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This Melbourne stylist’s lockdown project is bringing us all joy

IMAGE VIA @STUART_WALFORD/INSTAGRAM

WRITTEN BY AUDREY DENIER

“There’s a bit of an art to finding the right look.”

We are starting to reach that prickly point of lockdown where our means for entertainment have been exhausted: re-reading the Harry Potter series, baking sourdough bread, painting sunset canvases and sculpting oddly-shaped ceramics. Nothing seems to be scratching that itch – but what about DIY fashion? 

Stuart Walford, a Melbourne stylist and creative consultant, has dived head-first into a project he calls The Lockdown Diaries. Stuart has found a way to turn mundane household items into vibrant, high-end couture pieces that honestly look like they belong on a runway. Think Kraft paper origami, Gorman pillowcases and aluminium BBQ trays and you’re beginning to get the picture.


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


What was initially meant to be a stylist’s guide to everyday clothing items (button-up blouses, tees) has evolved into a house-couture portfolio. Stuart owes his success to his ability to combine humour with knowledge, teaching us all about the world of luxury fashion, designers and its runways. I spoke with Stuart to unpack the inspiration behind his kitschy designs, the “astroturf and dog droppings” look and his limitless creativity. 

 

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A post shared by STUART WALFORD (@stuart_walford)

Talk to me about your fashion journey. How did you get your start in this industry? 

I’ve been in the industry for about a decade now. I started off with a diploma in visual merchandising straight out of high school when I was 18 because there were no styling courses back then. It was the most creative studies you could do without being an actual fashion designer which I knew was something that I didn’t want to do. So, I did my diploma and then went straight into assisting other stylists and working in fashion events. And then, after a few years of assisting, I kind of found my own feet and went solo and haven’t really looked back ever since. It’s kind of been the only job or career I ever saw myself doing and wanting to be.

What inspired your The Lockdown Diaries project? 

One thing that’s been really interesting about this COVID-19 lockdown, especially in my own family, is that unless you sort of know someone that’s been really impacted by the loss of work these lockdowns, other people’s lives kind of go on as normal except their social life is a little bit impacted. My partner, who is also a freelance creative, both of us lost all of our work. So the only way for me to kind of keep my creative spirit going and also to avoid lockdown breakdowns was to start kind of documenting a fashion narrative/journey in my own day-to-day life. The interesting thing was the project was never supposed to be what it currently is.

It was very much just a commercial, ‘Here is my white shirt in my wardrobe, how can I style this in five ways?’ to give some humour and plant some interesting ideas for the people who were following me at the time. But I think after a couple of posts, I thought, ‘Hmm, this is kind of boring. I do this for my clients normally’. It felt very much aligned to what I was always kind of doing in my work. So it very quickly took a turn and became a little bit more experimental in the objects and items I was using. And then it just kind of snowballed and became very much, I guess, like a craft couture project. It started with a couch cushion – Gorman pillowcases. I distinctly remember that post being the catalyst that pivoted the project and made it what it is today.

 

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A post shared by STUART WALFORD (@stuart_walford)

I’ve noticed you pay homage to many designers and existing runway looks in your project. Can you tell us a bit about that and what part it plays in your looks?

The project is special to me because it is very honest and genuine; it’s something that occupies me throughout the day. It was never intended to gain followers or go viral on Instagram. I have a folder of archived runway looks and iconic pieces from my favourite designers on my phone, and I continually add to this library. When I see a look that I can instantly visualise a way that I could make that with something I have around the house, that’s when I will put it into production and start to make it. Every look I make is a look that I like from a designer that I admire and follow. There’s nothing forced or contrived about it; it’s very much an organic process. 

 

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The designers that make clothes that might be more traditional are the hardest ones to make cause it’s harder to use different materials to form them. All the big ones – Valentino’s been a great one, Junya Watanabe, Comme des Garçons, lots of older Dior. Gucci is one that I am surprised I haven’t done, but I think Gucci looks great because it’s styled so well, not necessarily because its pieces are experimental, if that makes sense. You’ve kind of got to look for garments, like the Dior 2017 collection was practically origami in fabrics, so it was already a technique within the collection that I could replicate in other forms. There’s a bit of an art to finding the right look. 

How long does it take you to think of the idea, make the item and execute it? Run us through the process. 

It’s done on the same day, believe it or not. I will start thinking about everything days before I make it because I will need to rummage together some materials. If I need items in bulk, I will order more because I obviously don’t have fifty barbeque trays in my apartment. If I’m not feeling that great, I’ll pick something a bit more manageable for my day. I start making the look from 9am or 10am every day, start dressing at about 3.30pm, and my partner will take the photo around 4pm and then we post it at 5pm.

I set a routine and a schedule to treat it like a job, and that’s been really helpful mentally to replace the job loss that I do have. I really treat it as if it’s like going to work. If I don’t finish it and post it on the same day, I won’t return to it. Time is so fragile in lockdown because things change so rapidly, so I have to commit to getting it done to move on to the next thing. Otherwise, I’ll have like fifty tablecloths hanging around the house. 

 

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A post shared by STUART WALFORD (@stuart_walford)

With freedom day approaching, do you think you will continue the project? 

Interestingly, I think I’m still kind of getting my head around how much people have enjoyed it and how much it’s kind of snowballed. If people continue being interested and the following expands, then yeah, I guess I’ll do it. It’s certainly becoming less and less of a daily project because I have a lot of admin that I really need to make time for, and I can’t just be spending seven days doing these looks at my kitchen table, otherwise, the rest of my world will collapse around me. I will continue parts into the future. I definitely think it’s helping me be a better creative, and it’s using a part of the brain that has just been put on snooze for the last six to seven years. I think in elements, I’ll be continuing it.  

 

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A post shared by STUART WALFORD (@stuart_walford)

What’s your favourite look that you’ve created thus far? 

I actually really liked the Thom Browne look that I did the other day, that kind of caged ensemble. I like it because pink and blue are my favourite colours, so aesthetically I think it’s joyful. It’s very symbolic to kind of feeling caged-up and confined. The Maison Margiela astroturf couture look, I think, is so ridiculous. I had ordered the astroturf from click and collect. I never intended for the poo to be stuck to the grass. But when I went to the park, I had a blue poo bag that I was scooping up droppings with because I have two beautiful dogs. And I just thought, ‘Hang on, why don’t I YouTube how to make candy poos, and then I can skewer them into the outfit when I dress myself?’ It’s very relatable. 

 

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A post shared by STUART WALFORD (@stuart_walford)

What’s next for The Lockdown Diaries? Could you give us the inside scoop on what you’re working on?

It’s hard to answer because I really don’t forecast what I’m going to do because it kind of happens in the moment. But I guess if we are looking immediately, I want to challenge myself to do a Met Gala American look today. I think if I set myself the challenge, I can rush through it and whip something up. I go to Woolworths, right? I try to do my shop, and then I walk the aisles and fill my basket up with anything I think that could come in handy later. And I found these three tablecloths in red, blue and white and some paper plates, so since the palette is appropriate to the Met Gala, I think that’s going to be my inspiration today. 

To see more looks from Stuart, follow him here.

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