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One on One With School of Style Co-Founder Lauren Messiah

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The ever-chic Lauren Messiah (photo courtesy of LaurenMessiah.com)

It's no secret that breaking into the fashion industry in any shape or form is competitive. Modeling has physical requirements, and fashion design demands a working knowledge of sewing. But what about the careers behind the scenes like fashion styling? For individuals who just "get" how to put a look together but are unsure how to turn it into a career, School of Style is the training ground.

Co-founded by two Los Angeles-based stylists, Luke Storey and Lauren Messiah, School of Style is a crash course on what it takes to become a working fashion stylist. Classes were originally held only in New York and Los Angeles, but this year, they took their show on the road, with pop-up classes in cities like Dallas, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.

Here's the lowdown on everything you need to know about School of Style.

How did you and (co-founder) Luke Storey meet?

I actually met Luke at one of his first classes, I was a student! I took the class because I wanted to transition from styling people online through my blog to styling real live people. I loved the class so much and saw so much potential in the business model that I joined the team. I started as an intern and worked my way up to being the COO of the company. Since then we have expanded to 8 different cities and now have 6 different classes.

How did SoS come to be?

Luke started School of Style in November of 2008 out of necessity. With the popularity of shows like the Rachel Zoe Project, he was constantly bombarded with people asking him "how do I become a stylist?" He had a lightbulb moment and decided to get all of these people in a room to train them all at once, for money. As a self-proclaimed seminar junkie, he transferred that model to our classes so students could learn everything they needed to know in a short period of time.

In 2009, I came on board. With my knowledge from working at various start-ups I was able to be, as Luke calls me,"the brains" of the operation. I formed the strategy for our expansion to other cities and helped develop the rest of our classes.

Something like SoS sounds amazing in theory but how did you get it off the ground?

We have been very fortunate with the business as it was basically successful from the jump. The first class Luke taught had around 15 people and word spread fast. I believe it is because we are really "real" with the students. I went to a 4-year fashion school and no one ever told me the truth about the industry. We give it to them straight and help our graduates find work -- real work! Maybe its just good old fashioned karma, but when you help other people live their dreams it comes back around. Not to say we don't work our butts off because we do. This is our baby and we definitely put our blood, sweat and tears into it to make it a success.

Who is SoS for?

School of Style is for people who don't have the time or the money to go to a traditional fashion school. Our school is specifically for people who want to be stylists and who want it now. In less than a month, our students can go from having zero experience in the fashion industry to assisting literally the world's biggest stylists on some seriously high-profile jobs. It's pretty amazing.

What's your average class size?

It depends on the class. In order to become a graduate, students must complete classes 1, 2 and 3. Some students sign up for all 3 classes and some start with Class 1 and go from there. Class 1 aka the reality check class has anywhere from 35-50 students. Once the students find out what being a stylist really entails, some choose not to go on to Class 2. There is a lot of, "oh wait, you don't just get to shop at Barney's all day and hang with celebrities?" So classes 2 and 3 usually has around 20-25 students.

What are the three most important things your students learn?

1. That being a stylist isn't as glamorous as you might think -- it's really hard work.

2. As as stylist you are running your own business. Business comes before art. If you aren't business savvy you aren't going to make it very far.

3. You have to work your way up to the top. Paying your dues as an intern/ assistant comes with the territory in the styling world.

Who are some of your noteworthy grads and where have they worked?

We have so many amazing success stories! Our grads have gone on to work for the top stylists in the industry and some have paved their own way as key stylists. A bunch of our grads worked with stylist B. Akerlund on the Super Bowl Halftime Show with Madonna, Cee-Lo and MIA. They have worked with Kanye West's stylist, Kim Kardashian's stylist, Johnny Wujek who works with Katy Perry and the list goes on. Brady Joy Smith is a one of our grads who works as a key stylist in New York. Her work has been published in Elle, Nylon and Harper's Bazaar.

What made you decide to take SoS on the road?

After years of requests to visit cities outside of LA and NYC we decided, what the heck, why not experiment. We choose a cities who clearly have a love for fashion and ones that have opportunities for employment. We didn't want to pop into cities only to tell our students they'd have to move to LA or NYC to find work.

What's been the response/turnout?

The response has been pretty good. Obviously it takes some time to really make your mark in a new city but the seats have been full so there is clearly a demand for more fashion in these cities.

How are you promoting it?

Good old fashioned social media and word of mouth.

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Quia Querisma is a digital marketer by day, freelance writer by night, and a traveler by nature. Get her latest insights on travel and fashion on her blog, MyJetSetStyle.com.