Dear fashion, we love you.
One of the country’s most high-profile stylists, Courtney Smith has no ordinary career trajectory. Her infinite success is attributed to her perseverance and unique approach to fashion which has attracted a colourful assortment of work with clients such as Louis Vuitton, H&M, The Sunday Times STYLE magazine and Elle Croatia - maybe you have heard of them?
The glamourous illusion around the job is increasingly attracting rounds of hopefuls - albeit, it is not all ballgowns and sparkles, nor a straightforward path to success. Courtney is part of the elite few who have gained international recognition for her taste and work, constantly travelling for incredible styling opportunities and building important client relationships.
Courtney’s story is special in that she destigmatized the idea Ireland is not associated with fashion talent. Just because we may be slightly too small to produce a global fashion week doesn’t mean we can’t create a lasting impression on the industry in other ways - and we are being noticed.
Naturally, we needed to speak with Courtney for a sneak peek into her success and the ever-intriguing fashion world.
Let’s go back to the beginning, how did you launch your career as a stylist?
When I moved home from studying and working in London aged twenty-one all I wanted to be was a full-time stylist, but my experience at the time was in celebrity styling in London - having styled stars such as Amy Winehouse and Aleisha Dixon, and there isn't really an industry here for celeb styling.
I set up one of those €50 websites and put all the pictures of the celebrities on the red carpet or performing who I had worked with and just emailed people non-stop.
My first mini-break wasn't until 6 months after I had moved home. I styled a big spread for Miss Ireland contestants for VIP magazine, then I landed a test shoot in U magazine which was Lady Gaga inspired, and lastly, I somehow managed to get on Ireland AM live and became a regular fashion contributor. It was there my name began to circulate around the fashion industry and doors to brands, clients and magazines starting opening. I was seriously grafting, trying to prove myself as a great editorial/commercial stylist.
That was over eleven years ago. My career has developed massively since then and I have branched into different fields within the industry.
I do feel it's much easier now to promote yourself though. There was no Instagram, Twitter or real social media back then to promote your work and brand.
Who is one person you would love to dress and why?
Jared Leto. I love menswear and I adore the risks he takes. I'd say he would be so much fun to work with and style.
Have you ever experienced a quarter-life crisis moment where things were uncertain in your career?
Absolutely. Every few years I have what I refer to as a quarter-life crisis where I think I haven't done enough, haven't achieved enough, haven't ticked all my goals yet.
Then, I have to take a step back and recognise all the amazing things I have achieved over the years, just appreciate the process and what I have done so far.
I think that is the curse of an overachiever and also an entrepreneur - we always want more!
Especially in this career as someone freelance, you have great years and not so great years, insanely busy periods and then you have the quiet lulls. Getting used to that change and unsteadiness is the most difficult part. Eleven years later it can still rock me.
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This ain't my 1st Rodeo . En route to NYC to interview some amazing Irish talent for #behindtheseams with my trusty @samsungireland Tab S4 at the ready. Upgraded by my fav airline @aerlingus makes the trip so much more enjoyable. Stay tuned to my stories for all the extras. #behindtheseams #SAMSUNGambassador #sp #galaxytabs4 #aerlingus #nyc
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion for me is a way to express yourself and style is a way to tell the world who you are without even speaking. It's all about having fun, experimenting and not taking it too seriously.
It's my passion and my career so I feel very lucky.
Is it true, is working in the fashion industry just like The Devil Wears Prada?
Well, I would be lying if I didn't admit there have, of course, been moments with editors, creatives or clients along the way - but I guess that's like any industry. Thankfully, Ireland has a really supportive creative industry, it definitely seems more inclusive and less cut-throat than our counterparts in London or New York.
At the end of the day, while fashion is a lucrative industry and a serious business, it's also mostly just pretty clothes in pretty pictures on pretty people, so it's best not to get caught up in all the drama.
What do you wear when you have ‘nothing to wear’?
I live in jeans, biker boots and vintage Harley Davidson T-shirts. It's basically my uniform.
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Don't mind me... just your average Friday night doing some grocery shopping. I only like to wear super casual looks when getting my veg fix for the week. Wearing 85%linen 15%silk dress by @ganni from @mytheresa.com ... love this mission statement below from Ganni... yet another reason to fall in love with their clothing. "We want to be open with you about our commitment to sustainability, as a fashion brand, we view it as our moral obligation. We take a holistic approach, looking at everything we can, from the materials we source to make our clothes to how our factories operate and we’re always thinking about what impact our production has on the environment... We may not be perfect, but to us, being transparent with you about the small steps we are taking towards sustainability is our responsibility, and we’re striving to do better every day. It’s a start but we’ll keep you updated along the way. Let’s do this together." #fashionmovement #smallchanges #sustainablemovement #sustainablefashion #ootd #mystyle
Styling has become such a popular career choice, what advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
I think a strong portfolio showcasing your style of work and lots of on-set experience are the two best things you need to break into styling. Practice on your own test shoots with fellow aspiring creatives, build up your rapport of work and develop your skills on set - use these shoots in your portfolio. If you also have the opportunity to assist a stylist then make sure to take all constructive criticism on board.
How do you stay style-inspired?
I still love reading magazines, it's how I fell in love with this industry. I love reading articles, looking at shoots and flicking through fashion pages. As a stylist, I also get a first glance at next season through brand lookbooks and fashion week catwalk shows. Obviously, in the new wave of social media, I have Instagram accounts I adore too - but I follow more international stylist's than I do 'stylish' people.
If you could live anywhere else in the world where would you choose?
Right here. I love Dublin, I love my new home in Portmarnock and I feel very lucky to get to live so close to my family but also travel the world with work. I shoot globally which means I never feel like I am missing out living somewhere else.
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I have never in the past been a fan of sales! It’s the one time people make the biggest mistakes and end up impulse shopping, and I get it… we all get swept up in the excitement! It can be hard to tell a true bargain, and who hasn’t fallen victim to those impulse purchases? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I’ve teamed up with @kbcbankireland & @thejournal_ie to reveal my savvy sales-shopping secrets… check out my stories to read all my money saving tips; helping you shop consciously and make sound investment buys. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #ad #blackfriday #shoppingadvice #investmentbuys #howtoshop
What are your thoughts on the world’s newfound obsession with Scandi-style?
It really is having a moment, but Scandi-cool has always been around. In fact, my mum would have dressed this way back in the '80s. It's currently at the forefront of fashion because of the Scandi bloggers stealing the style scene and of course Copenhagen Fashion Week showcasing some of the biggest designer brands like Cecilie Bahnsen and Stine Goya.
For me, Scandi Style is less about a specific look and more about effortless style. No matter what they put together it always feels organic and relaxed, like they didn't try so hard. Oversized silhouettes and great knits are also key.
All I want for Christmas is…
To be back in my new home - we are currently renovating - sitting around a fire, fighting with my sister over a board game and drinking all the red wine.
Main image @courtneysmithstyle