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Unsung Heroes - the stylist: Jacqui Erskine, JWT Melbourne

The Drum is launching a new series call 'Unsung Heroes', in celebration of the people in the industry who slog hard behind the limelight for brands and clients,

In this new series, The Drum speaks to these heroes and celebrate the work they do for their clients quietly behind the scenes. As they are seldom in the spotlight for their contribution to the success of campaigns, this is their time to shine.

If you think of someone who deserves this recognition, please get in touch with Shawn Lim and nominate them!

Kicking off our series is Jacqui Erskine, a stylist at the The Cannery, J. Walter Thompson Melbourne’s in-house production facility.

Why is your job important?

Styling is an important part of the creative process as it is bridges the gap between an art director’s idea or concept and the final presented piece of work. It is an integral part of making an image come to life and look polished.

What is the hardest and most stressful part of your job?

Budgets, time lines and late briefs are all typical factors that make you feel stressed at times, but for me I think the hardest part of my job is restraining from getting ‘too’ creative. As we all know, most jobs don’t always allow creative freedom, so it’s hard to let go of what you know you could do, and just simply get it done.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I am lucky to have a job that allows me to create something new every day. No matter what it is that I am working on, the fact that I am constantly creating imagery is quite rewarding. But I would have to say the most rewarding part is when you finally see your work published after working really hard, and if you receive acknowledgement and recognition for it that is a bonus!

First thing that comes to people’s minds when you tell them your job?

So you dress models?.. you’re a interior designer?.. you work in retail?

How would you correct/explain to them what you do then?

I work very closely with a photographer and art director to collaboratively create an image for a client. A lot of pre-production work is involved in a stylist’s role which might include tasks like choosing talent, sourcing/making props, loaning clothing and building sets. On shoot day I will work with everything I have sourced and prepared to style and create a visually appealing and cohesive story which the photographer then captures.

Is there anything you want to change in your job?

It would be great to see more unity within the styling and photography industry. Working together rather than competing, causing people to under-cut the industry by lowering rates and working for next to nothing. It would be good if we had a union.

Who is someone you want to emulate in your industry?

I look up to the people who taught me with much respect and appreciation. I was very lucky to be mentored by many well-respected stylists in the industry. In particular, a Melbourne stylist named Deborah McLean, who I really admire.

Her passion for not just styling but her forward thinking approach to every job. She has the knowledge and expertise to successfully lead clients to take their brand to the next level. To emulate these qualities in Deb would make me very happy.

Which was the campaign that you worked on, that you are most proud of?

Just before Christmas, I had the opportunity to work on Penfolds “the colour of Summer” Campaign. This job came in at a really busy time when the whole team was under the pump finishing up work for clients before the break.

I had a very tight deadline to prop and source for the job as well as taking on board part of the production role which was quite new to me at the time and pushed me that bit further.

I think I am most proud of this as it was a campaign that was worked on entirely by our agency and the talented people I work with every day in the Cannery. When you have a solid team that supports each other you can really achieve an amazing result.

If you weren’t a stylist, what would you be?

I would focus on my passion for recycled and sustainable clothing, travelling the world sourcing amazing vintage textiles and pre-loved wares!

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