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When Irish fashion stylist Justine King arrived in New York City as a young and enthusiastic college student, she had no idea that the experience she’d gain there would pave the way for her being the established stylist and successful business women that she is today. While interning in the PR department with fashion designer Catherine Malandrino she saw first-hand what exactly being a stylist entails and realised “this is the dream”.

From a very young age Justine was drawing dresses and making her own handmade magazines. Despite having notebooks filled with her designs throughout her school life, she never thought about studying design at college as she assumed you’d need to have studied art for the Leaving Cert, and didn’t realise at the time that there were many other fashion related career paths.

“I had never heard of a stylist or really thought about the fact that there were any other fashion-related jobs other than a designer,” she said. However, while studying Drama and Sociology in Trinity College, she found an outlet for her creativity within the costume department.

“I loved building mood boards and researching characters and enjoyed when I’d be given a brief and a budget and told to buy the clothes, but I hated sewing anything!” she laughed, “so I ruled costume design out as a viable career.”

Considering a career in PR, Justine managed to secure her first internship in the PR department with fashion designer Catherine Malandrino while on a J1, and while she was there she realised that this was the job she was born to do.

“I did a few test shoots with friends during my final year in college then moved to New York for a year after graduation, interning again in PR at PR Consulting and then finally landing my dream internship with stylist Mel Ottenberg.”

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Justine was a big fan of Mel’s work, particularly his more risqué shoots with Terry Richardson and although at that point she had vowed never to work unpaid again, when she saw Mel was recruiting she couldn’t turn it down. “Those five months were huge for me but also for Mel, who became Rihanna’s stylist during that time and still is to this day. I learnt so much invaluable experience and although it was tough I’d do it all again.”

The life of a fashion intern in New York is not as glamorous as one might think. Anyone who has seen ‘The devil wears Prada’ will know that it paints a picture of a stressful job with long hours for little or no money, which according to Justine is unfortunately the harsh reality.

“I had to fund living in Manhattan with no financial help while interning unpaid, so I was working in a bar at night” she said. “It was full on but New York is full on in general and everyone works hard and plays hard so you’re no exception, you just thrive on the madness and exhaustion of it all.”

After moving home from New York Justine entered and won a competition run by TV3 and Oasis who were looking to find Ireland’s Next Top Stylist. “That’s where it all began in Ireland for me” she said.

Since then Justine has been living her dream as a freelance stylist, being her own boss and doing a job that encompasses much more than styling alone. “You’re the CEO, the COO, the accountant, the PR manager and the marketing manager” she said.

Most recently she’s been working on projects including editorials for Totally Dublin, has shot the cover of RTE Guide with Rachel Allen, shot Xposé pieces for various brands and even has a music video in the pipeline. “The rest can’t be revealed just yet but there’s big things happening” she said, all of which is soon to be revealed on her website www.justinekingstyling.com.

The life of a fashion stylist is without a doubt challenging, however Justine has showed that with hard work, dedication and a little self believe landing your dream job can become a reality.

“Don’t expect things to happen overnight,” she advises. “It takes time to build up your career and before you’ll make decent money but don’t be taken advantage of either; know your worth and believe in yourself. You’ll need to delve in to that self-worth reserve during the tougher times.”

Rachael Martin

Image credit: Justine King