From the outside, a celebrity in a well put-together outfit may seem effortless – instinctive even, as if dressing to the nines is second nature to them no matter the occasion. But a behind-the-scenes perspective will tell you that nothing is effortlessly glamorous in this industry. There is actual work that gets done, and it’s not as simple as waving a wand or walking into an enormous closet like Carrie Bradshaw. The truth is that behind every best-dressed star, there is a stylist whose work amounts to nothing that we can generally imagine.
Stylist to the stars Perry Tabora can attest to this. Styling has been one of the most popular careers in the fashion and celebrity sphere, and just like many sought-after jobs, this requires as much hard work and diligence as any. When asked what to prepare for before entering the business, Perry expertly quips, “Expect to work long hours because styling is not your typical 9-to-5 job.” He elaborates, “Shoots are brutal and can last up to several days. Preparing for a project alone is extensive work because you need to source as many options as possible, and with Manila traffic, this can easily take up most of your day.” But like anyone with a passionate spirit in the industry, Perry concludes, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it if you love what you do.”
Breaking into the scene together with Liza Soberano, his first client back in 2013 and now an undeniable showbiz sensation, Perry works with some of today’s most promising stars including Janella Salvador, Sofia Andres, Xian Lim, and Zanjoe Marudo who top best-dressed lists more often than not. Here, he recalls his early struggles as a young, bright-eyed stylist and imparts more career insights for anyone who dares to follow the same dream as his.
Can you recall the first time fashion sparked an interest in you?
I have been fascinated by fashion since I was a little kid. As cliché as it may sound, it really is my first love. My first encounter with fashion is with my sister’s clothes – I would be captivated by her wardrobe and how she would wear each piece. This love for fashion continued in grade school and high school when I would sketch designs of dresses in my notebook during class. In college, predictably, I took up Fashion Design and Merchandising in De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde. Here, I became even more immersed in the world of fashion, the complexities of the industry, and the endless careers that you can pursue within the industry.
When and how did you get into styling?
I worked as a Styling Associate to Ton Lao for 3 years where, under his mentorship, I learned so much about the industry that it really solidified my decision to pursue a career in styling. After my 3-year stint with Ton, I ventured on my own with my very first client – Liza Soberano who was then being launched as one of the new Star Magic artists in 2013. Soon after, I also began styling Janella Salvador, Zanjoe Marudo, Robi Domingo, Sofia Andres, Diego Loyzaga and Xian Lim for various projects and appearances.
What struggles did you face when you were starting out?
When I started out, I had to work through many struggles in order to do my work, successfully complete all commitments, and make sure that I exceed the client’s expectations. Pulling out clothes was one of the biggest struggles because back then, the brands and the designers were not familiar with me so they were hesitant in letting me borrow their clothes. A lot of the time, I had to spend my own money just so my clients had something to wear. Doing everything on my own without any assistants was also a major difficulty as the workload was often heavy. However, these experiences helped me become more efficient with how I do my work and how I manage my finances.
What do you love most about your job?
What I love most about my job is that I’m doing something different everyday so it never gets boring. There are always different projects, sometimes several ones in a day, and I’m always challenged to keep creating new and different looks for each of my clients.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration everywhere, from magazines and street style to the interior design of a place or the color palette of an art piece. Travelling is also a major source of inspiration for me because people from different cultures inevitably have different takes on fashion, and seeing this helps me create a unique look by incorporating it with my own style.
Who are your go-to designers for young stars like Liza Soberano and Janella Salvador?
It will really depend on what look we’re going for as the designers vary in their style and strengths, but the designers that I usually go to are Martin Bautista, Cheetah Rivera, Edwin Tan, Pepsi Herrera, Jot Losa and new designer Robin Ortega.
When you’re putting together an outfit, where do you begin?
Usually, in an outfit, there is a key piece that will stand out. It could be the top, skirt, shoes, accessories, etc. I would start with that piece and then build a look around it. I also take into account the image of the client that I’m dressing because each one has a different “packaging” and your job as a stylist is to make sure that the clients’ looks are always aligned with that packaging.
What’s the key to creating a unique look?
The key for me is to always incorporate three things in each look: the current trend, my client’s image and style, and my own personal style. In the end, what’s important is that the person who is wearing the look feels confident and that the other stakeholders are happy.
How do you maintain a good working relationship with your clients?
The foundation of any good relationship is learning how to compromise. In styling, this means that you always need to incorporate not just your style in the look, but also the preference and personal style of your clients. Mixing these two things can be a bit tricky, but it is the best way to get a unique look that is different from what others have.
What are some of your most memorable looks?
Recently, my most memorable are the looks of Liza Soberano and Zanjoe Marudo at the Star Magic Ball 2016. They both won Best Dressed that night.
What’s the biggest challenge of being in the industry?
The styling industry is really cut-throat. You can be replaced in an instant so you can never rest on your laurels. You need to always exceed what is expected of you, continuously research on what the latest trends and styles are, strive to be the best, and put your best foot forward in anything that you do.
How do you deal with self-doubt?
It’s easy to doubt yourself especially in this type of industry, but at the end of the day, you need to remember why you love what you do. It also helps to have a solid group of people who can boost your confidence, but also be able to tell you the truth when they have to.
What work principle do you stick to?
Just like in any field, you need to love what you do because this passion for your work is what will drive you to overcome any difficulty that you will encounter.
What does it take for an aspiring stylist to break into the industry?
For stylists who are just starting out, my advice would be: 1. Get a good mentor or do an internship where you can learn about the industry and be trained on how to be an efficient and effective stylist and, 2. Build an extensive network in the industry because who you know will greatly matter later in your career.
What’s your advice for anyone who’s trying to find their personal style?
Experiment with different trends and styles. As you mature, you will slowly realize what your personal style is and where you feel most comfortable. It’s an evolution, and you will get there.
My #1 style rule is: Less is more. It’s always the classy choice.
My go-to, no-fail outfit is: A crisp white shirt, great fitting jeans preferably dark wash or distressed, and a good pair of shoes.
The accessory every guy needs: Invest in a good watch and a nice pair of shoes. These can easily take an outfit to the next level.
My grooming essentials are: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-free Cleanser, Kiehl’s day and night serums, BedHead for grooming my hair, and Dior Homme Cologne.
I never leave the house without my: Phone, because this is how I get in touch with my clients, assistants, and designers. Basically, my whole life is in my phone.
My next fashion splurge would be: Shoes! Same as girls, guys can never have too many shoes.