If you meet Elizabeth Xalxo, the one trait you’ll notice in her is how she exudes confidence no matter the outfit she sports. She’s effortless and owns what can be called a distinct and personalised sense of style. The travel enthusiast and Harry Potter fanatic is a stylist by profession (she was an assistant stylist in movies like R… Rajkumar, All the Best: Fun Begins; an in-house stylist at Anita Dongre’s Global Desi; and now works as a senior stylist at Powerweave Studio). This is also why she’s always up-to-date with trends. That said, you’ll never find her imitating the fashion herd. Impressed by her personal style, we decided to catch up with Elizabeth to know more about how she took the plunge from being a Literature & Psychology graduate to a fashion stylist. Read excerpts from an interview in which she talks all about her journey…
What triggered you to enter the fashion industry?
I have been passionate about fashion since I was a little girl. I would make different clothes for my dolls… I’d design and my mother would make it. Later, I started designing clothes for friends. I think it all started with these small interests.
I graduated in Literature & Psychology because I was scared of taking the risk of getting into the fashion industry. At that time, there weren’t many jobs in fashion. And I was certain I didn’t want to make clothes but I wanted to style others. I wanted to make people look the best version of themselves, give them a story… a look. That’s when I decided to study Fashion Styling at Istituti Callegari Milano (then in Mumbai). Later, I got into the movie business and assisted many stylists.
How is styling yourself different from styling someone else?
I think it’s more difficult styling someone else. You have to understand the person, what they’re comfortable in and what they’re not comfortable with. You have to look at the client’s story. You also need to cater to their body type. So yes, styling someone else is definitely a challenge. But since I like making people look the best version of themselves, I enjoy it.
You’ve been a stylist in a couple of movies. How is styling a character different from styling a person IRL?
When it’s a movie character, you’re catering to the story of that individual. It’s not entirely based on trends. It doesn’t have to necessarily involve glam quotient. Where does he/she come from, what the people from that region generally wear… there’s a lot of research involved. When you’re styling a person, you get to go all out. As long as you cater to the aesthetic, you can have the most amount of fun with it.
How do you keep yourself up-to-date with the trends?
Instagram. Even Facebook for that matter. I follow the bloggers, all the important fashion magazines, and a few of my favourite designers. Currently, by following bloggers, you get an idea of what’s on trend. I also land up stalking if I spot something I like.
What’s your personal style like?
I like my sense of style to be effortless; I want to look like I don’t try very hard. Over the years, I’ve realised that dark colours look good on me, so I buy them a lot. Even though I like bright colours, and pick up a few pieces to throw into my ensemble, my outfit is predominantly dark. Imagine a black unicorn… well that’s the best way to define me. I like a bit of colour, the whimsicalness, the iridescence, but I don’t jump all in. You can say, my sense of aesthetic is dark with a pop of such elements. Call it whimsical edginess.
You mentioned you love travelling. Has travel influenced your style?
Yes! Every time I visit a new place, I land up blending in with people out there. I travel to Hong Kong often, and the street style there is something I can relate to. Especially their fall fashion — dark stockings, boots, t-shirt dresses. Whenever I visit, I feel the need to buy all of the mentioned items. In fact, I remember this one time my aunt was looking out for me at the airport, and she couldn’t spot me because I looked just like everybody else (laughs).
How do you think Bombay is different in style compared to other cities?
When it comes to the city and fashion, I think people dress like they want to… it’s about self-expression. Also, it’s about the attitude. I as in New York two months ago. In NY City, people usually dress how they dress to work — clean lines, structured bags, nice shirts. But if you go to Brooklyn, people dress for themselves. You’ll find them wearing leather jackets with Betty Paige haircuts, red lips, tattoed arms, and other interesting elements. I think in Bombay, you have people who dress up and others who don’t dress up at all. I feel that fashion has not reached everybody in Bombay. That said, the millennials are doing a great job dressing up.
Tell us about your shopping habits. Are you impulsive or do you plan out your shopping?
My dad taught me something when I was little: if you really love something and you want to buy it, then buy it. But if there’s something you can do without or you don’t feel like you really want, then let go of it. I do just that… if I like something but can’t imagine myself in it, I don’t get it. Otherwise, I go ahead and shop.
Street style or couture, which one are you inclined towards?
Street style, for sure.
Offline shopping vs online shopping… what do you prefer?
I like both… online shopping is easy, but I only trust online stores. It is important to try on clothes, especially with high street brands like H&M and Forever 21. For occasion wear, online shopping is better because you hardly find anything in stores these days.
Which are your favourite online brands?
My new online favourite is Shein. I also like Koovs and I’ve got a few pieces from Quirk Box too.
Do you incorporate trends? Also, do you go shopping every time a new trend crops up?
I’d say a little of both. I think the clothes I shop can carry on for a few years. There are certain pieces I buy that will continue being trendy. I tend to buy more classic pieces, which have a prolonged lifespan.
Are there any other brands that you’re particularly fond of?
I land up buying a lot from H&M and Forever 21. Then there’s Zara. Among the smaller kitsch brands, I like Jodi for their cool, statement pieces.
How about designers; do you have a favourite?
I love Marc Jacobs! Everything from their clothes, to perfumes… I really like the brand. I remember when I got into fashion, I studied in detail about him. At that time his clothes were so feminine yet so strong. He had those giant frills and one-shoulder pieces back in 2009, his clothes had so much volume and drama.
I also like Lanvin. I must admit I like certain eras of brands and high fashion designers. Remember Gucci had a phase when they’d colour block and had these gold belts — so strong, so sexy, and confident. Right now I love what Olivier Rousteing is doing at Balmain.
You mentioned that Rihanna is your style icon. What is it about her style that inspires you?
I like her style, her strong feminine sexuality. She’s so confident. She’s amazing, she just does what she wants. She is a trendsetter but I don’t think she’s trying to be one… she’s just doing her own thing. She wore a transparent bejewelled dress and got flak for it? She did not care back then and now… everyone’s wearing it. I think she owns everything she does — her music, her clothing line, collaborating with Puma, movies, her makeup line, she’s got ‘Rihanna’ all over it. That is why I like her style.
Are you inspired by other style icons?
Alexa Chung was my favourite a few years back. Right now it’s Chloe Grace Moretz… I love the way she dresses; she carries herself so well. Then there’s Gigi Hadid who sports athleisure well. We Wore What’s blogger Danielle Bernstein, Aimee Song from Song of Styles, Julie Sariñana from Sincerely Jules… they all have a strong aesthetic and that’s why I really like them. They teach you that if you’re confident and comfortable in what you’re wearing, then you’re going to look amazing. I also like Maggie Gyllenhaal. Sometimes her clothes may not make any sense to people, but she’s so strong, confident, and does what she wants to do… I admire her for that.
What about Indian bloggers?
In India, there’s Santoshi Shetty. I like her sense of style. When I was at Global Desi, she did this shoot for us and back then she wasn’t as famous as she is now. I remember she walked in and I was like this girl is so sweet, no tantrums… nothing. Then in front of the camera, she was fierce.
Who according to you is India’s most stylish man or woman?
That’s an obvious choice… it’s Sonam Kapoor. Then again her clothes are usually well put-together, and I can’t connect with that. There was a time when it was Kangana Ranaut for her effortlessness in style. I also like Alia Bhatt’s off-duty looks. When it comes to men, it’s got to be Rajkumar Rao. There’s something about him… something so real and approachable. He’s always nicely dressed, but that apart there’s a lot of character there too.
Also, check out Elizabeth Xalxo answer our ‘Quick 10 questions’