What made you decide to start your own styling business?
I think I always had post-natal depression but I never addressed it. Then, leading into my thirties, I freaked out. I had a meltdown and was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, and tried killing myself with my kids in the car. I was closing my eyes and seeing how long I could keep them closed without the car swerving, really playing with fate. I broke down in a girlfriend’s lounge room one day and just went, ‘I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up – and I’m two years away from thirty!’ I’ve always loved styling – well, more making things look pretty – and she said, ‘You know, you can do that as a living.’ I didn’t even know there was such thing as a stylist. That was four years ago – I’d been stay-at-home for ten years.
You obviously had kids very young.
Yes. We got married at nineteen, and my first daughter was three months old at my twenty-first.
That must have been strange!
It was crazy, it still feels so strange to think back on. But I think there are pros and cons either way – you’re either doing what I did and waiting until you’re thirty to start your career, or you’re starting straight from school then stopping halfway through. But I prefer doing it this way.
“People look at a magazine and they go, ‘That photographer is amazing,’ but they forget there’s a whole team behind it.”
Do your kids have any idea of what you do at work?
They call me Stacey Clark Stylist (laughs). That’s really cute. My daughters, my two oldest ones, say things like, ‘Mummy, I want you to style my wedding,’ and they love being extra hands on the shoots. But I’ve got two weddings on the weekend of my daughter’s birthday, and I won’t be able to spend the day with her. They don’t understand the intensity of [the business], they just see me as not being around.
Is there a styling misconception that pisses you off?
Styling is really underrated. People look at a magazine and they go, ‘That photographer is amazing,’ but they forget there’s a whole team behind it. Even with me, there’s a team handing me wet wipes to clean up the edge of a plate, or bits of parsley to put on top. The other thing is that it’s not a beautiful job. It looks glorious, but if you don’t leave a wedding or an event feeling like you’ve got gross food under your fingernails and wine in your hair and shit all over you, then you haven’t styled an event properly. It’s hard work. My girls spend half their time on ladders, hanging stuff.
You’re a big Instagram user – do you ever find new clients through it?
About 80 per cent of my clients come from Instagram. Magazines come to me, people who are launching shops… I’d say Instagram is why I’m where I’m at now. I should really still be clawing my way to the top.
Did it take long for your social media presence to take off?
Well, the first few years I was on social media, I was really struggling
with depression. I was a mummy blogger at first, so I’d do pictures of, like, my kid with ice-cream on his face, and that’s how I started making friends in the world again.
You were saying that you felt depressed and anxious at the time, but Instagram shows everyone’s lives as being perfect and amazing. How do you reconcile that?
When I was doing the mummy blogging thing, I didn’t cope. I was renowned for shutting down my Facebook all the time, because it does put people’s perfect worlds in your face. When you’re covered in baby spew and poo, and you look fat, you can’t deal with it. It makes you feel like crap, so I get it. At the moment, there’s so little positive stuff happening, I don’t think there’s any harm in adding something beautiful to the world.
It must be great when clients find you through Instagram, because they already have such a clear idea about what your aesthetic is. Do people ever ask you to style something, but you just go ‘ugh’ at what they want?
All the time. I think because we’re so busy now, I can turn away brides who want mason jars and vintage doilies, because that’s just not our style. The people who follow us are the people who love [lifestyle magazine] Kinfolk, who love table gatherings. At the moment, all of our brides and even our corporate clients like [Pottery Barn owners] Williams Sonoma want the aesthetic they’ve seen on our feed. It’s nice to be in that position.
You mentioned mason jars and doilies – is there anything else you think is just overdone or makes you cringe?
Chevron is not good. Burlap – I can’t do it. I can’t even be around it, it irks me. Vintage things drive me nuts. Floral, teacups, mismatched… it’s not my thing. We go for organic, misshapen, things that are handmade. I’d rather just have a naked candle.
How would you describe your style?
Understated, sophisticated, natural and organic. Rather than mass-produced things, I’d rather go for linens that are handmade by Mr Draper – he’s just a single guy living in Melbourne with his beautiful dog, and stitches them one by one. Or Kim Wallace Ceramics – she hand-makes all her plates. I’d much prefer that than just popping over to Myer and grabbing a whole wad of stuff.
“Styling is really underrated… It looks glorious, but if you don’t leave a wedding or an event feeling like you’ve got gross food under your fingernails and wine in your hair and shit all over you, then you haven’t styled an event properly.”
You work with Kinfolk magazine, which has a similar feel. How did you get involved with them?
A friend in Sydney, Luisa Brimble, who’s quite an esteemed photographer over there, saw my Instagram. She told me she was the Kinfolk representative in Sydney and asked if I’d like to help style an event over there. Of course, I said yes! On the evening, I realised Perth didn’t have anything like that, no meeting point for creatives. Everyone was very protective of intellectual property and didn’t want to share anything. I knew that bringing something like Kinfolk to Perth would be good, I just had a feeling. But our first event only sold one ticket. I nearly died. The following year we did long-table dinners, and we sold out in the first three hours.
Why the turnaround?
I think Perth was craving connection. That’s why we find long-table dinners work, because they force you to talk to the person next to you.
How would you describe the Perth creative community?
We’re like an infant Melbourne, we’re not even an embryo anymore! We’re getting there, we’re growing really rapidly. You know how they grow so fast in that toddler stage? Perth’s going places. It’s really cool.