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Hey, I Like Your Style! Inside the wardrobe of Melbourne-based stylist, Sabrina Leina

IMAGE VIA @_sleina/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“In hindsight, I think I’ve always tried to channel the energy of strong, unapologetic and rebellious female figures.”

We know personal style is a journey (I’m looking at you, Tumblr years), so we’ve introduced a new series Hey, I Like Your Style!, diving into the fashion psyche of our favourite creatives. We’re talking the good, the bad and the 2007.

While the internet has made our fashion icons feel closer than ever before, even the most effortless of outfits came from a closet with some (well-dressed) skeletons. Clickable product tags, photo archives and lives chronicled in 30-second clips just don’t tell the full story.


For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section.


These are the stories behind the wardrobes, exploring how we develop our own personal style. There’s a brilliance behind the way we choose to express ourselves and at FJ, we know every outfit has a story.

This week, we’re exploring the fashion psyche of Melbourne stylist, Sabrina Leina. Sabrina’s style journey began where so many have before – in the confines of her Catholic high school dress code. Listing her style inspirations as her grandma and all “strong, unapologetic and rebellious female figures”, Sabrina’s wardrobe is comprised of everything from Vivienne Westwood vintage to Facebook Marketplace finds. Read on for her style journey.

Who are you and what do you like to wear?

 

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Hi, I’m Sabrina! I’m 25 and a fashion stylist. It’s a little cliché, but I dress according to both how I feel and how I want to feel for the day – perhaps like a placebo effect?

What has your style evolution looked like? Do you feel like you’ve gained confidence in the way you dress?

I’d say it’s the opposite – the way I dress gives me confidence. From a young age, I’ve known what I like and what I want to wear. Despite being quite shy at times, when I’m wearing something I really love I feel as though I have the upper hand in any challenge.

It’s very much giving ‘fake it till you make it’… and I’m okay with that. Everyone has their own ritual to prepare for pivotal moments in life (a job interview, a first date, an exam). How I’m dressed is a strong determinant of how well I’ll be handling the situation.

 

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I probably take after my grandmother. When she was appointed to manage and close off my grandfather’s business in Japan, she went out and bought a mink coat to wear to meetings. Some people might’ve frowned at this, but her justification was the necessity to assert her seriousness and reclaim control in the sexist society of that time. She felt she couldn’t attend those meetings wearing the clothing of a subordinate housewife.

My self-expression is presented through clothing; a means of metamorphosis into an alter ego. In hindsight, I think I’ve always tried to channel the energy of strong, unapologetic and rebellious female figures.

Personal style is a journey. Have you ever felt like you needed to fit into a particular fashion box?

I attended a Catholic all-girls high school, which seemed more concerned with keeping up conservative appearances than academic scores. My parents were also quite strict and disapproving of my creative pursuits and expression. There have been times in the past where I’ve felt pressure to conform to what was deemed ‘acceptable’.

 

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Regardless, I found subtle ways to express myself even when in uniform. I’d purposefully drape my blazer over my shoulders instead of wearing it properly, sport winged eyeliner, or hem my dress up at the train station. I eventually stopped getting bothered by teachers… I don’t know how I did it.

Finding your sense of style as a teenager can be tough, and trends provide a temporary feeling of belonging. I may have experienced a period of dressing to ‘fit in’, but this was quickly squashed by my late teens. I was left feeling unfulfilled by fleeting trends and quickly realised I wasn’t getting anything positive from that cycle.

Take us back to those awkward teenage years. Do you have any fashion regrets?

I don’t like to consider any fashion choice as a regret. Instead, I like to think of them as phases reflecting the formative periods of my life. In saying that, there are a few pieces I wouldn’t don now in my twenties.

 

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I remember purchasing a Supré bodycon dress and ridiculously high wedge heels (I looked like a newborn giraffe learning to walk) to wear to a ‘gathering’ in my early teens… both ultimately got thrown out by my strict parents, which was a blessing in disguise.

What are the most expensive and least expensive items in your wardrobe?

My Lady Dior Mini, purchased secondhand from Eurotrash, would be the most expensive item in my wardrobe. It was a graduation present I bought for myself after I slaved through a science degree and worked countless hours in retail/hospitality. It’s a piece I don’t wear often but I’ll own forever, like my grandma and her mink coat.

My least expensive item is a slip dress I scavenged from a random old lady’s garage nearly ten years ago (I wear it as an evening dress now). My best friend and I were rummaging through some hard rubbish in an affluent neighbourhood and upon seeing us, this kind lady invited us in to take whatever we wanted. It was such a memorable trash-to-treasure moment.

What is the most meaningful fashion piece you own?

 

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All of my pieces are meaningful. I struggle to let go of items because they were usually a lucky find and I know there will be a time in the future I’ll want to wear them again.

I’m still obsessed with my suede, fur-collared, black, full-length coat that I thrifted in Berlin four years ago. It’s the ultimate badass coat! It was well worth lugging around Europe.

What’s in your cart at the moment?

I don’t really online shop. I get bored scrolling through websites and overwhelmed in normal retail stores. I actually only have items in my cart when I’m sourcing for work. I much prefer the ‘hunt’ of a special piece.

When shopping for work, I get fixated on the search. I’ll scour reselling platforms; keyword searching by design elements, colours, brands and even the type of ‘vibe’.

What fashion piece are you saving for right now?

 

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I’ve placed a self-imposed ban on spending because I’m planning to move overseas ASAP. In saying that, I’m camping in Central Australia soon so would like some cute outdoor and sun smart attire… a Knwls Spring 2022 hat would fit the brief! Or something custom from Robert Warner, like a utility belt.

What are the wardrobe items you wear on repeat?

My Vivienne Westwood Yasmine Bag in tartan. I’m very much an on-the-go type of person, and always feel like I’m living out of my handbag. Whether it’s a pair of pointe shoes for ballet or some cheeky travel-safe beverages, I love the Mary Poppins magic of bags! My Vivienne Westwood bag is also quite sentimental. I purchased it in Tokyo and it’s one of the first secondhand designer pieces I ever owned. It’s a piece that pulled me out of the all-black-wardrobe abyss of my teenage years.

I’ve also recently been wearing my Facebook Marketplace-sourced vintage New Rock boots. There’s nothing like stomping around in chunky boots on the dancefloor or with trackies at the supermarket.

Who are your favourite local designers?

 

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At the moment I’ve been drawn to all things print design – namely the work of Alix Higgins and Briar Griffiths Kemp. The notion of wearable art is so playful and limitless – it’s great to see it being specialised locally. A notable favourite of many, I love Karla Laidlaw’s experimental interplay of fabrics and colour. The varied craftsmanship of her range is unmatched.

I also have an eternal love for Wackie Ju and their impactful conceptualisations. I’ve also been keeping a close eye on the work of Jarrod Koutros, Liam Ramirez and Connor Milton (Anoid), and am excited to see what’s to come beyond their graduate collections.

See more of Sabrina’s killer looks here.

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