Interview Series: Amanda Astroth, Fashion Stylist and Costume Designer
Welcome to MODA's Interview Series, where we feature influencers and leaders in the fashion industry in the Chicago area and beyond to discuss their design inspirations, their creative backgrounds and what it means to be a self-starter in the fashion world today.
Amanda Astroth is a local fashion stylist based in Chicago who specializes in commercial and editorial work, costume design and bridal styling. Amanda is most passionate about producing unique work that combines her creativity and business savvy. For more information, head over to her website.
You’ve made a career for yourself as a fashion stylist and costume designer–how did you first get interested in the industry? When did you know this was a path you wanted to pursue professionally?
I have been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember! My mom was a head fashion buyer for Carson’s (an upscale fashion department store chain), so expressing creativity through clothes was instilled in me from a young age. I was constantly sketching designs for my “clothing line” when I was little. When I went to college, I realized i wanted to find a way to merge my creativity and love for business without being a fashion designer and that is how I discovered styling was the way to go!
You attended Columbia College Chicago and studied fashion business as an undergraduate–do you have any advice for individuals interested in pursuing a degree in fashion at an undergraduate or graduate level?
College is the time where I grew as a creative. I feel like I wasted so much time in high school following trends and not being myself. My biggest advice would be to be yourself and be original! In fashion, you have to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Experimentation and a willingness to learn are key! Find your passion and never stop learning about it.
How would you describe your creative process? When you’re working on a new project or with a new client, do you have a general approach that works every time, or does every opportunity call for something different?
When I get a new project, I do loads of research and make mood boards to sort out my thoughts. I also stay in close communication with all the other people who are involved so everyone is on the same page. I also value feedback from others on how to make my work stronger, which is another reason communication is key.
Describe an average shoot day: what are some of the demands you have to meet? What kinds of creative teams do you collaborate with? What kinds of decisions and compromises do you have to make?
For photo shoots, it starts with preparing the clothing. Everything needs to be steamed and looking pretty. Sometimes, I do not have the time before to do a model fitting so I always bring back ups in case something does not fit. I collaborate with the model or models, photographer, and makeup artist. Since I also act as the creative director, I have to decide where I want the photos to be shot, how I want the model posed, the overall feel, and what I want every last detail to look like. Compromises are always made depending on weather, comfort of the model, and what the photographer thinks as well.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from everyday people (guys, girls, grandpas even!), high fashion, movies, and my cousin Natalie. She wears everything with confidence.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of being self-employed and working freelance? What are some of the most rewarding aspects?
The challenging part of being freelance is not being able to do what I love all the time. I still have to work a full-time job to pay the bills, so I try to squeeze in my side projects wherever I can. The most rewarding part is fueling my creativity and seeing a finished project. It always makes me excited to see what I can do next.
Can you share a favorite project you’ve worked on and what made it so special?
My favorite project so far was costuming an indie film in Georgia. It was so special because me and my best friend costumed it together right after we graduated college and my cousin Natalie was the director!
You studied fashion business in school—how does this inform and/or diverge from the more creative demands of your job?
Studying fashion business was the perfect blend of being creative and learning how to make a living being creative. No matter what creative profession you're in, I believe that business classes are so necessary because they teach you how to successfully showcase your work to the world.
Are there any exciting new projects you’re working on that you can share with us?
Right now, I am working on trying to merge my loves for vintage, thrift shopping and fashion editorials. Stay tuned!
Finally, do you have any advice for young people interested in pursuing a career in fashion? What kinds of lessons, skills or mistakes have helped you to succeed?
My advice is to take as many opportunities as possible and get yourself out there! You never know who you might meet or what new skills you will learn. Also, be a mix of kindness and hard work, and people will always want to work with you.
All images via Amanda Astroth