Home Bot CategoriesLivingArt & Design STYLE DIVA – ZAIHANI MOHD ZAIN


by wowmagazine

George Burns probably got it right when he said- “You can’t help getting older but you don’t have to get old.” This quote sits well on 65-year-old Malaysian stylist Zaihani Mohd Zain who started her career in 1996, at a time when the term ‘stylist’ wasn’t coined. “I was called a wardrobe executive,” she recalls. Trained as a fashion designer, she transited to styling as it allowed her more creative space. “I could work with multiple designers for just one look and this excited me from the very beginning,” she smiles.

Zaihani has experimented with multitude of clothes and accessories but finds her calling with chunky accessories. “Accessories can make or break a look,” she quips. Her one tip on accessorising is to keep in mind which item you want to be the focal point, be it the earrings, necklace, bracelets or rings; but not all at once.
Zaihani loves travel, food, fashion and her tribe of pet cats (18 of them) and has kept her connection with Nepal for over 30 years. What keeps her returning is her friends, the streets of Thamel, the Himalayas, the local jewelry and arts, and the warmth of the Nepali people.

Her meticulous styling and her insouciance fashion sense set her apart from her peers. Her personality comes through in her large laugh, her keen sense of observation, and the ability to assert her individuality in a crowd.

WOW sat down with Zaihani to get the lowdown on her career, style tips, interests and more. Excerpts:

Why did you choose a career in fashion?

I loved fashion since my childhood. I come from a not so wealthy family and I desired good clothes. Since we could afford new clothes only once a year, that pushed me to fall in love with fashion and start my career in it.

Your guide to ageless style…

Often with Asian women, when we get married and have kids, we put ourselves second. This is when we lose focus on ourselves. Individuality is important no matter what your age. Also, as you get older you stop caring about what people have to say about you. The type of clothes which I would hesitate to wear when I was younger, I just put it on now. Overall, you have to understand your personality first and then go with the choice of clothes.

With clothes and accessories, how do you judge fashion?

I judge fashion with personality. People with different energies have different fashion choices. Talking about me, I love chunky accessories. I pair it in a way that either my rings or earrings or shades or necklace is the highlight of the entire look. The focus has to be on one and not many.

What have been your life lessons in more than three decades of working as a stylist?

Being truthful to myself. I don’t care if people like me or not, I just be myself.

Being a fashion critic, you have also been in several controversies, how do you deal with that.

The biggest controversy was about five years ago which as a result had several hate messages involved.

However, I decided to keep quiet, not to pay my ears to those hate messages and not to even read about the controversy. A few did slip through but I didn’t allow that to consume me.

What is the best part of being a stylist?

I have always enjoyed being a stylist. The best part is that you can dictate the look even while working with bigger celebrities. And many do listen to my advice.

The pressure when you dress up a celebrity is immense as criticism can be upsetting. Your thoughts.

Dressing up a celebrity is difficult at times as they have their say in many things and want it their way. Also, about the criticism, you can’t please everyone. After a while, critics will die down and you have to move on with your work. After all, it’s my career, my work, I can’t be listening too much to the fashion police.

Did you have a mentor in your career?

When I started in 1996, styling was unknown. I was working with television station at that time and I used to be called wardrobe executive. And I said to my boss that we are neither executives nor designers. We style people so you can call me stylist. A few years later the term stylist was coined.

What advice do you give young stylists?

One must have the knowledge of fashion first. They must know how fashion evolves so that the stylist is never out of date. Stylists have to be relevant all times. Also, often the stylist makes a mistake of styling the client according to a certain mood board but the personality of the client is always the primary element to keep in mind before designing a mood board.

Where do you look for creative inspiration?

I keep myself aware of the surroundings and how things can merge with fashion. As you never know, a small thing can do wonders for your styling look. Also, you have to be in tune with fashion 24/7.

Is it hard to stay innovative in fashion?

Yes, it takes a lot of energy. You have to be aware and absorbing at all times. You can never take a backseat in fashion. For a day or two styling looks fun but to make a career out of styling and surviving through it is difficult. You have to be on your toes.

How do you walk the line between being unique and also following the trend?

You should never follow the trend. It makes you a slave to fashion. Trends will come and go but style will be there forever.

What are your other interests?

Fine art. I have started collecting. I believe, after certain years of working, you get drawn to another artistic discipline.

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