While the Toronto fashion scene is ever-changing and expanding, there are some folks that have been a constant. One of those well known Toronto movers and shakers is none other than Gail McInnes. Glasgow-born McInnes has been a fixture in Toronto’s fashion community for over 20 years and for good reason. Gail is super passionate about supporting local Canadian designers and makers, and we totally agree because shopping local is more important now than ever. In addition to being the owner of fashion agency Magnet Creative Management, McInnes is also co-owner of Stylist Box, which is an exclusive fashion designer showroom where high profile clients can be dressed for events.
Because those jobs aren’t enough, Gail is also editor-in-chief of The Pull Magazine and is a regular on TV shows like CTV’s Your Morning, Global TV’s The Morning Show, CTV News, and CBC News to name a few. With all this being said, it’s pretty obvious that Gail is easily one of the hardest working women in fashion.
Want to know how this fashion powerhouse got to where she is know? Keep reading to find out how she got her job!
Full name: Gail McInnes
Job Title: Founder & Owner of Magnet Creative Management and Co-Founder and CEO of Stylist Box Inc.
First thing’s first, what was the first job you ever had? The job after that? And how did it lead you to where you are today?
My first ever job was when I was 14. I sold Avon door-to-door in Oshawa. It was my first foray into entrepreneurship in a way as you had to budget to purchase your supplies (catalogues and samples) then market yourself and make sure people knew where and how to find you to place an order. Looking back, I find it absolutely insane that my parents would let a teenage girl knock on strangers’ doors, but those were different times for sure.
My second job was working at a bakery. I did that the same time as doing the Avon thing, so I would have been 14 also. My older sister who was working there helped me get the job. She quit because the boss was a bit of a dick, so I called and quit too. That taught me loyalty and standing up for yourself.
I always had at least one part-time job in high school and would always make myself available for any other opportunities that came up. I also worked at Burger King, Sam The Record Man, Suzy Shier, an independent record shop – I even sold candy at a rave once.
Having all these varied jobs taught me so much about how different companies work, about internal politics, and also that if you work hard and focus on the tasks on hand, you can becoming an invaluable employee.
What’s a typical day at work for you?
Typical days involve me wrangling my 3-year-old in the mornings and walking him to daycare before I head off to the showroom. Typically, I arrive between 9:30 and 10am. If I don’t have any appointments, I will work from home.
First thing I do when I log on to my laptop is check emails and answer any urgent media or client inquiries. Then I will do a search for any new articles or posts on our clients in the media or any new editorials.
From there, it’s all based on what projects or launches we have on the go. Right now we are prepping for our 7th annual celebrity styling lounge during the Toronto International Film Festival as well as working with designers for their public relations for Toronto Fashion Week.
Throughout the day, I will also have appointments with stylists for pulls for magazines and celebrity appearances.
Most evenings I will pick up my child from daycare and head home to make dinner and spend time with my family, once a week I will attend an industry or client event – I try to only do one evening work-related event per week now, whereas before I became I mother, I would attend as many as I could to show my support to all the amazing organizations and brands we have in this country. My priorities have shifted quite a bit now, but my support has not wavered.
What led you to create Stylist Box?
The concept for Stylist Box comes from my experience working with talent as an agent, as an artist representative for celebrity stylists, as well as my time working at the Toronto Fashion Incubator over the first half of my 2 decade long career. A first incarnation was established in 2009 which was incredibly successful but folded within the year due to an ill-judged partnership. (Mistakes are made to be learned from!)
I started my brand and publicity company Magnet Creative Management in 2010. (We’ll be celebrating 10 years next year!) My 3-year goal was to open a showroom expanding on the services I offered at the first showroom, but focusing more on what everyone’s needs were – ensuring that it benefited designers, stylists, and the personalities who borrowed items for red carpets and special appearances. I partnered with the most wonderful business partner Christian Dare (who you may recognize from his on-air appearances with Cityline and other outlets) and Stylist Box was established in 2013. We are now in our 7th year!
