STYLIST. FASHION EDITOR, BROOKLYN
Paper Magazine's fashion editor-at-large, first assistant to Giovanna Battalglia (formerly) and stylist. One would presume that those are the professions of three different women. Well, think again, because those are the very puzzle pieces that constitute Solange Franklin's career. If you’re not familiar, let me bring you up to speed. Franklin was two years in on the pre-med route when she realized fashion might be her calling. She devoted her time to exploring this new change and it led her to intern stints at publications like Cookie and Teen Vogue. From there, she’s been shaking up her respective industry assisting the likes of Avena Gallagher, spawning editorial magic for publications ranging Vogue Japan to NYLON and styling for clients like GAP. Franklin’s story is one that goes to show where you start doesn’t conclusively determine your future. She shared countless gems regarding transitioning between careers, her early beginnings in fashion and how residing in Brooklyn influences her life and style.
Krav: While in college, you were a pre-med major for the first two years before you discovered it wasn't for you. Was it hard to, in a sense, start over or was it easier because you were a student in college?
Solange: Everything is relative, so when you’re in college it seems like that’s all there is. And you think about what you’ve done and say God, I spent two years taking the classes and doing these internships and dedicating this time. You know, part of you is like; is it really worth it? because I invested so much or I’m headed down this path. You’re so young when you’re still in college. I know we like to think 21 is like, ancient or something when you’re that age, but you have so many options and you can have five careers between 21 and 31 and still be okay. I’m grateful [that] my parents are supportive. I think they were probably a bit terrified. I think just the idea of knowing that whatever it is that you’re pursuing wholeheartedly with some type of support system, you’ll be okay. I guess for me it was kind of an all or nothing situation where I said if I don’t try this, I’ll never forgive myself. So I went on a limb and I tried it and thankfully it’s worked out and it’s been working out.
So, you’d say when someone discovers what they’re doing or what they thought they wanted to do isn’t working, you really recommend they test other waters instead of just going with what they’re unsure about?
Exactly. College is a time for experimentation and I think that you can get swept up with the idea of being on a track and being like oh, I have to be 100% focused on this career, I really want to make it. Especially for pre-med, you do. You have to be dedicated. I would say explore those options. I wouldn’t say just because you think you’d be really good at making sweaters, you drop your three years of courses in English to go ahead and drop out of school and try design. You explore that through internships or as a hobby, then from there you’re like does this actually have a prospect of moving forward? Is this something that I’m actually developing an interest in to the point of dedicating years and years of apprenticeship to that? So, that’s what I did with fashion. I had the internships that I needed for medicine, I’m on the track. I was like if for whatever reason I get “off track,” I explored all the possible options to get myself back on track. I basically created not a safety net for myself, but, I knew all possible outlets for how I could succeed and maintain my original goal if this “side project” didn’t work out.
You moved from Iowa to New York. What was your transition like coming from Iowa to a big city like New York?
Well I’m from the capitol of Iowa—Des Moines. So, we like to think of ourselves as the metropolitan. You gotta know if you’re going to leave Iowa or not, or if you want to and you’re able to. Since I was little, I was like I don’t really fit in here. I’m definitely a proud Iowan and it’s something that grounds me and I’ll take wherever I go. But, I also knew that at least for a time, I would need to leave. I went to college in Massachusetts at Holyoke and that was my exposure to the east coast. With my proximity to New York from there, I was like where else would I want to be? I want to be in New York. If you’re gonna work in fashion, of course you want to work in New York. A lot of people ask me where I’m from in New York or they think I’m from the islands. They don’t get Iowa. The big shift is more just the idea of being an anonymous person in a big city.
You're the fashion editor-at-large for Paper, up until fashion week you were first assistant to Giovanna Battaglia and you're a stylist. I can imagine your days are filled with market appointments, pulls and a lot of hours on set. But aside from the obvious, what exactly do your jobs involve?
Exactly what you said. Market appointments, we just wrapped New York Fashion Week, attending shows, trying to find cool new designers, constantly just being in connection with what’s new [and] what’s next. I’m not so much obsessed with something having to be new and only having one season for it to be exciting. Our job is to watch the market, to see what’s happening and how political movements or activities are being trickled down into clothing. I think we, as stylists and editors, use that as an expression of our own feelings and connecting with the audience. For instance, at fashion week, I was attending a show and while I was waiting for the show to start, I was quickly looking through a lookbook to select shoes for someone I was dressing for the Emmy’s weekend. Then, I was running into a showroom to pull looks for a fitting and then running back to a show and then checking, what’s now voguerunway.com, to look at a show that I wasn’t able to attend. So, it’s just like a constant milling of things. Hopefully you have the time to actually reflect and think about how you feel about those things. It’s very much about pulling interesting pieces.
Describe how you power through a very busy work day. Because, I know from even just what you talked about and then what I know from interning, it’s a lot.
Honestly a strong team, iced soy lattes and a Mophie to charge my various devices. I’m known to have a dying or dead phone. When I’m really in true hardcore market mode, I carry around my super Mophie that weighs like 10 pounds but it allows me to charge my iPad, my camera and my phone which is something that I use when I go to Paris and I’m literally gone from 7am to 4am on appointments and fittings. Hopefully to dinner [too]. I’d say, a little bit of rest but sheer determination and iced soy lattes.
I discovered you from work that I saw you do with NYLON Magazine. What do you love most about working with what I call the “rebellious fashion magazine”?
I feel like it’s a fun market. It appeals to people who are unabashedly seeking self-expression. You know what I mean? The people in the NYLON market are interesting to me because they’re typically unafraid to experiment, to play, to take themselves seriously as a punk, take themselves seriously as a prep, a Lolita girl, all while reading the next new fiction book that resonates with their culture.
