Interview with: STYLE AIDE
Style Aide is a personal fashion styling service that empowers people with disability to feel confident in themselves and in making independent decisions when dressing and buying clothing.
We chatted to Style Aide’s Tanya to find out a little bit more about her and the service she’s offering.
Tell us a bit about yourself and style aide and why a service like Style Aide is needed
I’m a self-confessed dance floor starter, wifey, mamma of two and boss lady of Style Aide, a unique personal styling and shopping service for individuals with disability.
I began my career in 2005 as a food stylist, but a chance meeting with an international fashion stylist inspired me to pursue a career in fashion. I have worked as both a freelance personal stylist and for some of Melbourne’s most prestigious fashion brands such as TL Wood, Arthur Galan and most recently as the National Head Stylist for Scanlan Theodore. Having worked on both sides of the counter, I witnessed first hand the frustrations and challenges experienced by individuals with disability. With my eldest daughter being wonderfully neuro-divergent, I felt a calling to help make a difference to the lives of others through fashion.
Style Aide sets to smash stereo-types and rewrite the narrative around disability and fashion. With 1 in 5 Australians having a disability, we need to celebrate diversity in our community instead of stigmatizing it. I believe that fashion breaks down the barrier that disability creates. I also believe that disability has no bearing on your sense of style!
Who are your style icons?
Anyone who celebrates who they are, I love individualism!
My favorite style Icon from the past would be Jane Birkin, for her effortless style. I also love Alexa Chung, I just think she is the epitome of cool!
What is the number one item you think every person should have in their wardrobe?
Without sounding prescriptive, I would say the number one item to have in your wardrobe is a stylish Blazer as it instantly elevates any look. A good tailor can cleverly adapt one too, if need be!
What are some styling challenges your clients may commonly face and what features do you commonly look for in clothing when styling your clients?
My clients are the experts of their needs, my job is to help find stylish solutions!
I always consider function as much as fashion when curating a client’s wardrobe.
For clients with sensory issues, fabric choice is a big consideration, nothing too itchy usually. For sensory seekers, tactile fabric options are preferable. The fit and feel of a garment is really important, usually nothing tight around the neck or waist but again it depends on the client. Compression undergarments can really help reduce anxiety and seamless options are often requested, particularly seamless socks! Care labels are usually unpicked and removed, and some clients prefer soft or muted colour palettes over bright bold ones.
For seated body types, accessibility is a priority so open back tops and side-opening pants are essential. For comfort, elasticated waistbands and soft flat seams are important when in a seated position for long periods of time. Pocket placement and pant length is another priority, including the length of the rise to avoid back exposure. Styles that allow clients to transfer easily and skirts that don’t have excess fabric around the legs are also a consideration. Shorter jacket styles and front fastening tops are also commonly requested from my clients.
I tend to choose natural fibers over synthetics for breathability and non-crease fabrics to minimize ironing. Loops on socks and zippers, Velcro fastenings, hooks and magnetic buttons & zips assist my clients with dexterity issues.
Once the wardrobe has been curated with stylish, comfortable pieces, I educate my clients how to ‘dress the clothes’ which is the secret to good styling! Looking stylish is not only about what we wear, but how we wear it. I like to create a visual look book for my clients, which catalogues each outfit we create together. I find this helps reduce anxiety around what to wear and is especially helpful for those who experience decision fatigue. Devising simple solutions like this is what makes the job fun, interesting and very fulfilling.
Other areas that Style Aide may assist is helping clients prepare for interviews, understand appropriate choices for different activities and settings, skill development in grooming and personal hygiene, wardrobe budgeting and planning skills and social participation through shopping tours. Virtual Styling sessions are also available for clients who are outside of Melbourne. Style Aide can also support clients who are self or plan managed through NDIS.
How do you get to know your client's individual style before you help them select clothes?
The client completes a questionnaire, which tells me a little about their personality, lifestyle, budget and any style struggles they may be experiencing. It's crucial to understand the clients needs and clearly define their objective before we start our session, so we are both on the same page. A client’s existing wardrobe is very telling and gives me an indication of what they are drawn to. We sometimes create a Pinterest board together, particularly if we are exploring a new style direction. I also use my intuition and take inspiration from the client’s interests, hobbies and choices in music!
What would you love to see in the future from Australian fashion labels to assist your clients?
More stylish adaptive options and choices please!! It doesn’t have to be an extensive range, just something that says “we see you, you’re important to us and we want to serve your needs”.
Australian labels need to be more inclusive for people with disability, from a retail perspective, store layout, staff training and representation in marketing campaigns would be a great starting point. Quiet hour and sensory friendly shopping experiences need to be part of the conversation too!
Above all I would love everyone, no matter where they sit on the human spectrum to experience an enjoyable customer experience when shopping!!