Wednesday, March 7, 2012

RANA WEHBE-FLINTER: Exclusive Interview

By Eva Fydrych

All photos courtesy of Rana Wehbe-Flinter


Occupation: Fashion Stylist
City: Singapore

FASHION STUDIO: How did you get interested in fashion styling? 

RANA: I always had a flair for fashion and putting outfits together to create an interesting look. Later with a lot of exposure to fashion magazines/blogs/books (and a lot of shopping!), I thought why not try it out especially that it seemed natural to me to pick out clothes and visualize them. 

FASHION STUDIO: Do you remember your first job assignment? 

RANA: It was personal styling for a friend who hated shopping and needed an outfit for a big event. I remember I ended up taking risk and buying her a dress which she happened to love and fit in perfectly. Then I loaned her some of my accessories and convinced her to buy her first designer pair of shoes to complete the look. She never bought a pair of cheap shoes after that :)

FASHION STUDIO: What is the main challenge of your job as a stylist? 

RANA: The main challenge I would say is getting people to try on different styles than the ones they normally wear, and to step outside their comfort zone and take some risk. It’s a delicate balance of trying to ease them into something new and not totally changing the way they look. It’s important for the client to feel comfortable and not railroaded. 

FASHION STUDIO: What makes you unique and different from other fashion stylists? How would you define your style? 

RANA: I guess my approach is more friendly and not as harsh as other stylists. Because I think it’s important to gain the trust of your client first and instead of changing who they are, try and make them see that they can look a better version of themselves with little help. I also encourage my clients to take some risks as long as they’re comfortable with it because it’s more fun this way. I don’t go totally by the book I guess.

Photo by Cornelyus Tan

FASHION STUDIO: What inspires you? 

RANA: Anything from art, philosophy to film and my mother’s vintage dresses which I cherish! Luckily I managed to get a lot of them and I always strive to make looks that resemble the elegance she carried them off with. When styling for others, I always look at the way they express themselves when they talk/smile and try to copy that in the way they dress. 

FASHION STUDIO: How did it happen that you moved to Singapore? 

RANA: My husband got an opportunity to start up his own company in Singapore and anyway it was time to leave Dubai after 6 uninspiring years in the desert. I’ve always been fascinated by the rich culture in Asia and Singapore is a perfect blend of East and West. I feel very comfortable here as I come from a similar city in that sense (Beirut) though much less stable! 

FASHION STUDIO: What do you like most about living here? 

RANA: I love how friendly people are, especially the ones who work in fashion which is unusual for this industry. I also love the food and the weather and the fact it is a great place to start doing what you want. Also Singapore’s strategic location in South East Asia makes it a great travel hub in the region – a great advantage if you’re a travel enthusiast like I am. 

FASHION STUDIO: What would you say about the fashion scene in Singapore? What makes it different from other countries? 

RANA: I think it is still developing in general. There are a lot of great young designers and labels, which is very inspiring. What’s interesting is that there doesn’t seem to have been a natural scene and that the government has done a great job in encouraging people to go into the creative industries. But what Singapore’s fashion scene needs now is for the local people to throw their weight behind it. There still isn’t a groundswell of people actively seeking out and supporting local designers and labels. 

As for the way people dress, in general they don’t seem to put much effort. The Singapore uniform of hot pants/T-shirts and black dresses still dominate. However the ones who do make an effort, do it very stylishly and effortlessly. 

FASHION STUDIO: Who is your favourite local designer? 

RANA: I like a lot of them but the ones that are closer to my style are Noël Caleb, Mae Pang and Yumumu. However the ones that blew me away where the two young designers behind a new label called LION EARL which is yet to be launched this April. Having seen the samples at a preview, I predict their work is going to take the fashion world by storm as it is like nothing I’ve seen in the region so far; it is more couture than ready-made and simply breathtaking! 

Noël Caleb's collection (Photo courtesy of Noël Caleb)

FASHION STUDIO: What are the most fashionable spots in Singapore? 

RANA: Haji Lane and Tiong Bahru. 

FASHION STUDIO: What is your personal definition of fashion? 

RANA: For me, fashion is a form of expression of someone’s character or mood. What I wear always reflects how I feel at the moment and who I am in general. Fashion is also art, fun and something to enjoy rather than worry about. 

FASHION STUDIO: Which styling books would you recommend? 

RANA: For basic A-Z guide to styling, I found ‘Secrets of Stylists’ by Sasha Charnin Morrison to be a great introduction. But fashion changes so fast so staying up-to-date with the fashion world, following the major fashion weeks and reading about fashion history is the best way to develop and evolve in styling. 

FASHION STUDIO: What fashion mistakes people usually make? 

RANA: Thinking too much about it! It has to be spontaneous and fun for it to work and confidence is main key to pulling off even the craziest looks. I mean, look at the Japanese and the way they pull off mismatching with ease. It’s all in the attitude. Nothing worse than someone looking uncomfortable and unsure about what they’re wearing. Other than that, mistaking Uggs and Juicy Couture tracksuits for style.

