Monthly Archives: July 2013

Meet the Fashion Stylists – Interview with Debra Lestrade of ‘Style to You’

Now ‘The Fashion Stylist’ blog is up and running, we are planning to post a fantastic series of interviews with stylists, fashion bloggers and other industry insiders.  We are kicking off with our very own Debra Lestrade, the styling genius behind ‘Style to You’ and senior tutor at The London Academy of Fashion and Styling.


Debra Lestrade

Debra Lestrade of ‘Style to You’


Q. When did you first become interested in fashion and what sparked that interest?

A. My interest in fashion started in my early teens, and it has grown from there.  I was always the one who wanted to look groomed rather than wear the latest fad.  It’s funny, but when I go back and look at the old photos of me with my friends from those teenage years it’s not me who is wearing the latest, loudest – I was always the one wearing the outfit that fitted well, that I felt good in and looked great!

Q. Have you always aspired to be a fashion stylist or did you once want to follow a different career?

A. I started off wanting to to be a fashion model. I was in awe of the way they sashayed down the catwalk, looking so elegant and confident. I used to daydream and imagine myself in their shoes, gliding gracefully down the catwalk in all those beautifully designed clothes. Luckily I achieved my goal and did eventually become a fashion model.  Yes, at times I had to wear some very ‘choice’ outfits that were not quite as I had imagined (that’s fashion!). Also there were occasions where a few trips, falls and slides took over from gliding down the catwalk!  But overall it was a fantastic experience that further ignited my passion for style and fashion and from then on I knew that I would always be a part of this amazing industry.

Q. What got you started as a fashion stylist?

A.  After retiring from Fashion Modelling at the grand old age of 27, I was at a bit of a loss.  For a few years I worked in sales and marketing, but it was never fulfilling and I wanted to go in a different direction.  I’d always had a keen eye for fashion and style and I used to advise friends and family on their looks and styles and really enjoyed it.  They would often say that I should be a stylist,  but at the time I  didn’t think I had the experience to make it work as a career.  Making somebody look good came easily to me, but knowing why I had chosen certain outfits or accessories was purely instinctual and I was conscious that I didn’t really know the steps and techniques that went into putting together a successful look.  So I decided to study styling and that’s when it all fell into place.

Q. Have you had a mentor in the world of fashion or someone who has supported you from the beginning?

A. Not really. My partner, friends and family have been my biggest support base; without their patience, understanding, willingness to be my styling guinea-pigs and their belief in me it would have been a very hard slog.  However, I still feel I would have got there as I had the motivation to succeed, it just would have taken longer.  I am also part of many on-line fashion and style forums where like-minded people go to share ideas or get advice and help each other out.

Q. What do you most enjoy about being a fashion stylist?

A. The thing I most enjoy is when clients ‘get it’.  You can explain how doing a certain thing will help balance out a body or face shape and they will love their new look, but when that penny drops and they completely understand the ethos behind it, that’s when I know it’s a job well done.  I want clients to be able to style themselves once I have given them the knowledge to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to see my clients again, but equally I love to see them again looking better and better, with more confidence and their own individual style.

Q. What has been your biggest challenge in your styling career so far?

A. My biggest challenge was starting out and knowing where to place myself in the market and what my niche would be.  Once you understand and act upon those things you can build your brand, otherwise you’ll find yourself drifting along with no direction or real focus.  So it’s got to be correct right from the start.  Yes, things can change as you go along but the fundamentals or core values should remain the same.


Debra Lestrade of 'Style to You'

Debra Lestrade of ‘Style to You’


Q. Do you have a hot styling tip you could give us?

A. Apparently the word on the street is that all that lovely summer sunshine is not going to last and the rain is making a comeback, so make sure you have a lovely 3/4 length trench coat at hand and choose one in a nice bright colour. With all the grey and gloom you’ll want to stand out!

Remember bold can be beautiful, but if you are not feeling confident enough for a block colour, you can opt for a pattern or print highlighting one of these colours.  Alternatively you could go for a pashmina to drape around a neutral coloured coat, dress or jacket.


Q. What are you currently working on?

A. I have got quite a few projects on the go at the moment.

One of my ongoing tasks is that every time I see a new client I produce an in-depth individual style report for them, which are usually around twenty pages long (there’s a lot to cover!). I have about four of these that I need to finish and each one takes me around three to four days to complete, so yes I really need to get a wriggle on!

I am also working on a fashion shoot with Levi Jeans designed to show that all the different body shapes can look good in the right style of jeans. Another exciting new project is that I am just started working on a collaboration with ‘Branded Fashion‘ where I will become the resident fashion advisor on their new fashion portal.

I really enjoyed my stylist training and am now passionate about passing on my knowledge and experience. So, together with my very talented colleague Cynthia Marsh, I am busy developing our courses, adding content to our website, writing e-books and marking course work for the budding stylists who are completing their on-line fashion and style courses at The London Academy of Fashion and Styling (TLAFS).

Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A. Doing exactly what I’m doing now, styling, tutoring and mentoring.  I absolutely love it, but maybe with a bigger team!!

Q. How do you feel about the fashion industry today? Where do you think it is headed?

A. I think we may have just come outside of that androgynous look where everyone was trying to make out that teenage boys look great in everything. All girls looked like young boys and all boys looked like younger versions of themselves (BIG YAWN).  I am very glad to be seeing real women back on the catwalks who look like women and men who look like men. Last year I attended the British Fashion Week Plus Size events, it was fantastic! A real eye opener and there was some real business being done, with retailers snapping up orders from these very talented designers.  It will be interesting to say the least to see what will be unveiled on the next LFW catwalks. I’ll be taking note!

Q. What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career as a personal stylist?

A. Be prepared….for everything and anything.

Invest in yourself and make sure you get the right training. Although at TLAFS we offer some fantastic online courses, make sure you have a good look around before you decide as there are many other excellent courses out there.

The most important thing to remember is to treat each client as an individual. There is not one solution that fits all in personal styling.  Always ask lots of questions and really listen to what your client is saying or asking you.


Harry Winston – The King of Diamonds

‘Talk to me, Harry Winston, tell me all about it!’  shouted Marilyn Monroe as she sang ‘Diamond’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’.

The history of diamonds is full of fascinating characters that prospected, mined, traded and owned these fabulous precious stones.  But perhaps the most fascinating and famous of them all was a man called Harry Winston, who was so well known and flamboyant that he was immortalised in the lyrics of this famous Hollywood movie.  Some of his larger-than-life character is reflected in one of his most famous quotes ‘People will stare. Make it worth their while’.  He was definitely one of those people who knew how to make people take notice of him and during his lifetime he built up one of the most successful jewelry businesses in the world.  The very name of Harry Winston is synonymous with diamonds and during his long career he was lucky enough to own some of the largest and most exquisite diamonds ever to have been dug out of the earth.  He also counted some of the world’s richest and most influential men and most beautiful women among his customers.


The Hope Diamond in its new setting

Harry Winston was born in 1886.  His parents immigrated to the USA from the Ukraine, and his father started up a small jewellers business on their arrival. The young Harry was put to work in the business from an early age and there is a story that when he was only around twelve years of age he discovered an unassuming ring set with a green stone in a pawn brokers shop.  He apparently recognised that the stone was actually a precious emerald, so he bought it for 25 cents. The green gemstone did indeed prove to be a two carat emerald and he managed to sell it on for $800, which was a great of money back in those days.

He started his career as a jeweller to the rich and famous when he purchased an amazing jewelry collection from the estate of the late Arabella Huntington.  Arabella Huntington had been the wife of a wealthy railroad tycoon called Henry Huntington, who purchased many fine pieces of jewelry during her lifetime, mainly from the Parisian jewellers such as Cartier.  Harry Winston cemented his reputation as an innovative, exciting jewelry designer when he broke up Arabella Huntington’s jewelry and reset it in more modern, lighter settings.  He specialised in setting fine diamonds in gleaming platinum, creating unique pieces that moved with their wearer and fitted in with their more mobile, modern lives.

Although Harry Winston became a very wealthy man he was famously casual when it came to his precious stones, and could often be found with a priceless diamond in one of his pockets.  Apparently on one occasion he also sent a very large and valuable 726 carat rough diamond called the Jonker in a package through the ordinary mail. He counted many famous movies stars, entertainers, royalty and aristocrats among his customers having once sold a pair of diamond earrings to the Duchess of Windsor and Richard Burton also bought a fine 69 carat diamond from him for his jewelry loving wife Elizabeth Taylor.

He started his company, Harry Winston Inc, in 1932 and it is still successfully trading today, with a HQ in New York. He was also a major donor of important gemstones to museums, making several large donations to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.  He also put together a famous exhibition of gemstones called the ‘Court of jewels’ which toured the major cities around the USA between 1949 and 1953. This fabulous exhibition was put together to raise awareness and educate the public about precious stones and it also raised considerable funds for charity.  The company still owns some of the world’s most famous diamonds and many more have passed through its hands.  So let’s have a look at some of these famous precious stones.

The Hope Diamond – probably the most infamous, diamond that ever passed through Harry Winston’s hand was the fabulous blue Hope Diamond. This 45.52 carat precious stone was said to have been found in the Kollur Mine in India in the mid 17th century. When it was brought to Europe it became the property of the French monarchy and was then owned by a wealthy English family before it found its way to the United States. The Hope Diamond has the reputation of being cursed and bringing death and misfortune to its owners. Whether this was just a clever marketing ploy or not, the deaths of several prominent historical characters such as Marie Antoinette have been linked to the ownership of this large blue diamond. He purchased the Hope Diamond from the wealthy US socialite Evalyn Walsh’s estate in 1949 and it became one of the centrepieces of the ‘Court of Jewels’ exhibition.  It was to be one of the first gemstones in the National Gem Collection as he donated the it to the Smithsonian in 1958.  The National Gem Collection now brings in around seven million visitors every year and in 2010 the company, Harry Winston Inc, celebrated the anniversary of this magnificent donation by designing a new, modern setting for the Hope Diamond called ‘Embracing Hope’

