The NOT NEW 'Ask & Aperitif' feature is an opportunity to sit down with some wonderful women and ask them questions on life, fashion, their careers and what inspires them. A moment to listen and learn, over an aperitif, and an occasional boujee fry...
Between her stylist appointments, successful talk events, international client meetings and being a full time mama, Lou Heller found the time to meet with us and talk trends, the resale market and how her thriving career as Stylist began on a farm, in a strawberry print dress...
Location: Eliza's Manor
We drank: Something warm and comforting
NOT NEW: What is it about the fashion world which appealed to you & prompted your career in styling?
Lou: Interestingly enough I think it all started from a dress that I had as a four-year-old. My mum brought a photo of me wearing it when she came down recently with my daughter. It was a white dress with big puffy sleeves, it had rouching around the chest and had a cartoonish strawberry print on it and on the sleeves too. I lived in this dress, and I think tried to wear it until I was 12 but at some point, I had to get rid of it...my parents said it was pretty murky by that time! I always remember though the feeling that dress gave to me, a feeling of fun and excitement that made me feel free within myself. Growing up on a farm and having that farming background you are socially conditioned in a way to feel like you are not supposed to be this or that but even as a four year old I had dreams and whimsical fashion aspirations that I would lose myself in…I used to run down to the post box when mum’s EziBuy catalogue arrived and race upstairs and cut out pictures from it, holding on to the feeling of what they gave me. I would recreate looks like make stirrup pants out of my tracksuit pants and staple on fabric etc…so as a country kid the idea that I could be a stylist or have a job in fashion or anything like that, seemed to me so way out of my realm, I didn’t even know that something like what I do now could ever be imagined or indeed be a reality for me.
The way that I feel in my clothing today still represents the strawberry dress. It’s a feeling of being free, it’s a feeling of I don’t care what I wear as long as I feel amazing in it. Everything in my wardrobe represents me and I don’t hate anything in there, I love every piece because I still chase that feeling of the non- boredom, that flirtatious fun freedom. And there are some brands that still represent that feeling of the dress to me…such as Aje, an Australian brand, it makes me feel like I did in the strawberry dress, and that really is all I am trying to do for people, pass on that feeling.
I don’t have a background in fashion or styling I have a background in creativity. I wasn’t a very scholastic child, and I am not saying it was anyone’s fault, but when I was at school it seemed if you weren’t good at maths or science then you were kinda screwed. I was highly creative, I was an artist, a musician, but those talents were downplayed as not being ‘intelligent’. After school I channelled my creativity into floristry. I had my own florist business for years. My mum’s background is horticulture, her mum was a florist for the local dairy farms of Taranaki and then went on to grow orchids for the international markets, my mum now owns a garden centre and her sister was also a florist and so it was the natural way to go…I did want to be an architect when I was growing up but was told I couldn’t do that as I wasn’t good at maths so thought bugger it!
So, I have always been interested in fashion but like I said, being a country kid, I couldn’t even imagine how I would get into it, so I dulled down my dreams. But the thing I realised was, I was actually already doing it (styling). I was always helping friends with their outfits, getting them ready for dances etc, it was very natural to me. And I still do that to this day…but now I get paid to do it!
So, I feel that I have gone on a full journey back to fashion. I haven’t done a course in it, but I instinctively know this stuff and really it comes back to what am I good at? Shopping, teaching people, showing others how to shop….my business has grown from being able to show people how to get the best out of their wardrobes and to enjoy clothes, and to love how they can make you feel.
NOT NEW: How do you encourage your clients to take a chance and step out of their comfort zone & explore or play with their style?
Lou: My first port of call is always to allow them to feel like ‘them’ and there are ways that I do that with my clients around the visualisation of how they truly are ‘within’. So, my first job is almost to give them permission to be who they really want to be, shop where they really want to shop and start to begin that journey of buying the clothes that make them feel the best version of themselves. We have a good look through their wardrobe and identify which pieces in there really connect with that and which don’t and remove those pieces that don’t work for them. Then I teach them how to go out and shop pieces that represent the person they want to be, and I go shopping with them and support and guide this process.
Honestly, it’s a total journey and it’s like therapy in the wardrobe! And people don’t understand that necessarily until they do the work with me one to one or they come to one of my talks and realise, shit, this isn’t just a ‘style’ talk this is really something I need and want to address in my life.
NOT NEW: What is the most memorable of your looks which you have achieved for a client and why?
Lou: So many! Probably one that would stand out, and I talk about this one at my talks, is a beautiful client of mine, who wanted to feel svelte, refined, sexy…not ‘overtly sexy’ just feminine, there really is a wrong stigma around the word ‘sexy’, it’s been ‘man’ualised totally. But she was feeling frumpy and trying to hide herself by wearing oversized linen and sacky tent stuff which was actually making her look bigger. Once we got in the wardrobe, we removed a lot. She did have pieces in there that would make her feel svelte etc but they were covered up. We removed about 80 pieces into a big pile, and I like my clients to say goodbye to the pile, and she did with a big sob. We then went shopping and bought stuff that would fit with those pieces in her wardrobe and made something like 80 new outfits out of the pieces we bought and that she already had in her wardrobe. And everything now in her wardrobe gives her the exact feeling of the vision that she created, and her mind was blown! She still messages me and says, I am doing this on my own now and look at the outfit I made today! And that is so cool to me, it’s why I do what I do.