Was Teen Vogue your first fashion internship?
No it wasn’t. It was also with a Conde Nast publication, it was called Cookie. Which is no longer around sadly, with the 2008 financial crisis. What they did was they got rid of the few new publications, so Cookie had just been added to the roster and Domino, which was also much beloved. I loved Cookie, it was such a good introduction to fashion because I got to touch Chanel bags and we would have Marc Jacobs looks in but we’d also have little Marc Jacobs looks in. Cookie was the ‘Vogue mom’s magazine,’ that’s how it was tagged. So, the Vogue girl who had a baby. Long story short, all three of the girls who were there that summer just came from Love and we were like: the writing is really excellent, the people here all have great taste, the pages are good and exciting and they’re shooting the people that we love. Like Liya Kebede, but it’s just Liya Kebede with her children. It was a great introduction. It was a lot of work and I’d come home exhausted but I was thrilled and I learned so much. Because I was inquisitive, I started off as the girl who never worked in fashion and only worked two days a week and they slowly bumped me up and I ended up taking on the bulk of the intern work. From there I knew I had to get to Teen Vogue so while I was there, I wrote to the Teen Vogue girl and I was like ‘Hey I know how Conde Nast works, I want to work for you guys. Then I had my supervisor write me a recommendation and that was it, it was great! I could not believe it.
So, what would you classify as the biggest misconception about being a stylist?
That it’s glamourous. I think probably every stylist says that. When I worked for Giovanna, that was amazing because I got to travel the world and obviously those are incredible things that I would not take back. But, I can’t say I know all of the streets of Toyko because I was there for five days and you’re still working while you’re there. That’s one week of the year, you don’t see me hauling 8 garment bags trying to get these garment bags from the elevator to the SUV to get to JFK in time. There’s so much schlepping and stress and trying to appease the U.S government when going through customs while also trying to somehow be glamourous. The majority of our job is logistics based. It’s like how do I get this Valentino dress from point A to point B to point C, within this amount of time, while sharing it with XYZ while being sure that it’s accounted for in the specific way. It’s an interesting transition going from assistant to full time stylist for me, which I’m going through. It’s a lot, it’s more than just going through racks of clothing.
With that, what's your biggest piece of advice for girls aspiring to be stylists?
Wear flats. (We then burst into a unified stream of laughter) I’d say delve into the fantasy. That’s what gets you into this job but make sure that you have to grit the make that fantasy happen. In order to execute your vision, you have to be meticulous with the hair, the makeup, the logistics and a million little things that people don’t think stylists do. They’re kind of directors in many ways along with the photographers. If you’re someone who doesn’t really see things all the way through, then maybe you’re better off reading the magazine as opposed to creating it.
And as for your personal style, I feel like it's pretty eclectic but polished. Over the years what are some of your favorite pieces of clothing or accessories that you've owned?
Probably one of my absolute favorites is a white Comme Des Garcons leather jacket with lip cut-outs and I wore that with my Prada lip skirt to meet Naomi Campbell for the first time. That will always be near and dear in my heart. I have these Prada shoes that I got at the Prada outlet in Italy over a decade ago and they’re just like torn to pieces but I will never, ever let them go. They’re missing gems on them and it warms my heart to have them, they’ve seen so many dance floors.
You live in Brooklyn and to me, it's a very colorful and lively borough. How has living in Brooklyn influenced your life and style? You know, just being around in that element.
Oh my goodness! Being in Brooklyn has helped me in my work life by separating work from my home. Getting on the train, you already feel relaxed. Leaving Manhattan or ascending your home stairs, you just feel like aha, this is home. Whereas before, I lived in the East Village for 5 years and I loved every minute of it, but when you’re running a business out of your home it gets a bit convoluted. I don’t know anything about Feng Shui but it has to be bad to have work upon work, upon work on top of your bed. Storing racks of clothing in your bedroom. Which you do what you have to, to make it work, but what I love about Brooklyn is [that] it’s still very much a fashion borough. In terms of fashion, there’s the incredibly chic Brooklynites like Kai of Sincerely Tommy. There’s a bit more of an ease. Those girls, they have a polished ease, it’s not like the ease of the lower east side. It’s a little more adult in some ways.
You already do so much and when I say that I don't mean it lightly, but what's your ultimate career goal and how do you plan on making your way there?
You’re asking me at just the right time, because I’m at a transitional phase. I’m getting married.
Thank you. Now that fashion week is over I feel like it’s time to solidify those details. I’m treating it like a shoot where I’m producing it, so sorry to the people who thought I wasn’t paying attention because here I come, full force! But, ultimate career goal? It’s funny because I’m unsure, which is an interesting place to be. I’ve always been so driven. I met my 1st goal, I was like I want to be an intern here; did it. I want to be an assistant here; did it. Then I was like wait, I don’t know what’s after that, what’s after that? You plan for 5 years in advance and you think you know what you want 10 years down the line but it’s constantly changing. So, I’m just at a period where I’m open and watching because I really believe in interdisciplinary lifestyles and I don’t think it would make me happy to just be an editor and to just be a stylist. There are people who excel at that and it’s what they were born to do, I was born to be a medley of things. So I’m just waiting for all those pieces to A. present themselves and B. for me to create an environment in which those things can be presented. I’m on that path, I’m doing what I love; I’m styling, I’m editing. I’m participating in this world that I greatly admire and also want to want to help change for it to be a welcoming place for the people that love it and consume it.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Kia Dyson