The Art of Styling: Saerah Ridzuan
In the world of fashion, there’s an assumption that only the designers, the clothes and the models matter. But there is so much more that goes on behind a fashion shoot that we do not see. It’s not all about the glamour of lights, camera, action. In fact, we often overlook the art of styling.
It takes a village to create a beautiful fashion spread. Behind the lens is a team of dedicated stylists that help conceptualise the theme, makeup and feel of the shoot to best represent the brand. If you’ve ever been curious about what it takes to be a fashion stylist, then today is your lucky day!
Saerah Ridzuan is the founder of Styllar, a team of fashion stylists based in the Klang Valley. In the words of Saerah, Styllar is the combination of the words “style” and “stellar” — two words that best describe what styling is about. Style is more than just clothes. It’s about personal branding and a sign of individuality. On the other hand, stellar is the level of quality that Saerah and her team aspire to achieve through their work.
Despite her background in art and design, Saerah has always found that fashion is something that's innate because of her mum's influence. She was a fashion designer and one of the most stylish individuals that Saerah has ever known growing up. After working in advertising for some time, it was only natural that Saerah decided to take a leap of faith by joining an English fashion magazine. Although it had a short lifespan, it still jolted her next career move. She got hired as a contract fashion writer and stylist for CLEO magazine.
During this time, Saerah also wanted to start her own project. And that was how Styllar was born. Ever since, she has worked with various fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands, as well as notable film productions, conceptualising ideas and wardrobe for shoots with her team of freelance stylists.
How would you describe your personal style? Favourite outfits?
Personally, I like to wear something that's more practical for my lifestyle. Being a working mum, I find that I am no longer able to wear certain things like high heels, an abundance of accessories etc. Comfort is always queen. I’m not someone who buys for a brand name but rather for aesthetic and quality. My favourite outfit would have to be anything from Cassey Gan or Kozo. I love local brands and designers.
What do you love most about styling?
Styling is a form of artistic expression. My training in art and design has taught me to appreciate aesthetics in many forms but always done in the right synchronicity. Colours, patterns and fabrics, they are to me a medium of art and a human’s body is the canvas. There's no greater satisfaction than nailing a look that you know you've styled right down to perfection.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I like to study people and cultures. On occasions, the muses that I work with will inspire something new. I find people with strong characters are satisfying to work with because I am able to challenge myself to come up with looks that best portray their personality.
What are some of the misconceptions about being a stylist?
That it's all a glitz and glam occupation. Truthfully, there's a lot of physical work that goes into what we do. From sourcing and loaning the wardrobe to lugging them to on-set locations, it can be pretty labour intensive. Then there's steaming, altering and sewing clothes. It doesn't just end there. Some projects may even cause us monetary loss. We’ve had to reimburse brands that we’ve loaned from for damages caused during shoots. At the end of the day, we get satisfaction from a job well done. When a client is happy we're happy too.
Tell us what’s the hardest thing you had to deal with as a stylist.
Pre-production is always the toughest stage. Conceptualising, sourcing and shopping can take up so much brain and physical energy especially when dealing with indecisive briefs. The other thing that's always hard to deal with is when as a stylist, you believe in a vision but it's turned down by a client. That's just the way it is. But the best part is meeting new people in the industry, learning from them and building friendships with local designers.
If you weren’t a stylist, what would you have ended up doing?
I'd still be creating something. If not looks, probably something more hands-on, which I am currently still doing from my days of being an art director. I have recently started doing digital illustrations again, and selling them online.
Name your wardrobe must-have.
Loose fitted dresses for the days when you're not feeling quite yourself and just want to look effortlessly stylish. Pair them with practically anything, sneakers, boots, flip flops, caps, you name it.
Advice for anyone starting out in fashion.
Start from the bottom. Learn the basics, ask questions and don't be shy to ask to be mentored. A lot of people think it's an easy job and they do it for the wrong reason. Do it because you love doing it and not because you love the perks that come with the job.
What does the future hold for Styllar in the new normal?
We’re definitely tremendously affected by Covid-19 and the imposement of Movement Control Order. Once we're able to shoot again, things will be different for sure and there will be new SOPs to adhere to. It's tough because the nature of our job is to be in close contact with the talents we work with. But I'm optimistic.
In the meantime, we are exploring ideas to work digitally as we're definitely open to new ways and ideas. In fact, during MCO I styled Alena Murang for a live broadcast show she was doing with Muzik Malaysia under Kementerian Komunikasi Dan Multimedia Malaysia. It was a brand new experience, sharing looks and ideas through WhatsApp messages and video calls but we made it happen.
Saerah is the epitome of not letting fear stifle your creativity. You never know where life will take you along the way!
Check out some of Styllar’s work on their Instagram page!
Words by Denise Lee @createbythemissnise