Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, the multi-talented Fashion Stylist Janine Metcalfe, one of the most sought-after and busiest in Canada. For the last 20 years Janine has been working with major fashion publications, like Flair, Quebec Elle, Toronto Life, Images Vancouver Magazine, Western Living, and the Globe & Mail. In addition to styling, she has produced many fashion ad campaigns in Miami and Toronto, as well as off and on figure styling for the Hudson’s Bay and Eaton’s. Janine also has an extensive background in the film and commercial industry, directing the wardrobe departments for many commercials for hi-profile companies like Coca-Cola, Volkswagen, Clairol, Alberto VO5, and Samsung. Janine and a partner founded the high-end wardrobe rental company Liberty Wardrobe, one of the largest rental companies in Canada, renting to motion pictures, television production, commercials, and print advertising. She currently lives on the west coast and is the Fashion Editor of YAM Magazine. Along with costume designing, styling and editing, Janine also develops Styling curriculum at the Pacific Design Academy. And to add to her long list of accomplishments, Janine styled Jasmine Lorimer, Canada’s first Bachelorette for the W Network!
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I knew at an early age that fashion would define my life somehow. So I just went for it. I took the leap to really be happy with my choices and not to settle into a job I didn’t want. I worked extremely hard and nothing came easy. I never worried about the money, but with success it came. Being a single mom I had the strength to keep going and the determination to follow my dreams.
For the last 20 years you’ve been one of the busiest stylist in the country working with major Canadian fashion magazines, as well as styling for Hudson’s Bay and Eaton’s, plus producing many ad campaigns. Wow! How did you get your start? What drew you to fashion styling?
From the time I was a little kid I loved fashion. I was a girly girl and always had to match my outfits from head to toe, so fashion has always defined me in some way. I got my start when I was working in Vancouver in the early 80s doing window displays and working in a small boutique on Robson Street. I had a photographer stop by one day and ask who put the window display together. She gave me her card and I called the next day. Her name was Jane Whitzel. The only stylist I knew at the time was Grace Coddington from Vogue and I thought that’s what I want to do and be. I worked for Jane (for free) for about 6 months and learned all the ins and outs of what a fashion stylist is and does. I then started working for other photographers and started to make a living in the fashion business. I realized quickly that if I wanted to further my career I would have to move to Toronto where most of the fashion magazines and advertising were shot. So that’s what I did and made a life in the fashion styling world for 20 years before coming back to the west coast a few years ago.
You also have an extensive background in the film and commercial industry and worked with renowned directors like Bronwyn Hughes, Atom Egoyan and Floria Sigismondi to name a few. What was your most memorable project and why?
After a few years of working mainly in fashion I decided to reach out into the film and commercial world as a stylist. Yes I worked with a lot of wonderful directors. My most memorable project was the Coca Cola commercial. I remember when we got briefed and we all sat there with our mouths open thinking how can we pull this off! It was epic! We had Cirque du Soleil scenes, punk rock scenes, 100s of talent (actors) to dress, and the director would change his mind in a second and we had to fly with it no matter what. We worked 24 hours a day, building costumes and coming up with just the right looks for all of the scenes. The end product was magical, and was one of my favorite jobs, and still is.
Tell us a bit about your high-end wardrobe rental company Liberty Wardrobe? How did that come about?
On one job a director asked if I could find a vintage leather jacket with tassels. I have one at home, I thought. I went into my closet and pulled out 5 leather jackets with tassels and thought, wow I could open up a wardrobe company that rents clothes to the business. So, I approached another stylist who had an existing small wardrobe rental company and we joined forces and opened Liberty. We decided to stay with contemporary and higher end stock and leave the vintage and period costumes to our competitors. It quickly became one of the biggest wardrobe rental companies in Canada. I sold my share when moving back West, but the company is still very much a go-to for all commercial and film stylists.
What has been your biggest challenge running your own company?
