The fashion industry is one of the hardest to break into due to its sheer size and high level of competition – that’s no secret. Getting your foot through the door isn’t an obvious task, and according to emerging fashion stylist Anita-Hosanna Kangabe, there’s no set path to “making” it. However, after working as a freelance fashion stylist for just over a year, this Ottawa-based artist was recently nominated for Faces Magazine’s “Favourite Fashion Stylist” Award. She has styled celebrities, including the likes of Mia Martina, and worked alongside well-renowned fashion moguls including Ty Hunter, Beyonce’s stylist. We caught up with Anita before she heads off to London Fashion Week to hear five things she’s learned along her journey that might help you too.
1. Just Go For It
The first thing I learned was that I would never be completely ready. No amount of overthinking would prepare me for every problem, and no amount of talking would win everyone’s support. It takes a leap of faith and that means trusting that success is possible, no matter the setbacks, so envision your success. Set objectives and follow them with daily action. Look for that job, start that blog, volunteer for that magazine and go to that networking event.
2. Be Resourceful
Utilize anything and everything at your disposal to start curating a portfolio. This is what I call “doing everything within your power”. Photo shoots and websites can be costly, so you may need to be innovative about how you get things done. Try opting for a makeshift studio, for instance.
I did this after landing my first job at a fashion showroom downtown. I didn’t have the money for photographers, models, wardrobe or studio space, but I did have beautiful, talented friends, the showroom itself, and access to all the wardrobe in the showroom. I didn’t have everything I wanted but I definitely had what I needed.
3. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Doing “everything within your power” doesn’t mean doing what you’re comfortable with. The things you’re comfortable with represent potential that you’ve already met. The things that scare and excite you, on the other hand, represent unmet potential. The prospect of meeting that potential is exciting, but the prospect of falling short is terrifying.
Everything you do to achieve your success should scare and excite you at least a little. Travelling is a great way of doing this. This takes me back to a fast-paced and disorienting experience in 2017 when I travelled to New York and Connecticut, meeting Claire Sulmers of Fashion Bomb Daily. She helped me see fashion through a different lens and gave me tips on how to pursue my career. I learned so much and I thank God that I went through with it.
4. Create Doors
This one I learned from Claire. Opportunity doesn’t always come knocking at your door, especially at first. If you can’t get a seat at the table, create your own table. Sometimes you’ll need to look for opportunity in bold directions. This might mean offering your services for free in order to get experience and exposure, for example.
After launching my portfolio website, I applied to dress at Toronto Fashion Week. I saw the opportunity to style for the Toronto International Film Festival as well and thought, “Why not?” I cold-contacted an agent and offered my styling services free of charge. Not only did he answer, but he’d give me the chance to style not one but three of his top clients.
5. Surround Yourself with People Who Inspire You
Taking the leap of faith isn’t something you do once. It’s something you probably have to do a few times every day. Every setback is a chance to overthink or to lose faith; to tackle problems outside of your power or give up on problems within it. And every distraction is a chance to lose sight of your success entirely. The truth is you can’t stay focused alone.
Sometimes you will get discouraged and distracted. This is why you need people who have faith in you; people whose courage can encourage you, whose can be focused on you, and whose decisiveness can give you direction when you falter. And this is why you need role models; people whose faith in themselves you can emulate. Mentors are a must.
By Anita-Hosanna Kangabe