Fashion Fairground founder and former marketing professional Stacey Gillies, 39, talks about how she became a personal stylist and what sets her apart from the competition.

Can you describe your business?

As a personal stylist I help to create inspiring wardrobe options for clients, with a particular interest in working with professional working women and mums who don't have the time to shop, or need guidance on their wardrobe.

I also offer online shopping guidance to offer a range of options as in New Zealand we don't have as much choice. Fashion Fairground began as a blog in 2015, which I slowly built up when I was still working in my day job, which gave me the foundation and confidence to move into styling a few years later.

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What inspired you to start?

I've always been interested in clothing and the way people dress themselves; both good and bad. You can tell a lot by how someone dresses so I think presenting yourself well is one way to make yourself feel good mentally and physically.

I spent many years in Melbourne and London, and that's where my interest intensified. I've always had comments on my style and requests for advice so when I came back to New Zealand nine years ago I started the blog where I shared ideas and opinions on local and international fashion.

From there, and with the encouragement from others, I worked for 18 months doing various non-paid styling projects to build up experience and started the business approximately six months later. At the time I also saw a gap in the market for a stylist aimed at people who were not wealthy.

What makes Fashion Fairground different to others in the market?

I set at a realistic financial rate, comparatively to other stylists, which allows my clients to spend their budget on shopping as opposed to consult fees. I charge $80 an hour for shopping and do an initial consult with no charge - 30 minutes to find out about my clients lifestyle and objectives expected out of the time with me.

It's the type of work that happens on the weekends because most of my clients work during the week. I do a wardrobe edit and that normally takes an hour or two, depending on how much the client has got, and then I put together a mood board of ideas; like a style direction. It gives people a good idea of what to expect before we go shopping, find out if they like what they see and helps reduce the time shopping as we've already laid out a plan, I charge a $80 one-off fee for that. From there it's a minimum of two hours to go on a personal shopping trip - $80 per hour, which is at the more affordable end of the spectrum.

What's the most interesting part of your job?

I really enjoying working with clothes and colour, the creativity behind making something look great, and helping people. It's really nice to see when someone is really happy with the results of working with them, even if it is just a couple of ideas. I also enjoy the other side where I dabble in wardrobe work for TV and film.

Stacey Gillies styling a client.
Stacey Gillies styling a client.

What personal styling myths can you bust as a fashion insider?

Personal styling can be seen as being only for the rich and famous. Some people spend money on their appearance, whether that be getting their hair done or nails painted, but for me it doesn't really stop there. Presentation is actually clothing as well - it completes the whole package, and that's why I set my rates lower so it's attainable - just like going to the hairdresser or seeing another service provider.

How much competition are you facing in this industry?

There is a bit of competition out there, especially in Auckland, and it seems to be growing however many stylists are aiming at a different audience and have quite a broad offering. I provide a simplistic service to a demographic very similar to myself - professional women, mums or mums-to-be. I understand the challenges they might be dealing with whether that be dressing for a corporate role, looking good while pregnant or dressing a post baby body.

Starting a blog was a great way to get my name, and the Fashion Fairground name, out there as it enabled me to take on other opportunities.

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What's the most challenging part of running Fashion Fairground?

For me it's maintaining a social media presence when juggling other things [and] having interesting content to post and taking the time to write it.

What's next for Fashion Fairground?

What I've been working on with my website is running an online pop-up shop. I just had my first last week, but I'm off to New York in a few weeks' time so I'm hoping to bring back some items that I can sell at my next one in late November or early December. The pop up shops last for five days, and because it's a new thing I don't want to have a lot of stock - it'll be limited pieces, a mix of old and new.

What advice do you give to others thinking of starting a business?

Take every opportunity to get involved in a project or job to get the experience and find out if you even enjoy it. Just give it a go and see what happens.

I found starting a blog was a great way to get my name, and the Fashion Fairground name, out there as it enabled me to take on other opportunities and I had something to show people - like a CV of work.