Meet Anna Caselberg – Author of The Closet Stylist
By: Leonie Barlow
I first met Anna about 10 years ago when I was editing Fashion Quarterly magazine. At the time Anna was the fashion editor on NEXT magazine and every month I looked forward to seeing Anna’s fashion editorials because they were always so elegant, fashion forward yet achievable. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Anna many times and I’ve always loved her sense of style and eye for detail. In fact, Anna is someone I regularly turn to for personal fashion advice. Which is why I was SO excited to get my hands on a copy of Anna’s brand new book, The Closet Stylist. The book is full of Anna’s great styling tips and valuable wardrobe advice. It’s a must-have book if you want to look great, have more confidence and avoid expensive fashion mistakes. I recently caught up with Anna to dig a little deeper into her own personal style (which I love) and to find out how she got started in fashion styling.
How did you get into fashion styling?
Studying photography in London, I found I preferred dressing the models rather than shooting them. Styling was still relatively new in the late ’80s, both in London and NZ. Fashion Quarterly’s then owner editor Paula Ryan suggested I work for them on my return to New Zealand which I did.
How would you describe your personal style?
My style is pared back – not far off minimal but with an edge in there somewhere. I like well constructed clothes, quality fabrics and clean lines. Gathers and fuss in design don’t suit me. Then I’ll personalise my look with accessories.
How do you decide what you are wearing each day?
I know it sounds like I am addicted but in a way I am. As a stylist you are kind of creating looks always, so depending on what I have to do, I choose one of the combinations I have tried and know I can rely on. These I add to and change depending on the season and the trends. I try on pieces and create the looks as a matter of course continually throughout the season, adding new pieces to old, adding a different accessory or shoe. I enjoy trying on new combinations and find there is always a best pairing. These hang together in my wardrobe and are go-to looks for everyday.
Where do you get your fashion inspiration?
Magazines are still my main source on inspiration. Regular reads are Nylon, W mag and British Vogue. Movies old and new are also inspiring along with fashion I see on the street, fashion blogs, and generally I just observe everywhere!
How much time do you spend putting together your outfits?
It’s a hobby really – I try things on and create looks I rely on for the season. If I’m not organised I can spend up to an hour putting separates together to get a proportion right. It’s annoying and a giant waste of time so I do it when I am in the mood to try on and create a look.
How do you build an outfit?
There are no rigid rules but I create looks around each new piece as I get it. If it is a shoe or boots it is from the bottom up. Most often it is a top to pair with pants which I wear daily as my legs are the body part I rely on most! I have many pairs and styles of pants, jackets and coats that i keep, and re-invent with the new pieces and footwear.
What are your best tricks for updating your wardrobe on a budget?
Think carefully before you purchase and buy the piece you need most first. A wise buy is one you have thought about how to wear more ways than one. Buying cleverly means your cost per wear will always be reasonable.
Do you ever directly copy someone’s style you see in the street?
No,but I can be inspired by it.
How important are accessories to you?
Very important! Accessories personalise your look, and there are so many brilliant accessories around. Scarves and necklaces are my top choices. Like clothes, they are an expression of your style and give character to what you wear.
Whose style do you most admire?
I love the french stylists, whose casual chic style always looks effortless but so right. Marie-Amelie Sauve, now fashion editor at W magazine, Emanuelle Alt from French Vogue and Carine Roitfeld all have great style.
When did your love of fashion begin?
From an early age re-inventing clothes that were handed down to me, and loving fashion mags; particularly British ones, that were edgier than American ones. I was also influenced by my fashion-loving grandmother and I often went with her on her many trips to her dressmaker and department store shopping.
How often do you clean out your wardrobe and what is your process for updating and recycling your clothes?
I sort my wardrobe at least twice a year. I give away to my nieces and friends or Dress for Success usually.
How do you merchandise your wardrobe?
I hang the outfits I am wearing currently together, and the rest co-ordinated by styles e.g jackets, coats, skirts, pants, tops etc. I need to see some order in the closet or I go mad!
Are there some pieces in your wardrobe you would never give up?
Yes special pieces like my Colette Dinnigan lace pieces I will hand on to my daughter. Great coats and jackets – in fact I keep lots. Good fabric and well tailored pieces never date and can be re-invented easily. Right now I am thinking of a ten year old below-the-knee wool skirt by Tanya Carlson I am so glad I have kept, so right for this winter. (I’ll style it with new Georgia Alice silky shirt and a slouchy but tailored button-less coat and ladylike heels…)
Favourite designers / brands?
I love NZ designers Ruby, Helen Cherry, Karen Walker, Juliette Hogan, Hailwood, Lonely Hearts, 27 name’s, Georgia Alice and many others. Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno and Alexander Wang for casual pieces. Stella McCartney and Celine are first stops when I travel. Ngawiata jewels are a current favorite. Deadly Ponies Bags and silk scarves.