Meet The Stylist Behind Smoke + Mirrors Collective


Meet Stylist Claire McKay

When did you know you wanted to be a Stylist?

Honestly, until about six years ago, I wasn’t even aware that being a Fashion Stylist was a thing. From a young age, I had a vivid imagination. I loved playing dress-up, creating imagined worlds where I could dream, play and let my imagination run wild. I remember attempting to draw different clothing designs. What I was picturing in my head, wouldn’t necessarily translate onto the paper, but I just loved being creative and having fun.

How did you make your start in the fashion industry?

After completing my studies through the Australian Style Institute, I began connecting with local creatives and it all started from there.

Fashion Editorial

How would you describe your styling aesthetic?

My focus is Editorial Styling as I enjoy being able create dramatic, over the top looks.  I’m very spontaneous and I’m incredibly lucky to have connected with some amazing creatives who trust my instincts and allow me the freedom to make my styling decisions on the spot. We will have a mood board and inspiration in advance for the shoot; so I will source a variety of different looks, but won’t make any decisions on the final looks until we are at the location.

What’s the hardest part about working as a Stylist?

I suffer from severe anxiety, which makes it very difficult for me to connect with new people. On the flip side, when my anxiety gets too overwhelming, my imagination and creativity go into overdrive, so during these moments I come up with interesting ideas for photo shoots and fashion design ideas.

Fashion Shoot with editorial stylisng by Claire McKay

Highlight of your Styling career so far?

The first time my work was published in an international fashion magazine. This was a surreal moment to think that an idea from a team of creatives I had collaborated with had been able to create these beautiful images. Collaborating with a photographer, hairstylist, make-up artist and models, to create beautiful images is very rewarding. Through connections at university, I have been involved in the production design, costume and continuity process of a short film and a mini-series. This was such an amazing experience as it gave me such a great insight to the amount of work required behind the scenes to create the magic on screen.

You’ve recently started studying fashion design, tell us about what you’ve learned.

I began the Fashion Design degree so I could learn how to make clothes. I realised early on, that a lot of the looks I was wanting for photoshoots, I wasn’t able to source, as they didn’t exist.  My imagination and sewing skills don’t align. I’m now in my second year and it is abundantly clear to my wonderful class mates and lecturers that I will never be renowned for my sewing ‘skills’.  Design is definitely my strength. Drawing and design are my favourite classes as they allow imagination and creativity. We were incredibly lucky to have Petar Prodanovic as our fashion illustration teacher. He has a tonne of talent and he was such a joy to learn from.

Editorial Styling

Who is your Style icon? Who inspires you?

I’m inspired by visual story tellers and absolutely love the photography work by Paolo Roversi, Tim Walker, Kirsty Mitchell and Gregory Crewdson. Hauntingly beautiful, ethereal images which transport you to a different world. Their imagination and talent is so inspiring. In terms of Fashion Designers, Alexander McQueen is my all-time favourite designer. His imagination, and ability to translate his ideas into design was incredible. His muse, Daphne Guinness is also a favourite of mine. Her style is over the top, and I absolutely love that. My other favourite designers are Toni Maticevski, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Brandon Maxwell and Minju Kim.

What’s the best advice you would give to someone else who wants to get started in Styling?

Do your research in relation to the training institutions which offer Styling courses and figure out what area of Styling you would like to explore. There is personal styling, editorial styling, visual merchandising, production design and advertising campaigns.

Wedding Styling by Claire McKay

What’s next for you?

At the moment, uni studies take up 95% of my week, so this is my focus for the foreseeable future. Beyond my study, I honestly have no idea. I have a million ideas going through my head which I need to translate onto paper and organise into photoshoots, but as I mentioned earlier, I never plan things too far ahead of time.

Street Style Fashion Editorial by Claire McKay

Follow Claire McKay via Smoke and Mirrors Collective

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