As a creative woman, there’s no need to look any further than Rachel Holland for inspiration. Starting her career in art direction in the TV and Film industry, she has block by block built her career over the last decade to get to where she is now. Today, Rachel is a renowned celebrity stylist and Womenswear Fashion Editor at FAULT magazine, and has recently signed to Frank Agency for representation. Her reputation precedes her: her resume is star-studded with celebrity styling, working with stars like Dannii Minogue, Little Mix or Billie Piper.
I first met Rachel at London Fashion Week about 7 years ago, while promoting my own eco-friendly label. We connected over our common desire to create fashion and art that helps, rather than harms the environment- something that is trendy now, but was less so in the past. Her commitment to sustainability, as well as her approachable humility, warmth and empathy make her someone that I think creative women everywhere can look to. Rachel recently took some time to answer some questions about how she came to be where she is today, and how to stay grounded amid success.
I think most of us will be very excited to read about how you broke into the industry. Tell me all about it. Was this your childhood dream? When did you decide to become a stylist?
My childhood dream was to be a fashion designer. I remember that Vivienne Westwood was my absolute hero, and I used to constantly play dress-up, experiment with make-up, alter my appearance and style my clothes even as a kid. I devoured the pages of top magazines like Vogue and found endless inspiration and wonder looking through their images. For me they were magical.
I became a stylist after having a fairly substantial career as a designer in TV and Film. I worked more on the set, on the art direction and graphics side of the work, as I’d basically decided to take a different route after my art foundation course and instead studied communication & graphic design, rather than fashion. My own career path has taken a bit of a bendy route in actually then returning back in a loop towards fashion but with lots and lots of additional knowledge and training in other areas. It’s given me a unique skill set and viewpoint. Now I feel like I can channel my creativity into many areas and I’m not afraid of taking a risk because of it.
Anastacia for Fault Magazine styled by Rachel Holland
When was your break-through and how did it happen? What are you most proud of as of today?
I don’t know if I had an absolute breakthrough; it was more a gradual progression and steps forward. The fashion and styling world can be so competitive that I think you just have to work hard to perfect your craft, keep learning and developing your skills, and then it just happens slowly over time. You’ll notice that you start to get busier and receive more requests for jobs.
What’s been your most difficult situation/hardship you’ve had to deal with throughout your career?
There’s aspects of it that are challenging at all times. I set into the industry wanting to work only with eco and sustainable brands, until I realised that wouldn’t be possible – there just isn’t enough work exclusively in that arena. So, I had to compromise and become more of a regular, well rounded stylist who works with a variety of brands. Now, after working through the years and earning my stripes, I feel like it’s time again to refocus on my work in sustainability as much as possible, and to bring aspects of that into my styling and fashion editing.
Little Mix for Fault Magazine
Tell us about your new project that you’re working on. How did the idea come about and what does it represent?
Naked Journals came about after thinking about wanting to create a new and different sort of platform for women for almost two years. I was waiting for someone else to bring the idea to life in the marketplace. I thought I could just wait and then go and work for whoever started it, but time passed and it still wasn’t out there. I realised that I needed to make it happen. Naked is about taking the narrative back for women especially, to broaden the conversation into a very real place and to have intelligent conversations and images that support us, rather than hinder us. I’m very excited about it, I want to give the power back to women, to support them in being fully who they are rather than who society tells them to be. Naked has several muses called ‘Naked Women’ which to me personifies the type of woman who would read Naked Journals. Some Naked women muses are Frida Kahlo, Georgia O Keefe, Maya Angelou, Zaha Hadid, Patti Smith, Bjork, etc. These are renegade women, ahead of their time, who are shamelessly and utterly themselves. They’re the sort of women that I’m creating this for: modern women who define who they are and are not dictated to.
What was your biggest professional failure and how did you manage to deal with it? What does failure mean to you and what did you learn from it?
I haven’t had huge failures to be honest. Professionally I see it more as learning and growth. I look back at some of my earlier work and I just don’t like it, but I think that’s entirely normal – your taste, references and focus changes over time. We are all a work in progress. I guess I don’t really believe in failure.
I know that sustainability is something that you feel very strongly about, how do you incorporate that into your daily life? What’s your advice for someone who is just experimenting with the idea of trying to become more conscious about their lifestyle/buying decisions?
That’s right, when I was in my earlier years building up my work and I was trying to only work with eco brands. I remember your label also, one of my favourites at the time and you always had such elegant, modern pieces and style, you really stood out. I would love to take a re-look at the collection as I bet a lot of those pieces are still wearable today.
I have always felt very strongly about the environment and that’s never really gone away. It feels like now the whole movement has been picking up again, with more and more people seeking out eco and sustainable brands, which is incredibly exciting. It’s growing and this time the change seems to be permanent. Day to day, I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I eat organically, like ordering my veggies from Riverford, which are unpackaged and not wrapped in plastic. I’m careful about what I buy and where from as much as possible, going to my local farm shop a lot and not using plastic packaging. I tend to buy from smaller brands and so I try to support smaller businesses that way. I’m also really careful about any clothing that I buy, so that pieces last for years rather than for a short-term shopping fix. I promote the idea of a slow wardrobe, careful curating and creating strong personal style over fashion trends.
My suggestion to anyone looking to be more sustainable would be to start with your shopping habits. These are really easy to change. Start shopping from smaller, local, independent stores, take your own shopping bag, say no to extra wasteful packaging and cut down on plastic usage. There’s now packaging-free stores opening up around London so it’s becoming easier than ever to do this. Also, recycle!! There’s no excuse to not do this, it’s easy.
What’s your favourite new A/W trend picks that is easy to incorporate into a lady-boss’ wardrobe?
The slouchy grey women’s suits that I’ve seen on the catwalks for AW17 are really cool. I love a woman in a relaxed, comfy suit- it’s effortless, timeless and says ‘I’m not trying too hard’. The great thing about the two piece is that you can also wear the jacket and trousers separately – the jacket worn over a silky dress for a tomboyish evening look and then the trousers with a slouchy oversized sweater paired with some sculptural earrings for a modern but relaxed daytime look. The suit should also work for many more seasons as this sort of style will not date easily.
What are your favourite spots in London?
Liberty’s for shopping, The Wild Food Cafe for lunch, The Tate Modern and Newport Street Gallery for an art fix. The Hotel Cafe Royal for a massage is hard to beat, and finishing drinks on the south bank looking out over the river Thames sounds like a great day to me.
Feature image by ©Jemima Marriott