A Most Unlikely Stylist Career Start
It’s almost impossible to sit down and catch up with 26-year-old Erika Degraffinreaidt. Her week-to-week schedule is filled with gigs and bookings in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. The internationally published stylist has done work with celebrities, artists and magazines, pushing her brand’s name, French Vendette’, onto a list of in demand fashion stylists. However, Erika did not always have the eye or instinct for styling. It was with the help of a Google search and a spur of the moment photo shoot that a stylist was born.
Aside from her perfectly crafted outfits of the day posted on her Instagram account, every caption and post from the stylist beams of inspiration as she encourages her followers to pursue their dreams as passionately as she does. Although it seems new work by Erika is seen in magazines, music videos or saved clips from New York Fashion Week almost every day, she is more humbled and thankful with each project completed.
Despite Degraffinreaidt’s busy schedule, I caught up with the stylist to learn about her path into the fashion industry and how she came up with her catchy brand name.
Natalie Craig: There are so many different career paths within the fashion industry. When was it clear to you that you wanted to be a stylist?
Erika Degraffinreaidt: I knew I wanted to become a fashion stylist as a junior at the International Academy of Design while interning for a Los Angeles-based eco-friendly designer. During that internship, I was asked by the designer to come and style her photo shoot that she was having for the collection. At the time, I didn’t know what a stylist was and what they truly did.
I remember nervously the night before the shoot googling “What is a stylist?” and “What are the duties of a stylist?” As I jotted down a few things that I felt were important for me to know, I showed up anxious and not knowing really what to expect. Long story short, the photographer and team really liked the direction that I was going and how I was putting things together. That photo shoot ended up in a national fashion magazine and from that day, I knew I wanted to be a stylist.
N: Did you face any major obstacles when you entered the industry?
Erika: Trying to figure out my niche and what I wanted to be known for. Putting my work out there for others to see was a huge obstacle at first. Lastly, figuring out how networking really worked in the industry.
N: What do you think about the fashion scene in Chicago?
Erika: I love Chicago’s fashion scene. With this being my hometown, the fashion scene has a special place in my heart. I really owe it to the fashion scene in Chicago (designers, photographers, bloggers, etc) for giving me my first chance/opportunity when it came to being a fashion stylist. For that, I am forever grateful. I have much respect for all of the artists who continue to push the envelope and encourage others to do so as well through their work and their undying passion to keep going at all cost! It’s truly inspiring and pushes me to continue to put forth my all. So in short, Chicago’s fashion scene is amazing.
N: What project has been your favorite so far?
Erika: My favorite project that I’ve ever worked on… To tell you the truth, I can’t really pinpoint what my favorite project is because all of them are quite amazing and unique within their own. I’m always very honored to have the opportunity to work with so many incredible artists.
N: Is there anyone in particular that you were surprised to work with?
E: I think I’m always a bit surprised and excited when people contact me to work with them because they all are pretty incredible. Anytime where people trust me with their vision and their projects, it’s quite an amazing experience.
N: What advice would you give to someone looking for a career in the industry?
Erika: Never stop researching on how to become the best artist you could be. Never be afraid to put out your work to the public. I know this is always the biggest fear. [That’s] because as artists, we are sensitive to the opinions of what people think. But, I encourage artists to put their work out. Allow it to be judged but never allow it to determine if you are “good” or not. Use the judgment as a platform to make you better and to allow people to see the true passion you have for your craft! Lastly, take risk because they make for the greatest rewards. Never give up.
N: How did you come up with your brand name, “French Vendette?”E:
Erika: As cliche’ as it sounds, it came to me in a dream flashing black in white (which explains my company colors). I didn’t know what it meant but I knew I needed to act on it and research it and find out what I wanted the company to focus on. And, a little over four years later, French Vendette’ is here to stay; forever.
N: If you could give three style rules to live by, what would they be?
Erika: The only style rules that I would say for people to live by is to be confident in yourself. And, it’s not really about what you wear, it’s how you wear it. Please believe that confidence is the best beauty that you could ever wear.
N: If you could, what is something that you know now that you would go back and tell yourself when you were starting your career?
Erika: I feel that everything has been a learning lesson in my career. There isn’t one thing that I regret or would say I wish I could’ve done differently. Each and every moment, good or bad, has helped shape me and my company to be stronger in so many different ways! So far, this has been one incredible journey that really has only truly just begun. I look forward to many more amazing adventures and most important learning experiences!
N: We asked if she had anything else to add about her career, style advice or journey through the fashion industry. Degraffinreaidt said, “Live to love, live to inspire, live to drive toward not just a dream; but your reality.”