Tanya Ganas on breaking the barriers of style and fashion
To smash the stereotypes and rewrite the narrative around disability, in connection to fashion and style, is the objective of ‘Style Aide’, an inspiring new fashion styling service, that has recently launched in Melbourne. Style Aide is the first of its kind here in Australia, in terms of ‘disability fashion styling’. “It’s an area that many in the fashion industry view as ‘challenging territory’. This sort of attitude though is the real disability,” head stylist and founder, Tanya Ganas, told Neos Kosmos in an interview about the launch of her exciting new project that responds to the frustrations and challenges experienced by people with disability when shopping for stylish clothes.
She was already working in food styling, an intensive and creative job which had her travelling the globe for photo shoots and TV commercials when her course changed “purely by serendipity” 15 years ago through a chance meeting with Lyn Preston, a personal stylist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry.
Together, Ms Preston and Ms Ganas created a unique styling service, ‘Style Genies’ in 2005. “We made a great team. She had the wisdom and I had my finger on the pulse,” Ms Ganas said.
They held workshops in their studio in Hawthorn, where they had all these amazing clothes and they would do these little makeovers on stage. The clients would see the transformation right before their eyes. “That’s when I realised that what excites me so much about this work is this transformation. To see a person going from low confidence to feeling really good and confident,” she said.
There is actually a science behind that, she tells us. It is called ‘enclothed cognition’, a term coined by Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky in their experiment from 2012. This actually proved the effect which clothing has upon a person’s mental process and the way they think, feel, and function, in areas like attention, confidence, or abstract thinking. So not only does what you wear impact the perception of those you meet, but it actually enhances how you feel about yourself.
Tanya Ganas, head stylist and founder of Style Aide wants to rewrite the narrative around fashion and disability. She hopes that in the future there are more stylish adaptive options. “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’.” Photo: Demi Kromidellis
Kindness, compassion and true beauty
“Style Aide has been in my heart for a long time,” Ms Ganas said.
“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.
“During the lockdown when we were in the absolute peak of it, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do coming out of COVID, as the retail landscape was going to look very different. So, I started thinking about going back to what I have always done, which is personal styling. And somehow everything came together and I knew that I wanted to do something to help people with disabilities. For me smashing the stereotypes is a big thing. I want people to understand that just because you have a disability it does not have to have any bearing on your sense of style at all.”
There is this misconception out there that people with disabilities aren’t that interested in fashion, Ms Ganas explains, and why would they when they have all these other pressing issues. But that is not the case at all.
And what better way to inspire her daughters? Ms Ganas wanted to be that change, to show her girls that diversity is a celebration. “We are living in times where visual culture is everything. And I thought that I need to teach my girls that there is no such thing as perfect. True beauty comes from kindness and compassion.”
Options for people with disabilities
As she started doing her research she found out that one in five Australians have a disability! From her days in retail Ms Ganas recalls that stores usually had a changing room dedicated for people with disabilities. “However where are the options for these people? Do the clothes come on and off easily, do they have seams in the sensitive areas? Who is thinking and designing for these people?”
This led to more questions and she uncovered a whole world of who is doing what. However, what she found interesting is that there are probably more options in clothing for our pets than for people with disabilities.
“There are only a handful of cool brands with whom I have aligned myself with and I have arranged exclusive discounts for my clients”.
And as she was looking at the numbers that predicted that by 2026, the global market for adaptive fashion will be worth $400 million, she realised that it was time to change the narrative around disability and fashion.
“We need to smash those stereotypes, so we can improve the happiness, well-being and confidence of people with disabilities,” she said, adding this is an area she could help with her expertise as an industry leader.
Virtual styling overcomes limitations
As pandemic restrictions are making it even harder for people with disabilities to access stores, it seems that the time is right to launch a service like this, that would facilitate them, give them options, and have someone do the research.
“I think that it is a service that is desperately needed,” Ms Ganas said, adding that she has also started doing virtual styling with her clients. This is a fairly new concept and though she was a little apprehensive at first, as styling is such a hands-on service, she absolutely loves it now.
“I find it a wonderful way to demonstrate all my styling tips and tricks using examples from my own wardrobe! Not only does it allow me to continue working through lockdown, it also allows those who aren’t logistically able to meet with me, to have a one-on-one consultation via Zoom in the comfort of their home,” she said.
Ms Ganas also shops for her clients on a platform called Shopshare, which allows her to create guided online shopping videos curated exclusively for her clients.
“We need to shop less”
“What have you learnt from the fashion industry, from so many years in this business?” we ask her.
“We need to shop less. A good stylist will actually encourage the client to have fewer clothes and more pieces that are timeless, so that those clothes stand the distance of time,” she said.
