How I #MadeIt: Celestine Cooney
Celestine Cooney’s childhood, growing up near the Hill of Tara in the Irish countryside, riding, fishing and exploring with her siblings, is pretty far removed from her life now as an international fashion stylist and director.
Relocating to London in 2003, after studying a degree in film, followed by a stint as fashion editor for publications in Dublin, Celestine began working at Dazed and Confused magazine, assisting Nicola Formichetti. Leaving the title to forge her own name, Celestine went on to work with brands such as Simone Rocha, Topshop and Levi’s while building up an impressive editorial portfolio. Fast-forward to now, and the stylist and brand consultant is a regular contributor to leading publications such as i-D, Teen Vogue, Interview, and Twin magazine, and has styled the Preen by Thornton Bregazzi show for the past four seasons.
As London Fashion Week kicks off, we caught up with Celestine at home to discuss cracking the fashion industry, surviving the shows and what an average working day looks like.
You did a degree in film but when did you realise you wanted to be a stylist?
I don’t think I ever realised I wanted to be a stylist, it just happened. I wanted to be a vet when I was a kid, then in my late teens I changed my mind and wanted to be a Blue Peter TV presenter and by the time I finished school I wanted to study film, because I had decided that film was what made me feel the hardest.
What inspired you to pursue styling as a career and how did you get your first gig?
I never pursued it in the beginning, it just kept coming back to me. Like a person who asks you out a bunch of times and you don’t really have any strong feelings about them but then you end up in love with them almost by accident.
Nicola Formichetti offered me a job and I moved to London to work for him at Dazed and Confused. I guess that’s where everything really started. I was the least savvy person in that office; to say I was clueless is an understatement.
What does your average working day look like?
Weirdly, I can never answer this question because every day is completely different. It’s lucky that I get a kick out of that because in school, when things got dull I’d just fall asleep. It was like a kind of narcolepsy, I had no control over it. So it’s a good thing I find my life exciting or I expect I’d spend a lot of time sleeping.
What would be your advice to those trying to break into fashion and styling?
Work hard. Apply yourself. Be patient, diligent and kind. Maintain your integrity. Try to not be boring.
Who have been your mentors?
I haven’t really had mentors but I wish I had.
Travelling constantly, how do you keep a semblance of a social life/normal routine?
I had to figure this out because I found it really hard in the beginning, but just taking it one day at a time seems to work. You basically keep overriding the fear of a lack of any kind of institutional structure until you learn to have no expectation of any. Once I made peace with having no routine or schedule I found that I was just free.
Is there a project, show, editorial that you’re most proud of?
It’s usually the last thing I did, so the Acne AW18 Men’s show in Paris.
How does your working day change in the run-up to fashion weeks?
The days before a show are always intense because you are immersed 24/7 in the collection. It has a groundhog day kind of feeling to it and then it all culminates in the show, which is over in 10 minutes and you feel a bit shellshocked. It’s a fairly discombobulating experience. You learn so much doing shows and it is so exhausting but it never gets any less exciting.
Who are your favourite people within the industry to collaborate with and why?
I like people who challenge me or make me change my mind about things. People who make me better at what I do by pushing my ideas of how things should be.
Having worked previously as a fashion editor at Dazed, do you think print media will always have a place in fashion?
Mostly magazines as a way of publishing news and current information has become redundant. Print publishing is just not fast enough to keep up with social media deliveries, which are constant and in real time. As a back log, magazines are so valuable as a record of our cultural influences but going forward there needs to be a shift, so that same cultural zeitgeist can be recorded in a way that we can track the journey.
I’m not sure if we have figured out how to do that yet as everything modern lives in a cloud which is only accessible by some form of computer. That’s the whole point of this future though… it’s not tangible, it’s a projection of idealised realities on another spectrum, so it’s kind of a new world that exists and it exists only for as long as it makes you feel something and then it dies and you’re onto the next thing. You know what I mean, it’s so incredibly fast. With print, something always remains unless you physically destroy it.
I do feel there will always be a place for print in fashion probably, because we all love it so much. I think it needs to become more specialised… collectible, limited edition… it will need to evolve and validate itself into a more contemporary and timeless version of print media, providing something that social media platforms can’t deliver.
Follow Celestine on Instagram @celestinecooney
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