It’s impossible to not see myself in the movie scenes of The Devil Wears Prada or The Intern. In the latter, that part where Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) drives Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) around because her driver is sick — well that, ladies and gentlemen, is a slice of my life.
It’s pretty safe to say that assistants who work in the fashion industry have tasks that are pretty similar across the board — we handle our person’s schedules, pick up dry cleaning, get highly-specific Starbucks orders and are their shadows at events.
I have been lucky enough to meet wonderful people during my time in the industry. Be it others in the fashion world, or simply those who are looking in, enthralled at the businesses my person runs or at the OOTDs she pulls off.
A popular question I always get is, “How does she do it?” Does she work through the night to come up with creative ideas? Does she have a team of elves who steam every outfit to perfection or does she own a really huge bouncy castle attached to a zoo for her children so they’re never bored and always happy?
I always answer that question with a huge smile, followed by a little happy sigh and say “I really don’t know!”
But I was caught off-guard the other day when someone asked me “How do you do it?”
It’s a question that I’ve been mulling over quite often recently.
How do I do my job? How do the characters played by Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro, myself and other assistants of the world pull it off?
PERSON IN CHARGE
First of all, you have to like being in charge of someone else’s life, and it’s safe to say that I am in love my job — I get warm happy tingles when I see my person happy, healthy, in love with what she does and walking tall in her highest Louboutins.
I live a busy life — if you see candid photos of me on Instagram, you will always notice me on the phone or have one (or several) in my hand. I am usually carrying at least three bags (her bag, my bag, our extra knick-knack bag, and sometimes shopping/gift/grocery bags).
I have trained myself to be at least three steps ahead of the moment so that I can anticipate what my person needs and have it ready before she even thinks that she needs it.
When she’s living out her Tuesday, I am already planning what her Friday is going to look like. She is the first person I text in the morning and the last one I text at night (I’m so sorry, husband!). I plan my holidays around hers and even text her when I’m on a break.
Secondly, you have to understand your person to the core. My days sound hectic, but I have to live her life too. We’re always together, which means I share her emotions, her frustrations, her text messages (I am in almost all her WhatsApp groups and my phone battery goes out instantly).
I share her pain when a business decision goes wrong and her extreme happiness when it goes right. I get upset when she’s sick and I can’t do anything to make her feel better.
I try my best to be her biggest cheerleader, but if you know my person, she is her own biggest supporter #selfbeliefgamestrong
Even after a year together, I am still learning about who she is, what makes her tick and how to best organise our lives. It is a constant learning curve and I am resolved to the fact that I will never be perfect at my job. How can someone ever say that they’re perfect at helping someone else live?
We always have good days when I come home feeling producktive (see what I did there?!) and accomplished, knowing that we pulled off another seamless day of meetings, launches and Instagram posts but there are also difficult days.
It’s hard when we’re not on the same page or if our vibes just don’t seem to match on that particular day. But I try to push my own emotions and doubts aside and focus on putting hers first.
She is not always first, but sometimes I have to prioritise and somehow she usually comes up top (I’m so so so sorry husband, you’re the best!). I want to be clear and say that she never asks to be first, but it’s hard to not put your career on a pedestal.
I am still “young-ish”, I don’t have many other responsibilities and I feel that this is the time to dive headfirst into my career, to do and learn as much as I can. To grab every opportunity, every overnight business trip and every Louis Vuitton bag within my reach so I can be better at providing my person what she needs.
What I have come to learn is that for every 100 per cent I am putting into my job, my person is committing 1,000 per cent to hers. That is what pushes me to put her first. My job may seem tough but hers is even harder.
How do I wake up at 4am to catch a 7am flight after we finished a video shoot that ended at midnight? Knowing that she’s doing the same thing but she doesn’t get to see her children for the three days we’re away.
How do I not get annoyed that I have to steam and iron four different outfits before she finally decides on the one she initially chooses? When I know that she gets a lot of pressure from brands, designers and herself to sell the clothes we have on the site.
How do I feel about rubbing my sore feet after standing all day in heels? I feel perfectly fine because she’s been standing in hers for longer and they’re much higher (she needs every inch she can get).
How I do it is quite simple — it’s the respect and admiration I have for my person. We need each other. We’re Miranda (Meryl Streep) and Andy (Anne Hathaway). We’re Jules (Anne Hathaway) and Ben (Robert De Niro).
Now, Anne Hathaway. That girl has got to stop living on both sides of the fence.
THE IMANDATORY READ
As assistant to fashion icon Vivy Yusof, journalism graduate Iman Azman finds herself thrown deep into the fashion world, a universe once foreign to her. Here, she muses about her work, finding balance in life and shares what it’s like having a front row seat in the fashion industry.