Career Stories

Aisling Farinella

Stylist, Creative Director & Consultant

Fashion Designer

What type of formal education or training did you pursue and how has it influenced your career?

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCD and a Masters in Film & Television Studies from DCU. I was never sure what I wanted to do or ‘be’, but went for the MA after falling in love with Italian neorealism during my Arts degree.

Finishing the Masters I still had no real plan of action and went to work in the box office at the Irish Film Institute. I met some amazing people there and started to assist on some short film projects. I was doing everything from making tea to assisting with wardrobe. Following a series of these assisting jobs and personal life events, a fashion photographer, seeing that I was doing some wardrobe bits, asked me if I’d like to style a fashion shoot for him.

I completely fell in love with styling from that very first shoot. I loved how collaborative the process was and how everything came together in a much quicker timeframe than film. I felt that everything I loved about cinema and studying images, from lighting to mise en scene, semiology to social context, could be applied to styling and fashion photography .

How has your career evolved over the years – did you start in another discipline before transitioning to your current field?

Working as a stylist for over 20 years my career has naturally developed from styling into creative direction and consultancy. In reality, all stylists are creative directors and consultants but it varies for each individual how their career evolves; how much they push into these different aspects of their work and their strengths.

Coming from a non-fashion education background, I have always approached fashion with a different perspective. I have a cross disciplinary outlook which has progressed my connection to design and arts communities and institutions over the years.

Were there any pivotal moments, insights or decisions that significantly impacted your career path?

Thread magazine, which I launched with my friends Keith Nally & Garrett Pitcher was definitely the most pivotal moment for me. Thread was a a new way of representing fashion in Ireland, which we felt was completely absent from the industry at the time. We presented fashion as a design discipline, merging women’s and mens, positioning local on an international platform and celebrating emerging Irish talent alongside established. This narrative has pretty much informed my career ever since, tying together fashion, design, education, culture.

My consultancy work expanded with my role of Fashion & Textiles Advisor to ID2015, a government initiative to promote Irish design at home and abroad. Following on from this, together with PR director Dee Breen, I supported on the creation of the Kildare Village fashion scholarship at the Royal College of Art in London. I also supported on a major partnership with IMMA and Kildare Village, developing the inaugural fashion partnership for IMMA  around a major exhibition, Desire: A Revision. This year I have developed the very first Professional Diploma in Fashion Communication for NCAD in collaboration with Creative Future Academy.

Did you have any mentors or significant support systems that helped you in your journey?

I’m surrounded by friends and colleagues who continually inspire me with their work in fashion, art, design and life. Who open up new worlds of possibilities and motivate me to try and take things a little further while creating new opportunities for others.

I have longstanding relationships with photographers Rich Gilligan and Doreen Kilfeather which have helped me progress my own voice as a stylist and some amazing clients who have trusted me and my creativity. After almost 20 years working with Irish Tatler, I’m very proud to be on the masthead as Consulting fashion editor, working with a great team of women there.

What three skills do you believe are crucial to succeeding in this career?

Organisational skills, original thinking, openness.

How have you continued to develop your skills throughout your career?

I continuously try to push myself into new territories. I have learnt everything about styling on the job and understand that I can learn from the people around me and I will learn and grow from my mistakes.

I always try to watch, listen and learn; exposing myself to new situations, exhibitions and performance, travelling, reading and people watching! I love seeing whats happening around me in Dublin and try to connect this to a wider social and cultural context.

What are some of the highlights or most satisfying moments of your career so far?

I’m just on my way back from Simone Rocha x Jean Paul Gautier Haute Couture show in Paris. It was sublime and a massive privilege to be there!

How has your industry changed since you started, and how have you adapted?

Massively! Instagram, TiK TOK, models and casting, celebrity, stylists, hair and makeup artists stepping out from behind the scenes, the rise of the Creative Director, influencers, resale platforms, DTC, AI, sustainability and climate change, publishing, podcasts, activism… Thats probably just scratching the surface! I do my best to stay informed, reading industry journals and trying to balance new information in a world of hyper content. I could probably be more digitally aware and active!

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in your field?

Build a portfolio, experiment, take chances, be authentic and be aware that you get better the more you create! Find somebody who’s work you love and get assisting. Build a network from both of these outlets and learn as you go. Try to meet and talk to as many people as possible, to learn about their career paths and start to think about what you would like for yourself. There are so many incredible resources online now that no matter where you are you can experience a global industry. Be open to change. Fashion is a broad, dynamic industry and there are opportunities both for you to take and for you to create!

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in your career?

I’ve carved my own path as a stylist and feel fortunate to have built a challenging and rewarding career in fashion. I’m glad I stayed in Ireland and hope more people will continue to build on the industry here.