It’s really showing the good that they have already in their wardrobe, they are not wrong in many of their choices. Women go shopping to fill a need, it’s the quick gratification, the serotonin, this will ‘fix me’ feeling, the swipe of the card and then often those pieces don’t get worn and so its re-connecting with those pieces to remember why you loved them. And there’s nothing wrong in getting rid of things that you haven’t had for long. I rotate my wardrobe every six weeks. We are always evolving, and our wardrobes need to reflect that. Otherwise, you get five years down the track and realise you haven’t evolved and nor has your wardrobe…
NOT NEW: What constitutes a positive working relationship with clients?
Lou: It’s the openness between them and I…so they are ready to learn and potentially ‘undo’ some things. It’s like when you go to a hairdresser and you tell them everything, I am that person too, I am 100% there for them.
There is no judgement. I want them to feel like they are allowed to express any emotion that comes up as part of this process as I am there for them, listening and supporting.
I want to provide a place where they can feel like them, we all deserve that.
NOT NEW: What steps do you take to protect your physical and mental health as you juggle travel around the country with Style sessions and motherhood?
Lou: Yes well! I meditate sometimes three times a day. I often go to sleep listening to a meditation, Insight Timer is an amazing app, it’s lifesaving really, because my brain is constantly on. I wake up and I have emails to deal with and clients to contact and then I work all day. I am someone who does connect and check in with my gut to keep myself grounded and daily will take a moment to breath and regroup. Exercise for me is a big one. Although it can be a negative for me too, as I am just running on my adrenaline, and it’s almost like my body is fighting it. So I need to change it up sometimes and instead of doing weights and running, I do gentle walks instead. I do try and do some form of exercise five to six days a week. I eat well so that I nourish my gut which helps me to be more in tune with it.
NOT NEW: How would we spot Lou Heller styling? -Tell us about your Signature Style.
Lou: That’s so funny you said that cause I literally just talked about this before at my meeting and I always talk about this with my clients. ‘Chameleon’ is the word what comes to mind. I don’t feel I am someone who would stick to one style, like boho, or country, that’s never been me. I guess what’s never changed though in my daily life, is that I am fun, but refined and playful and bold. And that’s what sums up my new website…soon to be launched so watch this space…!
NOT NEW: What should every lady have in their wardrobe?
Lou: Oooh that’s a very good question! I actually want to go with a pair of shoes that would kick up any outfit that they went with…so yes, a sexy pair of heels or shoes that you could work with jeans or a dress or a singlet and a pair of shorts, in a bright or a gold. The next thing would be a decent mascara or a decent lippie that would be able to elevate a plain t-shirt or a pair of jeans and also maybe some accessory that would again elevate any part of your day, like lunch with girlfriends or out for a dinner date, oh and a dream pair of jeans!
NOT NEW: Where do you see the place of resale in the fashion industry?
Lou: Good question, massive, huge! I think what we’re starting to understand is that buying second hand is not wrong and stinky, or just old people’s stuff! If something doesn’t resonate with you in your wardrobe, you can sell it or pass it on to a friend, the less we buy the less will be produced. The potential to sell and earn from our wardrobe is great, and then if you want to buy something you won’t have the guilt from buying something new to you! I feel that women place a lot of guilt on buying new all the time, buying second hand almost gives you the permission, to feel ‘allowed’ to buy. I really want to remove, I guess the stigma, around buying second-hand. Remove the fear of the reactions from your friends and family about saying something you are wearing is second-hand.
Resale is becoming huge and it’s great as there is a steady flow of items that are coming through constantly so you can always stay on trend if you want to. And of course, there will be some things, like that pair of jeans you’ve had since the 90’s, that probably will be a bit stinky and not great to resell! But the younger kids these days are getting so excited about buying pieces second-hand. My son just went to his ball and went down to the second-hand store and bought himself a kick ass outfit and that’s the kids these days, they aren’t worried about any stigmas related to second hand which is positive for the future.
NOT NEW: Do you have any #notnew items in your wardrobe and if so – what’s your favourite piece & the story behind it?
Lou: So many! I would probably say the Isabel Marant pieces that I have and one in particular is an amazing white linen blouse that has stitching and see-through embroidery with big sleeves, one of my favourites, timeless!
NOT NEW: We advocate “shopping your own wardrobe” and buying items to boost what is already there. Can you share some tips on how our customers can shop their own wardrobe?
Lou: Yes definitely. First step is to remove things that you don’t already shop in your wardrobe. Organise your wardrobe so that it is clean and tidy and nicely presented so you can see all the good stuff you have in there and you know where everything is. Then it’s ‘play’ time, taking a piece out of the wardrobe and walking it out, trying it on and then finding say three things in your wardrobe that you could pair it with and create outfits. The more that you can do that, the more creative you will become with what you have, it’s like being a kid again. Find the fun in your wardrobe and what things represent the real you.
NOT NEW: Any fashion no no’s?
Lou: Listening to your mates. Doing what your friends are doing. Shopping where you think you should and not where you would actually love to shop.
Don’t feel under pressure when you go shopping, just keep an open mind, and have fun, don’t worry if you don’t even buy anything at first!
NOT NEW: Who in NZ would you love to style the most?
Lou: A really good question! I need to think about this. I will come back to you…ok actually I would love to style all the teenage girls and make them feel really good about themselves.
NOT NEW: What trends are you expecting to see in Spring, Summer 2022?
Lou: Bold colour; shorts; denim and I think twin sets are going to be huge. Statement jewellery and everything oversized. And second hand! Playful and fun is the overall element of what we’re going to see, and I think the world is ready for that now.
You can find Lou Heller & her beautiful work on IG @louhellerstylist
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