It’s not just about dressing celebrities for the red carpet, but also about helping women to realise their true potential. Here, some of South Africa’s most in-demand stylists dish out advice on using style to present your best self. We interviewed some of SA’s best in the business: Gabrielle Kannemeyer, Orapeleng Modutle, Kara Fox, Tracy-Lee Rosslind and Darlene Bayley.
How can you elevate a look for a night out?
OM Play with different pieces; for example pair a simple pencil dress with an ostrich-feather jacket and a sequin clutch bag.
DB I always turn to accessories to elevate a look. For a night out, I suggest statement earrings, a clutch or a gorgeous pair of shoes. Much depends on what you will be doing and with whom you will be doing it. For a dinner date, a simple yet elegant dress with dainty accessories and shoes and a statement clutch is your best bet. No matter what, your look should always showcase your personality, so choose something that reflects who you are.
What’s the best way to prepare for a red-carpet event?
GK If you don’t have access to high-end brands such as Rich Mnisi, Thebe Magugu or Gucci, then keep it simple and chic. If you can afford the services of a stylist, use one, as they have the responsibility of making you look good.
DB A red-carpet event comes down to fabrics, cut, style, quality and – if you wear a dress – length. A cocktail dress is a safe choice for most red-carpet events but, if you want to step outside your comfort zone, look for a more memorable outfit, like a floor-length evening gown. Choose a luxurious fabric that flatters your shape, skin tone and style. Your undergarments are a vital part of the whole look, as they will be the base of your outfit; make sure they fit well and, if required, use stylist’s tape to keep straps or any gaping pieces of fabric in place. Finally, go for full hair and make-up – there’s no point spending a fortune on a new dress, heels and jewellery if you don’t put any effort into your grooming.
What are some of your secret styling ideas and tips?
TLR Get involved with local brands. There are amazing local designers to fit anyone’s aesthetic and imagination. Use social media to find local gems. Don’t be scared to wear something inside out, back to front or upside down. The key is listening to your style intuition; if you think something might look better a different way, try it.
GK Bear in mind that style is subjective – if anything goes wrong on a particular day, it’s cool, because you can try again tomorrow or at the next event. Don’t be scared of layering or playing with wild prints and nostalgic items from way back when. Feeling truly yourself makes up about 90% of a successful look.
You don’t need to buy into every trend, every season. All-black is timeless and chic, so if you’re stuck, go for black.
What’s the most important part of getting ready?
KF Time. Give yourself ample time before you have to leave for the event. Rather get ready slowly and with enjoyment than suddenly having to rush and feel stressed. Plan a few days ahead so you have everything you need.
TLR Make sure you have chosen and fitted your ensemble beforehand. The trick is to be calm and confident. Hang up your look, and keep it on display so your hair and make-up team can see what they are working with. Good music also makes the process a lot more fun.
Which local designers are on your radar?
TLR I am in love with South African fashion. The fashion world has been using Africa as inspiration for a while now and it’s time we start celebrating and wearing our own trends and designers. Some of my favourite South African designers are Coast and Koi, BeachCult, Droomer and, of course, Kirsten Goss.
GK I’m always looking at what the students at fashion colleges are up to.
DB I source from various designers depending on what my client’s style personality and requirements are, or what the theme of an event is. But a few on my must-watch list are: Erre Fashion, David Tlale, Black Coffee, Imprint, Stitch and Steel, Amanda Laird Cherry and Marianne Fassler.
Which items of clothing or accessories do you feel most comfortable in?
KF I prefer to keep my clothing simple and comfortable, and go big on colour and shape with my accessories. I love to wear amazing shoes with simple outfits.
OM A good pair of jeans, a well-tailored blazer and a pair of sunglasses.
DB A kimono: it’s a versatile piece you can dress up or down by wearing it with sneakers, dainty wedges or heels.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about styling celebrities?
KF That all celebrities are divas. In fact, most of them are lovely, down-to-earth people who have found success because, along with enormous talent, they have managed to stay humble, grateful and kind.
TLR A big misconception is that celebrities are more confident than other people. Because they are so harshly criticised and in the public eye, they can often be less confident. They suffer from the same fears and comparisons as everyone else.
OM The biggest misconception is that it’s always a good idea to go for dramatic pieces. The way to achieve the best style, true to the client, is by studying them, their skin tone and their body type, and sometimes accepting that less is more.
DB That anybody can be a stylist. You really have to love what you do, as the hours are long and some of the work is not so glamorous. It’s not only eating, sleeping and dreaming fashion but also about having a natural skill for listening to and understanding your varied clients. It requires an eye for colour and style. You have to put in the time and effort to make you, the stylist, a brand and business.