Dressed for suc­cess

Stylist to the stars Lana Wilkin­son talks to Stel­lar about red car­pets, roy­als and why some things will al­ways go wrong

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents -

Stylist to the stars Lana Wilkin­son has en­coun­tered the odd wardrobe mal­func­tion. She takes us be­hind the seams of the red car­pet – even when things go wrong.

If her In­sta­gram page is any­thing to go by, Lana Wilkin­son’s life is spent breez­ing be­tween glam­orous events, rub­bing shoul­ders with Aus­tralia’s fash­ion elite and styling the in­flu­en­tial, beau­ti­ful and wealthy. But be­hind the glossy façade – some have called her Aus­tralia’s an­swer to US mega-stylist Rachel Zoe – Wilkin­son ar­gues that she’s “av­er­age”, and still work­ing out how to jug­gle mother­hood with the chaos of run­ning her own de­mand­ing busi­ness, and keep­ing her A-list clients happy in the face of wardrobe mal­func­tions.

“Peo­ple only see a smidgeon of who you are,” Wilkin­son tells Stel­lar. “They’re not see­ing me with a top­knot and kids cry­ing in the back­ground while I’m pack­ing my car, get­ting things ready for the Spring Car­ni­val. But that’s what’s go­ing on. I’ve been at race days where dresses have come apart. So I’ve had to lit­er­ally run over, stand there and sew it up, away from pry­ing eyes and the me­dia. You kind of be­come a walk­ing, talk­ing emer­gency kit. But for ev­ery mo­ment I’m like, ‘Wow, this is hard,’ there are 50 amaz­ing mo­ments.”

Like a real-life fairy god­mother, 36-year-old Wilkin­son has made a ca­reer out of wav­ing her magic wand and trans­form­ing her clients into the chic, pol­ished per­son­al­i­ties we see grac­ing Aus­tralia’s red car­pets and me­dia walls. El­yse Knowles, Me­gan Gale, Re­becca Judd and Anna Heinrich have all lined up to work with Wilkin­son – not sur­pris­ing given the fre­quency with which her “looks” ap­pear on best-dressed lists. “I’m not qual­i­fied in any way to be a ther­a­pist, but a lot of my job is be­ing a bit of a coach, pump­ing peo­ple up,” she says. “I’ll kill my­self to get it done. I’ve been known to lie on the floor at red car­pets and take pho­tos [of dresses] in day­light to see if they’re see-through. But you can only con­trol the con­trol­lable and some­times you can’t be there to hold their hands.”

When Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sus­sex, stepped out in a slightly sheer blue skirt – cre­at­ing the un­for­tu­nate op­ti­cal il­lu­sion of a glimpse of her un­der­wear through the pleats – on her re­cent visit to New Zealand, the in­ter­net went crazy. And Wilkin­son cringed for her. On an­other oc­ca­sion from the royal trip, the Duchess was pho­tographed in a dress that had the price tag still at­tached. “It is ab­so­lutely heart­break­ing,” Wilkin­son says of the fash­ion faux pas.

“But there’s a story be­hind ev­ery­thing. No­body walks out want­ing to show the tag, least of all Meghan Markle, and least of all her stylist! But Meghan has 50,000 things to worry about. The tag doesn’t mat­ter. Did she look and feel great? Did it do good things for the brand? Yes, yes. So that’s a big tick. Isn’t that what it’s about?”

Wilkin­son was work­ing in mar­ket­ing and PR seven years ago when she was tal­ent-spot­ted for her style nous – friends work­ing in re­al­ity TV asked if she’d lend a hand. While con­tin­u­ing to work her full-time job, she grad­u­ally built up a fol­low­ing as a stylist.

But it was a shoot with then-up-and­com­ing ac­tor Ruby Rose that brought Wilkin­son her break­through mo­ment. “I was do­ing some free­lance styling – I say ‘free­lance’ as it was lit­er­ally free.i put Ruby in this par­tic­u­lar Ni­cholas The La­bel dress and when the pho­tos came out, the dress sold out. That was the first time I thought, ‘I’m onto some­thing here.’”

She quit her job and four years later is now in the midst of a good dilemma: Wilkin­son ad­mits the time may have come for her to learn to say no. For Spring Car­ni­val this year, she pro­duced 40 dif­fer­ent looks on Oaks Day alone. At this year’s Lo­gies, she dressed five peo­ple, some in cus­tom-made gowns.

And when she is not styling celebri­ties, she’s be­com­ing fa­mous for her own fash­ion sense. “It didn’t hap­pen pur­pose­fully,” Wilkin­son says. “And ev­ery time, I dress my­self last. But it’s weird be­cause now I’m not just wor­ry­ing about the tal­ent, but also wor­ry­ing about me.” Along­side her work com­mit­ments, she also wran­gles two small chil­dren, Ava, five, and Elle, two, along­side her hus­band Liam in the Mel­bourne sub­urb of Nid­drie. And de­spite her fren­zied sched­ule, Wilkin­son makes sure she finds time to sift through her in­box, chock-a-block with mes­sages from her 118,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers.“[they] ask how they should style some­thing to wear to their Year 12 for­mal,” Wilkin­son says. “And that’s amaz­ing – I get chills. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the masses. So you’ve got to re­ply, be­cause without those peo­ple sup­port­ing me, I wouldn’t be where I am. And I like to bring the av­er­age per­son a lit­tle bit of sparkle.”

“No­body wants to show the tag, least of all Meghan Markle”

(from top) Lana Wilkin­son styling El­yse Knowles for this year’s Lo­gie Awards on the Gold Coast; with celebrity client Anna Heinrich at Derby Day at Flem­ing­ton race­course last month.

LANA WEARS (op­po­site) Bianca Spender jacket and skirt, bian­caspender.com

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