MATHS: you might be surprised to know that it is one of the key skills to being a stylist. “There is a lot of it – especially in creating the looks, you can’t just have one extra girl,” says Audrey Taillee, stylist for the likes of I-D France and L’Officiel and today for Au Jour Le Jour, the Milan-based label with a sense of fun and wit at its core. “People would be surprised at how many skills it requires: attention to detail, a good memory. You have to be prepared – a lot is out of your control.”
She’s telling me this from behind a rail of clothes – the collection – as models parade up and down the corridor; there are others waiting patiently around the corner too, and an intimidating board of what seems like a hundred looks stands in the background. It’s raining outside; there’s a flurry of vaguely calm activity going on here inside.
Taillee is petite with the sort of lovely French accent you want to spread on toast, and she’s dressed in jaunty stripes and a long neck scarf, her phone held tight in her hand when it’s not – and she’s not – yanking at the strap of a sandal on a model to sort out the perils of a pop sock drama. Because it’s those fine details that really styling a show is all about.
“There is so much stress that goes into it,” she says, evaluating the said pop sock situation – the darker one or the lighter one? “So much stress for finding the right sock! But the collection, you’re going to be looking at it for six months so you don’t want to regret it,” she points out.
It’s true. It’s a very expensive 10 minutes for all included. “But it’s OK, it’s an investment. Through the show you can easily reach pop stars like Rita Ora and Lady Gaga, who will choose your pieces,” chime in Mirko Fontana and Diego Marquez, the two designers behind the Au Jour Le Jour label. “It’s a very emotional moment, you’re just looking at the screen. I can’t talk to anyone beforehand,” says Marquez of those final minutes backstage before the show.
The pair launched the label in 2010, united by a love of fashion even if their credentials and qualifications – marketing and engineering – don’t necessarily or obviously scream it. “It was a dream for us both,” recalls Marquez.
The collaboration with Taillee came when they spotted her work in L’Officiel, liked what they saw and got in touch. “It was a nice match and we had a good feeling,” says Marquez. One year later and four seasons together and the relationship is now fully fledged.
“It is like a full-time relationship – it’s like a long-distance relationship,” Taillee laughs as she corrects herself. “Even if I’m walking through the streets in Paris and I see something I think might be interesting for the show or I see something I think they should do more of, it’s like you’re thinking about your boyfriend all the time even if you’re not seeing them all the time.” Taillee is based in Paris and the Au Jour boys in Milan.
But like any relationship you care about, you make it work, distance or no distance.
“It’s really important [to have a stylist] because as designers, even if we conceive the collection in the beginning, it’s important to have one person you’re in touch with to see in an external way what you see inside. To give you another point of view,” says Marquez. It’s good to bounce ideas off one another – even if sometimes that results in a disagreement. “We’re not always in agreement,” Marquez, Fontana and Taillee all separately confess. But that’s what collaboration is about.
“Rarely am I doing looks in a way I would dress, I’m thinking about the DNA of the brand: how I can make it grow, what is right, thinking what the trends will be, what silhouettes are the definition of the brand?” explains Taillee. “It’s quite easy with Au Jour because they already have a strong identity.”
The trick is, naturally, in the edit. But when confronted with 150 to 160 pieces, how does one condense those into 35 or so solid looks? That surely must feel like an overwhelming and slightly pressured task, no matter how many times you’ve done it before?
“You have to think is it relevant? Can people relate to it? It’s most important to get the right balance. It’s easy to over-style and show off what you can do and what you’re capable of, but you always have to remember it isn’t about you, it’s about the designers.”
And for them, they want to tell a story: convey who their girl (ironic, playful, sophisticated, wearable and cool) is and why you need her – and her wardrobe in your life. Which makes that first look incredibly important. “For me the first look has to have meaning with either the opening of a story. Like this season, the first look, the silhouette, there is a lot of this in fall.” It sets the tone.
And of course who gets to do that is a considered choice too. “In general we’ll see 60 girls and end up selecting 25,” explains Taillee. Though that doesn’t mean the deal is necessarily sealed.
Casting starts a week before the show but it’s not until the last minute – or day before the show – that they’ll know which girls they’ve got. “We have to fight for our woman,” point out the boys. “Some have to go get on a plane to Paris, some leave Saturday, others Sunday morning.” Their show is Sunday evening. “It’s a fight but it’s fun.”
A lot of putting on a catwalk show is a combination of the two, it would seem.
“You share the stress, you share everything – there are so many moments and emotions,” Taillee tells me. “I love the team spirit!”
But as soon as those 8 to 10 minutes are over, it’s all worth it. “That’s a very significant moment when you go out to say ‘Hi’ to the audience,” considers Marquez. For him, at this moment in time, now only 24 hours away. But if he’s reading this: then it’s all over. Well done!