It’s hard to remember exactly how the story began but by age 5 I was preparing Barbie fashion shows for my family. Yes, my entire Barbie collection, a mix tape, two chairs and a sheet between, and my mum (later my sister), holding torches as spotlights. For years, my family endured many a fashion show – which also included an interval for outfit and hair changes – and I’m forever grateful for their patience. But this was in fact setting me up for something very different.
It wasn’t until I hit my late teens that I returned to fashion, to save me. My acne had reached epic levels after years of trying every drug and product available and my self-esteem was trying its best to be bolstered by academic achievement – it seems a flair for communication can mask even the greatest social anxiety. I had a thought. What if I could detract people’s gaze from my face to my outfit? Genius really, and it worked.
Over the next few years I honed in on all things fashion and style – the seasonal collections, the designers, the models, haute couture and ready-to-wear, London-Paris-New York – putting my research and analytical skills to good use. I discovered that people admired and appreciated a well put together ‘outfit’ and for me at least, it created a breathing space between what was going on all over my face and what was happening below. It wasn’t the sense of creating a ‘look’ or a persona, it wasn’t a costume, but rather the ultimate distraction technique that helped me socially for many years to come.
It gave me confidence and an identity that wasn’t defined by my temperamental skin – it was a second-skin that I had complete control over aesthetically and that others appeared to enjoy looking at.
It’s probably no surprise then I ended up as a Personal Stylist. And if you’ve ever treated yourself to a session – one day, please do – you’ll understand it’s far more self-esteem building than lights and glamour. There’s a real power to it which is why, when I’m feeling a little down, a little lost, I go back to my fashion world. At its core, a world of beauty. So much beauty that I can be overwhelmed with emotion such as in the film Dior and I as Raf Simons launches his premiere collection or hearing the way Andre Leon Talley talks passionately about style.
What’s fashion got to do with it then? For me, everything. It’s not a world to mock but rather one of exquisite texture and tailoring, storytelling and style. Maybe it’s your armour that helps you get out the front door each day, maybe it’s the wearable art that fills your day with beauty, or maybe it’s the thing that calms your complexion anxiety. No matter what, take it and make it yours.