Jess & Hassan
Photography by Meredith Jenks
Both from LA originally, stylist Jess Willis and her partner, Art Director Hassan Rahim are now Brooklyn based. The two work on numerous projects together and continue to inspire one another on the daily.
HASSAN: I started in graphic design, but lately I have been merging interests. I am working on a lot of Art Direction for photo, music video and film too.
JESS: Recently I worked with Marie Claire and did an interesting story with InStyle that is about body form and body image, how real women view their bodies.
JESS: We have been together for over seven years, we’re both originally from LA. I grew up in Santa Monica, I had to move to Echo Park to meet all of my friends. We met in LA by going out, we were part of the same social scene and the same group of friends.
HASSAN: It’s hard to meet people in LA because everyone is so spread out, and the traffic is exactly as everyone says—it takes an hour and a half to get anywhere.
JESS: A lot of people from NY are moving out to LA. They think about getting Jeeps, putting the top down and going to the beach. But when they get there, they miss the pace of New York and end up moving right back (laughs).
HASSAN: We had these overlapping circles of friends, like a venn diagram. We were going out to parties and kept seeing each other. We were club kids.
JESS: It was a good time in LA, 2007. We eventually gravitated towards each other. I don’t remember any specific event or date. We started hanging out.
HASSAN: Two magnets slowly moving towards one another.
JESS: Neither of us went to school. These days, no one asks where you went to school in our creative industry. I was going to school for sculpture and interning at a costume house in LA where they were working with a lot of celebrities at the time, mainly Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. The company decided to send me on tour with The Black Eyed Peas. I figured out I didn’t want to do costume design. I worked under the stylist B. Åkerlund, she would come in and pull the craziest stuff, so I thought, “I want her job.” After I came back from The Black Eyed Peas tour I started to do test shoots with friends and photographers that were in LA to start building a book. Hassan built my first website.
JESS: I did a bunch of test shoots and then started picking up work.
HASSAN: She kept moving and then it happened, people started sending her jobs.
JESS: It started with a lot of assisting work. I worked on a lot of music videos. Then I decided I wanted to do commercial work after working on a shoot with Aritzia. It clicked that I wanted to focus on editorial. I knew I had to move to the east coast and that opportunity came.
HASSAN: We were in LA doing our thing as freelancers. My friend Kyle, a clothing designer and consultant for brands, asked me to do Art Direction for a large company, but I had to do a pitch for the work. So I was telling Jess, ‘oh hey I’m working on this thing’ and I didn’t even tell her what it was for, and she replied ‘oh yeah cool I am working on this other thing too.’ Both of these projects were super NDA so we wouldn’t tell each other who it was for. We were sitting next to each other for over a week not knowing what the other was working on. All of a sudden we both figured it out. We were working on the same exact thing. So we decided to pitch together. We flew out to the east coast, did our pitch, and we hadn’t even landed back in LA and we found out we got the job offer. We sat down and we looked at everything. We laid it all out on the table, here’s life if we move (laughs) and we did it. We were in Philly for a year, and now we have been in Brooklyn for a year.
I like you
JESS: We were at El Compadre on Sunset Boulevard, in LA, and we kept on saying ‘I like you’ and ‘I really like you’ over dinner.
HASSAN: When we got home I said ‘I love you’ and Jess started crying. I may have cried a little (laughs).
JESS: We understand each other’s work first hand from being in the creative business together. Sometimes you have down moments and Hassan is there to pick me back up, we both know what it’s like in this field.
HASSAN: And vice versa. It’s helpful being in the same industry. We both have the same notions and ideas of what is going on around us. Fashion, art direction, magazines, film, runway, we’re constantly talking about current events and we keep up to date together. We’re co-workers and friends. We keep on the same wavelength. We’re always having those conversations. I keep up with fashion a lot more because Jess is a stylist. I wouldn’t know what’s going on to the extent that Jess does, I love being around her and having that influence in my life. I have the insider information.
We keep on the same wavelength.
JESS: We travel well together and get inspiration from traveling. I think it’s important to be with someone that enjoys doing the same things that you do. We like all of the same extracurricular activities, like going to museums. We became friends first.
HASSAN: Setting up an apartment is draining, some people take years, we made this home our zone and got into it, so we didn’t travel for a little while—but we’re headed to Tokyo in two weeks. We exhausted ourselves with work to the point of losing brain cells. You have to take off of work.
JESS: We used to go to Berlin a lot. That was our go to place to decompress. We fell in love with the music scene.
HASSAN: I surprised Jess with a trip to Tulum, I said to her, ‘pack a swimsuit’ and didn’t tell her where we were going.
JESS: When we got to the airport our tickets said Cancun so the whole flight there I thought we were going there (laughs) very spring break.
HASSAN: I had help from a friend. We had a bungalow, we were there for seven days.
JESS: It was perfect.
I think it’s important to be with someone that enjoys doing the same things that you do.
HASSAN: We’ve worked together a multitude of times and it’s super easy.
JESS: We’ll work on decks together and the references that we pull are usually similar. We are speaking the same language without having to say words. We have similar aesthetics so it makes sense for us to work together.
HASSAN: The communication is better with Jess than with most for me. Sometimes it’s overwhelming though, we’re laying in bed and we’ll be thinking of work ideas.
We are speaking the same language without having to say words.
HASSAN: I bug Jess when I work from home. Sometimes I’ll go into agencies for work. When at home, I like to wake up at 10am then get a coffee from across the street. I wake up late and stay up late. I prefer to burn the midnight oil opposed to not rise and shine. Especially when I want to get creative work done, people aren’t usually responding back to their emails late. I could be working on music packaging, a treatment for a video, a deck, a magazine. Jess usually is home at 6 or 7pm if she’s out pulling looks.
JESS: I start my days off at the gym, I wake up and put my headphones in, respond to some emails on my walk there. I get all my energy at the gym, I come home super hyper.
HASSAN: She’ll have so many ideas.
JESS: Then depending on what I am working on, I’ll go into the city to pull clothes or make decks, same thing. I really like the days I am on set. I like prepping for jobs but I feel happiest on set. It’s fun being able to change it up and meet new people and teams.
HASSAN: I like the freedom and diversity that we have in our work.
TWP: Do you have advice on getting the work you want to be doing?
HASSAN: Even if you’re not in the same realm as say, the people getting the projects you want or the types of projects you want, you can make work that emulates where your head's at, and it can be in various mediums. I recently worked on a film for the band Wet, and it really felt like more of an art and fashion film. That was cool because it was initially a music project, but it pushes in different directions. You can change the perspective of what you have in front of you. Start producing work in the direction that you want to go in.
TWP: Advice on being in the type of relationship you want to be in?
HASSAN: Be a good listener.
JESS: Patience. There’s no rush.
JESS: Throughout our relationship there’s always been changes. Really big changes. As soon as we started dating I went on tour, and then we moved in together, and then we moved to Philly, and now New York. I like that I have my best friend to go through all of the ups and downs with.
HASSAN: Not even up and downs, it’s a speed wobble. It’s evened out, things are good. It’s nice to figure it out together as we go. I think the only time I questioned ever being in a relationship was when I was 24 years old, it wasn’t because of Jess, it was that all of my friends were single. Now they look at us like, ‘oh my god, dude, you’re so lucky.’ I’m glad I didn’t do anything stupid.
I like that I have my best friend to go through all of the ups and downs with.