Welcome everyone to my FIRST guest interview, featuring Leaha Riley from Sisu Styling. Leaha is an incredibly talented stylist based in South East Queensland, whom I personally love following on insta and get so much value out of her tips and tricks. Leaha and I recently caught up at The Collab X Social Brisbane event, and I feel she has so much insight to offer for your home office, place of business, video recording room or even just at home.
Hey Leaha! So tell us a little about yourself and what you do. Hi! Well I'm many things - a mother, wife, Jason Momoa obsessive (seriously, my dream man), bird phobic, loud yawner and lover of all things creative. I still feel like I'm 21 and absolutely winging this life thing but hey, aren't we all? I provide comprehensive online style solutions for homes, businesses and events (that I teach my clients how to implement themselves), as well as workspace, photoshoot and product styling for other small businesses. I also offer onsite styling for anyone who isn't keen on the whole DIY thing.
How did you get into styling - was there a moment that made you go ‘yep, this is what I’m gonna do’.
I've always been creative but inadvertently fell into the corporate finance world. I spent many years working as a project manager while becoming qualified in Interior Design and Architecture (and Graphic Design) and then freelancing as a designer in my spare time. I quickly realised that when people hear 'Designer' they see dollar signs which is not the way it has to be! I decided to launch Sisu Styling to break the stigma of design and style being reserved for the mega rich and to provide a sanity saving service for my fellow time poor parents and business owners. I wanted to get rid of all the BS and just focus on styling and providing simple solutions for those who need a bit of help finding their inner stylist.
"I quickly realised that when people hear 'Designer' they see dollar signs which is not the way it has to be!"
Give us a bit of insight into the business name - Sisu Styling
Sisu is a special strength and persistent determination and resolve… an almost magical quality. A combination of stamina, perseverance, courage, and determination held in reserve, ready to tackle anything. The Finnish term 'Sisu' resonates with me as it's everything I strive for in my character. I like to think I consistently display the qualities of determination, resilience, hard work, grit and I definitely have the drive to always get the job done right for my clients, despite the odds. What’s your overall vibe as a Stylist - is there a particular style you’re more drawn to? I'd say my style is eclectic cool. I think I like some element of almost every traditional 'style' but I would never stick to just one. I'm all about my clients finding their OWN style. I always suggest that they go with their gut and heart on what they do and don't like - not to chose something just because it's currently on-trend or because it has to fit a theme. My super power is taking pieces from different styles and mixing them in a cohesive way that just works. When you tap into what makes you smile, or what gives you that excited little thrill of glee everytime you look at it, that is when you create a space and vibe that just feels like YOU.
We often find that styling is just decorating a space, but it’s so much more than that. What are the benefits of having a stylist assess the space and function of that space before the project commences?
Oh it's so much more! I would say it's the fundamental element in getting the most out of your space and what everything else should be built upon. Interior Designers have been trained to assess the layout and flow of an area. We analyse how a space will be used, who will be using it and what the intended feel will be. We mentally 'zone' the space into areas of different function, traffic and feel, ensuring the design and use of the available area is optimised. In terms of our professions, I feel that you and I are related (Stylist and Graphic Designer). I talk about brand consistency quite a bit and styling a space of business would definitely be apart of that. What do you focus on with a business in terms of maintaining their brand in a place of business? Yep - Brand consistency means carrying your look, feel and personality over to EVERYTHING. Making sure your logo, your place of business or your live media studio continues this trademark is so important. When discussing styling for businesses we ensure that the brand's colour palette is repeated in the design, that their use of decor stays true to their brand values and that their personality and message shines through. You also want to ensure your audience feels empowered or inspired or educated (whatever it is you aim for) just as they do when they see your social media posts. Do you feel that having a stylist’s touch could also improve their branded content across socials in terms of photography?
Yes, definitely. I've worked with many businesses styling their products, photoshoots, launches or just general photography. Having your own bespoke images that really speak to your brand and maintain that consistency will have such a big impact on your audience as well as your content look and feel, setting you apart from your competitors. What’s the first thing you notice as a stylist when you walk into a business? I'd say the overall feel of the room would be my initial response. A business's vibe is created by the decor, branding, lighting and even smells. These separate elements all come together to create that instant feeling you get when you enter the space. You need to get it right to ensure your customers feel what you want them to feel (responsive to what your business might be) and want to return time and time again. Have you seen some bad styling that you just want to tell readers to avoid?
Of course, haha! I'm usually employed because clients feel completely lost. I think the most common error I see is just too much randomness all thrown together with no cohesion. I'm ALL ABOUT eclectic styling as I mentioned above but there needs to be something to tie individual elements together. Whether that's a repeated tone, the use of harmonising colours or textures. It doesn't have to be much, and definitely don't go too matchy-matchy but don't just keep throwing more at a space hoping something will stick!
What kind of tips would you give to someone wanting to style a home office? Do you offer this as part of your services?
Yes, I work with other small businesses to revamp their home office or media filming space. Again, the look and feel of this space needs to be consistent with your brand's look and feel (if filming for social media) but it also needs to be conductive to the sort of work you need to do. Practicality, function, consistency and comfort are what we aim for. What services do you provide for businesses who have photoshoots or video sessions?
I absolutely LOVE working with other small businesses to showcase their products or service (seriously my favourite thing to do)! I create fully styled setups for businesses, whether that be a room, a corner or a whole outdoor area so that they can capture a whole heap of amazing, personalised photographic content for their social media. The same goes for video session styling. As mentioned above, I ensure your filming area reflects your brand's voice, look and feel by styling it to harmonise with your media identity. No more boring, beige, badly lit backgrounds to contend with. Your audience will stop scrolling and start listening!
"I create fully styled setups for businesses, whether that be a room, a corner or a whole outdoor area so that they can capture a whole heap of amazing, personalised photographic content for their social media."
Do you do event styling? Yep, event styling, event hire and prop creation (bespoke backdrops, timber arches, furniture, etc). I'm lucky that my husband is a trained carpenter so can whip up almost everything. There's nothing better than coming together with other awesome suppliers and bringing an event vision to life! What tips would you give to busy women who are running a business, could even have kids and are trying to achieve a work-life balance?
Ha! Lots of wine (??) and sleep and exercise. Easier said than done I know! Look, it's hard work but I think if you're passionate about what you do you actually love working your butt off! I'm still figuring this out myself (does anyone really know the answer?) but planning, prioritising and just knowing when to take a break make a big difference. If you're feeling burnt out or overwhelmed, sometimes you just have to learn to say no or just explain that you may need a little extra time. The world won't implode. Clients are, for the most part, very understanding - especially other busy, working women. And remember that what you say no to defines your business and brand as much as the things you say yes to! What's your forecast for a top styling trend in 2020? I think we'll continue to see the trend towards natural elements and tones as the desire for an organic, earthy, slow life and 'getting back to basics' continues. Even if you prefer a modern or decadent look I think there will be more of a pared back, minimalistic, less is more, personalised sort of vibe coming through. Think nature inspired hues and elements, mindfulness in decor, artisan pieces and cohesion between indoors and out.