An interview with Australian Style Institute founder, Lauren Di Bartolo.
I am sitting in the newfound home of Australian Style Institute, basking in one of their sun-soaked offices. Opposite me sits Lauren Di Bartolo, founder of Australian Style Institute, Australia’s leading fashion styling courses and industry innovator. And while she’d never tell you, she’s most often regarded by our students and industry as a key force behind their success.
I manage to catch her in a brief moment – it’s been a big few months for the founder and one of Australia’s leading stylists. Lauren designed Australian Style Institute’s inspiring new campus with meticulous detail, (and in an unheard of, tight timeframe) to create the ultimate learning environment. Since its launch in May, they’ve put together some major industry events, including the inaugural Fashion Business Forum, their student Advanced Training, and an official industry launch, all to roaring success.
We chat for a couple of minutes – about what’s ahead for the day, the merits of culottes, and on the rare days when the team get out for lunch, where they like to eat in the surrounding Fitzroy streets (tip: Alimentari is the go to, this Fitzroy institution never gets old) – then we get stuck into the reason I asked for her time: how to become a personal stylist and why build a career in fashion styling?
To some, stylists seem like fashion devotees, inaccessible for the everyday person, reserved only for the wardrobes of celebrities. Lauren is quick to debunk this belief, and assures me fashion stylists come from all walks of life, with a range of fashion and creative interests that work with a wide range of clientele. There’s also far more to a professional stylist’s role than meets the eye.
And so, we discuss…
LB: Starting with the basics, what is a personal stylist?
LDB: A stylist is someone who helps tell a story visually. This can come in many forms; from helping an individual to communicate their style and what’s important to them, to creating a grand image as part of an editorial photo-shoot, a real-life installation or runway.
As stylists, it is our job to connect the designer to the person and the retailers to customers. Our role is somewhat of a creative middleman; we help connect the dots that assist people to make better decisions.
LB: So, what does a fashion stylist do?
LDB: It depends on what area of fashion styling you work in. There are vast differences between the role of a personal stylist to an editorial stylist. As a personal stylist, we help our client to develop or refine a personal style and the result is greater confidence. Personal stylists help clients overcome insecurities or uncertainties about their style (which we all have in one way or another). Understanding human behaviour when it comes to what we wear and what we buy is an important part of assisting a client.
Editorial styling sees us collaborate with other creatives to produce beautiful imagery. Behind almost every great image is a stylist. But beyond the glamour and accessories, and the actual art of styling, there is so much more that a stylist does.
We are also time and money savers! Believe it or not, that’s what we are employed for. To save client’s money, on things they won’t wear, shouldn’t wear, can’t wear, and to save clients the excess time it takes to source exactly what they are looking for.
LB: How does someone get to become a personal stylist?
LDB: Everyone on Instagram is a ‘stylist’, right!? Which is great, because we’re seeing more people engage directly with fashion and labels than ever. But that certainly doesn’t mean everyone is a stylist.
The reality is it takes a certain skill and time to refine your skill to be a professional stylist. The key to become a personal stylist is training and knowledge – the difference between a professional, and professional being the key word, is the value they can impart on those they are working with.
If you want to become a personal stylist you need to understand It takes time to build skills, and build rapport and relationships with the right people. Clients and industry are critical to becoming a professional stylist. You also need to be curious about the world, hard working, and learn to trust in your inner creative, which I think we all have, but most of us don’t nurture as adults.
LB: So then, what makes a good stylist? What is it that separates the ‘grammers’ from the professionals?
LDB: Knowing how to communicate a message. Not just your own message, but being able to communicate somebody else’s for the people it’s meant for. The skills to ensure you are able to produce a result for a client is also essential.
You have to be inherently interested in others – to want to listen to people and a want to help. I think it’s also important to be willing to be both right and wrong, while expertise matters, fashion after all is an opinion and a personal interpretation. What works for some, won’t necessarily work for others; a stylist can read the interpretation.
LB: Do you feel the perception of a personal stylist has changed in the time you have been working in the industry?
LDB: Absolutely. When I first started my career nearly 10 years ago, styling was considered akin to a limousine service – only accessible to those with robust funds for clothing; or for celebrities and executives, and people who spend their lives in front of a camera.
In the last decade, this perception has totally shifted. We’re now working with a wider variety of client, who are understanding the worth in hiring an expert to help them express their identity.
Styling can also come at a time people are at a crossroads or time of change. People are seeking the help of a professional stylist can be wanting to better their lives, interview for a new job or seek out a new relationship.
And with that, our time together is up, as Lauren is called off to a meeting with a top secret Australian retailer. It sounds like exciting things lie ahead for Australian Style Institute.