The Portuguese Diamond – there always seems to be some mystery surrounding famous diamonds, and the Portuguese Diamond is no exception.  Where this gemstone actually originated from is a matter of some dispute, as one story says that it was found in a mine in Brazil in the mid-18th century and once formed part of the Portuguese crown jewels, while another, more likely as it is backed up by some documentation, states that it was extracted from the Premier Mine in the Kimberley, South Africa early in the 20th century.  It is known that the Portuguese Diamond was owned by a member of the glamourous Ziegfeld Follies called Peggy Hopkins Joyce who had acquired it set in a platinum choker from Black, Starr and Frost in 1928.  Harry Winston bought it from her in 1951 and included it in his ‘Court of Jewels’ exhibition. It now resides in the National Gem Collection in the Smithsonian, where it is the Collection’s largest faceted gemstone.  Harry Winston traded it to the museum in 1963 in exchange for a quantity of smaller stones.  It is a very large diamond at 127.01 carats and has been cut into an unusual octagonal shape.  It also displays strong fluorescence, glowing bright blue under an ultraviolet light. In daylight or normal artificial light the centre of the stone may look a bit hazy, but this is purely because it is so strongly fluorescent.

The Jonker Diamond – this was the seventh largest rough diamond ever known to have been found at 726 carats. It was acquired by Harry Winston in 1935 and he casually sent the huge stone back to the United States in the regular mail.  Apparently the stamp cost him just 64 cents! The Jonker Diamond has the distinction of being the first major precious stone to be cleaved in America and it was cut into a 125.35 carat emerald cut oblong stone.

The Cutting of the Jonker Diamond

The Lesotho Diamond – this large precious stone was found only relatively recently in 1967.  It was discovered by a South African woman in Lesotho, who was so fearful that she would be robbed or killed for her amazing find, that she walked for four days and four nights so that she could come under government protection and sell the diamond safely.  Harry Winston bought the fabulous stone and it was cleaved during a live broadcast on television in 1968 into eighteen separate diamonds. The largest of these newly cut stones, which weighed in at 71.73 carats and was emerald cut, was christened Lesotho One. Another of the stones, Lesotho Three, was bought by Aristotle Onassis,  who had it set in an engagement ring for his bride-to-be, Jacqueline Kennedy.

Harry Winston died in 1978, depriving the world of a highly successful, colourful character. He had been lucky enough to spend his entire career, working with the exquisite diamonds and jewelry that he so loved and being lucky enough to amass a vast fortune in the process.

Hope Diamond image observer31 Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

TLAFS Announce Exciting New Online Styling Courses

Are you the kind of person who is passionately interested in the way you look, can instinctively put an eye-catching outfit together and are always giving your friends great fashion advice?  Or maybe you lack confidence when you are choosing your clothes, never being quite sure what styles and colours suit you?


Then maybe an online personal or professional styling course is just what you need?  The London Academy of Fashion & Styling (TLAFS) is very proud to announce that we have launched our innovative range of online fashion training courses.  Starting with an entry level ‘Introduction to Personal Styling’ course aimed at people who are interested in learning how to develop their own personal style, learn what suits them best and what colours they should wear and moving on to professional stylist courses designed for those who want to take their interest and flair for fashion to the next level and train as a Professional Fashion Stylist.

Our courses start at a very reasonable £250 for the ‘Introduction to Personal Styling’ to £2,500 for the intensive ‘Advanced Professional Styling Practitioner Course’, so we have a styling course to suit every budding fashionista’s learning requirements and budget.

According to Debra Lestrade, Course Tutor and Professional Stylist, these new TLAFS styling courses fill a real gap in the market, as they allow our styling students to enjoy the flexibility of studying online while still being supported by experienced Course Tutors.  Although flexibility is the key, as many of you will have to fit your styling training into an already busy life style, our online courses also give enough structure that it is easy for our students to stay motivated and see real progress as you work through the different modules.  Written assignments are set for each module, so that we can assess your progress, encouraging students to unleash their creativity and develop their own personal brand of style.

A huge benefit of the TLAFS Personal and Professional Styling Courses is that you do not have to have any previous qualifications or experience before you sign up. Each course has been carefully designed to give you all of the information, skills and practical experience you will need in order to develop your own personal look or start your new career in the fast moving, thrilling world of fashion as a stylist.  The Advanced Professional Styling Practitioner Course also includes practical, interactive workshops and these workshops are also offered as stand-alone products.

At TLAFS we really do believe that learning should be fun, so all our students have access to a special student-only section on our website that offers further learning resources, relevant articles and some great fashion and styling tips. And the best news of all is that all of the TLAFS online styling courses can be started immediately by signing up and making payment on our website.

So what is stopping you?  Your exciting new career as a fashion stylist awaits you!