WTF Is In Your Closet — An Interview with Stylist Tara Aquilina
By Brianna Brown
The New Hollywood highlights men and women we feel are adding value and achieving their dreams. Our intention on showcasing them is to inspire everyone to Rise Higher, Shine Brighter and Give Back! Today we feature TNH veteran Tara Aquilina. I'm so thrilled to showcase her body of work as a stylist because not only is she a long time friend of mine—we've known each other for over a decade—but she has always had her pulse on the latest trends and known how to accentuate and beautify what is oblivious to me! I've learned so much from her and I'm thrilled to introduce you to my dear friend Tara Aquilina!
Tara Aquilina is a Los Angeles based Fashion Stylist and Image Consultant. She's a native New Yorker whose passion for fashion began at a young age—from countless hours beautifying Barbie, to attending FIT in New York City in her late teens. Tara’s travels throughout Europe influenced her own eclectic-sexy-rock-n-roll-chic style. She explored her love of fashion by styling friend after friend when they asked for advice. Finally, it dawned on her—she needed to make this her career path. Tara love creating looks, but the gratification of helping build one’s self esteem in an artistic manner has proven to be her biggest reward.
Tara has over 20 years of experience in the fashion world including retail, window dressing, styling customers, both high end and casual, and now her own business. She has worked as a creative director and producer for photo shoots. Tara has styled A-list actors for red carpet events, musicians for album covers, authors for publicity photos, clothing designers for up and coming lines, business entrepreneurs for new ventures and brides and bridesmaids. She has experience buying and pulling clothes from major fashion showrooms in Los Angeles, as well as choosing models for editorial shoots and creating unique editorial looks. Tara has worked with renowned international and local photographers and state of the art hair and make up artists.
Tara brings out the absolute best in her clients. She is a master at enhancing their personalities while preserving the essence of who they are.
"Fashion is the paint. Style is the painting." -Tara Aquilina
1. What are most you passionate about with styling?
The creativity. I love photo shoots, whether editorial or for independent artists. I love creating something from nothing. There have been times I have had zero budget and had to come up with 8-10 looks for an editorial shoot, head to toe. It is such a challenge and so rewarding when the final product (the photograph) turns out beautiful. It is my form of painting. That is my passion, my drive.
And I would say as far as being an image consultant and helping clients revamp their personal look, the passion there is seeing the confidence they exude after we work together. It really is a beautiful thing. I love the connections I make with my clients, watching them bloom simply makes me happy.
2. What are the top three tips every girl should know?
- Good shoes make an outfit, always and forever. If you're going to spend, spend on the shoes.
- Style isn't just about the clothes (designers) you wear, it is how you wear it. For example, if you feel like you hate your clothes and have nothing to wear and have someplace to be, instead of focusing on the obvious what shirts matches which pants, create a “look.” Ask yourself, "do I feel a little rock n roll tonight, demure, classic, wild, a certain era, etc?” And create an outfit from that place. It's a guaranteed confidence booster because you are projecting what you are feeling inside. Have fun with it and allow yourself to stand out!
in fact sexy. Don't be afraid to accentuate the sexy. But when you do, make sure there is balance in the outfit to avoid looking tacky. Sexy doesn't mean show it all!
4. What are three must-have Classic pieces every woman should own?
- a flattering and "current" pair of jeans (ideally jeans should be updated every year)
- a simple little black dress, of course! Because they tend to be timeless.
- a LEVI's jean jacket and/or a neutral (black, olive, tan, grey) motorcycle jacket
5. What has been your biggest trial and triumph in your styling career and how did you overcome it?
My biggest trial is believing in myself, but I wouldn't just limit this trial to my career as a stylist. I am a true to the word “artist.” Everything I do or have ever done has to do with creative expression. Fashion styling is a piece of the puzzle that happened organically out of trial and error. In the beginning of this journey, I had a hard time trusting my work was good enough to actually generate success. I think that is the struggle with most artists, finding the value in their work. And this self doubt would rear its head and limit my creative process, sometimes for months at a time, which left me feeling hopeless. But I fought the old beliefs I had of myself by working on my portfolio, doing anything and everything I could do (money or no money), to stay proactive. The more I did, the more I found myself surrounded by like-minded people in this industry who inspired me and who I inspired. Until eventually there was no question or doubt that I should be doing this for a living. I truly love what I do, it is a part of me that I am lucky enough to share with others. To date that is my biggest triumph.
6. What charity/cause are you most passionate about and why?
The charity I am most passionate about is The LAM Foundation, short for lymphangioleiomyomatosis, which is a progressive lung disease that usually strikes women during their childbearing years. Lymphangioleiomyomatosis is pronounced lim-fan-gee-o-ly-o-my-o-ma-to-sis. “Lymph” refers to the lymph vessels and “angio” refers to the blood vessels. “Leiomy” means smooth muscle, “oma” is a tumor, and “tosis,” refers to a disease condition." To learn more about it in depth please go to http://www.thelamfoundation.org.
