Shiona Turini is bold. When she wanted a job in fashion, she walked into YSL and asked for one.
Shiona got what she wanted. After an internship, she served on the PR team at YSL for three years before moving on to jobs at magazines like W, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan, then moving into consulting and styling.
Today, Shiona is the costume designer for the hit HBO show Insecure (dream job, right?), among an already-impressive resume filled with clients like SZA, Nike, and New York Magazine. Oh, and she was also a stylist on Beyoncé’s Formation music video in 2016. Casual.
Below, she talks the difference between fashion and costume styling, her aesthetic, and what she wants to change about the industry.
How did you get your start in the fashion world?
I showed up at the doorsteps of YSL one day with little notice and stalked the girls there until they gave me an internship. To be honest, my real entry was my knowledge and passion. YSL was the first major house to put a black model on the runway. I admired the history and heritage of the house as well as its foresight; it made me work ten times harder to be there and appreciative of every opportunity I had. After interning, I was asked to join the PR team and gladly obliged.
You went from a fashion editor to having your own consulting business, and now you’ve stepped into the world of costume design. What inspired you switch paths throughout your career?
I’ve been extremely privileged to be able to follow my passion for storytelling with clothing across a few fields. While every title comes with different process, my responsibility remains the same in a sense. As an editor, I worked closely with brands and oversaw the fashion and accessories market at a few incredible publications I was able to learn from really innovative stylists, and was also given the opportunity to produce content. Consulting and freelance styling was a logical next step. I saw the industry changing, I was evolving as a person, and I wanted to be in greater control of my own path. I got to marry my understanding of brand needs with my passion for creating beautiful videos and images, while still styling music videos, commercials and some red carpet. My venture into costume designing came out of my genuine love for TV and changing tides in the fashion industry. It wasn’t a planned path, but when the opportunity presented itself - it felt like the right next chapter. Still, in all spheres, I find myself asking the same storytelling questions for characters and editorials: what is the backstory, who is this girl/ character, what inspires them and what is their aesthetic?
Your Instagram is a hub of fashion inspiration. How would you describe your aesthetic?
Once an editor, always an editor. I use the same careful consideration I comb through my work with to curate my grid. When it comes to my personal style, I definitely have a recognizable M.O.: catch me in a flowy skirt or high waisted pant, and never not a crop top. I love to sprinkle in a great shoe pic - the previous accessories editor in me insists. Also, as someone who loves travel, I want my page to be reflective of the amazing experiences I've had all around the world. Ultimately, it's all about balancing bright colors and mixing two of my favorite things: fashion and travel - all cohered by rap lyrics in my captions because that's what feels most natural to me.
How does being a costume designer for television differ from everyday styling?
So much of that depends on the job, the character and the script. What I have loved so much about costume designing is being a part of the character development and evolution of a person on screen. Both have a creative root and aim to make the person or character look like the best version of themselves. But costume designing is much more real. There is no retouching, you have to be so detail oriented in the process - how will this fabric move, how will it sound, how will it react day 3 of shooting? How does it play with the other characters and how will it look in changing environments? Depending on action, we may need multiples of a look and everything, must be fit to perfection, especially for principal characters - there is no clipping or editing in post. It’s quite a different approach but it’s all about finding the best options that work for each character. The pace is also considerably different - with costume designing, there are so many elements, moving storylines, and bodies to dress to meet one vision that it is a lot more intense, and it's all about tempered fantasy. While with editorial you're almost encouraged to play up the extravagance in fashion, the costume designing I have been a part of so far is about the balance of fantasy, TV magic and reality.
What do you think people crave when they get dressed in the morning?
People want to feel like the best version of themselves and comfortable in their own skin. Style is intrinsically linked to this!
What should every woman have in her wardrobe?
A well-tailored suit. It’s a classic professional look and can be broken up into separates. The ultimate multi-tasker in your wardrobe.
What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?
On a lot of my projects, I'm given complete autonomy to create. Being able to exercise my creative muscle daily is truly fulfilling—something I don't take for granted.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
"It's just fashion."
What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?
Going freelance and realizing that I can transform my name into a business that people gravitate to has been a highlight. I was linked to large corporations for a large portion of my career, so stepping outside of that was really daunting, but I'm finding that the successes and challenges in creating on my own or alongside others (fashion houses, editorial hubs, etc.) from my perspective and knowledge are one and the same.
Where does your passion/drive come from?
My passion and drive, especially in fashion, come from a deep-seated respect for those who came before me and the roads they've paved, and knowing that is is a privilege to be able to do what I do for a living. It all makes me even more motivated to achieve my goals and set new standards.
Whose career really inspires you?
Patti Wilson. June Ambrose. Misa Hylton.
Whose style inspires you?
Diana Ross is my number one style icon. She's bold and unapologetically fabulous. Mahogany is one of my favorite movies - She's a vision in bold colors and dramatic flair. I also have the pleasure of working and collaborating with Melina Matsoukas. She has an incredible sense of style and vision; her finger is on the pulse of the upcoming and new and she isn't afraid to take risks with fashion.
What has been your biggest opportunity or biggest challenge?
My biggest opportunities are often my biggest challenges. When I was approached by the team at HBO to costume design for Insecure, the prospect was both exciting and intimidating. I had never worked in TV before and was jumping in mid-season all while relocating and managing several other projects. It helped to mentally change the frame. To approach the position not as a challenge, but an opportunity to learn and grow outside of my field.
What are the common challenges you've seen among women in the fashion industry?
What I really love about the industry is that I get to work and surround myself with strong female voices and opinions from all different walks of life. Still, I do not see as many women of color in these spaces as I should. I do not think that black women and minorities are given as many opportunities in these spaces. It's quite frustrating because we know the value of having different voices at the proverbial table; the lack of diversity is a disservice to the industry.
What would you change about the fashion industry if you could?
Even with as many internal issues as the fashion industry has, I would change the perception of it to the outside world. Someone, please get us a PR agency! More than anything, we're a group of (mostly) forward-thinking doers and have a lot to share and teach. It's refreshing to see now that music, art and tech, (industries people are taken seriously for years) are becoming larger, more vocal components of fashion. I think that's a reflection of outsiders beginning to understand the value of what we do and how various fields can have a symbiotic relationship with us.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road + switch gears to find success?
Finding new roads is all about getting out of your comfort zone - saying ‘yes’ to opportunities that aren’t necessarily in your wheelhouse, and being open to learning. There’s an illusion in many industries that everyone knows what they’re doing. Sometimes, you have to trust that even without past experience, you can figure it out. Before Insecure, I’d never costume designed but I trusted myself to take my knowledge of the industry to the department and I’ll never look back.
What’s next for you? What are you most excited for in 2019?
I’m currently the costume designer for Queen and Slim, a movie written by Lena Waithe, and directed by Melina Matsoukas. I’m excited to work under these women and watch it all come to life.