We sat down with Chicago stylist and freelance designer Hannah Blank at Limitless Coffee in the Chicago West Loop. Her creativity showed with her trendy sunglasses, vintage purse, and silk blouse which she found at a thrift store in Chicago. She brought copies of The IN Mag, a Chicago based magazine, where Hannah is in charge of the visuals, graphics, and layout. Hannah shared with us both the challenges and best parts of being a stylist, freelancer, and designer.
Tell us about your background.
I am from rural Iowa and grew up in a small town. I was isolated, but my dad worked for Meredith Better Homes and Gardens, so I would visit him at work and go to the test garden. I loved the space, and I was always looking at slides of plants and then saw them in the garden, which sparked my interest in both product and print. Now I am a freelance graphic designer, stylist, and co-produce of The IN mag. I love both personal and editorial styling. I can’t pick between the two because I like the variety of projects and differences between them. At The IN Mag we really try to be ahead of the trend, not be in trend. We were Lil Miquela’s first magazine cover. I saw her on Instagram in May 2017 and thought it was cool.
How did you get started working at The IN Mag?
I started with them about a year and a half after I graduated. I meet Isis, the founder at a Glossier event in Chicago. This is when Glossier was first launched. I loved Into the Gloss and was so excited when they launched a product. I showed up with a bunch of magazines in my bag, and I had some of my graphics printed. I met Isis and told her I loved her work and magazine. At that time, she had a lot of content, but did not have a graphic designer to put it together. She hired me to do the layout of the next print. Immediately I was put in charge of the layout for 100 pages in 30 days. Right now, there are three of us that work on the magazine, me, Isis, and photographer Hannah Siegfried.
How did you get started freelancing?
When I started assisting a stylist I got into freelance. I knew I wanted to travel and work on projects I really love. I wanted to do the things that require a lot of flexibility. I wanted clients that would allow me to do things on my schedule. I’ve done styling and graphic design for multiple magazines now. I have learned that press does not always equal money, but I really want to grow and develop artistic skills and styling. I enjoy doing work for an up-and-coming individuals. I have been able to do a lot of artist styling and long-term styling projects. I remember when Lupita Nyong’o became very noticed in 2014 and she had a lot of press leading up to the Oscars. She always looked amazing, and I would love to be the stylist behind that and be proud to help someone always look their best. I am always setting goals for freelance and styling, but I do not always know the next step.
Do you have a favorite project?
This coming issue one of the covers will be Ravyn Lenae who is a singer in Chicago. I produced and styled her. I think it is my best work so far, so I am excited for that work to come out. I get really excited about producing and styling visuals and sharing those with the world. I know the industry is very saturated, but I love doing it.
How have you been able to find all these freelance and styling opportunities?
Maintaining relationships have been how I have had these opportunities. I try to work and keep my head down. My advice would be to go to events and network to have a freelance career.
Have you ever wanted to do something else instead of Freelance?
When I graduated from college I had a communications degree and the ability to do something very financially stable, but I really wanted to style and so I took a risk and interned. It was the best decision I made. I love being able to focus on projects I really enjoy.
What is the hardest part of being a stylist?
As a stylist, I often learn about people’s darkest insecurities and have to help them overcome them. Even if I do what is asked of me, I have to learn to make people comfortable in what they wear, which can be challenging.
Are you worried about the direction print magazines are going?
Print is folding, but I think eventually going offline will become a trend. A lot of specialty magazines are doing well. That’s why we exist. Our generation of people decided to make space for themselves, the purpose of The IN Mag is to make more space for creatives of all kind. People read online more now, but there is a history to holding a magazine, which I think people will always enjoy.
What does it mean to you to be powerful?
I find my power in logging off and taking time for learning about the subjects I am interested in. My friend is getting her masters at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I go with her to the library and just check out a bunch of magazines. I also love going to the Broadway antiques market on the North Side and just look at old photographs. So much of my work involves me being plugged into my laptop and social media all day. As a creative I think it is important to find a time to be creative for myself. I feel powerful when I feel full circle moments happening.