STYLIST AT HELEN S STANLEY - STYLING, DESIGN & COSTUME
Written + Photographed By Kelley Mullarkey | Video Produced By Sean Stillmaker
A free-spirited product of a childhood spent navigating the sandy shores of Great Britain’s southern coast, Helen was born and bred in a bubble of culture. Having been raised in a town just a few miles outside of Brighton, a place crammed with creativity, caravans and the intoxicating concoction of surf, sand and sun, Helen’s personal style and career as a stylist reflect the city’s youthful environment and booming inventiveness.
Home to filmmakers, musicians and cutting edge designers, the city of Brighton taught Helen that a place is much more than just a dot on a map – it is the catalyst that puts the wheels in motion.
A few weeks ago while I was (im)patiently waiting to place my coffee order in a long line at Costa in Shepherd’s Bush, I overheard a couple of women raving about Helen’s blog, Helen’s Wardrobe, and her work as a stylist here in London.
Managing to juggle my iPad, current issue of Vogue and coffee without spilling, I quickly typed the URL into my mobile and began sifting through post after post. After swooning over her style and discovering the recent launch of her online style magazine, The Style Papers, I knew I just had to spend an afternoon picking and dissecting her brain.
When Helen welcomed Sean and myself inside her picture perfect west London flat, I instantly knew I was in the home of a stylist; every last detail was spoken for. It’s reminiscent of a cozy seashore cottage with framed photographs of The Rolling Stones lining ivory walls while vintage leather furnishings and oversize pillows compliment whitewashed wooden floors and skylight windows beam over neatly packed bookcases that are naturally overflowing with design and costume books. The presentation was simply immaculate – a perfect blend of rock n’roll and urban ‘coastal’ living.
Dressed in a stunning Lisa Jayne Dann tweed blazer, a pair of Levi’s, an enormous sliver skull ring and the most coveted black and white Chanel ankle booties, Helen humored us with the story behind her accidental fall into the world of fashion.
“Initially I wanted to be a music journalist. I spent most of my youth obsessively drawing music posters. Everything I wore related to music.”
As a child, Helen found herself deeply fascinated by films and bands like Blur, an alternative English rock band. Having grown quite fond of not only their music but their taste in clothing, Helen began copying the band’s traditionally English style and wearing it herself.
After finishing sixth form (the education equivalent of a high school degree in North America) Helen moved up to Cambridge for college to study media production where she specialized in directing. Unable to find work upon completing the course, she took a position in sales at a nearby surf and snowboard shop.
“The shop was nowhere near a sea which I always found to be quite humorous since it mainly sold surfing gear. Out of boredom I started doing visuals, everything from window displays to dressing up the mannequins.”
Impressed by her natural niche for aesthetics, Helen’s part time job turned into a full-fledged creative venture – she was hired to design visuals across the entire company in the UK.
“Fashion was an extension to express my love of music, and then it became more of a passion once I began heavily doing visual merchandising. The role of style in my life has had such an interesting evolution.”
After four years Helen accepted a visual merchandising position with Puma where she traveled all across Europe designing visuals for the company. From there her career skyrocketed landing her work with Timberland. Assigned to the brand’s other store Timberland Boot Company, Helen was quickly appointed Creative Visual Merchandiser and worked on special projects like press events.
“When I worked at Timberland Boot Company, the brand’s museum/boutique store, that’s when I really became great at doing what I did. Famed artists like Gilbert & George used to come in and tell me how much they liked my window displays. My work there placed me as a finalist at The Retail Week Interior Awards 2010.”
Eager to branch out and experiment with the industry, Helen decided to start a style blog documenting her own personal style (centered around classic tweeds, skulls, pencil skirts and dark colors) and began doing freelance styling on the side during her final year at Timberland.
“When I made the decision to leave Timberland, I jumped straight into the deep end without knowing what to expect. I knew I was hungry to learn more. Fashion has that effect on you. It gets deep into your blood.”
Following her departure, Helen enrolled in a series of short classes at London College of Fashion - costume design, sewing and customized pattern cutting and fitting.
“It is crucial to know and understand where everything comes from. Whether it is fashion, history or politics. It always ends up repeating itself.”
Helen masters the art of communicating her vision, knowledge and inspirations not just through her personal style but also through her extremely intricate mood boards, which showcase her love for duality and of course, music.
“I love dark aesthetics and draw a lot of my stylistic inspirations from directors like Tim Burton and Sofia Coppola and cultural icons like Andy Warhol and Stanley Donwood.”
These days, Helen is not too far from her original plan of working in both the editorial and music industries. Aside from launching her kick ass online publication that features an abundance of interesting articles and interviews with bands, Helen has both styled bands (L.A.’s Ruby Eyes) and directed music videos. Not to mention the slue of other impressive recent projects that include styling for Nike and costume designing for a series of short horror films.
From her impeccable taste (both in clothing and music), to her unbelievably raw talent, Helen is one ultra savvy lady.