By Lauren Saxe
Belle Bakst’s signature look is a pink, fluffy, what she calls muppet-like coat, because she’s never scared of color and the last thing she wants is a boring outfit. She believes in the power of a hand-written thank you note, hard work, and staying true to oneself.
This has been Bakst’s recipe for success. She recently started as the fashion assistant at Real Simple, while also working on freelance styling projects and contributing regularly to W42ST and Making it in Manhattan. Not to mention she runs her own blog Little Fashion Stylist in between it all! She moved to NYC from North Carolina in 2015, and she hasn’t stopped since. Below are her tips on what it takes to get your foot in the door of the fashion industry and keep it there, all while having a little fun along the way.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal aesthetic is very colorful and bright. I kind of dress the way that I feel, so I try really hard not to own sweatpants. I own a pair of leisure pants, if you will. I gravitate towards high and low because I was the person who was digging in Goodwill bins and I was still finding Dior, right? I was just paying a lot less. I’m also very inspired by vintage pieces. I feel like everything tends to come back and fashion is really just one giant wheel, anyway. I like to take style risks because if I don’t like it, I can just take it off!
One of the things you’ve spoken out a lot about is growing up with eye loss. Can you tell me a little bit about how that’s shaped your style and your career?
Growing up with eye loss, I was really uncomfortable in my own skin and it took me a really long time to feel comfortable enough to even show my face. I had covered half of my face with my hair. I even cut my hair specifically so it would hide my face. My mom hated that hairstyle, and looking back she was right, it looked awful. As I got more comfortable and I found my people here in New York, my friends told me that I should share my story, because people can relate. You’re not as different as you think. I’ve really come to understand that what makes you different makes you special.
I participated in a campaign with AdoreMe that challenges beauty norms and talked about my eye loss. I shared it with my following and they adored it. They told me they had no idea and that they were really inspired by it. I had so many young girls, even as young as 11 and 12, reach out to me and say, “You have know idea how much better this made me feel, because I thought I was all alone.” Which is awful. And that’s how I felt. I felt like, “I’m all alone. Nobody gets it.” When you’re a teenager you already feel that way and then when you throw in a missing eye or a missing limb, it’s just exaggerating it to the tenth degree. So it was amazing because I felt like I really had an opportunity to show people that it gets better.
How did you land your gig at Real Simple?
I had been networking for a really long time. It sounds creepy, but every time I get a magazine, I go to the masthead and I check who the current assistants are. I would always ask my friends attending events, “Would you mind taking me as your plus one? I would love to introduce myself.” That’s how I met Real Simple’s former assistant, who I had been introduced to by a friend. We hit it off right away. I took her to coffee and later when she was leaving the magazine, she told me she was looking for a new assistant and asked if I knew anyone that would be interested. And I was like, yeah, me! I would be interested! So I was really thrilled that I was able to send her my resume.
What freelance styling projects have you been a part of?
I’ve worked on commercials, assisting for celebrities, and assisting for television. I’ve spent time at NBC assisting Harrison Crite for Lance Bass. I’ve even done a vodka commercial, which was a lot of fun. I did kind of a lot of random things that day, but it was a great experience. I was touching clothing and helping models and I’ve also done a lot of assisting for editorial work, which I’ve really, really enjoyed.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I think the best part about my whole life is that it doesn’t feel like work. So I don’t think of it like, “Oh, I have to go and do this.” It’s just like, “Oh I can’t wait to go and do this!” Whether it’s at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. I don’t ever forget any appointments because I look forward to all of them. It never gets old because I know I’d be doing it anyway. I know I’d be writing a blog or helping my friend go in and find her wedding dress. And that’s what I was doing before I was working in fashion, which I really love.
What’s your one piece of advice for people trying to break into the industry?
Reach out to people that you admire and just let them know that you appreciate their work. Tell them you’d love to get to know them over coffee and that you’d love some advice if they have any. I feel like that goes a long way.