work for a top stylist. I assisted various stylists in London before connecting with Camilla. After an intensive phone interview, I was flown to New York and the next day offered a month’s trial which led to moving to New York full time. I had no idea at the time what these next years would entail. Not knowing anyone and leaving a life back home I listened to my gut and knew this opportunity was one which wouldn’t come around too often - if ever again! I remember my first day at Vogue in Times Square very clearly, arriving outside and looking up at the sky scrapers, feeling very small in a sea of people. I often felt like Bridget Jones, arriving with odd socks and dark roots from my bleached hair, and seeing the impeccably dressed Anna Wintour in the lift with her black sunglasses on! I could hear a motto from school in my head of ‘Stay true to yourself’. The other girls had blow-dried hair and were well manicured, there I was in my leather jacket from Portobello and Doc Marten boots. Despite any surface observations, it was my particular ideas and perceptions which would be valued, funnily enough the majority of the magazine staff were British and some of my favourite times were sitting talking to Grace Coddington about our joint love of cats.
I do feel my philosophy degree was something that informed my approach to the industry, being able to think and respond to the fast changing world around us. Being sensitive and engaging with the social, political and environmental climate helped me direct the imagery and design. Fashion and art have always been a response to what is really happening socially. Creativity and how we dress is a direct response to our experiences. I worked at US Vogue for five years on collections in New York, London, Paris and Milan for incredibly talented designers including Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, Phoebe Philo at Celine, Calvin Klein, Marni and Proenza Schouler and with the most notable photographers old and new including Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Jamie Hawkesworth, Inez and Vinoodh, David Sims, Zoe Ghertner and Mario Sorrenti. I travelled from Rio to Iceland to Scotland to Barbados to Nova Scotia and beyond, it was a multi-faceted role which required daily contribution and opinion, an insane amount of organization as well as constant focus. I was thankful for my meditation, which enabled me to stay calm amidst complete chaos and fast paced highly stressful situations.
I am now a freelance fashion stylist and consultant working on my own projects with designers and photographers. What I really feel serves me in my everyday life is having the values and morals that I learned at St James and at home with my family which gave me confidence in my decision making. I often think back to some of the advice Mrs Hyde gave. Especially in today’s society, to have a schooling which grounds itself in philosophy is a huge asset. We need people who can see through controlled media, who look beyond their iPhones and who connect with the world around them in an active and engaging manner.
I am only at the beginning with a huge amount still to learn but I am driven to keep challenging myself. I used to hate public speaking but Mrs.Hyde used to encourage me to do it in assembly, perhaps being encouraged to do what isn’t the easiest or most comfortable can help you realize that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
My advice would be to stay active in your passions as they will sustain you. Listen to your gut and always stay true to yourself. Really use your eyes and your ears to perceive the world without the interruption of your phone.
If you need advice or help please feel free to reach out to me.
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