Getting to know: Lou Heller

Getting to know: Lou Heller

Welcome to a new series where we spotlight some of our favourite New Zealand changemakers. This time, we grabbed coffee with conscious stylist Lou Heller at the Untouched World Kitchen to hear all about her approach to style and shopping.

Growing up, Lou Heller always had an intuition for style, whether it was what looked great together or what trends were coming next. She worked in other areas of the fashion industry, including fashion buying and running her own clothing label, but she began to see that there was a real need for people to understand not only their wardrobes but who they are in order to shop more mindfully.

“A lot of women go through stages. Your early 20s are their own era, then your 30s, then maybe you become a mum… and all the while so many trends move in and out and it’s hard to know where to start,” Heller says. “People just buy and buy and buy all the stuff, but they don’t get rid of anything, or they don’t know how to wear pieces in multiple ways. That individual work is really needed.”

Heller’s work is rooted in building confidence, but she had to build her own before she could make her start in styling. “When I first started out, I didn’t have enough self-belief that I could do this work and help people - but I really wanted to help,” she says. Now, she’s one of New Zealand’s busiest stylists.

Travelling across New Zealand and Australia to work with clients from all walks of life, Heller offers a range of different services from wardrobe detoxes and personal shopping to online styling and even style gatherings for friend groups. Her most comprehensive package is undoubtedly her ultimate personal style package which takes place across 2-3 (non-consecutive) days. It starts with a personal consultation at home and then moves onto a wardrobe edit and detox where only clothes that work with a client’s image, lifestyle, and style make the cut. Next, it’s onto personal shopping and finally an outfitting session teaches clients how to mix the new with the old seamlessly and build outfits that suit their newly defined style. “It’s about creating that long term flow,” Heller says.

To some, a three-day style reset might sound like a riot, but because clothes, emotion, and identity are so closely intertwined, the prospect of styling and shopping can be nerve-wracking for many. Heller works with a huge variety of clients, but she says that everyone has anxieties. “We tell ourselves we can’t,” she says. “We’ve all got fears that hold us back.”

To tackle these fears, Heller’s strategy is to get her clients to “surrender to the fun of the day” and make it a positive experience where people can learn to express themselves more fully through style. “I’m connecting to people to connect to themselves,” she says.

A key part of Heller’s process of building that personal connection to the self is helping clients to generate three words that capture the essence of their style. It might sound simple, but how people dress now and how they want to dress can be, Heller says, poles apart. This is where an exercise in visualisation comes in handy. “I get people to go to a place in their mind’s eye [where they can] see themselves in the perfect outfit,” she says. From this visual prompt, Heller is able to work with her clients to drill down on what their three words are.

For the curious among you, Heller’s three words are bold, classic and fun. “So, I’m always going to be drawn to pieces that are somewhat of a classic style, but they’ll feel bold and fun when I put it together with the rest of my outfit. That might mean a simple t-shirt and skirt but with some fun boots,” she says.

A client she’d been working with earlier in the day, meanwhile, opted for the words luxe, classic, and tailored. There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s about what works for each individual. However, there are some tips that everyone can use. “I always wake up and ask myself, how do I want to feel today? What are the best pieces to reflect that?” Heller says.

“Always starting with a hero piece is good – whether it’s knitwear, a skirt, or pants - and then building on that,” she continues. “And of course, layering is a fantastic thing to learn in New Zealand because we have so many seasons in one day!”

In all of the fun and expression that Heller’s work provides, there are other deeper benefits too. If we know our style and we’re confident in our self-expression, then we are no longer driven to chase the next trend and will shop more consciously, with longevity in mind. And that often nudges people in the direction of more ethically minded brands. “People are becoming a lot more aware of where they’re spending their money,” says Heller.

Head over to our Instagram to see how Lou styled some of our AW24 pieces.

Discover more of Lou’s work.