FASHION STUDIO: Which trends do you recommend for Summer 2012? 

RANA: I love this season’s trends especially the bright colours and prints! I would say don’t be afraid to try yellow as it is one of the hottest colours this summer, and go crazy with prints as seen on the runways from the veggies and fruits at Dolce and Gabbana to retro inspired ones at Prada (my favourite!). If you can’t afford the designer pieces, all high street chains like Zara, Topshop and others will have similar inspired looks so no excuse not to try at least one bold trend! Oh, and remember to only follow the trend that flatters you…unfortunately not all of us look like the models wearing them on the catwalk. 

FASHION STUDIO: How would you describe your personal style? What type of clothes do you usually wear? 

RANA: Always eclectic, occasionally elegant, but never boring! 

I just wear anything I like regardless of the label or price as long as it looks good and not cheap. I don’t have one style of dressing but I love printed silk dresses and colourful statement shoes and I tend to mix a lot of designer with high street and independent labels from the places I travel to. I’m definitely pickier when it comes to shoes though so I tend to splurge more in that department! 

FASHION STUDIO: How many pairs of shoes have you got? ;) 

RANA: Umm... I‘ve got just over 100 pairs, 80+ of which are high heels!!!

Photo by Cornelyus Tan

FASHION STUDIO: Who is your style icon? 

RANA: People with individual sense of style and those who seem to have fun with fashion and never follow the herd like Sarah Jessica Parker, Fan Bing Bing and Tilda Swinton. They are not afraid to take risks and always manage to stand out from the crowd and look totally confident and comfortable with who they are at the same time. I never try to copy anyone’s style but people like them definitely inspire me and make me want to be even bolder in my wardrobe choices.

FASHION STUDIO: What do you carry in your handbag? 

RANA: My phone, Paul Smith wallet (a gift from my husband), YSL bright lipstick or Chanel lipgloss, compact mirror (a gift from my best friend when she went to Russia), my Prada butterfly shades, Chanel No5 eau de parfum purse spray, messy notebook, black pen and of course an umbrella! 

FASHION STUDIO: What is your favourite beauty product you can't live without? 

RANA: Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. It always manages to do the trick and makes my skin look great even after a late night out and no sleep. 

FASHION STUDIO: What are the wardrobe essentials every woman should have in her closet? 

RANA: A versatile classic handbag (in black or tan) which you won’t get bored of, a great flattering LBD and a statement and sexy pair of heels which make you smile every time you put them on.

FASHION STUDIO: How would you describe your blog and what inspired you to start it? 

RANA: My blog is more of a discovery blog, focusing on emerging Singaporean and Asian designers as well as anything cool and fashionable I happen to find around from multi-label boutiques to online shops. Through it I share the excitement of discovering these labels and add my styling skills to show people that even the most impossible-looking piece can be wearable when styled properly – of course keeping fun in mind. 

I don’t really take myself seriously on the blog and my aim is more to spread the word about my exciting discoveries and share my passion for fashion rather than promote myself. I decided to start it after realizing that coverage of local labels was pretty sparse, with most bloggers focusing on their own style, international brands or just doing the bare minimum with local brands. 

FASHION STUDIO: You took part in some photoshoots in Singapore. How was the modelling experience for you? 

RANA: It was interesting and I certainly learned to appreciate models more as it is not as easy as it looks! My experience was fun because that’s why I took the offer in the first place. But I prefer being more natural (and smiling!) than when doing a job and getting told to pose in certain ways. I might be participating in a show for a cool local label soon as well. But this time they just wanted me to be my crazy self which is a relief! 

ATGAB 2011/2012 Lookbook (Photo by Lumina, Rude Lee)

FASHION STUDIO: How travelling influences your work? 

RANA: Travelling has not just influenced my work but also my life in general! As for fashion, it is definitely an eye opener as you get to see people everywhere expressing themselves in different and interesting ways whether strolling the streets of great fashion capitals like Paris, London and NYC or walking through an alleyway in Jaipur, Sanaa and Esfahan. The architecture, art, colours and traditional objects in all these cities also inspire me everyday in how to mix things together and give my looks some depth beyond the surface. 

FASHION STUDIO: What is your favourite holiday destination? 

RANA: I love London in the summer! People have amazing street style there and a great sense of layering which seems to come naturally because of the weather. Being a Middle Eastern I also never fail to be amazed at great places in the region and some of my most memorable and inspiring holidays were in places like Yemen, Iran and Egypt. 

FASHION STUDIO: What would you like to achieve in the fashion industry? Where do you see yourself in the future? 

RANA: Through my blog I’ve met some very interesting people and learned a lot about fashion in the region so in the nearish future I’m looking to expand on that and start up a personal styling/shopping business which focuses on the lesser known labels and aim to bring more fun to fashion and styling. As for the far future, my dreams are much bigger but with hard work and determination, I’m hoping to achieve at least few of them (like taking over from Anna Wintour and putting a smile on the poor tortured souls who work at Vogue :)

FASHION STUDIO: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with our readers and good luck with all your plans!

Rana's blog: Bonjour Singapore!

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