This week, we had a conversation with the extraordinary Toronto-based stylist Annie Lam: one of the industry’s leading experts in design, style, and beauty.
Please tell us a little bit about your background, and how you became interested in the creative beauty industry.
I am originally from Ottawa; I moved down to Toronto to study fashion design— I always had a love for fashion, and I always thought I was going to be a designer. I’ve always been interested in creating different looks, in putting everything together. The career of a fashion stylist wasn’t really known then, even while I was at university, but I realized that the position encompassed everything I really love. When I graduated, I veered into styling instead.
What specifically attracted you to styling?
I had all these great ideas and images and visuals in my mind, and I was able to bring them to life. I wasn’t just designing the clothing. I was encompassing everything: makeup, photography, hair, design—I was collaborating with other people.
Is collaboration a big part of your interest in this industry?
Yes, definitely. I realized that you can’t always do everything—you need a good collaborative team. Sometimes a shoot or look might not work well, because there is one person who doesn’t share the same idea, or whose skill isn’t up to par with the rest of the team’s. That is why it is really important to find people who share your vision and who are also going to produce work that is to your expectation.
What inspires you creatively?
Every-day life. I love seeing different things when I am traveling. I find that I always become inspired when I’m away, because then I see different cultures, different people, different colors—even nature. Everything that surrounds you can be an inspiration, if you are really looking at it, and if you look at it differently. Like the saying, “think outside the box”— you can look at something and think, “How can I use this, and then use it in a different way?” “How can I use this inspiration, take inspiration from it , and then change it up, to do something a little more different— a little more creative?”
To what do you attribute your success?
Being able to adapt and to constantly being able to grow and learn. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in this industry, there’s always something new to learn, someone to learn from—it can be someone who is very senior, but you can also be learning from someone who is very junior, as well. I attribute my success to growing, adapting, and enhancing my own skills.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Just do your thing. Ignore the rumors. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You can always better yourself, but don’t ever pay attention to someone else’s opinion, and look down on your own work, or on your own progress. Trust your instincts, trust what you are doing, you can always grow from it—it’s as simple as: you do you.
Are there things you would advise creative professionals never to do?
Do not ever trash someone else—that is really important. This is a very small industry and word gets around and everyone knows everyone, and you never know what position someone might end up being in. They could be above you, or in the position to hire you. Another thing: do not steal other’s work; give credit where credit is due.
You’re not always going to be treated in the best way. Someone might put you down, or make you feel unworthy. I find that when you are confident about what you do and speak with conviction, being polite and respectful, it really goes a long way. If you can express yourself clearly in a mature manner, people will take you that way, and will treat you that way.
How would you advise someone just getting started in the beauty industry to cultivate the confidence you speak of?
That’s a hard one. I think that it comes with experience, working with people. I always say: surround yourself with the right tribe, with people who encourage you and give you positive feedback. Not everything you do will be great, but at least you know that you are going to grow from it. Also, do a lot of homework and research, so when someone questions you, you are able to give solid feedback to them on reasons why you are doing what you are doing— arm yourself with knowledge.
Annie Lam – Bio
Toronto-based stylist Annie Lam is one of the fashion industry’s leading experts in design, style and beauty. After graduating from Ryerson University with a degree in Fashion Design, she served as the fashion editor for Jasmine Magazine and Highrise Magazine before becoming managing editor of YYZ Magazine.
Known for her passion for design and her tireless dedication to her work, she is a sought-after consultant, styling film, television and print ad campaigns as well as runways and celebrities. In 13 years, she has worked with an impressive roster of revered brands including Swarovski, Winners, L’Oreal and MTV Canada. The hallmarks of Annie’s work are her eye-catching and bold concepts, her keen attention to detail and her commitment to meeting her client’s needs.
Her creative talents have also led to her work as an in-demand nail stylist, working with clients such as Maybelline and Essie and styling nails at World Master Card Fashion Week.
In addition to her work as a stylist, Annie mentors youth, helping to inspire and guide the next generation of entrepreneurs and fashion up-and-comers.