Stylist, fashion editor, consultant, creative director, entrepreneur and all-round inspiration are but a few terms with which one could describe Aisling Farinella.
As one of the capital’s most respected voices in both fashion and culture, it was a genuine privilege to visit Aisling in South Studios and interview her about her take on fashion, the transforming role of the stylist, the Irish fashion landscape and of course, Thread magazine.
Let’s pretend that I didn’t ever-so-slightly ‘fan-girl’ when I saw her back catalogue of Vogue Italia and the beautiful ‘tail whip’ dress by Danielle Romeril on a mannequin in the corner of Aisling’s studio…
1. How would you describe your relationship with fashion?
My relationship with fashion? Wow. Relationships are difficult – always! I love fashion, I don’t have a fashion background, I never studied fashion so I do think that my relationship with fashion is a little bit different in my approach to things. I go through periods of absolutely loving it and then I go through periods of really not giving a crap.
I’m a very visual person and for me, working as a stylist, it’s about the production of an image and it’s not just about fashion, it’s about how the fashion works within the image, with the photographer, with the model, with the atmosphere – with everything!
I guess, to answer your question, my relationship with fashion is that it’s something that I absolutely love. I have huge passion for it. It’s constantly inspiring, exciting. There’s always something new – it moves so fast. It’s consistently regenerating itself, I haven’t ever felt bored by it.
2. Can you recall your first memory of fashion?
Fashion happened for me, kind of out of the blue and I guess when I came upon it, I immediately loved it. It immediately felt right and was something that I wanted to pursue. It was different then too, I’ve been working as a stylist for nearly ten years now, even in the time that I have been working, the landscape has changed hugely. There weren’t bloggers, Facebook didn’t exist – I barely used MySpace, it was a very different landscape for fashion.
I guess growing up, fashion didn’t really come into my view. I became involved in the skateboard scene from my early teenage years, that to me, was my fashion at the time. It was a style of clothes, it was a type of music, it was a genre essentially, to link into. I don’t think it’s unusual that my interest in fashion wasn’t innate, I think it’s brilliant that I came to it a little bit later. I came to fashion with a lot more experience, with an individual eye, my own aesthetic – which I’m still developing and other interests that I continue to take influence from.
3. You learned to become a stylist solely through experience but do you see much benefit, for prospective stylists, in studying fashion or attending a course in this field or is experience still the most beneficial method of learning?
I think experience is the way you are going to learn the most. However, I highly regard and value education but I don’t think it matters what you study. It’s always going to pay off in the end and you will use it some way, it disciplines you too.
The process of learning, studying and being introduced to new ideas is what school is all about. I think I used all of the skills that I learned from studying a Masters in Film and I apply them to how I work in fashion; everything from research, to production.
Had I of known more about fashion when starting out, I would have done it differently – I should have went to London, I should have assisted somebody great, I should have experienced fashion at more of an international environment but I didn’t and I don’t regret it at all. I am perfectly happy with everything that I have achieved and perfectly proud of everything, on a small-scale, and continue to be excited about everything that I get to do. I think of it as a huge privilege.
4. This notion that you should have went to London, you’re often labelled as ‘the girl who stayed’, what are your thoughts on that title?
Pfft. It’s a bit dramatic! It’s not like I’m here all the time and the world is a tiny place, particularly with the internet. I live here and I love Dublin but I don’t feel my brain is in Dublin – my head is everywhere.
5. With Simone Rocha, John Rocha and J.W. Anderson all showing in London and with individuals such as Sarah Manley and Kellie Dalton working in prominent positions in Burberry, why do you think the Irish are so attractive in the international fashion industry?
I think we are just incredibly talented people. For a small country, we produce a huge amount of talent and not just in fashion but in music, in literature, in everything. I think we are very enthusiastic and passionate people and when we channel ourselves into the right things we produce work of a very high-quality.I think it’s really important that Irish people are working in very important positions in fashion internationally, it’s one of the reasons why we set up Thread.
I think that Irish people also have the habit of talking down about themselves and not having enough ego but we really need to highlight all of the amazing stuff that people are doing. You can grow up in Dublin or in the middle of Kerry and still become the world’s biggest fashion designer or model – we’re not limited being here.
6. Speaking of limiting one’s self, you could never be considered as ‘just a stylist’, how did the projects such as The Loft Market and Thread Magazine first come about?
Since the beginning of my career, I’ve been a stylist and it’s not something that I have ever stopped or slowed down with. I work full-time and I’m really lucky that I have been in a position to do that, and for so long. I have quite a lot of energy and I tend to take on projects, every now and then. The first one that came to me was The Loft Market.The Loft Market was a retail space for young Irish designers, for them to experiment with their collections and with customers. It was fun, it was a weekend thing, it was a bit arty and we had a lot of laughs throughout the whole process. The Loft Market is still going, I set it up and I ran it for somewhere between three and five years, I don’t know but then I passed it on. It had lived its life for me and now it has taken on a new life and Kate Nolan of Re-Dress runs it and she does amazing things with it.
