For Rachel Zeilic and Sue-Ann San, university wasn't about getting their degrees in PR and marketing, but rather about sowing the seed in their fashion aspiration.
"Ten years ago while studying at UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) we found ourselves drawn to each other through a mutual appreciation of style. I'd fashion stalk Sue-Ann and say things such as, 'I love those shoes you're wearing, sit here,'" says Rachel, donning a second-skin pair of J Brand jeans and her Stylestalker printed blazer.
"I think fashion is in the DNA," adds Sue-Ann, effortlessly rocking a Stylestalker tank. "We are both aesthetic junkies who are interested in what things look like, which is why we sussed each other out."
With a similar style sensibility, they're drawn to looks that don't appear as though you're trying too hard, but are still sexy. "'Undone sexy' is what we call it and what we aim for," says San.
"It's not skanky sexy, but more the 'I just rolled out of bed fabulous' look," adds Rachel, her face lighting up. "It's about taking a hot blazer and wearing it with cut-off shorts, for example."
Their enthusiasm is so paramount, you're forgiven for getting caught up in the exuberance of the conversation, which by now is flowing at full speed.
Celebrities who have the undone- sexy look in spades according to Rachel and Sue-Ann are Kate Bosworth, Kate Moss (pre-baby and at her height of fashion fabulousness), the Olsen twins (especially during their boho phase), and their ultimate favourites Tom Ford and Alexander Wang.
"We've been fashion-stalking Tom Ford from the beginning," says Rachel. "Whatever he touches is laid-back sexy. There always seems to be a touch of that 70s jet set vibe in his designs."
"He inspired me," says Sue-Ann. "He knows how to design beautiful, undone things you want to wear."
"As for Alexander Wang, he's brilliant at reinterpreting Tom Ford and bringing it into the modern day, so I really admire him," explains Rachel.
But while they love the big-time fashion players, they take a lot of their inspiration from real people. With the phrase 'We think you're cute', appearing as the tagline on their blog, they insist anyone can look amazing.
We believe everyone can look beautiful and everyone kind of does," explains Sue-Ann. "So yeah, 'we think you're cute' is true and we believe it."
Armed with this knowledge and extensive fashion know-how, the duo took their obsession and turned it into their next gig after university. They were job sharing at an advertising agency and, instead of working on their reports, they started trawling blogs.
"Fashion blogging was in its infancy, online shopping was really new and we were both consumed with the desire to be an active part of it," says Rachel.
Both 22 at the time, the girls found that Australia had no middle market: it was “either Sportsgirl or Lisa Ho”, and after years of university budgets and small incomes, they couldn’t afford their favourites such as Sass & Bide.
With naïvety on their side, they made the executive decision to fill this gap in the market with their own designs. They set up a website, called themselves Stylestalker - for “obvious reasons”, having stalked everyone they were ever inspired by - and started producing their own line of clothes out of Rachel’s tiny studio apartment in Sydney.
“We were so green back then,” says Sue-Ann. “We were googling ‘yellow pages, Indonesia, Bali factory’. We organised to have our clothes made overseas and then tried to sell them ourselves, just by cold-calling stores.”
They’ve come a long way since those tough times six years ago. Persistency paid off when they secured sales agents in each state who succeeded in getting their clothes accepted into 150 boutiques.
“It made all the difference as those stores who said no to us, said yes to the agents because they had existing business relationships,” explains Sue-Ann.
Two years into the business, the duo hit their second big break: getting into Selfridges in London. Simply by sending the famous department store the lookbook for the Stylestalker Spring 2010 Wipeout collection, Selfridges not only bought a lot of the collection, but also displayed the clothes on six mannequins positioned in the atrium of the Oxford Street store.
“We could see our clothes as we made our way up the escalator,” says Rachel, still in disbelief. “We were even positioned next to Alexander Wang - and that was the moment we pinched ourselves. We were also the only Australian label in Selfridges and from that, a lot more overseas accounts picked us up in places like Dubai.”
“London’s a market leader in fashion, so if you get noticed there, everyone else starts noticing,” says Sue-Ann. They were then approached by David Jones in Australia.
With their goal now to conquer the US market, Rachel has based herself in downtown Los Angeles for the past year with an office of four. It’s also a place that has clearly influenced them as the mood boards in their office are covered with LA-esque influences. Their new collection is based on America’s love of basketball, and features in this issue of THE ICONIC magazine.
It also makes sense to be based in LA considering a lot of A-list celebrities such as Jessica Alba, Kate Beckinsale, Olivia Palermo and Alessandra Ambrosio aren’t only wearing their clothes, but are following them on social media. The latest to join is Vanessa Hudgens.
So, how do the duo reflect on their style-stalking journey so far? “We started out stalking all these celebrities and now they’re wearing our clothes,” says San. “It has all come full circle. It’s amazing.”
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Quick Fire Q&A
What are you listening to?
Sue-Ann: “2 Chainz.”
Rachel: “2 Chainz.”
Heels or flats?
Sue-Ann: “Heels. I’m short.”
Coffee or tea?
Favourite fashion blogs?
Sue-Ann: “Jess from tuulavintage.
com and zanita.com.au. Christine
Centenera is out of this world, too
- she just nails it.”
Rachel: “Song from songofstyle. blogspot.com.au takes our clothes and wears them in a really fun way. Also, the.blondesalad.com.”
Twitter name? @style_stalker
What’s on your mood board? Sue-Ann: “Inspiration for our next collection called Baller, based on America’s fixation with basketball.”
Favourite drink? Sue-Ann: “Hendricks gin and tonic.” Rachel: “Whiskey Sour.”
Best fashion advice? Sue-Ann: “Just do it, have fun.” Rachel: “Don’t be afraid of making fashion mistakes.”
Who do you want to dress? Sue-Ann: “Michael Jackson before he died. He’d look amazing in a lot of shoulder pads.” Rachel: “Rosie Huntington-Whiteley because she’s such a babe, but we’ve dressed her. Kate Moss.”
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