What's It Like To Be A Professional Stylist? Mailye Matos López Tells All!

The styling and photography used in this article were provided by Mailye Matos López, originally for Lua Magazine.

Fashion-savvy Mailye Matos knows all about fashion, journalism, and the combination of both. In fact, she is one of the very few college professors in Puerto Rico who offers official university courses on Fashion Styling and Fashion Theory. But Mailye’s charm lies in her personal style, her innate ability as a storyteller, her positive attitude, and determination for achieving any project she sets her mind to. In fact, she’s the creator of her very own online magazine! After expressing my interest in interviewing her (massive thanks to my dear friend Laura, who introduced me to Mailye), she shared the following details as we sipped on our morning lattes at a local coffee shop.


Her Campus at UPR: Good morning! Can you talk to me about your work? How did it all start?

Mailye Matos López: I'm a fashion stylist. I do both personal styling as well as editorial styling, and I run an online magazine, Luamagazine.com. It all started, I would say, in the pre-adolescence, because my interest in fashion developed gradually thanks to magazines. This is why I studied journalism, because my intention was never to be a stylist or to be a designer. In fact, what interested me most was fashion-driven journalism, and I would tell you that alongside the influence of FTV (Fashion TV), my interest in fashion was aroused and my eye for artistic fashion editorials was sharpened. 


HC at UPR: What made you pursue a career in the fashion industry?

MML: To answer that question, I'm going to paraphrase a Chinese proverb that says, "If you do what you love, you won't work one day of your life." Precisely, styling was something that always amused me, and that allowed me to explore my creative potential. On the other hand, it also allowed me to work with photography, which I also like to do very much. At the end of the day, my job is something I really enjoy doing, because it allows me to create and tell stories.


HC at UPR: To this day, what has been your greatest achievement as a stylist? 

MML: Becoming a teacher, and being able to teach my profession aimed at all the endless applications that it has. Although the work in itself is about fashion, sometimes it's misunderstood. Not everyone understands because everyone has different notions about what fashion is. I have students who come to the class with an idea, and suddenly are surprised to learn about the different applications of fashion styling at the professional level. Being able to demonstrate the myriad possibilities that exist within the fashion styling world fulfills me. I really love it.



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HC at UPR: What is the best and most enjoyable aspect about your profession?

MML: Without a doubt, it’s to be able to tell stories.


HC at UPR: Who inspires you? Do you have any role models?

MML: Carine Roitfeld, who was the editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris for a long time. She inspires me because she is so bold. Other role models are Grace Coddington for how amazing her creative mind is, and Renata Correa; a very good Brazilian stylist who has worked for many renowned international magazines. Actually, I’d say too many people inspire me. So, really, I’m falling short by answering this question. She answered with a laugh.


HC at UPR: What's the least you like about your profession?

MML: The part I like least about my profession... well, I really don’t think there’s anything I don't like about my profession. A smile accompanied this statement.


HC at UPR: Now I'd like you to talk to me a little bit about the employment opportunities in the field of fashion styling in Puerto Rico. How easy or how difficult has it been in order to achieve your goals as a professional fashion stylist here on the island?  

MML: Oof, it is extremely difficult to practice this profession in Puerto Rico. Well, it really depends on what your approach or your vision about fashion is. Here on the island, the concept of fashion itself is very young. As a matter of fact,  Puerto Rico fashion tends to be associated mainly with beauty pageants. So, if your aspiration as a stylist leans towards pageantry, you can have a lot of professional success in Puerto Rico. Similarly, it's very likely that you won't face as many challenges, considering the fact that it’s literally the establishment. If your vision is geared towards creating stories or appealing to the international public, you would be better off by working outside the island. This is why I do personal styling, because, from this point of view, I can live on it without having to worry about the creative part. This aspect, at the local level, is not highly valued because the Puerto Rican notion of fashion is very close-minded. 



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HC at UPR: What made you specialize in personal fashion styling?

MML: Precisely, my desire to stay in Puerto Rico. Also, my work is really satisfying to the extent that my clients turn out happy and understand what works for them, and they actually acquire the right tools to show their strengths in terms of physical attributes and personal style. As much as beauty standards are talked about, when we know our bodies and work according to what it offers us, we are empowered.


HC at UPR: Can you give us some insight on some of your current projects?

MML: Right now, I'm working on Lua Magazine. The time I have is not enough, because being a college professor takes a lot of it. Additionally, I do a lot of freelancing jobs, but my main focus is Luamagazine. Currently, I am working on an edition on the subject of identity and all its aspects, such as race and gender, among others. So I'm working on that: a lot of fashion-oriented writing. After all, I did study journalism. I really want to keep shaping Lua, since this magazine is barely a year old; so I actually compare it to a baby- my baby (laughs). I am also working to set up the system so that I can engage with other colleagues for professional collaborations.


HC at UPR: Finally, what advice would you offer to young people who are interested in becoming fashion stylists?



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MML: First and foremost, do a lot of research so that you have many sources and not have a closed mind about what the fashion industry is; so that you know that the possibilities within this field are endless. And, of course, one can only know all these possibilities if properly informed. In addition, I advise you not to get carried away only by what you see or read on the internet. Don't compromise your vision, and practice often. At the end of the day, it is this work that will help you create a style and evolve as a professional within this field. Finally, don't let your creative actions be dictated by social media,  considering the fact that, when used excessively, it can actually cause you to lose your creativity and compromise your vision; two elements that are, in my opinion, non-negotiable. 


Here's to following your dreams! This advice is rich and wonderful. I hope it inspires many of you.