How I Got My Job: Jo Jin, Freelance Wardrobe, Prop & Off-Figure Stylist

For our latest career profile, we sat down with Toronto-based freelance wardrobe, prop & off-figure stylist Jo Jin to find out how she got her start & more.

In our career series, How I Got My Job, we talk to real people, working real jobs in the fashion and retail industry. These people are pushing boundaries and have made their mark. They’ve found success on their own terms, and now we’re extracting their advice on how to carve your own career path. 

When Jo Jin first started in the industry, she wasn’t really sure on what her career would look like. Interning and working everywhere she could to show her chops, she caught her big break with Sharp Magazine working as a Fashion Coordinator. Today, Jo is a Toronto-based freelance wardrobe, prop and off-figure stylist who’s worked with major clients like Canon, Hershey’s and Michael Kors. We had the opportunity to chat with her about her path to success, future goals and the advice she has to others looking to get into the world of styling. Take a peek at our interview with her below. 

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?

The very first job I ever had wasn’t related to fashion, TV or film at all. In fact, my first job was working for my childhood best friend’s dad who ran a boutique real estate company. Her and I were paid to do the mundane task of putting postage stamp on mail. Aside from that job, I taught arts and crafts classes to kids at the local recreation centre. My first retail job was at the Gap which I have zero regret doing. I thought they had one of the best retail training programs.

What’s a typical day at work for you?

Typically to start, I have pre-production meetings where I sit down with my client and we go over our plans. Next, I shop all day for 10-12 hours, and if I’m not shopping, I’m going around taking photos of what I might potentially buy or rent. Most projects come up at the last minute and I have a short amount of time to source everything. On set I usually start my day loading everything in; my assistant(s) and I will un-bag everything and lay everything out. I go over the shot list and make sure everyone’s on the same page. We dress our talent/set and get the show on the road. At the end of the day, we wrap everything up and go. The next day is dedicated to doing returns of unused goods or rentals. It’s a lot of physical work.

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What has been the most fulfilling project you’ve worked on so far?

I think my most fulfilling project that I’ve worked so far is my recent project for the Google Pixel 2 debut. I was asked to handle all the styling for the Canadian division, so that was really special. I made 38 outfits that were all shot in the span of 3 days. Only a few photos surfaced on the actual website so far, but I really hope they release more.

In your time working, what do you think has been the most important thing that you’ve learned?

Having a good personality is key in this business. You definitely have to be a bit of a people person and be able to adapt fast when you are working with all sorts of people bringing their specialty to the table to make a project work. You have to be a team player and you have to be positive.  You also need to understand your days will be long days are generally 10-12 hours.

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Creative industries are notorious for unpaid internships or pay via “exposure.” How do you feel about this? Are you for or against unpaid internships?

I started out as a Design Intern for an HGTV show back in my university days. When the show was done, I started volunteering on TV commercials, helping out in the art department as a set dresser. My very first commercial job was for President’s Choice where I decorated about 8 or 9 Christmas trees, and that was in the middle of July! I’m a huge supporter of internships. I hear horror stories of editors talking about their interns at their magazines about how entitled and rude they are. As professionals, we are able to see right away who’s a keeper. My assistant interned with me for a few months (because he had no experience in this field at all) before I started getting him paid gigs. We all need to put in our time and work our way up.

How did you turn your dream job into a reality and get paid to do it?

It’s been a really long journey and I’m still working at it. I didn’t become a stylist overnight, although to lot of people in the industry, I’m sure I looked like it. I stopped working for Sharp Magazine last summer and right away I was styling gigs. I styled in-house and lot of my set skills and set etiquette comes from my past internships and jobs. I worked my way up from the bottom to where I’m at now, and I’m thankful for the path that I have taken. It’s been hard work and long hours.  

You’ve had the opportunity to work with some major brands like Google, Roots, and Micheal Kors. What’s it like working with major companies like that?

I’m thankful and happy that I had the chance to be part of their projects. Because they’re all bigger companies, the stakes are set higher. But I really try and do a good job on all my jobs regardless of who they are. At the end of the day, this is my work and passion, so I just want to do a good job, always.

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What’s your advice to someone looking to get into styling?

If you have never worked in retail, go apply now. Working in retail helps you understand your clients needs better. Along the way you’ll learn useful tips to take with you, like how to dress certain body types and how to wash certain materials. Strengthen your foundation and work your way up. If you can, try and take a garment construction elective course. It’s good to know how a garment is made, what type of pockets and collars are called, because these terminologies will help you strengthen your vocabulary as a stylist. I’m a big believer in education but aside from education, actual field experience is important, too. On real jobs, you get to actually experience what it’s like to be on set so try and find a stylist to assist to intern.

To keep up with Jo Jin and her work, follow her on Instagram at @Stylist_Jo

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