“If you are a smart shopper you should be investing in good quality capsule items, in neutral colours, and seasonally you can inject a few fun bits that follow the trend. That is the sort of advice we give as personal shoppers and stylists. Whereas when you walk into a shop they will usually tell you everything looks amazing and then give you that sense of urgency that will make you commit to a purchase that you will probably later regret.”
Ms Ganas has worked on both sides of the counter. As a personal stylist for years and for prestigious brands such AG as a retail assistant, and then as National Head Stylist for Scanlan Theodore, which means she understands how both worlds work.
“The difference between a stylist and a retail assistant is that the retail assistant’s main objective is to meet targets and sell product whereas a stylist is there to advocate for the client, stay on track with what the client needs, what their style objective is, their lifestyle, their personality, their budget, and base their shopping purchases on that”.
She believes there is a misconception about stylists. People believe that it is a service for the rich. That the stylist will come in and tell them to get a whole new wardrobe. This is not true. “A good stylist and what I pride myself on, is going into the home of my client, and looking at what they have there, I try to work out amongst their clothes which ones are the classics, which are on high rotation and if there are things there that are out of fashion or not flattering any more. And finally, we establish the gaps. We figure out what clothes they absolutely need to make more wardrobe combinations based on what they already have.”
The next time step is to educate her clients on 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,” she tells us. “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.”
She said seasonal trends are ‘in’ as quickly as they are ‘out’. “We need to be more conscious about our purchases because for one, it is better for the environment, as the landfills pile up. By investing in slow fashion, we do our bit for the environment, however we also need to be more conscious about where our clothes are made,” she said. “Who makes them? Is it a 12-year-old in Bali?
“We are a very materialistic society and I think we need to re-educate ourselves on ‘need’ versus ‘want’.”
Through her years in the industry, Ms Ganas has also learnt that anyone can look amazing. As long as they understand what suits them, their body shape and their colouring.
“You need to be able to work with optical allusions. I know how to make people look taller and slimmer in the way I will put their clothes together. There are certain tricks that we have.”
Her biggest dream is to rewrite the narrative around fashion and disability. She wants people to notice the person first and not the disability. What she hopes to see in the future is more stylish adaptive options and choices. “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’.”
Style Aide may also support NDIS participants who are self or plan managed. Some goals include 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.
But most importantly, Style Aide is an inclusive styling service open to all. “I am passionate about helping people express themselves through fashion, no matter where they sit on the human spectrum!”
For more information you may contact Tanya Ganas by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The experience “I loved the whole experience. She worked out what I liked and gave me a style I could do by myself, all the time,” Rhys Ballis explains. Photo: Demi KromidellisGreek Australians teenagers, Rhys Ballis and Lena Kromidellis, had a fun and inspiring styling session with Tanya Ganas of Style Aide, which they were excited to share with Neos Kosmos. They came out of it looking amazing, but most importantly feeling great, confident and excited about discovering all the ways they can express themselves as they dress on every new day.
“Tanya was nice, styling me up was fun, she’s friendly and bubbly and I was really at ease”, Rhys explains. “I loved the whole experience. She worked out what I liked and gave me a style I could do by myself, all the time. I like wearing my blazer with jeans now, I wouldn’t have done that before. I think it looks good and so do my friends. It has really inspired me to wear nice clothes and look my best. It makes me feel good.” His parents add that they noticed a huge boost in his confidence since his session with Ms Ganas, “to the point that even other people have commented. They remarked that he seems to have matured and he is more confident in his conversations with them, as well as looking very smart.” Rhys faces some challenges and anxieties that he deals with everyday, they explain. “After the experience with Ms Ganas we saw an instant change in his posture and body language.”
“Tanya from Style Aide taught Lena how to style her clothes, have fun with her clothes, and how to look fantastic in her clothes. Seeing Lena’s face sparkle with confidence during the process was absolutely worth it,” her parents state. Photo: Demi KromidellisSixteen-year-old Lena Kromidellis is equally excited about her experience with Style Aide. “I have a creative mind, I love making stories in my head. I also love dressing up. Sometimes I don’t like some clothes and how they make my skin feel. When Tanya came over I was excited and was not sure if I would look or feel good in the clothes that she would pick for me to wear. But she made in fun. I enjoyed Tanya helping me to look stylish. I felt beautiful and it gave me good vibes.” Lena has sensory issues that make it challenging to find the perfect blend of comfort fit and style, her parents explain. “We contacted Tanya from StyleAide who came to our home and taught Lena how to style her clothes, have fun with her clothes, and how to look fantastic in her clothes. Seeing Lena’s face sparkle with confidence during the process was absolutely worth it. We are now confident that the process of Lena simply getting dressed for events, for her job, or any other outing will be without hassle and more importantly without tears.”