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What has been the most fulfilling project you’ve worked on so far?
Our annual celebrity styling lounge, The Stylist Suite during the Toronto International Film Festival is an annual highlight as we bring together a wide range of mens’, womens’ clothing and accessories as well as sponsored brands to partner with celebrities who are attending the festival either for the premiere of their movies or for the numerous events and special appearances. It’s always so fulfilling to see all the year’s work come together when you see all the red carpet images coming in – especially when a young brand who may not have had this opportunity any other way sees their creations on the red carpet for the first time.
Creative industries are notorious for unpaid internships. How do you feel about this? Are you for or against unpaid internships?
I started my professional career in the industry through an unpaid internship at Armstrong Men (the male model division of the now defunct Armstrong Models). It was mandated by my school to graduate, but it was only once a week for one term. I was hired part-time right after while I finished my diploma and was hired full-time when I graduated. I stayed there for almost 6 years as the men’s agent. (We repped the likes of Stephen Amell, Brad Goreski, and David Rocco – all who have gone on to have very success careers outside of modelling.)
This was in the mid-90s though, and I didn’t come from any money whatsoever. In fact, I was actually on welfare, living on my own when I was accepted into college, so I understand what it means to have to hustle to get to where you want to be and could not have imagined what my life would have been like if my internship had to be full time and unpaid.
For my companies, we will bring on students for special projects where they can learn hands on what it is like to put on a fashion show during Toronto Fashion Week or to be there in person so see how our celebrity styling lounge works. Opportunities like this are invaluable for students, but we do not take on full-time unpaid internships. I disagree with full-time unpaid internships and believe that as soon as their time crosses the line to performing key work for a company rather than learning and observing, then it is work and should be paid. There are many companies in all sectors – not just the creative arenas which take advantage of internships, but I do think short term, part-time internships in a supportive environment with a strong mentor can change your career and even your life.
Who are some of your go-to Canadian designers?
I wear at least one or two Canadian brands every day. The top Canadian designer brands in my wardrobe right now are Hilary MacMillan, OKAYOK, Hayley Elsaesser, Anu Raina, Miriam Baker, Lucian Matis, Biddell, Therma Kota. For shoes Abel Munoz, L’Intervalle, and ALDO.
Why did you want to pursue a career in fashion?
I grew up in the 80s and always loved pop culture – I was raised watching music videos with the likes of Madonna and Kylie Minogue. I loved the visual appeal of makeup, clothing, and persona and I wanted to be a part of that creation. When I moved to Canada from Scotland as a teenager in the late 80s, it was FashionTelevision which really motivated me to pursue a career in fashion – it also showed me that there was a fashion industry in Canada. Originally I had wanted to be a fashion designer, but FT showed me there was more to it – I went to Humber College with two goals: become a model agent or a fashion show coordinator. Within my first year of college I had worked and been paid to do both.
What’s it like to own your own company?
It is freeing in a lot of ways as you don’t have a boss or corporate culture to fit in to, you create your own culture as a business owner. You can make your own schedule, but it also involved a lot of long days and nights when I first started. Now I am more established I set my hours and stick to those. The accounting and day to day admin work is a lot more time-consuming than you may think. That’s my least favourite thing to do, which is why it is always best to outsource those roles to others.
What’s your advice to those looking to work in fashion?
Determine which area you want to work in. Learn the history of both the local and international markets. Know the industry and who the key players are. Be nice to everyone – faux attitudes and egos need to be left at the door. When you’re first starting, say yes to every event you are invited to and show up even if you don’t feel like it. This industry is about connection and relationships – those who are talented and good at what they do will rise to the top based on their talent, but kept afloat by the relationships they build over the years.
What’s a surprising fact about yourself?
I have never driven a car – ever. Maybe for someone who lives in the city, it’s not that surprising considering the cost to driving in the city and all the transportation options we have available but this is something I promise to change this year.
Featured Image: Ted Belton
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