Anastasia Mouskou: Meet the stylist behind Velvet Lavender Club

For years, fashion stylists were the shadowy artists behind the curtains, lauded only by the people within fashion’s inner circle. But as the dynamics of the industry have now changed, we get to see more of who’s responsible for transforming clothes into visions, whether it’s for editorials, street style or red carpet, videoclips or tv shows. A good stylist is an image maker, but a successful stylist can essentially be a culture shifter.

Anastasia Mouskou (@anamoux) ticks all boxes, as at the age of 24, she is a stylist, a brand image maker and somewhat of a culture shifter herself, after creating the first Cyprus-based fashion platform Velvet Lavender Club. When she’s not working at her full-time job or supporting local boutiques with styling and social media gigs, she brings people together to talk about fashion and learn more about it, from trends and styling tips, to catwalks and history. She’s hoping that through the platform, people will gain the knowledge and confidence they need to be more playful and experimental with their style, and help fashion become more intricately woven into our culture to keep us inspired every day.

Anastasia originally studied Psychology in the United Kingdom, a degree she felt matched her analytical side. But as the sciences have it, there was very little room for thinking outside the box and being creative. She had a knack for creativity since she was young, so the absence of it in her studies made her search for it elsewhere. That’s when fashion came up and gave her the creative outlet and purpose she was looking for.

We caught up with her on a Sunday morning and she talked to us about her fashion journey, what makes a good stylist, how to get your foot in the door and of course, all you need to know about Velvet Lavender Fashion Club.

When did fashion first spark your interest and what were your first steps in your career as a stylist?

When I was at university studying Psychology, I was searching for ways to be more in touch with my creative side, and that was when I joined the Fashion society at my university. We went to Paris, got to attend fashion weeks, and I got to work at the university’s magazine. Before that, fashion was not a part of my life, as I was never properly introduced to it, I wasn’t even paying a lot of attention to my personal style back then! But I loved art, photography, and I would use any chance I got to attend exhibitions or theatre shows.

My first proper introduction to the fashion industry was during the second year of my studies. I was approached by a local brand, Tallulah Rose, to model for one of their campaigns, and that’s when I got to see how fashion can incorporate so many different creative functions at the same time: design, styling, creative direction, photography. Since then, I began looking at fashion magazines in a different way, I could understand how much creativity was being channelled into creating them.

When I was closer to finishing my studies, I was leaning towards doing a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. In fact, I had already done my applications, but I felt like I wouldn’t be satisfying that creative side of me, and by not utilising it, I would be somehow ‘wasting it’.
I decided against doing my Master’s, which left me with 6 months to figure out what I really wanted to do and what my next steps would be. I approached Andria (@andriasdose) and worked as her assistant, a collaboration that lasted for almost 2 years, while at the same time I found a job at Flashback boutique in Nicosia. Ioanna (the owner) taught me so much of what I know now. I love her style, her creativity. She has been a huge inspiration to me. At the same time, I absorbed as much as I could and felt more and more determined. After this period, I went to London and did a six-month course on styling and creative direction.

What makes a good stylist? What’s the process behind training your eye to match fabrics, colours, accessories, hair and makeup for the perfect look? What are the best sources to develop a better understanding of fashion and its history?

I am the kind of person that can grasp inspiration from anywhere and anything, ideas just come to me. Instagram and magazines are of course super helpful but once your eye is trained, then you start seeing fashion references everywhere. Part of my daily routine consists of learning more about fashion through blogs, documentaries, or even podcasts. I want to constantly learn and evolve. Research, books, even YouTube videos can help you, but you do need to put the work in. You can learn a lot on the job as well, especially from the people you work with. If you want to be a good stylist, you have to get some fashion history under your belt as this can help when making references to specific periods of time, designers or photographers; fashion is known for repeating itself.

It’s so crucial to be able to make an outfit speak for itself and tell the story it needs to tell. I learned a lot of styling rules at my course, but with experience, you become more confident in breaking these rules and making your work even more interesting and personal.

How do you organise your day-to-day life to fit your full-time job, your work for Velvet Lavender fashion club, and the other projects you are involved in? Is it crucial for young professionals to get involved in multiple projects to build experience/connections?

I try to be as organised as I can – I plan each day down to the minute! I wake up super early every day and try to fit all styling projects, shoots and exercise training in the mornings. I start my job in London at 11, which luckily gives me a 3-hour slot to work with boutiques, magazines – all my freelance projects at that time. I have a break for an hour (which most times I use for my freelance meetings), I eat on the go and have my laptop with me at all times! When I finish everything early at night, I focus on Instagram, whether it’s for work on Velvet Lavender Club or personal stuff. I don’t really rest – even when I relax, I’m constantly looking for inspiration, imagining my next project, or coming up with new ideas. I’m almost always switched on, which is not great, but I do my meditation every day before I go to sleep.

For people who are just starting, I think it’s important to figure out what works for you.
Working on multiple projects at the same time can add a lot of pressure on someone and make them far less productive. Find out what works for you, not everyone functions the same way. You do you, as long as you’re staying driven and determined, and constantly thinking about how you can evolve.

Did the fashion scene in Cyprus welcome you when you first started? What were some obstacles that you had to overcome and how did you do so? What’s your advice for people who are just starting out?

