Stylist Jerry Stafford talks about London, Paris and the magic of watchmaking

30-year veteran of the fashion and luxury industries reflects on the importance of craftsmanship in an era of fast-evolving technology

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 August, 2015, 11:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 August, 2015, 11:44pm

The creative director and stylist has worked in the fashion business for more than 25 years, having collaborated with luxury brands such as Saint Laurent, Chanel, Versace and Valentino, while being the personal style consultant to actress Tilda Swinton. His latest project sees him working with watchmaker Audemars Piguet on its women's advertising campaign.

"I moved to Paris almost 30 years ago and have been based [here] ever since. I'm originally from Bromley [in Kent, southern England] and studied French at the University of London in the mid- to late 1980s. It was the post-punk era - a time when music, fashion and film were buzzing. I became part of this fashion club that hung out at nightclubs such as the Blitz and Billy's. I met many artists who I now collaborate with, including Tilda Swinton, with whom I've worked for almost 25 years.

When I finished university, I worked on pop promos, including Sinead O'Connor's Nothing Compares 2 U video, which we shot in Paris. Because I studied French, it was a natural step to move to France. I landed a job at Première-Heure, which produces fashion-related advertising and films. I still work there as a creative director.

Over the years my role has evolved from just being a stylist. Stylists today want to have more input in what they do - it's not just about prepping clothes for advertisers. It's really a collaboration which involves artists or even filmmakers. The business has also changed - there's a demand to toe the corporate line and it can be challenging not to be influenced solely by the demands of the advertiser. The cult of the celebrity stylist is also something new, although I'm not interested in it. I'm a quieter person generally - I prefer to cultivate close relationships with clients.

Craft is becoming important in the luxury world. Within 10 years we will have 3D printing machines everywhere. There will be a second industrial revolution and brands will be banging out generic stuff. It's integral that we support this idea of craft. The arts are dying and craft is the next luxury. Handbags and shoes are not - these are things you throw away in six months. Luxury is something you don't throw away.

It's probably because of this concept that I was attracted to working with a brand such as Audemars Piguet. It celebrates true craftsmanship - I saw that when I went to its headquarters in Le Brassus [Switzerland] to see the artisans at work. I saw engravers working on the micro-mechanics of each watch - what they do is alchemical, it's magic. It reminds me of the petites mains in couture.

For the project I was approached by director Baillie Walsh, whom I have worked with many times on Saint Laurent and Versace adverts. The concept was, 'complexity revealed', so we were tasked with bringing this to life visually. There's a cerebral aspect to watches that goes beyond the surface, which was interesting to me. The idea was to project a woman - in this case Belgian model Anouck Lepere - who is obviously beautiful but there's something more behind it.

Although I'm based in Paris, London is one city I look to for inspiration. It's a hub of creativity. There's an underground there that feeds and renews the arts, whether it's fashion, photography or design. Asia interests me. There are many talents emerging in the contemporary arts scene and fashion in China and Seoul. There's a growth in design talent not just production, which will be exciting to watch in the next decade."