If there’s one woman I think of when it comes to impeccable taste, it’s Carol Sae-Yang. Once one of my favourite colleagues at Bride to Be magazine (about a gazillion years ago), Carol is now running a thriving business as a personal stylist after years of styling fashion spreads for magazines and newspapers. Her clients include the likes Miranda Kerr, Jessica Mauboy, David Wenham, Kate Waterhouse among many others.
In addition to Carol’s personal styling for a coterie of regular clients, she is also Style Lecturer at the The Whitehouse Institute of Design. There, she prepares students for creative and technical roles in the design industry from fashion design and styling to creative direction, visual merchandising, interior design, food styling and beyond.
While Carol Sae-Yang stylist is abreast of all on-trend fashion, the Sydney-based mum-of-two also has a keen eye for conscious brands and ethical designers. She is also well aware of the emotional change people go through when their clothes complement their body shape—an important aspect of her business that, along with her love of clothes, fuels her passion.
I recently caught up with Carol to chat about eco fashion, fur trends and how people change after their wardrobe has had a Carol Sae-Yang makeover…
What eco fashion brands are you loving right now and why?
One of my favourite brands at the moment is Everlane. They have amazing basics like great T-shirts, on trend denim and super comfy shoes. The price point is fantastic and on their website you can see the factories where the clothing is made, as well as the cost breakdown of the production process. This gives a whole new meaning to manufacturing transparency. Closer to home, I am also loving Australian designer, Bianca Spender and Nobody Denim and Citizen Wolf, a made-to-measure t-shirt brand.
Do you have any all-natural beauty brands that are favourites?
I love the Herbivore Botanicals. I have a few of their products but the Pink Clay mask and Jasmine Body Oil is my current go-to. They use all natural and plant-based food grade cold pressed oils, GMO free soy wax and recyclable and reusable packaging which makes me feel better about the purchase.
Talk to me about fur…
Since Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzarri announced the impressionable Italian brand will remove fur from all its collections from Spring/Summer 2018, it seems we’re all on the hunt for faux fur coats and teddy jackets from high fashion to high street retailers. Fear not, Gucci designer Allesandro Michel’s Renaissance aristo muse will still be able to plumb 1970s wardrobe vaults – including Margot Tenenbaum-style fur coats to wear with her fluffy loafers. They’ll just be faux. Technology is now available to produce luxurious (conscience-free) options – from animal prints through to high octane colours and pattern play.
Not all faux fur, however, is created equal. Keep in mind that silhouettes should be classic (jackets should sit just below the hips and coats just brushing the knee-tops; any longer, you’ll look swallowed up). Their artificial fibres should be soft and dense with a notable sheen, not limp, wispy and dry. No one wants to look like Leonardo in The Revenant post a bear ravaging!
What are the main things you have to consider when styling someone?
One of the most important things to think about is their body shape and their lifestyle. Listening to their story is probably the most important, understanding where they are at, where they’ve come from and where they are heading helps me help them define who they are. In most cases, my clients are at a transitional point in their lives. They may be returning to work from having a family, launching their own business, stepping into a much bigger job, stepping away from the corporate world. The wardrobe is really just an extension of self expression, and I help them navigate that transition.
How often do you see body issues come up when dressing clients?
I think people in general are really hard on themselves. I have a lot of male clients who are as just as body-conscious as the women. But as I always say… no body is perfect but that is the beauty of fashion, you can hide bits you don’t love and accentuate bits you love, it just comes down to learning a few tips and tricks on how to dress for your body shape.
What emotional change do you see someone go through during the styling journey?
I am always awestruck at the level of confidence and emotional change that comes with this experience. I really had no idea how powerful this can be for people. As a fashionista, who’s always worked with, in and around clothes, I kinda took it for granted that it is difficult to pull an outfit together and what’s more pulling an outfit together that identifies with your personality and identity. The real test comes usually a few days after the Styling session, when I start getting text messages about the compliments and comments they’ve had from strangers. The validation they get really boosts their self confidence and that really is the sweetest feeling.
It has been more than 10 years since I’ve seen you! At what point did you decide to leave media and become
Carol Sae-Yang, Personal Stylist?
After working at The Sydney Morning Herald for a number of years, and two pregnancies later, I decided to become a full time mum, but not for long. My personal styling journey was accidental, a friend who was going back to work asked if I could help her go through her wardrobe as she felt she had nothing to wear for this new job. I hesitantly accepted and that was that. That friend asked if she could get a gift voucher for another friend, then the other friend recommended me to other friends and CSY style was born.
How do you juggle mama life and work life?
I have a 9:30am to 2:30pm rule. I only work within these hours during the week. As most of my clients work full time, I do have to sacrifice a Saturday or a Sunday but I never book in two weekend days. I’ve been really fortunate that this has been working well for me and the kids…perhaps because I am pretty direct and no-nonsense, so I get things done! Remember my favourite saying? Chop Chop!