Lela Maloney is an Australian fashion stylist living in Brooklyn, New York. Lela moved to the US with her husband in 2011 and has undergone many changes along the way, with the biggest change, a new career as a fashion stylist.
Hi Lela, so you’ve been super busy lately, what are you currently working on?
I have a really fun editorial coming up for my friends amazing zine called BEST in the next couple of weeks, so I’m already gearing up for that. I’ve also been getting into taking photos more, and am planning some fun shoots to style as well as photograph. And there’s a lookbook and a video job just around the corner too, so lots of emails, appointments and trying to get organized.
You must work long hours, how do you stay motivated & focused?
To be honest it does get hard, I’m 32 and I need to be well rested if I’m expected to focus – so no more all nighters (laughs). But seriously, there is a lot of prep and post work involved in styling, and it’s not uncommon for me to work non-stop for two or three weeks at a time without a day off. But getting daily exercise, somewhat frequent vacations and vegan desserts seems to keep me
going/focused. What also works for me is taking the jobs that I actually want to do. I’m at an age where I know myself well enough to know what’s going to be worth my time and what isn’t at least I try to be a good judge of that. Which brings me to working with my friends, it’s something that I try to do as much as possible. We have the same standards, we give 110% on any given project, and the energy is always high/fun/contagious, which guarantees results.
It’s important to take and keep taking jobs with people that you want to make proud. There’s really no better motivation in my opinion.
So, how did you first get into the industry?
Styling is actually my second career; I started about 2 years ago after having been a graphic designer for over 8 yrs. When I first moved to NY I got a job at a fashion magazine, and I started going on shoots in an art direction capacity. I was always drawn to magazines because I loved the layouts, the photography and the fashion, and I thought that I fit in as a designer putting all the parts together.
But once I got to see things coming together behind the scenes, and saw the role the stylist played, I realized that I was much more drawn to that than I ever was to design. It just felt like a more natural calling. I was fortunate enough to have the encouragement of a really wonderful boss at the time, who let me cut my full time job back to four days per week so I could try styling out on the side. Eventually it got too hard to do both, so I quit my full time design job and started to focus on styling more and more. My husband was also a huge inspiration in helping me build the courage to leave design and try styling for real. I was so scared of all of the worst things that could go wrong, while he had a great point –
‘If it doesn’t work, you can go back to what you’re doing’. It seemed so simple from the outside, but it was a really difficult change to make in my thinking. Work had been and continues to be a big part of my adult life and I’d labeled myself as a designer for most of that time, but I’d either outgrown or grew tired of design and my heart was no longer in it, so a change was inevitable.
Did you find it competitive? And do you still find it competitive, especially living in New York?
I am competitive with myself, quite often to my own detriment. But not when it comes to other people. There’s tons of jobs out there,
and I truly believe that if you put in the hard work, and treat people the way that you want to be treated, that those jobs will present themselves to you. I have a few really talented stylist friends and we’re all at a similar level and have pretty similar taste, yet we each have our own niche views. And I’m always over the moon to hear when one of them scores a new job, and they score those jobs because they’re usually the most natural fit for them. I may be naive in thinking this, but there may be competitiveness in the field, but I don’t feel it with the people that I personally know. I’m legitimately happy for the success of others, I’m well aware of exactly how much
hard work goes into every job, and it needs to be rewarded.
What was the first styling job you had & what were your thoughts after it?
My first real styling job was for the same fashion mag that I was working for as a designer. The creative director hired me to style a little job as I was leaving my design position and I’d only assisted other stylists at that point. She put a lot of faith in me, and I was feeling really confident, and it all went well. Regardless my most
vivid memory after the fact was riding the subway home, and realizing exactly how much there was that I still have to learn. It was an almost overwhelming realization. I thought that there was going to be a point when I’d ‘know’ everything about how to style, and I couldn’t wait for the day. Now, I honestly don’t know if it’s going to happen, and I kind of like it. I like how much I learn from every shoot, and I like the imperfections, and the awkwardness, it’s what gives the work originality.
Do you have go to labels when styling for shoots?
I’m a huge fan or mixing high and low price points, local designers, vintage & the classics. Some of my favourite brands would have to be Suzanne Rae, Jacquemus, J.W.Anderson, Céline, Ashish, Commes des Garçons, 7115 by Szeki, Kay Frank, Aza Ziegler, Caroline Kaufman, In God We Trust, Adidas, Levis, Topshop… I could go on.
I loved the styling for the Suzanne Rae SS15 Lookbook, what are your preferences when it comes to colour?
Oh thank you! She’s such a dream to work with, and her latest collection just got featured on style.com too –
I was over the moon for her, she’s so incredibly talented and I’m so glad to see her get the recognition! Speaking of Suzanne, styling her collections is such a dream, she uses a lot of white – and I love white, it would have to be my favourite, followed closely by black. I also love blue denim and a splash of red or royal blue. I don’t tend to go for greens, yellows or purples, and patterns seem to scare me (laughs).
You also have a well-known blog called Generally Necessary. What are your motives behind this?
I started the blog when I was still doing design full time. I needed a way to release and create something to do with fashion, and that
seemed easiest but it’s actually much more work than I ever imagined. And I soon found out that I didn’t have what it took to be a style blogger, and I was okay with that. Regardless I continued taking self-portraits for the blog, updating it with news and putting together outfits. I love reviewing and posting all the latest shows, and it’s really helpful for me to have all of that info on hand for when styling jobs come up and I want to see what; e.g. colour really did it for me on the runway for SS15. There’s a lot of real content on there, and it keeps growing. So far it’s mostly been news and inspiration from other sources, but I’d love to change that. I would love to start sharing editorials that have been shot for the site specifically.
There’s an immense and unbelievably talented pool of up and coming talent out there, and I would love to be able to help expose at least a small part of it.
So what’s next for you Lela?
Hopefully, a successfully revamped generallynecessary.com, endless fun fashion shoots (as a stylist or photographer), a doughnut and a weekend off! 🙂
Look out for Lela’s upcoming shoots in Nylon Singapore, Pressure Paris…
Interview by Kirsty Dawn Randell
Photography courtesy of Lela Maloney