A Celebrity Stylist Talks Career Highlights, Favourite Brands & More
A Celebrity Stylist Talks Career Highlights, Favourite Brands & More

A Celebrity Stylist Talks Career Highlights, Favourite Brands & More

Celebrity stylist Abisoye Odugbesan is the person responsible for the show-stopping looks spotted on actresses like Sheila Atim, Shalom Brune-Franklin and Joanne Froggatt. To find out how she gets it right every time, we sat down with her to talk about how she got into the business, career highlights and what personal style means to her.
By Nana Acheampong

It took me a long time to get into styling. I didn't realise you could do it as a job; I thought that to work in fashion you needed to be a designer. That’s why I did a garment construction degree, where I quickly realised I wasn't very good at design! It’s quite technical, and there's a bit of maths involved, so I switched to an international fashion business course and went into buying. I did that for about three years but, even though I loved it, it wasn’t something I wanted to do long term.  

The penny dropped after a conversation with my sister. Fashion styling was the job I’d been looking for all along, so I researched the best way to get started. I interned at different magazines – first at Elle, then at Marie Claire as an assistant, and I worked my way up to being a fashion editor. Then I went freelance to try styling full time. I did some brand work, e-commerce, commercial work, and also tried my hand at celebrity dressing. The rest is history. 

If I could give my younger self some advice, it would be to not go to university. Just start working as soon as you can after A-levels, either assisting a stylist or interning at a magazine. That's when you really learn about the industry and make contacts. Thanks to social media, this side of the industry is so open now, which is great news for anyone who wants to be a stylist. 

My first Vanity Fair Oscar party with Sheila Atim is definitely a memorable career moment. It was my first major red-carpet event, and it was right after the pandemic. We’d started working together around two years before, but we hadn't had the opportunity to do that much because of lockdown. Then I secured the most incredible red Prada dress for her, and it's still one of my favourite looks she’s ever worn.

Dressing clients on the night they win awards is an incredible feeling. When Sheila won the Chopard Trophy at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022, she wore an amazing gown I'd been hunting down for ages. She looked phenomenal. I also loved seeing Kosar Ali attend the GUAP Gala last year and win the Actor to Watch award. We worked with my friend Nikeen Asar to create a striking red gown for her. They didn't have much time to turn it around, but Nikeen and his team made her feel amazing while still adhering to modest dressing. 

I want my clients to feel confident and empowered. They need to go out there and do what it is that they've got to do, without feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable in what they’re wearing. Even the most confident person can feel a little bit daunted by those moments, so it’s my job to make sure they feel incredible. It’s so nice when I get a text or call after an event to say how amazing they felt. 

At the beginning of a working relationship, I talk to a new client to understand who they are, what they like, what their passions are and what's important to them. From there, I start putting together moodboards and creating an aesthetic. Those are the references we go back to whenever we’re prepping for an event – just to make sure there's a through line in everything that we do. 

Style is so subjective but it’s clear when someone is dressing for themselves. Whenever I admire someone’s style, it's more about authenticity. I might never wear what they’re wearing but I can appreciate that it works for them. When you’re in thrall to trends, the clothes will wear you and I think you can see through that. For me, Rihanna has great style because it doesn't feel like she's dressing for anyone other than herself. It’s so unapologetic – that’s what people are drawn to. 

Shelia’s style is timeless. Sure, she could wear anything but that doesn't mean it would be right. We love interesting and unique pieces. She likes tailoring and anything with an interesting twist. Designers we love working with include Robert One and Prada but we’re always keen to work with new brands and trying new things. I love it when designers are open to collaboration.

I’ve just finished awards season. I recently started working with Joanne Froggatt on the press tour for her new ITV drama Breathtaking and the BRITs where she was presenting an award. Now, I’ve got some time to work on brand projects while my clients are off working on other things. I’m also looking forward to Shalom Brune-Franklin’s press tour later this year for the Dune: Prophecy HBO series

When I’m preparing for a press tour, there are multiple factors to take into consideration. I'll put together moodboards of looks that we want to pull, and then once I have an idea of what the options are, I'll start working on accessories and reaching out to jewellery brands. Then, we'll do a big fitting. Sometimes, we work exclusively with a brand, so we'll go into the showroom to find an amazing dress. Once that's done, I'll work with hair and make-up to decide which direction we want to go in – it’s a real team effort. 

My personal style is probably best described as androgynous. I like masculine cuts, especially with trousers, t-shirts and jackets. I always prefer something that's a bit more oversized to something really fitted. I like to shop at COS, ARKET, Lemaire, The Frankie Shop and Acne Studios for basics. I love Selfridges because it has so many different brands under one roof, and I feel like I can do all my shopping in one go. For something a bit more special, I like Dion Lee, A.W.A.K.E. MODE and Christopher Esber. Finally, a young designer I like is Ahluwalia. Her pieces are really striking – but also check out Orange Culture, Oude Waag, Luar, Tokyo James and Aaron Esh

One of my fashion rules is to not force it. There's nothing worse than seeing someone in massive heels and they're struggling to walk, for example. Do not force yourself into wearing something you don't feel comfortable in. You can have all the best intentions or hopes that something is going to look and feel good, but listen to your gut when it isn’t working.

The most extravagant item I've ever bought was my first Loewe hammock bag. I was still an assistant but I’m very considered with my shopping. I thought about it for the longest time and bored everyone on my team at the time with making the decision. By the time I went for it, it was probably about two seasons old. I still have that bag today and wore it every single day for about four years; it still looks amazing, so it was definitely worth it.

My favourite item in my wardrobe is my brown maxi Proenza dress. I’ve had it for about two years, but I’ve not had an occasion to wear it yet. It was one of those dresses that I saw and instantly knew I had to have. It’s very dressy for me, but I just set my heart on it. If I see something amazing that I love, I will buy it even if I don't have anywhere to wear it. I hate having to buy something for a particular occasion – it always feels too much like work. If you see a dress you love, just buy it. The occasion will find you – eventually. 

My earliest fashion memory is of my grandma. She was the most glamorous woman and always wore elegant shoes with a matching bag. If she found a style she liked, she would have it in different colours – and always with the matching bag. She had impeccable taste.

If I could swap wardrobes with anyone, it would be the stylist Des Lewis. I used to assist Des when I was at Marie Claire and have always been obsessed with her style. Her minimalist aesthetic looks so put together – any time she posts an outfit on Instagram I instantly want it. 

Follow @Abisoye_O

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