By Nicole De Los Reyes
“I started styling 12 years ago,” stylist Sidney Yap says. “I didn’t decide to become a stylist. It just happened.”
It began when his friend opened a store. At the time, Sidney was not working as a stylist, but as a merchandiser and visual merchandiser to local brands.
“I styled their press event and helped with their PR photos,” he says. “It was an amazing opportunity. We worked with known models, makeup artists, and photographers.” An editor who attended the event saw and liked the photos, and contacted Sidney to style pages in a magazine.
“After that first assignment, she asked if I could style pages again for the next issue,” Sidney says. “Other titles began to book me as well. Before I knew it, my schedule was full!” From there, he began to try his hand at everything from fashion editorials and shows to personal styling.
“It is very different for each job,” he says. “For editorials, you have to show off the clothes. The focus is to give life to a theme or trend. When it comes to styling portraits, the focus turns more to which aspect of their life to highlight. For example, the authority and knowledge of a businessman or the warmth of a parent. Perhaps the vulnerability, if he were an actor.”
The way that he describes his craft, it is like being a storyteller, except instead of words, the medium is clothes. He goes on to describe what goes into the styling of a fashion show, which also has its own sense of narrative.
‘I’m a creature of habit. Sounds counterintuitive for a fashion person I guess, but I stick with what I know and like.’
“There’s a lot of work that goes into producing a show,” Sidney says. “You need to create the looks, then you need to find the right model to put in the right outfit. The selection of models matters so much. Aside from the shoes and accessories, you need to decide the hair and make up to complete the total look. It all has to be cohesive so that when the models line up, you can tell the story from the clothes. Even the order of the models and outfits matters.”
As for his personal styling, he has worked with some of his clients for years such as Karylle Yuzon, Maricar Reyes Poon, Ruffa Gutierrez, Jodi Sta. Maria, Rocco Nacino, Benjamin Alves, and Enchong Dee, to name a few. “I am lucky I really get along with my clients and that our taste in fashion is usually on the same page,” Sidney says.
He explains that building a relationship with clients and getting to know their style are part of the process. “You have to know who they are and what they like,” he says. “It helps to know not just their taste in clothes, but also their interests such as movies, music, books, pop culture, the countries they like to visit. I get to know which clothes work best with their bodies, personality, and image. But I also know when to break the rules and encourage them to try something new. It’s like you’re evolving their personal style together.”
Working in an era where the fashion industry has gone through drastic changes, veteran stylist Sidney Yap can say he’s seen it all. Manila Bulletin Lifestyle sat down with him for an exclusive interview on the type of knowledge it takes to survive a career in fashion, his favorite designers, and why style always trumps trends.
Where does one’s fashion education come from?
I’ve always been interested in art, and somewhere along the way, I discovered fashion. I think my fashion education started simply by becoming aware of it. Becoming conscious of the way I dressed, seeing what trends were in stores, and noticing fashion elements in movies and pop culture… it all began there.
I also took classes at Parson’s School of Design in New York. It was more for merchandising rather than styling. I think I was always interested in fashion and wished I could make a viable career out of it, but I was also hesitant. Then the universe just led the way.
Was it different working as a stylist when you first started out from how it is now?
It is very different. Print was very strong, but now social media has become a huge factor. We used to prepare way ahead for print, where it would take around two to three months before our work was published. Now, we can shoot then instantly post after.
We live in an era of fast fashion. Even posts are fast. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just how the world has evolved, and one should adapt to keep up.
What is a day of work usually like for you?
It depends but a cycle of a styling job consists of getting the brief and asking for what is needed, and sourcing from stores, designers, or fabric stores. You proceed then to editing, pre-styling, and preparing clothes for the shoot. After the actual shoot, you go on returning pull-outs, laundry, and dry-cleaning, writing credits, settling bills, etc. On any given day, I could be involved in one of these tasks.
What is your favorite part of the job?
The creative aspect of it. A shoot is a collaborative effort between the photographer, subject, makeup artist, and me. When we are given the creative freedom to do what we want, that is something I enjoy the most.
What is a misconception that most people have about your job?
That it is easy and brainless, and that all I do is shop and look at stores all day. More than the styling itself, it also involves a lot of logistics work. There’s also a lot of pressure to find what you need in a short amount of time.
Which international designer do you most admire and why?
I love Dries Van Noten. He doesn’t really follow the trends and his clothes are ageless. I love his play on color, pattern, print, volume, and proportion. I think he has the perfect balance of art and commerce, creative and still very wearable.
Lookbook for Rhett Eala styled by Sidney
Rhett Eala is the local designer that I’ve worked with the most. I love his fabric selection. I love that he infuses art into his clothes. He doesn’t follow trends but just does what he thinks is nice. His clothes are visually appealing and are all crafted beautifully as well. When I do fittings with clients, we usually only end up needing one session.
How would you describe your own personal style?
My personal style is constantly evolving. I always have a thing that I’m into at the moment. At one point it was preppy suits. There was a time when I had a Western phase. I had a phase when I wore scarves all the time, another time, kimonos. These days, I dress sporty and usually in monochrome. My style is more minimalist now.
What is one thing that people don’t know about you?
I’m a creature of habit. Sounds counterintuitive for a fashion person I guess, but I stick with what I know and like.
If you were a fashion label, what would it be all about?
Classic with a twist. Chic, streamlined, but also with an edge. Clothes that are not trendy but will stand the test of time… the opposite of fast fashion.