Zeina Esmail, an award-winning fashion editor-at-large of Fashion Magazine and stylist to the stars, has a deep understanding of visual communication. Her interpretation of human motivation and needs through her editorial/advertising visual productions offers brands an opportunity for a stronger emotional connection with the consumers. Her recommendations bear in mind the psychological principles that trigger aspirations.
Creating a strong concept and delivering the strategic vision in a memorable and relevant way to capture the audience’s interest is Zeina Esmail dazzling expertise. She brings forward a unique vision that engages and seduces the viewers. She remarkably shapes the editorial campaigns that resonate effectively with the consumers and wins them over by appealing to their short attention spans.
Let’s get started! Here is my interview with Zeina Esmail:
Jupilings: What is your story-
ZE: I didn’t even know this world existed. I have a Science degree because my parents are very traditional and wanted to make sure I had something to fall back on, just in case. I moved to Toronto from Calgary and went to Ryerson to get some kind of insight into fashion. Had a roommate who was working at an agency and then she started styling and I decided to try it. It was like 14-15 years ago, and I feel like it wasn’t as saturated then. I was lucky and never really assisted, and kind of threw myself into it and have been here ever since.
Jupilings: What is your role in fashion campaigns or editorial image-
ZE: The stylist does a lot more than just ‘style’. When it comes to editorial, we often are the ones who decide on the concept, the team, location, hair and makeup, etc. Also, we request all the clothes that work accordingly with it.
For campaigns it depends. There are sometimes creative agencies involved, but often times the stylist provides suggestions for hair, makeup, models and even the direction. Obviously, we are there as stylists and to carry out concepts through the wardrobe. You need to have a clear idea of a brand/designers direction and vision and then execute it the best way possible. Those pictures set the direction and identity for brands, so it is a very important process.
Jupilings: As a fashion director you tell stories, how do you find the thread of the narrative-
ZE: Through editorials, I always like to have some sort of common thread. You find those through so many different channels. Sometimes it’s the location that tells a story or the hair and makeup that brings a common element. Obviously, clothing tells a story, and you do that through trends of the season or by simply using your imagination. Another way is collaborating with your team to come up with the best concept.
Jupilings: What are the qualities to succeed as Fashion Director-
ZE: You really have to know what is going to be best for the job you are working on and treat it like it’s its own project always. You need to determine when you are hired for your aesthetic and when you are hired to refine/elevate someone else’s. Hard work is a given; you need to be on team ‘yes’.
Being creative is something that is obviously very important, but I feel like everyone is creative in their own ways it’s just learning how to really use it and gage what is best for that particular project. Often times you have the opportunity to do something amazing and inspiring, and then other times you are there to edit and elevate clothes and accessories that are already paired up.
Also, it’s very important to be confident enough to speak your opinion when it is asked of you. If something doesn’t work you need to be able to identify it right away and modify it until it does.
Jupilings: Which decade inspires you the most-
ZE: Hard question! I am so into the 60s and 80s!
Love mini skirts and all those shapes, colours and fabrics from the 60s. The 80s/early 90s has been such a big influence in fashion for the last few years, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. The big shoulders, big belts, colours, graphic shapes. Love it all.
Jupilings: What are the guidelines to develop a personal style –
ZE: I don’t know if there are guidelines. Follow your heart and what you like. It’s in all of us we all know what we like and what we don’t. Wear what you feel is comfortable and don’t feel afraid to step out of your comfort zone once in a while. There is so much out there for us to see now so if you need guidance, it’s always at your fingertips. Don’t buy things people tell you to buy if you don’t like them or just because they are trendy. Also, if you like something that’s bold try it in small hits if you are afraid to dive in.
Jupilings: Top essential accessories for professionals female/male
A great jacket/blazer in a dark solid colour that FITS you. Don’t buy sizes that make your jacket look two sizes too big (that’s the biggest mistake men make). A tailor can do a lot for you or look online at some brands you admire and use them as a guideline for fit.
Again jeans that fit you. Slim jeans will always be more flattering whether you are 5-95 and XS or XXL. They don’t have to be ‘tight’ but slim is better than saggy jeans. Nobody likes to look at those.
A good belt and good shoes. Polish them often (it’s like $4 to buy polish at the dollar store and can change the appearance of your accessories).
Same as above. Good jeans for sure.
I also think jeans that stop at the ankle are flattering on everyone (and only as long as they are skinny leg).
Don’t buy clothes that are too big for you.
Don’t wear crop tops if you know you shouldn’t
Don’t wear leggings as pants. They are not pants.
A good black blazer. A must-you can tuck it, leave it open, closed, over the shoulder, over jeans, belt it, etc.
A white collared shirt that has a good cuff. Goes with everything.
A good pair of shoes and a good bag. You don’t need to spend a ton of money. There are way too many amazing options now for anyone to make an excuse about not being able to find things. Go online, shop resale.
Juupilings: What are the best accessories for male executives-
ZE: A great briefcase/bag for sure.
Good belt (it can be from the Banana Republic or a designer, and often you can get two colours in one).
Shoes. Don’t think nobody sees them-everyone sees them.
Jupilings: Your favourite accessory designers-
ZE: I love
Mix high and low, mix metals with your jewellery
Also, Leandra Cohen is a great example of mixing things in unexpected ways.
Jupilings: What’s one branding lesson you’ve learned in your career and ventures-
ZE: Be true to yourself. If I ever skewed away from that, it always had a negative effect on me and my career. It is very hard with social media to question your identity and keeping yourself from trying to keep up with everything that everyone puts out there. However, it’s not all real or as it seems. So be you.
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-
ZE: This can be the most stressful industry. I mean let’s face it we aren’t saving lives, but people act like you are. You lose clients, people can say negative things about you, sometimes you won’t get hired for reasons beyond your control, a client can change direction, budgets get cut, you can get delayed travelling, and it comprises an entire shoot, the list is endless. You just have to deal. Thick skin is something you develop in this industry, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t affected by things. I really try to remember everything I have to be thankful for in my career and my life. Also, when things go bad, they always get better. It’s hard to say you can’t let things bother you; you just have to cope (as we do in our everyday life) and try to remember how lucky we are and fortunate we are.
Jupilings: Who inspires you and why-
ZE: So many people
I have two small children, so I often look at women in this industry that have kids and are successful (designers, stylists, other business women).
I also have some close friends who have struggled for different reasons in their life and see how positive and amazing they are and try to remember how lucky I am to do what I love and am recognised for it. We often focus on what we don’t have (including myself), it’s human to do so, and it’s really important to look past that and be gracious.
Jupilings: Favourite place to chill with friends in Toronto-
Jupilings: What is your life motto-
ZE: This sounds crazy, but my dad always told us to think of the negative before the positive. Not because we should always look at the bad before the good, but because it will always prepare you for any circumstance and you will always be prepared. I try to remain positive but I definitely always try and think of ‘what can happen if ….’ and it’s probably why I am so OCD when it comes to my job.