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How I Got Here: Celebrity stylist and designer Lana Wilkinson on treating people the way you want to be treated

WORDS BY JASMINE WALLIS

If you keep your feet firmly on the ground, you can excel.”

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While the internet and social media might have us believe that our ideal job is a mere pipe dream, the individuals who have these jobs were, believe it or not, in the same position once, fantasising over someone else’s seemingly unattainable job.

But behind the awe-inspiring titles and the fancy work events lies a heck of a lot of hard work. So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?


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Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to women who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

This week, shoe designer and stylist to the stars and brand ambassador for Nespresso, Lana Wilkinson, gives us her wise words on how she climbed the fashion ladder and what the most important skill to carry into your styling career is. 

Starting out in marketing and PR before being asked to style a handful of clients, Lana was one of the social media pioneers in showing a behind the scenes look at fashion shows and red carpet premieres.

After styling celebrities including Zoe Foster Blake, Ruby Rose and Megan Gale for nearly a decade, Lana founded a luxury shoe brand in her namesake in 2019. Her mission now? To create quality, luxury shoes that can be accessible to every woman. 

A staple in the Australian fashion space, here’s what Lana has learnt along the way. 

What do you do and what’s your official job title? 

I’m a stylist and the founder and designer at Lana Wilkinson. 

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story. 

I got a PR degree from RMIT and then I worked in television production and admin. I then found myself in marketing and PR for Foxtel and then Westfield. I think Westfield was what opened the door for me in terms of being a stylist. I was working in their marketing team and running all of the fashion campaigns and then started wishing I was on the other side. I moved into property marketing and then somebody reached out about styling them for a reality TV show. They’d seen on social media – at that point it was Facebook – that I’d post all these outfits and everyone would ask where they’re from. So I just started hustling on the side and doing that whilst working full time. 

I did that for three years so on the weekend and every other spare minute that I had I would be styling people mostly through referrals. I got to the point where there was a choice to be made about doing it full time. I felt I really needed to give this a go and thanks to social media I was able to take the leap and have been full-time ever since. It was anything but traditional but it certainly worked a treat for me. 

What does a day in your life look like? Tell us your routine. 

It probably won’t surprise you when you hear but my day starts with a Nespresso coffee. I’ve got my Vertuo coffee machine that’s getting a bit of a workout. I then check Instagram and emails, get my kids ready for school and then I train. I’ll then check in with my teams and head into the office. We chat about what sales we did over the weekend, what our best sellers were, what marketing we’re doing for the week, what content we need to create and on top of that it’s what outfits my clients need. In my afternoons I try to spend time with my children and hopefully my husband gets a look in by then! Everyday is different but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular? 

The biggest challenge has been wearing multiple hats and trying to be all things to all people. In October 2019 I launched my brand and I naively remember not knowing all of the facets of building one. You’ve got customer service and care, packing orders, marketing and I think for me, the challenge was to be all those things plus styling people. I was making sure my work was at the best level because I never wanted my client to think I wasn’t committed to what they were doing. I ended up getting quite sick because I was burnt out so one of the things I’ve realised is that it’s okay to say no sometimes. You’ve got to be able to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things.

You’re a brand ambassador not just for your own line but also Nespresso, who are an official partner of Melbourne Fashion Festival. What’s the best part about this role? 

Having an Italian father I’ve been an espresso girl for longer than I should’ve. I love everything the brand stands for; being luxurious and of quality. When I get to have that time in the morning with my coffee, that’s luxury for me. With Melbourne Fashion Festival to have that coffee machine in my fitting room for two weeks is going to work very well. It’s a brand that’s stood the test of time and I hope from a design perspective that my brand can one day do the same. 

What’s a non-negotiable in your schedule? 

Coffee, exercise and family; all the things that keep me moving. The obvious is my children. I think what we learnt last year is that we all want to create memories with your family. Personally, I think exercise has become such an outlet for me when you’re so busy and I feel like I’ve got a stronger mind-set and when you look after you, you can be all those things to the people who need you. 

What’s the importance of quality craftsmanship in the luxury space? 

I think in a very disposable world, you want pieces to be able to last and pick quality over quantity. When I think about Nespresso, that’s a brand I can remember my mum loving, and now it’s a brand I swear by. That’s what it comes down to. The best compliment I can ever receive is when someone says ‘It was really comfortable, I was able to wear it all night’. Like Nespresso, my whole philosophy is quality, craftsmanship and luxury. 

What would surprise people about your role? 

It’s not as glamorous as people think. As amazing as it is, it’s hard work. From a styling perspective sometimes the outfits you produce aren’t the ones you chose, it’s what you had and you have to bring your skillset to the table. From a shoe and brand perspective, I would say it’s not easy running your business. You’re the designer, the finance manager, the fashion buyer and it’s hard work. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day? 

You’ve got to be able to take the good with the bad. For every bad experience, a good experience comes and I think in business, that’s been the biggest lesson I’ve learnt. Don’t be upset with the failures or the mistakes because you learn something that makes you better for the next time. You also need to be able to listen to people and treat people equally. I had a job recently where they wanted to borrow some shoes and I remember the talent, about six years ago on a photoshoot, treating me like something they stepped in. And now they were saying ‘She’d love you to style her’ and I said no. That probably sounds quite petty but it never left me and I thought, ‘I don’t want to be a part of that journey’. If you keep your feet firmly on the ground, you can excel. 

What about a practical tip? 

Be willing to work, treat people well and be willing to learn. Especially when you can learn from someone else. But also enjoy it and love it! Keep evolving, changing and challenging yourself. It can be really hard to get your name out there but just keep building and maintaining your relationships with people. 

@lanawilkinson

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

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