Words and Photography by Nicholas Pankratz

When one thinks of the fashion industry, there is a tendency to think that the only jobs are designer and model. However, there are heaps of jobs and positions within the industry that allow for further creativity and application of stylistic knowledge. Bob James Rushatsi is a Ready to Wear Stylist, an in-studio position that consists of creating outfits for an upscale e-commerce platform dedicated to selling luxury clothing and accessories.

Bob James Rushatsi poses for a picture at his downtown Montreal office. Photo by Nicholas Pankratz.

Rushatsi’s typical day begins with him entering the studio, where after receiving a shipment of clothing and accessories, he then has two days to take the clothes and decide how he will be styling them for the website. The ultimate goal of styling is to create a feeling or theme separate from the realm of clothing. Using clothes and accessories from different designers allows the stylist to play with different looks to create something fluid and dynamic. The first day consists of meetings with the styling director who explains the direction of each brand and how looks should be put together to maintain the designer’s preferred aesthetic. Rushatsi then has until five that evening to create the looks for the website using the items assigned to him.

Even though Rushatsi has all day to complete his looks, he says it often doesn’t take that long. “When I’m inspired and I know what I’m doing, I can easily finish in the early afternoon,” he said. “Some days I’m definitely out of the office by 2pm. However, when I’m a bit more skeptical about the approach I am taking for a brand, I can definitely stay way past 5pm.”

After Rushatsi finishes his day-one tasks, he moves on to his day-two duties, where all his looks are shot in the studio. While it may seem straightforward enough, the thought and idea that goes into each look differs immensely. “I love to draw inspirations from non-fashion materials,” said Rushatsi. Anything from the concrete walls of a modern home to a stream trickling through a forest can be reinterpreted by and presented through the medium of clothing. “Every stylist has a different way to approach their job, but I like to build a character, so I always approach my brands with references I have from outside such as movies, tv series and even books or essays.”

Once Rushatsi has settled on his inspiration of the day, he uses it to push stylistic boundaries to get the most out of the main piece of clothing as possible. Many brands have a strong heritage as well as a resonance with certain people, so as a stylist he has to make sure that image prevails. While Rushatsi has his model in the studio, he has to choose what kind of aesthetic he will try to portray.  Whether it’s the slim fitted pinstripe seriousness of the Thom Browne-wearing businessman or the chic and intricate Margiela vibe of a Parisian gallery owner.  

Bob James Rushatsi prepares a model during a photo shoot at his company’s studio. Photo courtesy of Bob James Rushatsi.

Even when the situation isn’t as rich with inspiration, Rushatsi still has to make it work. “Sometimes I get to style very innovative and interesting brands, so it is interesting to not only contextualize them within the [company’s] frame but also keep them relevant,” said Rushatsi. “But sometimes I work with brands that completely uninspire me, yet I have to bring the same level of energy.”

Over the years, Rushatsi has harnessed his skills by styling with his friends. They would spend days thrifting for clothes, styling them and shooting looks for fun. Slowly, Rushatsi began to take styling more seriously, and started creating a portfolio and picked up assistant positions in the same field, freelancing for studios. Last summer, Rushatsi had the opportunity to take a Fashion Communications course at the coveted Central Saint Martins in London, which provided him with a better understanding of the fashion industry. “They teach you a lot of different things about fashion as a creative industry but also as a business,” said Rushatsi.  

There are many things that make a brand desirable and unique, and through his work Rushatsi explores the contrasting ideas of how he styles others compared to how he dresses himself. Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester and Haider Ackermann are just a few brands that Rushatsi enjoys to style because they relate to his own aesthetic. “I really love how contemporary yet romantically gothic Sebastien Meunier’s design for Ann Demeulemeester designs are,” said Rushatsi. “There is something timeless and elegant yet sexy to his approach on design.”

With regards to Rick Owens, Rushatsi loves “how pronounced yet inconspicuous his designs are. His strong aesthetic prevents the need for obvious, and sometimes obstructing, labeling.” With Haider Ackermann, “there is a certain ease yet luxurious feeling to his design,” said Rushatsi. “There is also something strong and sensual, almost commanding, about his design for women. I think I like subtle but very strong pieces, pieces that say a lot without being cumbersome.”

With so many different approaches and influence available, stylists can curate looks fitted to a designer’s niche, while at the same time respecting and maintaining the heritage of the brand being styled. Rushatsi is one of many in the industry who use their expertise and intuition to create ensembles that embody more than just clothing on a model, but guides and creates an aesthetic for the online customer.