Lulu Chen on Learning Art Director Skills for Fashion Photo Shoots

In Chapter 12 of 16 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, art director Lulu Chen answers "What Has Taking Direction as a Stylist Taught You About Giving Direction as an Art Director?"  Working on-set as a fashion stylist, Chen gets to work with a variety of talented art directors and creative directors.  She learns how approach and prepare for jobs as well as how to motivate teams and stay organized in deadline-driven environments. 

Lulu Chen is a photo art director working in retail e-commerce in New York City.  Previously, Chen worked as a freelance stylist for leading fashion catalogs and magazines.  She earned a BFA in design and art history from the University of Michigan.


Erik Michielsen: What has taking direction as a stylist taught you about giving direction as an art director?

Lulu Chen: Well, I was lucky enough to work with a lot of different art directors. And if I had been an art director coming up the ranks, just as an art director, I think I would’ve been limited to how many different approaches and different people that I could’ve worked with, so I was very lucky and I worked with a lot of really talented art directors and creative directors. And what I learned from them is some really great ways on prepping jobs, how their approach was, how they communicate, and then not to sound negative but also what not to do. So, you know, all the things to do and strive for, and then some of the things that maybe, you know, I should try not to do.

So my take away from that is that organization is really helpful. And sometimes it’s hard because you’re wearing the creative hat, but you really have to get things done in a timely manner, you know, there’s always deadlines. And there’s a lot of money at stake, you know, photo shoots are expensive, you have to get certain things done in a day or two days, and it’s a lot of pressure, to see how other people handle that, to see how people communicate well—actually, how they also motivated and inspired their teams, was really nice to see. So I did learn a lot as a stylist. I was able to observe.

Erik Michielsen: And so now you’re on the other side of the fence.

Lulu Chen: Oh, definitely. I definitely try and keep all those things in mind, you know, all the things that worked for me, or that I really appreciated, and I try and do that as well. But it’s funny because a lot of people tell me that I’m so nice, and—which you’d think is a compliment but sometimes I am like, “Did they not think it’s genuine?” Because I like someone speaking to me in a certain way so I’m going to try and speak to everyone else in that tone, you know. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna be able to get my job done, you know. But I think it’s always nicer to talk to people in a nice way, right? Yeah, it’s like I don’t have—I don’t wanna go there unless I really have to.