My family was personally touched by this disease years ago, before there was any knowledge of it. My aunt, Dawn Matteson Kleps, died from LAM at the age of 35. I spent my childhood watching this once vibrant, talented beautiful woman shrink into a disabled bedridden shell of herself who had to live off oxygen tanks. It killed her years before she passed away. It was, and still is, one of the most tragic events of my life. But through her death, our family met the Byrnes family, Sue and Fran and daughter Andrea. Due to Andrea's diagnosis of LAM, her parents started the Foundation in 1995, a year after her diagnosis. Because of them, the foundation has become worldwide, providing research, clinical trials, support and a better lifestyle for these women. My aunt would have lived a longer, fuller and healthier life if the foundation existed back then. Seeing how far LAM has come in 20 years is amazing, I can only imagine what the next 20 years will bring. I have hope and faith that a cure is near. We just need to keep spreading the word and awareness in support of our fellow sisters and in memory of my aunt.
One fun way we are doing that is through the "DARE TO DANCE" campaign. Dare to Dance Campaign is a way to raise the much needed awareness for LAM. Similar to the ice bucket challenge, you videotape yourself or someone else dancing, dare someone else to dance and then post it on your social media outlets. A demo tape will be made and sent out urging people to make their own video. Finally, on a certain week, we will launch the campaign by posting our videos. Join our Dare to Dance Facebook page or contact me or Andrea Byrnes on Facebook.
7. Who has been one of your biggest inspirations? And why?
Tara’s styling services include:
· Image consulting, including coming to your home to assist with thinning out both clothing and accessories that do not serve you
· Revamping personal style
· Personal shopping
· Shopping consultant
· Styling actors for events (red carpet, PR events, any photographed or filmed appearances)
· Styling for photo shoots (musicians, clothing designers, actors, business entrepreneurs, bloggers)
· Styling for editorials
. Producing photo shoots
“I met Tara in an improvisational class, over a decade ago, and we have been dear friends ever since. She is a true artist, constantly creating and utilizes her artistic flair with the same style of magic that she once did as an improv artist. Creating something from nothing while collaborating with the people/fabrics/setting to create something beautiful, sensual and positive. I’ve worked with Tara as a personal shopper, she has dressed me for multiple red carpet events and I assure you that she is an absolute pro and more importantly a blast to hang out with!” -Brianna Brown, actress
"Tara has her finger on the pulse of what's hot now and works with you to bring out the best version of your own style.” -Erin Cottrell, actress
“What I love about Tara is she pushes me to think outside of my fashion box, while at the same time bringing out my personality. It’s the perfect balance of stepping out of my comfort zone and learning how to grow, truly expressing myself. I always feel confident and fabulous! Plus, she really helped me to let go of clothing that I was holding on to because I didn’t know what to buy! I feel organized and sexy!”- Alexis Carra, actress
"I finally feel like I can dress myself! I had a closet full of outdated and ill fitting clothes. Tara helped me clean it out (which felt so good) and kept only the clothes that looked good and fit me well. We restocked my wardrobe with quality basics. Who knew I had been buying jeans wrong for years?? This was a huge confidence booster. I highly recommend Tara. Because sometimes you need that person to ask you: 'When was the last time you wore that? 1997?" -Beth Navarro, writer
"I have always been drawn to Tara Aquilina's keen sense of personal style. She totally brings that to her work and having her on set with me for a Pal Jody Clothing shoot was such a Godsend. The photographer, client and I all really appreciated her fast and thoughtful eye, which kept things flowing and looking great. She just knows what works! And get her into your closets 'cause she can put things together that you NEVER thought were meant to be. I have brand new outfit options out of my own closet! Tara is a rockstar chick with a rockin' sense of style.” - Kavi Ladnier, actress & mother
"Tara Aquilina is a supremely talented, versatile, and skillful artist, with a fabulous sense of style. Her playful spirit is a charming fusion of confidence and fun, and her presence on set is a delight. I need a stylist who’s easy-going, patient, and unflappable, and I found all that in Tara. Her professionalism is invaluable, and I look forward to working with her again.” - Daniel Reichert, photographer
"Tara gets it. She has an innate ability to see a person and know exactly what to do and how to make them shine. She understands fashion, she's creative and knows how to nudge her clients out of their comfort zones to try something new, and create a new stylized look that raises their vibration and allows them to be who they are and shine out in the world.” -Jeff Fasano, photographer
*Please note that not all experiences, beliefs, and ideas are shared by each member of “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.