Jacqueline Zenere: I describe myself as an empath: I am a sponge to people’s energies and I can pick up on the vibe of the set, the talent, and the project itself pretty quickly. Almost like a reflex, I work to traverse whatever aspect is missing in order to make sure the atmosphere for the talent is comfortable. They are the ones who have the weight of the project on their shoulders, and my only priority, aside from keeping samples safe and accounted for. So I listen first — to what is said, or more often unsaid, to me, and use that as a roadmap towards the task at hand to create art that we both are proud of.
JZ: I treat each client as a blank canvas, so the most important part of the process is to actually meet. I need to know the 'who', 'what', and 'why': who they are when no one is watching, what they are passionate about, where they are in their lives and the direction in which they want to go in the future. Style is communication to the public: so with a blank canvas in front of me, I can edit the market based on an arsenal of personal information. In terms of collaboration, if I’m doing my job right, my aesthetic is invisible and all you see is the talent at the highest best version of themselves. Of course, prior to the end result, at the fitting we go through each option. Sometimes the answer is obvious to both of us, other times it is down to a couple of choices and that’s where I come in and guide. But I always want the ultimate decision to be the talent’s own: telling someone what to wear is for a model; artist to artist it is their own story to tell.
JZ: I was initially afraid of my transition toward celebrity styling for that exact reason: I love the creative process so much. Dreaming up shoots is my true love, but now I can fuse that love with a personal relationship with clients I truly care about. Luckily a lot of my clients allow me to art direct the entire look: glam is so important to bring it all together. I always share look imagery with the artists prior to the event to get us all on the same page. Then, after talking it over with the talent, I communicate what we are channeling and share inspo: for my last look I shared an image of the interior of Yves Saint Laurent’s home in Marrakech and we used those colors as the eye palette. It makes it feel like an editorial that way - artists see the moodboard and then do what we all do best: take an idea and make it real.
JZ: I try to work backwards in terms of time management. Knowing the fitting date, I backend time for market, time for sample travel time, time for tailor alterations, and time for last minute adjustments. Things never go as planned, and even knowing that you are ahead of the game, there is always a surprise or hiccup and you have to roll with the punches. Instead of getting frustrated or asking "why?", skip all of that and get to work.
JZ: I’m not going to lie, logistics is the worst part of the job, aside from the schlepping samples to and from set/fittings. Prior to having an assistant, I spent more than half of my energy trafficking samples. The nagging fear of losing something kept me up at night. Without excel spreadsheets/google sheets with color coding I would have been lost. Now thankfully with an assistant I can push that aside and have her take that aspect on — but the responsibility ultimately always falls on my shoulders, so now I focus on quality control of her work.
JZ: Another thing I believe most stylists have, is a bit of a photographic memory. Most people equate that with someone being able to recall the written word, but we can recall a look and the designer if it made an impression on us. I call it my “mind palace", after the BBC program 'Sherlock'. Ultimately I draw most inspiration from film and TV. They are editorials in motion.