Ella Buchanan

Joshua Kelly (Sève): You are truly an example of someone who chased the dream of becoming a stylist. Originally from New Zealand, you recently moved to Milan where you are full time styling, and just shot an editorial for Vogue Portugal. Can you tell us a little about how you went about making a name for yourself in this competitive industry?

Ella Buchanan: Milan was always a long term goal for me. I felt I wasn’t ready to work as a stylist in Milan yet, but the truth is we’re never ready. So one day I decided, "F*&%k it, I’m moving to Milan". This was during COVID so I had people literally telling me I’m crazy. I had just a few shoots in my portfolio and barely any contacts. I can’t say that opportunities landed on my lap: everything I’ve achieved is because I created those opportunities by reaching out to designers, photographers and magazines that I aspire to work with.

"Everything I’ve achieved is because I created those opportunities by reaching out to designers, photographers and magazines that I aspire to work with"

JK: Do you have any advice for someone starting out and looking to follow in your footsteps?

EB: HUSTLE, HUSTLE, HUSTLE. Reach out to designers, magazines and photographers you admire, even if you’re a newbie in this industry. You’d be surprised how many people appreciate your courage and assertiveness. Also, make sure to have savings or a side job because like any new business, it's likely to make little or no money in the beginning.

Cover of a magazine entitled 'french fries' with a model wearing a draping jumpsuit with her hands held up in the air.
Some of Ella's styling work - French Fries Magazine in collaboration with Bulgari.
Jumpsuit by Emilio Pucci, accessories by Bulgari. Photographer: Andrea Olivo.

JK: Your work seems to reflect aspects of your personality, it’s feminine, playful and doesn’t shy away from mixing and layering textures and colour. Do you have an instinct when it comes to pulling wardrobes together, or it something you learnt to do over time?

EB: For me, fashion and styling is a form of self-expression, so you’re spot on about my work reflecting my personality! I’m naturally drawn to mixing feminine, playful and colourful clothes. But I can say that after each shoot, I learn and improve my styling skills, so it’s a combination of instinct and learning over time. Practice really does make perfect!

JK: Do you have any career dreams? Someone or something you’d love to style?

EB: I still can’t believe it (and won’t believe it until the issue comes out!) that I’ve just achieved one of my career dreams — working for Vogue was always a big dream of mine and I never would have imagined that I would achieve it now. I thought I needed at least another five to ten years to achieve that. As for my next goals, I want to do more art directing, which I was doing recently for Vogue Portugal. I love styling, but most of all I love creating an overall concept and message; it's something I’m really passionate about. My dream would be to do this for one of my favourite Italian brands, like Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Gucci or Versace.

BTS Vogue Portugal - Model in striking outfit leaning against Ella who hugs her and wears a facemask
Ella behind the scenes of her shoot for Vogue Portugal.
With model Luciana Borges who wears Gucci x Balenciaga and Roberto Cavalli.

JK: A stylist's job can be very stressful at times, what would you say are the biggest challenges? And do you have any tricks to stay organised?

EB: The biggest challenges I face as a stylist are lack of time and sample logistics. Last year I shot a magazine cover and was only given two days to prepare everything AND it was during fashion week (meaning that the designers and press offices were already extremely busy) BUT somehow I managed to pull it off. I still don’t know how, but in this world anything is possible. With lack of time, try to stay calm and remember: we are just putting together pretty clothes, we are not saving lives here! Try to enjoy what you’re doing and not take it TOO seriously.

As for logistics, it's hard to manage where all the samples come from and where to return them. For one shoot you may have forty garments from fifteen different press offices. I’m not at the level to have an assistant for every shoot, so right now I manage all my own logistics which can be quite a headache. I’m really grateful that I was recently introduced to Sève, which has been extremely helpful from both an organisational and creative point of view: I can track my pulls as well as put together looks and present them to clients in a tidy and professional manner.

"Sève has been extremely helpful from both an organisational and creative point of view"

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