fashion

Confessions of an Australian celebrity stylist.

When Lana Wilkinson was tasked with the job of dressing Neighbours star Mavournee Hazel for last week’s Logies, Wilkinson knew – loud and clear – what she was being asked to do.

Hazel was one of nine people Wilkinson was dressing for the night. Think big names, too. People like Georgia Love, Scherri-Lee Biggs and Rebecca Harding had the paws, and intricate involvement, of the celebrity stylist all over them.

So when it came to Hazel, Wilkinson’s job was far more than the “bags and shoes girl”. After all, and by her own admission, that is one of the greatest misconceptions about her job. Instead, Wilkinson knew that because Hazel is an actor, people would struggle to see her as anything more than her character. So how do you, in just one night, change the public perception of the person you’re dressing?

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“Actors are often typecast as their characters,” Wilkinson tells Mamamia. “So I always have to ask myself, how do you elevate and change that? She’s a bit of a tomboy and school girl in Neighbours, so my job is working out how to change that perception.”

If it sounds frivolous, consider this: Someone like Georgia Love has an entire career in the media ahead of her now that her reality television days are behind her. Wilkinson needs to get people to stand up, take notice, and consider Love outside her reality TV role. In this case, it meant giving Love a more edgy look, and one without the glittery ball gowns characteristic of her Bachelorette days. What better stage than TV’s night of nights to do that?

If you spend some of your time mindlessly scrolling on Instagram, you’re an odds-on favourite to have stumbled on Lana Wilkinson’s handle at some point.

A stylist to the stars, Wilkinson is one of the few key players that wields serious creative power and control on the red carpet without having to actually walk it. A faceless but crucial influence on how we consider and perceive the most well-known faces on our media landscape.

And she’s dressed some of the country’s most stylish people, too. Women like Ruby Rose, Rebecca Judd, Megan Gale, Ashley Hart, Samantha Wills, DJ Havana Brown, The Veronicas, Zoe Foster-Blake, Elyse Knowles, Scherri Lee Biggs and Nadia Bartel have the hallmarks of a Lana Wilkinson style session. She’s worked with Whitney Port and alongside Rachel Zoe, and as her portfolio increases, so too does her prominence in the Aussie fashion scene.

So what does a celebrity stylist actually do? And how much power does she really wield?

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When it comes to the Logies, for example, it takes Wilkinson about a month of solid work to put it all together.

“It’s not just about finding a perfect dress, or finding a perfect designer to make that dress. It’s hair, make up, shoes and bags,” Wilkinson says.

And it’s not even just picking the look she’s after. She picks the make-up artist, the hairdresser and everything in between. For lack of a better term, Wilkinson runs the show – well,  as much as she can while still giving a sense of autonomy to the artists she works with. It’s a careful balance, that’s for sure.

“A huge misconception about what I do is that I give the girls a dress and they’re on their merry way. I have to think of everything. We practice walking in the dresses, we practice what angles to best take photos,” she says.

Although the people bracing our red carpets are some of the most polished in the industry, it doesn’t often come naturally. So when it comes to practicing angles and walking, it may sound silly – if a little shallow – but is pivotal to the confidence of these women. The red carpet is nothing short of a jungle, with critics ready to pounce. Fame doesn’t always give you polish; that comes only with time.

Of all the people who have sought Wilkinson’s services, though, there’s two that stand out as the best to work with: Bec Judd and Megan Gale.

Judd, she says, is just “easy” to work with, simply because she has no sense of self-importance about her at all.

“She trusts you, but knows what she wants. She also is happy to be pushed and is such a professional. Megan Gale is also someone who has a lot of trust, too. She is an absolute delight and one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She’s really one of the nicest people in the world.”

It’s because of this, Wilkinson believes, are the reasons both women have “stood the test of time” in a trying industry: They treat everyone well.

As for the divas? Well, Wilkinson is far too diplomatic to name names, but concedes there is one thing she doesn’t have much patience for – it’s the ones who don’t make time to meet with the designers making their dresses. These designers aren’t being paid and their currency is the exposure, so for the stylist, not making time for them is the marker of someone she’s not interested in working with.

Lucky for her though, she has no issue finding work. As her social media presence (her Instagram following currently sits at 76,000) grows, so too does her credibility as a stylist.

Lana Wilkinson has ticked off a lot of the big names, and from all reports, the best is yet to come.

Catch up on all our Logies talk on The Recap here.

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