I think the biggest challenge of running my own company was that I was still a working stylist. We had 13 employees and I split my time working on set and then managing what became a huge company. Thank god I had a fantastic business partner who eventually became the manager so the workload was easier.
What has traveling the world taught you?
Traveling the world has taught me so much about myself – how to be more open and non-judgmental. It’s taught me to really appreciate what we have living where we do and having all we have. Traveling always gives me inspiration on fashion editorials and how the rest of the world views fashion. I will never stop traveling.
Along with designing and styling you develop Styling curriculum at the Pacific Design Academy. What do your students need to know “for sure” about the business?
Students need to know it’s not all glamorous; it’s a lot of hard work and dedication. You have to love it! Most stylists are freelance, so you need a business mind as well as knowing fashion. I would always say to my students half the fashion business is running your own company and the other half is the fun part.
You styled Jasmine Lorimer, Canada’s first Bachelorette for the W Network. What stands out most about that experience? Was it as glamorous as it seems?
Styling the first ever Bachelorette Canada was probably the hardest project I’ve ever been on. I’d never done reality T.V. and had no idea how it all worked. My assistant and I had to dress her for 13 episodes in a little over a month. When I look back I can’t believe we did it. The easiest part was meeting Jasmine with her amazing beauty and personality. I got her to put together a Pinterest board so we could understand her style and how to go forward dressing her. Thank goodness we have very similar style so pulling clothes for her was easy. I wouldn’t say glamorous, but it was one of the best experiences of my career and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to be part of this project.
What obstacles have you overcome and walls have you broken down?
I think the biggest obstacle for me was when I moved to Toronto to follow my dream of becoming a Fashion Stylist. I needed to move to the biggest city in Canada if I wanted to make it as a stylist. At the time Vancouver was too small and the only place to really get anywhere in the business and make money was Toronto. I didn’t know anyone there and had to start from scratch in this immense city. I felt very vulnerable in this world of fashion. I worked very hard for two years; meeting every Photographer and Make-up Artist I could find and built up my portfolio. I finally got picked up by an agent who thought I had enough creativity and personality to represent me as a Fashion Stylist. A lot of hard work, having no money and a lot of dedication drove me to become who I am today. The biggest obstacles were just breaking into a very small, and yet hugely egotistical, fashion world. I persisted to break down all of those walls until I proved to everyone I could become a successful stylist.
What would you tell your younger Girl Warrior?
To follow your passion and no matter what stands in your way, if it’s your dream, keep going. To not worry about what other people think, and to have confidence in yourself.
What would you say to the next generation of Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
To follow your dreams, work hard and always be true to yourself. The end goal is so worth it.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior Hero(s) and why?
Since we’re talking about fashion, I would have to say my Girl Warrior hero is Grace Coddington. She lived many miles away from any designer store and fashion, so the only connection she had with fashion would be ordering the current issue of Vogue. As a teen she never went anywhere on her holidays, so she just looked at Vogue. At 17 a friend submitted her pictures to a Vogue model competition and she ended up winning and began her modeling career. When she was 26 she got into a car accident that left her with head injuries and a removed eyelid. Two years after the accident she was interviewed by British Vogue and got the job as junior editor. She then moved to New York and joined Anna Wintour at American Vogue, where she’s still the creative director. She follows her dream and still at 76 is one of the biggest names in the fashion business. This is why she’s my Girl Warrior.
What’s next and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I have a lot of interesting projects coming up in the next little while. I’ve circled around many aspects of fashion styling and really enjoying working with YAM Magazine and creating great fashion editorials. I also have been working a lot in Vancouver with companies such as Bell and many T.V. Commercials. I want to continue freelancing for as long a so can. I love what I do! The next five years will be getting great work, to keep following my dreams and of course travel.
What “signature” message would you put on a T-shirt?
“FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS”
You can learn more about Janine here:
Follow her on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/janinemetcalfe/
And on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/janine.metcalfe.7