That was the first project, and then there was Circus Stores which was a feeder project from The Loft Market. Circus Stores was a retail project, it was an absolute adventure which I was part of with three other people. We brought in a mixture of cool, interesting vintage clothes along with contemporary, European, Irish and American designers. It wasn’t commercial, it was more experimental with people working in a more independent realm. We did a lot of art exhibitions, pop ups, projects and collaborations that Circus was at the centre of. It was a really exciting time but a particularly difficult one as at the same time, I was also styling full-time. It was the same for all of us but we really loved it.
I guess after Circus, I took a tiny little break and I wanted to get involved in something else. I’d wanted to do a magazine for a long time – it had been on my mind since ‘Mongrel’ had closed down. I was fashion editor there for a while and it was something that I really enjoyed, the freedom of being able to do fashion in a non-commercial way, in a fun way that involved a lot of street casting – everything that you can’t do with other magazines! I really wanted to do something like that again. Over the years, there were lots of discussions with different people about doing a magazine.
Then, Garett Pitcher of Indigo & Cloth, decided that it would be a great idea to bring together all of the different independent retailers in Dublin. At the time, there were five or six really amazing people – unfortunately, there aren’t any more. They were each doing really interesting things with designers and Garett wanted to bring them altogether. So, he went about setting up this meeting, as Garett does, in his soon-to-be Mayor of Dublin way, and he invited along the different boutiques and a couple of stylists aswell to see if a discussion could happen where retailers would bond together and fight off Topshop and Brown Thomas.
I saw it as an opportunity to get the magazine going. I thought maybe we could use the magazine to support these independent and emerging designers and that’s how Thread started. Keith Nally, a brilliant graphic designer and a very good friend of mine, over the years both of us have engaged in many discussions about setting up a magazine over the years – the three of us came together to start this magazine. It has evolved and it has changed and unfortunately, the independents do not exist like they did so Thread has evolved, it has moved on a bit but it is still hugely important to me in creating a different image of fashion in Dublin and supporting the Irish fashion scene.
7. If you had to describe the Dublin landscape in terms of fashion, arts and culture, what words would you use to define it?
I think it’s energetic, experimental. It’s quite open, if you want to be involved. It’s easier to connect with people – you have to try but there’s always a possibility. There’s a good atmosphere here, it’s not as cut throat as other cities and it’s more welcoming.
Image via David Wall
8. Is there any one moment in your career that particularly stands out for you?
To be honest, I’m really proud of Thread. Circus was such a fun time, it was a real challenge too. I have so much fun on every shoot, even when things go wrong, you always have stories to tell. There are so many moments – first time at Paris Fashion Week, first time shooting in New York. I guess the first are always the most memorable. Every road trip shoot I do with photographer Richie Gilligan – it’s just me, Rich and a model jump in a car. We’ve no hair and make-up, just a bag of clothes. We never end up where we plan. I guess, I really hate the moments where I’m sitting at my computer at really late at night, where I’m not going out at the weekend or I miss some event – I hate those moments but you have to make some sacrifices in order to be able to do those wonderful things that I’m lucky enough that I get to do. There really are so many moments!
9. Do you have any sort of professional bucket-list (if there is such a thing), that you would love to achieve within the next five years?
I would love to see Thread evolve, develop and progress. It’s got such potential. I would love to see it become a stronger publication. I have lots of ambitions but I’m more the kind of person that likes to realise them than to talk about them! I don’t, however, have any favourite celeb that I would love to style…
10. If you had to give advice to someone who wants to be in your shoes in a decade, what would you say?
Oh, just do it! That’s a huge advantage of not coming from a fashion background for me. Everything is a bonus, every little step is a winning one. There is no right, there is no wrong – fashion is so subjective, anyway. Just do it!
11. As you mentioned earlier, ten years ago, the landscape in terms of Irish stylists was very different, almost barren. Today, the landscape is more than plentiful. With so many people describing themselves as a stylist, is it furthering the image of the profession or somewhat damaging it?
I wouldn’t say damaging but if you think of it like music – so many people make music but there’s only a few who are making good music. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do it but eventually, time will tell whether or not you’re going to make good music. Styling is something that improves with practice, your eye becomes more trained. I think it’s really exciting to see so many people so interested and getting involved, doing new things, starting up fashion shows, creating shoots – the more of that shit the better!
Want to find out more about Aisling / creep on her future work? You can find her on Instagram and you can follow Thread Magazine on both Facebook and Twitter.