“My name is Amanda Lee Shirreffs and I'm a stylist, A.K.A. professional bag lady. I grew up in Mississauga, Ontario before moving to England for 5 years, and now my base is Toronto.
I had a very eclectic, imaginative childhood. My earliest creative memory is around six years old. I used to travel door-to-door in my neighbourhood selling my artwork, and they would actually pay for it! My Mom had no clue what I was doing. Looking back, it makes so much sense that I got into styling because that love of fashion was always there. I remember exasperating my family with the sheer amount of outfit changes I had a day, it was excessive.
I was a daydreamer in high school. Nothing challenged or engaged me, there was nothing available for a person like me. I felt so alone, out of touch and uninspired. But in a span of a few years I saw [Cameron Crowe’s] Almost Famous and heard The Strokes’ [album] Is This It, and both had a profound impact on me. I’m not sure why, but I felt a sense of real freedom from then on. I knew I needed to move to flourish into the woman I wanted to be.
I decided to research the best fashion schools. I wanted to be around artists and lose myself in a foreign city, so I sent my high school art portfolio to the University of the Arts London College of Fashion for their business program.
I got in, moved there and interned my ass off, with anyone I could think of. That's how I was able to work with the greats like photographer Mariano Vivanco, Burberry and D&G. It was working at the Dolce & Gabbana showroom where I was pushed into styling. They saw something in me and I am forever indebted to them for it.
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I think right now we live in such an inspiring time. I personally feel we’re in the second wave of the ‘60s revolution. We're doing things we love, asking questions, embracing individuality - that's really inspiring to me. Some of my favourite modern stylists are such strong, powerful women with such unique aesthetics. I love Katie Grand [fashion editor at Love Magazine], Julia Sarr-Jamois [fashion editor at i-DMagazine] and of course Tabitha Simmons. I like how their work is easily recognizable and never looks contrived, or that they are trying too hard. There is an ease to it.
An example of Amanda's styling work. View more HERE.
Above all, though, I am truly inspired by Alastair Mackie [creative director of Another Man]. He is singular. He has this nostalgic aesthetic that I feel a deep connection to. It hearkens to another era but is never dated! That is much harder to convey than a lot of people think.
I really wish I could chat your ear off about all the things I'm inspired by. Disco Sally is one of them, she was a widowed lawyer in her 70s who became a Studio 54 regular. She would sport the most insane outfits & dance her ass off, she’d have a lineup of famous men wanting to dance with her! I try to channel her sass whenever I feel slightly defeated.
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Thinking of my career so far, I don’t think there’s one moment that specifically stands out on its own. There has been a little collection of amazing individual opportunities that have fallen into my lap. I guess my first big break is what I really look back fondly on, the time that I worked with British singer Ren Harvieu. Ren and her people really took a chance on me and for that I'm truly grateful. It led me to work with her on her collaboration with Karen Elson, which snowballed into other incredible opportunities. I think so much of your success is due to the people that you have surrounding you. I'm very blessed to have such strong, talented women in my life, they inspire me daily and continue to encourage me through this crazy career.
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Despite all that, there have been failures, struggles and some really shitty experiences. Moving back to Toronto was traumatic for me, I had to start from scratch. Months earlier I had been working alongside Burberry, overseeing design of a gown by Georgia Hardinge for Ren Harvieu's debut on the Jools Holland Show and then I was back to sleeping under my Strokes poster in my teenage bedroom, as if everything before that had been a dream.
I was over-qualified, yet somehow very under-qualified for the Toronto market. I had gone from working with the BBC, attending parties with Bianca Jagger, to not even having my emails responded to, never mind booking a paid job. I kept at it though. I had to, and I had nothing to lose. I kept a notepad of every single editorial idea I had and emailed all of the young talents in Toronto & New York hoping they'd take me on. It's been a slow but gradual process, but it was what I needed. Ultimately my goal is to always remain inspired and to create work that I'm proud of, to have my work recognized. If someone flipped through a magazine and thought, ‘mhmm, that's Amanda,’ that would be lovely.
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Recently I went into New York magazine’s office for a meeting with their incredible fashion editor. She told me this: "Don't let the credits drive your work,” which I immediately jotted down. It’s about being inventive with your work, don't rely on the beauty of a Chanel dress to make your editorial interesting.
My own advice to other women who are diving into styling would be, above all, be kind. I'm not sure why people mistake kindness with naivety, I think it shows strength of character. Women really should support each other, create with each other, not judge one another. Know your worth, and learn how to speak up for yourself."