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Bella Hignett tells workingwise.co.uk about her move from PR to stylist.
Bella Hignett had a long career in PR before Covid arrived and she decided to bite the bullet and turn her passion for styling her friends into a job. She absolutely loves it and wishes she had changed track years ago, but also acknowledges that her years in PR have helped to develop her people skills.
Bella didn’t start in PR, however. Her first proper job after completing a secretarial course was at 19 as a desk assistant at Goldman Sachs in London. It was the early 1990s and Bella enjoyed all the fun and excitement of living in the capital. She stayed for a year and a half and then travelled to Australia where her sister was living. There she got a job working for Sony music as an assistant. It was a small office which meant she was given a lot of responsibility and learnt a lot, including about writing press releases. When she returned to London just over a year later she got a job at Sony’s London office in marketing and PR.
She continued to work in marketing and PR for several years before setting up her own consultancy with a couple of friends, focusing mainly on media, film and tv. She had joined the small consultancy and the founder then decided to retire so Bella and another woman decided to buy her out and run it themselves. Along the way through personal contacts they picked up some clients in the luxury fashion and hotel industry. Bella really enjoyed branching outside of the media and film industry. “It really resonated with me,” she says. Her mum had run a successful boutique when she was growing up and she would spend the holidays watching her at work. “My mum had an incredible wardrobe,” she says. “She could make a cheap jumper look $1m. She had a way with clothes. She was a very important style role model.”
While she continued to work in PR Bella was helping friends with advice on what to wear. “I was always well dressed. I spent my first pay cheque on a Ralph Lauren catsuit! My friends asked me to dress them for parties and weddings and someone said that I should monetise it,” she says. She also found herself helping her fashion clients on shoots and helping to dress some of their managing directors. “I didn’t get any extra money for it. I just loved doing it,” she says.
Then came Covid and many of her PR clients fell away. Bella thought the time was right to try something different and to move on from PR. “I felt a bit of a fraud when I was doing PR, but when I suddenly became my own PR agent it felt much more real and honest because it was something I felt passionately about,” she says. She began to build her client base through word of mouth. They include a breast cancer charity who she runs styling workshops for, having previously done PR for their events.
Most of her clients are women and she would love to dress more men. She says she has inherited an intuitive way of working with people from her father. Many of her clients are business leaders, tv presenters or up and coming actors, but their need for Bella’s advice is not just a professional thing. They often have a personal reason for getting in touch – divorce, for instance, or a traumatic illness which has changed their body shape and how they feel about themselves. Bella says how they dress can have a big impact on their sense of self and she loves seeing that transformation.
Bella works with clients with a whole range of budgets to spend. The four-stage process starts with an initial chat on the phone and then a wardrobe edit to see their style [this can require a lot of tact and sensitivity as people may feel emotionally attached to some items of clothing, she says]. Next comes note taking and the creation of a Pinterest board of things the client or looks they can emulate and, lastly, comes a personal shopping day to build a capsule wardrobe which will work for all occasions. This is often in Selfridges as Bella knows them well and they have a range of brands at different prices, but it may also be charity shops. She also works on a one-off basis, for instance, to help a client dress for a particular event and one client asked her to help her pack for her holidays. Bella’s emphasis is on timeless elegance rather than fast fashion trends that might not flatter her clients. She mentions, for instance, skinny jeans.
She says: “I am quite intuitive. I can read people quite easily from their body language and where they live and their relationship with their families as well as when I open their wardrobe. I know how to find something that works for them.”
Bella, who has two children aged 11 and 15, says being older means she is more empathetic due to the experiences she has had in her own life or of helping friends and family as well as through years of doing PR. “I know what helps people to feel better. I have always been good with people, which I picked up from my parents who were very sociable,” she says. “I really love what I do. My husband says I was made for it. Being a stylist is quite competitive, but I understand people and that is crucial. I also have a lot of fun with them. The whole process is liberating.”
*To find out more and book a session with Bella go to www.bellahignettstyling.com. Instagram: @bella_hignett_styling