By Isa Giallorenzo
Brandon Frein (@brandonfrein) is a fashion editor (Chicago Woman Magazine), wardrobe stylist and consultant. He runs styling agency Kit This, along with Arlene Matthews (@arlenematthews), and is a producer at Indirap Productions. How do they do so much? We recently spoke with Frein and Matthews about their work.
So is it really possible to be an editorial fashion stylist here in Chicago?
Brandon Frein: YES! But just like in most markets, editorial styling isn’t really where the money is.
Arlene Matthews: It is 110 percent possible to be a fashion editor in our fair city. The goal is to consistently produce content—key word here is consistently. Produce as much work as possible for a good year, meet and work with lots of different people and submit, submit, submit your work. There are not many locally published magazines, but there are plenty of online magazines and globally published magazines.
How did you make it happen?
BF: We started by launching an e-boutique back in 2008. Part of our site’s blueprint was editorializing our inventory, which put us in contact with a lot of like-minded people who really wanted to pursue editorial photography in Chicago. Since we had our own inventory and a pretty good platform, we were able to produce a lot of really great work during that time. We became known for having good taste and thinking outside the Chicago box, and the rest is history.
What is the magazine market like here?
BF: I’m not going to lie, the magazine market here is rough. Most local publications tend to dumb it down for the Chicago market. The magazines that do embrace fashion and style are few and far between and are, therefore, incredibly hard to break into. One of the biggest magazines in our market, Chicago Social, doesn’t even produce any of their fashion content here. Arlene and I are very lucky to have landed our current position as fashion editors with Chicago Woman Magazine, which stemmed from relationships we made back when we had our web store. We are blessed that they let us get our fashion on!
Do you style regular people too? If so, what’s the process usually like? Is it a good market?
BF: We do style regular people and the market in Chicago for that is pretty good. Most of our personal styling clients are women that are just too busy to follow trends and keep up with how to dress their changing bodies, but still need to make a good impression with their appearance.
AM: I do style “regular” people. Mostly for personal branding purposes more so than personal lifestyle.
Which of your styling jobs made you proudest?
BF: That’s a tough question! One of the ones that jumps to mind is when we dressed AIDS activist Rae Lewis Thornton for a feature in Essence Magazine. Rae has been living with AIDS for over twenty years and her strength and perseverance are such an inspiration. Being part of her “glam squad” and having a hand in helping her to feel beautiful was an experience that I will never forget.
AM: I am most proud of our styling in our then-website twentythirtyforty. We were a little bit ahead of our time. In 2008, we launched a women’s online boutique. We styled every piece on our site three different ways on our model and also produced monthly editorials and lookbooks to give our clients a fashion take on the pieces in our shop. Lots of fun, lots of work!
What misconceptions do people usually have about being a fashion stylist?
BF: People always think glamour when they think about almost anything related to fashion. It’s not glamorous. I am always on my feet, running around, schlepping; if not on my feet, I am in the car, driving, always fighting traffic, pedestrians, tourists, weather, construction; I am always surfing, posting, tweeting, reading, writing, engaging; I am always concerned with and put effort into my appearance and the image I present to the world; I am always meeting new people, developing new connections and opportunities, nurturing the relationships I have; I am always scouring stores for specific minutiae while also keeping myself aware of what else is in stock; I am always picking clothes up and dropping them off. It. Is. Exhausting. And rarely, rarely, do I find myself in a glamorous situation. I’m not going to say it doesn’t happen, but it doesn’t happen often.
AM: I think the biggest misconception is that fashion styling is easy, nothing to it, anyone can do it…
What professional path would you suggest to someone who wants to start their fashion styling career?
BF: Retail. Didn’t I tell you it isn’t glamorous?
AM: My suggestion, again, if you want to pursue this as a career is to get out there and create content! You will learn to network, where and how to pull clothing, what looks great on camera, how to fit different body types. Follow and feed your passion, let it lead you.
How can people find you and hire your services?
BF: You can find me on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter at @brandonfrein and @kitthis, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Arlene and I at email@example.com.
Photos by Kirsten Miccoli for HUF Magazine, in an editorial styled by Kit This.
Journalist Isa Giallorenzo was born in São Paulo, Brazil and has elected Chicago as her beloved home since 2009. She runs the street-style blog Chicago Looks and wants to see this town become one of the fashion capitals of the world.