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How I Got Here: The Iconic’s Styling Team Lead on navigating a major career change

IMAGE VIA @ASHLEYSYNE/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“Work hard, say yes, surrender to the opportunities presented to you and enjoy the journey.”

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While it might look like smooth sailing, there’s no doubt been a heck of a lot of hard work involved in getting there.

So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?


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Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to people who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

This week, we’re delving into the career journey of The Iconic’s Styling Team Lead, Ashley Syne. At the age of 28, ater six years as a high school dance and drama teacher, Ashley made a 180-degree career change.

Realising her long-time love for fashion and styling, she studied, interned and networked her way to her dream job – but not without taking some all-important professional risks. Ultimately, it was Ashley’s determination, passion and people skills that got her to where she is today. Here’s what she learnt along the way.

What do you do and what’s your official job title?

Currently, I am the Styling Team Lead at The Iconic. I manage the eCommerce styling and hair and makeup department of Production Operations and lead a team of around 15 full-time, casual and freelance staff.

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story.

I actually had a massive career change at the age of 28. After I finished school, I studied education at UNSW and was a dance and drama secondary school teacher for about six years. I then decided I wanted to pursue a career in fashion, something I always had a love for. While working full-time at a high school, I studied fashion part-time through Orana Fashion Business College and would work hard iterning during the school holidays.

This was just a one year course, but I ended up landing an entry-level role as a production assistant with Bauer Media halfway through my course. It wasn’t an easy decision to take the leap, leave teaching and start from the ground up, but I decided to jump in the deep end and say yes! I had to take a big cut financially and it was a risk, but thankfully I had a great partner and family who supported me through the transition.

My manager at Bauer Media was very supportive of my wanting to pursue styling and eventually she gave me opportunities to actually style photoshoots, not just produce. This is where I gained some real hands-on experience.

What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular?

It definitely hasn’t been easy. I think the biggest challenge at the beginning was taking quite a large cut in salary. My partner and I had also just bought our first home so it was quite stressful not being able to contribute financially as I had previously been able to.

Also, jumping into something I’d never done before was quite daunting. Going from teaching to producing in a high stress and fast-paced environment was very overwhelming at first. But I was driven, passionate and I wanted it, so I worked my butt off and didn’t look back. Also, returning to work after maternity leave was a big adjustment for me, both personally and professionally.

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?

 

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A post shared by Ashley Syne (@ashleysyne)

Through high school, I always wanted to work in fashion. But when it came to the crunch and I didn’t get into the fashion school I applied for in 2004, I became very disheartened. I thought the fashion industry was too unattainable – and to be honest, it was a little intimidating for a girl from a small town on the south coast.

I thought teaching would be the ‘safe’ career option. But now that I’m in the fashion industry – it’s so not what I imagined. I’ve met the most kind-hearted, beautiful, warm and friendly people; I’ve had mostly positive experiences within the industry. Sure, I’ve come across the occasional character I just don’t gel with, but that’s life.

I’m a very down-to-earth person and know there’s a lot more to life than clothing. I find most people in the industry are similar, nothing like that ‘entitled fashion snob stereotype‘ we often see depicted in movies.

What’s the best part about your role?

The best part about my role is definitely the people. My team are some of the kindest, most talented, fun people I know. The Iconic is such a great place to work because everyone is so friendly and truly loves what they do.

What would surprise people about your role?

My role is quite heavily admin-based at the moment. Because I’m a leader, I’m often in meetings with other departments, communicating important information to my team and planning. I don’t do a lot of hands-on styling right now – I’m more focused on the overall styling direction, look, feel and quality of our imagery. I have regular meetings with my team so we can catch up on what’s happening on the floor and how I can better motivate and support them moving forward.

What skills have served you well in your industry?

Being a great communicator, staying kind and humble and saying yes to opportunities when they come your way! Also, attention to detail is a big one – and being a team player. Try to think outside the box; be creative and open-minded.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?

 

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A post shared by Ashley Syne (@ashleysyne)


Work hard, say yes, surrender to the opportunities presented to you and enjoy the journey! Also network, network, network… I hate to say ‘it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know’, but who you know does play a huge role. You never know where that chance meeting you had with that photographer or makeup artist might lead you.

Every person you meet in the industry can open up a new door for you, so don’t be shy, talk to people, learn and keep learning. Work with other creatives, collaborate on creative projects and shoot. There’s still so much I want to learn and accomplish, I’m only just touching the surface of where I want to go.

What about a practical tip?

Keep a little book of contacts like photographers, hair and makeup artists, stylists and PR contacts and start test shooting and building your portfolio. Get on social media – having a presence on socials as a fashion creative has been a huge help in connecting me with the right people.

Download the Vogue Runway app and keep on top of what’s happening in the world of fashion. Then get off your phone, go outside and see what people are wearing on the streets – go to an art gallery or a photography exhibition. Be inspired by the world and get those creative juices flowing.

@ashleysyne

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

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