London based fashion stylist, Nini Khatiblou, has a dress sense which is the epitome of casual chic. You’ll find her in animal print shoes, fluffy jackets and denim. Making some of the quirkiest pieces look effortless is what Nini is good at. With years of experience, Nini is currently Fashion Editor of monthly digital magazine ‘The Manual by PHOENIX’, while working with a mixture of other clients as well.
How would you best describe your personal style?
Dressed down with a twist. I’m not a big fan of dressing up and I can’t think of anything worse than a dress code! I definitely like to look more on the casual side – jeans, dungarees, simple t shirts etc and then mix in dressier fabrics such as silk, velvet and sequins for a deliberate juxtaposition.
Do you have a style icon?
I’ve always been a fan of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s style – for me, they never get it wrong and I love how cool and stylish they look without trying to look sexy. You can tell they dress for themselves – and that’s what style is all about.
Who are you favorite designers this year?
Definitely Isa Arfen – I love all of her voluminous sleeves and ruffled designs. Another designer I’ve become more familiar with recently is Aussie brand Ellery – again, maybe it’s just my obsession with ruffles but the detailing on her sleeves is incredible!
And your favorite places to shop?
I suppose like most people I mix high-street and high-end. I’m also a big fan of vintage and you’ll often find me rooting through boxes at a car boot sale on weekends! In terms of brands, I love Topshop and H&M for high-street finds, Uterque and Claudie Pierlot are my faves at mid-point level and if I feel like splashing out, I’ll head to Isabel Marant. If I won the lottery tomorrow, my entire wardrobe would be Isabel Marant.
Could you share some of your key styling tips & tricks with us please?!
I think the most important thing as a stylist is to really work out and unearth your own individual style. Once you’re comfortable with what you like and dislike, it’s much easier to style someone else – you take into account their look, shape etc and you can put your own stamp on things. For me personally, less is definitely more – I prefer not to over-accessorise and instead keep the focus on the clothes. I also have a big thing about length – on sleeves and/or trouser length. It looks far more modern to push sleeves back and roll up trouser hems (or even cut them off a couple of inches above the ankle). I also like unexpected layering – it’s an idea which can go terribly wrong but when it’s done right, it looks amazing. Sporty sweatshirts with a silk slip dress, khaki cargo pants with a sequinned top, a sharp blazer over a relaxed tee and slouchy trousers… It’s good to constantly try things outside our comfort zones.
What are the staple pieces in your wardrobe at the moment?
A pair of AC for AG ecru jeans which are surprisingly versatile, a black tux jacket from Zara which I throw on over everything from a grey tee to a floral silk dress, and a pair of Claudie Pierlot black patent loafers. They’re all classic pieces with a contemporary twist.
How did you get into fashion and styling? Did you always know that this was what you wanted to do?
I was 16 when I first applied to do work experience at HELLO! Magazine – I had no idea I wanted to get into fashion and I was probably one of the least stylish kids at school. That placement opened my eyes to the world of magazines – I loved the energy and fun in the office and applied to do more work placements during every school holiday. Eventually I ended up in the fashion cupboard at New Woman (no longer around sadly) and I was hooked – the fashion cupboard was my idea of heaven. I didn’t even have a chair or desk and I’m pretty sure there were no windows but I loved every second of it. It was so inspiring to see such well-dressed women in the office every day and it encouraged me to start thinking more about clothes and my own personal style. Even though I knew I wanted a career in fashion/magazines, I was pretty determined to study something different. Controversially, I don’t think styling is something you can learn from a university course. So Instead I studied French and Spanish at UCL and once I’d graduated, I did a few more work placements and was eventually offered a job at InStyle off the back of my work experience stint with them.
Your shoot with Jess Glynne for Teaser was stunning; what is your process when styling others?
Thank you! These days, as Fashion Editor for The Manual by PHOENIX, a big part of my job is styling the celeb covers which is a totally different process to styling models. With celebs, it’s important to do your research and ask the right questions beforehand – what they will/won’t wear, any parts of their body they’d prefer not to show etc. Next, it’s important you share the theme and a moodboard with them so they’re totally clued up on what the shoot will entail in terms of styling. With Jess, the theme was ‘Dream’ so rather than interpreting this in a super-feminine, floaty way, I approached it in a more ‘Dream vs Nightmare’ way, meaning the clothes were more dramatic and theatrical which I think suited her natural style. After calling in samples from a wide range of designers – some very well known and some up-and-coming – I styled up a number of outfits and took everything with me to the shoot. Once I’d talked through the rail with Jess and her team, it was up to her to pick her favourites. I’m a big believer that if you’re not happy in something you’re wearing – even if it’s for a few hours on a photoshoot – it can really show in your face. That’s why I provide a big rail of options but ultimately it’s down to the celeb to choose what she wears.
Finally, where do you see your styling career taking you in the future?
After 8 years of working solidly on one magazine, I’m really enjoying working in a more freelance capacity. No two weeks are ever the same and I love the variety of work I’m involved in. It might be a celeb shoot for PHOENIX, a lookbook shoot or brand consulting. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, to embrace change and to constantly push myself outside of my comfort zone. I’m sure there will always be a need for stylists but the industry is changing and I’m finding people are asking for different things every time I get booked for a job. It might be filming a piece to camera about styling or giving a presentation to a retail company – it’s not always a case of pulling outfits together. Fortunately, I love trying new things so I’m optimistic that wherever my styling career takes me, it will be somewhere fun and exciting.