After working at Good Housekeeping Magazine as a Fashion Editor for eight years, London-based stylist Nini Khatiblou decided to take the plunge and go freelance. From scouting locations to casting models and commissioning photographers, Nini works with commerical brands and celebrity clients as a full time stylist as well as being Fashion Editor of the international title PHOENIX...
Having left your position at Good House Keeping to go freelance, when was the moment you decided to press the reset button on your career? And what motivated you to make the switch?
I worked at Good Housekeeping for just over 8 years and for the most part of my twenties. It was a really important time in my career where I learnt everything I know now, but eventually it got to a point where I realised I’d reached a limit and couldn’t progress any further. I felt very proud of what I’d achieved as the Fashion Editor – I’d brought in new brands, new photographers, changed people’s perception of the fashion pages – but I was ready for the next challenge. At 32, it seemed too early in my career for me to just settle down and stay there for another 10 years. My instinct was telling me it was time to move on but as a typical Cancerian, I stick like glue to the familiar and change is certainly not something I embrace so it took a lot of inner strength to eventually make the leap!
Going freelance can be a scary prospect, what would you say to someone contemplating taking the plunge?
Really think carefully about it. Going freelance can sound amazing and liberating – you’re in charge of your own day, what work you do, how much holiday you take etc but there’s way more pressure tied up in succeeding. I think it has the potential to be a wonderful career path but all too often I hear Fashion Assistants talking about ‘going freelance’ as if it’s a really easy fall back option. A big part of nailing it is having enough experience under your belt and knowing lots of people – in an ideal world, you would do a bit of both before going freelance full time. I found that juggling the two for several months helped me with the shift from working full-time in an office to working for myself.
Any “wish someone had said that to me” advice?
I wish someone had forced me to start a blog! I always toyed with the idea of starting one but I never did it and now not a day goes by when I don’t feel jealous of at least 50 different bloggers.
How do you achieve balance in your everyday life?
I don’t… One of the shortcomings of freelance life is that there is no such thing as normal working hours. I don’t come home from an office and switch off. Quite often, I’ll be working until midnight or on weekends - the level of pressure is very different when you’re working for yourself. No one else is going to generate work and money for you, it’s all down to how hard you try and how much work you put in. When I’m not prepping for a shoot or writing a feature, I’m putting together a plan of who to contact next for a meeting.
Describe how your approach to fashion has evolved since changed your career path?
I definitely appreciate clothes more. When I worked in a full-time magazine job, I would buy so many clothes – looking back, I think I just bought new clothes as a way of de-stressing. I certainly didn’t need half of what I was buying but when you have a regular salary it’s easy to justify buying a few bits here and there in your lunch break. Nowadays, I value my money far more because I know how hard I’ve worked to earn it. I don’t buy things I don’t need, I’m better at saving and I’ve actually started wearing the things I bought ages ago but never got round to wearing!
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned along the way?
How kind people are. It sounds really silly but I never expected anyone to help me when I went freelance and I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at asking for help, so when PRs contacted me shortly after leaving the magazine to see if I wanted to style lookbooks, campaign imagery etc. I was so touched and surprised by their kindness. I owe a lot of people a lot of drinks!
What’s your ‘pinch me, I must be dreaming’ moment?
Last year I was involved with a huge high-street brand on the rebranding of their in-store personal styling service. After a 6 month period of working on this project, I ended up giving a presentation at their annual company conference to a 200+ audience including the CEO! I’ve always been used to playing more of a behind the scenes role as a stylist but pushing myself outside my comfort zone and being asked to do the talk was one of the best life experiences I’ve ever had.
Who or what inspires you?
My dad. He has such an amazing eye for clothes and accessories and I’m constantly bowled over by the outfits he puts together. His attention to detail is just incredible! He’s retired now but I always wish he’d pursued a career as a menswear stylist.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t compare your inside to somebody else’s outside. It’s never been more true with the rise of social media, everyone looks like they’re having the best time but it’s so important to remember how filtered and edited everything is these days.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
For the love of God just be more confident! I was so shy and awkward as an 18-year-old and wasted far too much time worrying about what others thought of me.
What did you want to be growing up?
A weather girl! I was and still am totally obsessed with the weather forecast. And I loved the idea of being on TV for 5 minutes every morning talking about air pressure and the pollen count.
When are you happiest?
Every Sunday when I spend the whole day cooking in the kitchen with the radio on in the background.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Definitely being made the Fashion Editor of Good Housekeeping aged 26. My Editor used to joke that I’d broken some kind of record and it really did feel like a huge achievement. It was during a period when Good Housekeeping was the country’s biggest selling magazine which made it an extra special time to be a part of it.
And what would you like to achieve next?
If there’s one thing freelance life has taught me, it’s to focus more on the present and fixate less on the future. I’m only a year and a half into being a freelancer and my main goal is to live each day in the present, being happy and grateful for what I have and hope that in 5 years I can look back and go ‘I can’t believe I got to work with so many amazing brands’.
When was the last time you laughed out loud?
Lots of things make me laugh but my friend Tom, really makes me laugh hysterically. I have endless videos of him on my phone singing, dancing, generally just being silly and whenever I’m in a grump or tired, I just put them on and I’ll be laughing out loud in minutes. His sense of humour is totally on my wavelength.
Fantasy Dinner Party. You get to choose six guests – dead or alive – to spend the evening with. Who would you choose? And where would you go?
Graham Norton, Kate Moss, Geri Halliwell (now Horner), Boy George, David Jason and Kylie. Quite a random bunch! We’d go to Anima e Cuore, my favourite restaurant in Kentish Town for the best Italian food in London.
At hush we value female friendships - what qualities do all your friends share?
I’d be lying if I said I had a close group of girlfriends – I had a mixed experience at school which meant I found my best friends much later on in life. My friends now are predominantly people I’ve met through work, be it old colleagues, ex-interns or PRs. I don’t think about whether they’re men or women, I just tend to gravitate towards people who are kind, open-minded and fun to be around. All of my friends are down to earth people who don’t take themselves too seriously.
What’s the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
My full name is Nastaran Ashrafi Khatiblou. Hence Nini!
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
I’ve just finished reading The Girl Before which was absolutely brilliant – the kind of book you want to read in one go. I’m currently watching Big Little Lies which I’m still a bit unsure about. I’m five episodes in and nothing has really happened! But given how much hype it’s had, I’m determined to at least finish the first series. I’m always listening to something popy – Little Mix and Fifth Harmony are on repeat at the moment. I can’t help it, it puts me in a really good mood!
What’s your top tip to unwind?
Exercise and cooking. I love seeing my personal trainer twice a week – I always leave feeling stronger physically and mentally. And cooking is my absolute favourite hobby, I can spend hours in the kitchen knocking something up.
North London. I’ve never lived anywhere else.
Over or under dressed?
Under – ALWAYS under!
Summer or winter?
Definitely winter, the clothes are better and you can get away with eating more.
Word you over-use?
Jazzy. It comes in surprisingly handy.
An oversized navy coat. Coats are my biggest obsession and a really stylish navy one makes any outfit look instantly more chic.
Favourite Instagram account?
@danielthepeke. I can’t explain it but I really identify with him.
Desert island beauty product (we’ll give you sunscreen)?
Anything from Balance Me. I really struggle to find beauty products that don’t dry out my skin but everything I’ve tried from Balance Me has been a complete joy.
Reality TV. Whether it’s Britain’s Next Top Model or Celebrity Carry on Barging, quite frankly the more obscure and Z-list the better.
Live in the present, it’s all that’s guaranteed right now.
Can’t live without…