When I first started, I took matters into my own hands. I made the first step when I asked Andria to be her assistant, I truly believe that shadowing is one of the most direct ways of learning. I also got to see things from a different perspective at Flashback Boutique and learned so much by working directly with customers and seeing what people wanted from their clothes. You have to be open-minded and understand that fashion is so multi-dimensional, there are so many things to be learned from each experience. I did feel like an outsider at first, but mainly because I didn’t have a fashion background. There were times when I wasn’t sure about what I was doing. But I was aware that this was the way to go, you just take it step by step and don’t be intimidated to start humble. It was only natural that I was feeling like an ‘outsider’ because I was indeed at a learning phase. Having that willingness to learn is what will take you to the next step.

Take initiative, look for opportunities that are either paid or collaborations, and say yes! Find people that are also looking to gain experience and work together. You’ll meet new people, learn how to work in a team, see different perspectives and learn about relationship-building between people in the industry which is key.

What did you feel was missing from the Cyprus fashion scene that led to the creation of Velvet Lavender Fashion Club? Which were the most important milestones in its journey?

Velvet Lavender Club pretty much started as a tool for experimenting, putting together projects, coming up with campaigns. It was born when I had first entered the scene and I was thinking that no one would trust a rookie to take over the creative direction of their brand. I thought I’d do something on my own and create a space where I could experiment. It started as a small page. For the first project, we used some t-shirts with ‘90s inspired phrases and came up with a campaign. We decorated the room with led lights, dressed up, did hair and make-up (the whole deal) to get that ‘90s feel, and that was it! The result of the campaign came out looking really cool and the t-shirts sold out almost immediately.

Once I started doing my course and got exposed to all this knowledge about fashion, I thought, why not share this and make people fall in love with fashion the way I did? I had a friend who loves fashion too, so I asked her to take over the account for a day or so, and talk about what she liked about fashion…then I asked another, and another and I think this is what gave Velvet Lavender Club the community feeling…The Club has grown a lot since then, and it’s for anyone who feels a special connection with fashion or at least wants to get more exposed to it. This process happens with different ‘sessions’ every week, for example, the last one we did was about Summer Looks that look both refreshing and elegant. The aim is to have content that is useful, inspiring and educational at the same time, all the while maintaining the community feeling. I always try to respond to all the messages I get, I’ve met lots of new people through it, and I learned a whole lot myself too.

With the Shopping Experience sessions, I visit local boutiques and try to show people how to style items and what they can find in each store. I function as the intermediary, where I introduce people to the brand and help them see what they could do with the clothes, with an unbiased and honest opinion. That being said, I try to be selective with the brands I work for, as I want to be genuine and transparent with people.

I think one of the most important milestones was realising that there’s a real community feeling amongst the people who interact with Velvet Lavender Club. Whenever we dropped new merch, they sold out almost immediately. This meant a lot to me, seeing that people are engaged, genuinely believed in it and are invested in the community. Also, another milestone is definitely the fact that brands started approaching me for the Shopping Experience sessions, it was a way to support one another, especially during the pandemic and really shift the mindset to shopping Local.

Could you describe your journey with working abroad with a major fashion brand like Ted Baker? Does the experience you gain from it influence your other projects (or vice versa)?

It was hard to find an opportunity at first and had to do hundreds of applications. I was offered my full-time job at Ted Baker as a Social Media Executive after an internship I had taken. I don’t incorporate my styling knowledge as much, but I do utilise what I know about image making. You have to know what will attract attention with a single picture, or a video and the stakes are high as I work on paid social media, not organic. Knowledge of fashion is necessary, as is fully grasping the aesthetic of the brand and understanding a bit of consumer psychology. It fits nicely with the rest of the work that I do. I enjoy it a lot, I like my colleagues, and I get to experience how a big fashion company works internally.

Marketing is a useful industry to be in because it’s everywhere. I like branding and image making, so my work allows me to develop this even further. It has opened a lot of other opportunities for me too, as brands approach me to help with their social media because of it, I get to look after their social media presence, and help them bring forth their identity.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future? Is there anything that you hope would change in the fashion industry in Cyprus?

My main goal is the growth of Velvet Lavender Club. I want it to become a proper multi-facility platform, where people can get inspiration and education about fashion, seek help for their fashion career, ‘Get Local’ by being introduced to Cypriot brands and their products (a facility that is developed together with Maria Kountouri) and lastly receive personal shopping and advice (a facility that is being developed with Mara Petrides). I hope that Velvet Lavender Club becomes the go-to platform for anything fashion, which I think it’s important as fashion is not as integrated into our culture compared to other places in the world, we’re not yet comfortable with it. I’ve been to places where you can get inspired just by looking at other people and seeing what they are wearing, their attitude, how they carry themselves. In Cyprus, we’re not quite there yet, so I’m hoping a platform like Velvet Lavender could change that. I know this will need my full attention but it’s in my plans.

I’d love for people to start becoming more playful with their style, experiment more and be less afraid to express themselves through their clothing. I’m hoping that the industry in Cyprus will grow and become more collaborative, and this will happen by supporting each other. Collaboration can help sustain a healthy competition in the market and for me, that is the only way forward.


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