Mikey Ayoubi has an unfair advantage on many of us. His ubiquitous presence across varying creative fields including design, creative direction, producing, and styling is forever growing. Apart from working with some of Australia’s most respected designers and fashion publications, Mikey has styled numerous global talents including Hilary Swank and Yael Stone, as well as Australian style-leaders Lara Worthington, Jessica Gomes and Phoebe Tonkin. Discover how Mikey carved his career path…
Describe your role.
Freelance fashion stylist and fashion consultant. After working in fashion design for fifteen years with a few incredible designers, I decided to move into styling six years ago and haven’t looked back.
How do you balance your projects?
Sometimes with great ease, difficulty and a big smile. In life you have to work on projects that challenge you constantly, where you find yourself unbalanced at the time, but in hindsight you become stronger and confident in what you know and what you can do.
What inspired you to begin your career in fashion?
My parents and my three beautiful sisters. I always loved to draw which evolved into doing hair and makeup for my sisters and their friends which progressed into a big interest in art and fashion.
Tell us about your formal training.
I had a big decision to make before leaving high school whether to accept an offer to study Fine Arts at Sydney University or study Fashion Design at East Sydney under Nicholas Huxley and of course the latter was the only option. I had met Nicholas ten years earlier when I had modelled (yes, child modelling) for a few of his students over a few years and always remembered how much I loved being around that world. When I finished my HSC in 1995 I was accepted at East Sydney Fashion Design Studio and finished my Advanced Diploma in 1998.
Being creative is inherent to you. What stimulates the creative process?
Smell, sounds, textures, weather, environment, energy, people and most importantly what I see. I am a very visual person and it affects my life in so many different ways, especially creatively. Stories and a narrative I find inspire me most.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career thus far?
There have been so many memorable moments that I am very lucky to have had. Such as designing for Akira and Nicola Finetti, where I had designed the dress that Elle wore on the cover of Australian Vogue’s 40th Anniversary issue with Kylie. Working with Hilary Swank was incredible. I styled her in Christopher Esber, who she adored, and now wears on her own accord. Of course working in Paris shooting for Australian Vogue. And working with Wish magazine and with the Australian Fashion Chamber where I styled the event launch.
Do you have a favourite shoot or project that comes to mind?
Working with dear friends like Christine Burke, Victoria Baron and Jess Mauboy who we styled in three looks for Lancome’s eightieth birthday celebration from Toni Maticevski. She serenaded the guests in French renditions of her songs. It was so magical and moving and brought the magic of Paris to Sydney. It was an idea that Christine and I had one day which came to life in way that was forever beautiful.
Who has influenced your career the most?
I have been lucky to have had a few mentors who include Nicholas Huxley, Clare Press with her appreciation for fashion, Sarina Suriano taught me to appreciate design and accessories from a new perspective and Vivien Egge who was Akira’s publicist in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Vivian helped me understand how to gather my ideas and execute them in ways that were clear and exciting. She also insisted that I always kept on reading and being a visual person. This advice became very handy many years later because when you are a creative and visual person you become limited if you only seek visual stimulation. Years later I would visit her in Milan where she lived prior and moved back to after leaving Akira.
In your opinion, what does the future of the Australian fashion industry hold?
Australian fashion is very unique for so many different reasons, which I wish Australians would spend more time nurturing, cherishing and celebrating. It is quite trans-seasonal which plays a major part on the uniqueness the industry. It’s exciting that fashion week is now called Resort – which lends to the fact that we really do live the lifestyle here that is not so common in major cities around the world. We can work a long hour day and enjoy the beach straight after. How much more resort can you get, without being at one?
What local and international designers do you admire?
Christopher Esber, Dion Lee, Toni Maticevski, Ryan Storer and Sarina Suriano. Internationally I have always loved Galliano, Isaac Mizrahi, Alaia, Nicholas Ghesquire and Commes Des Garcon. In the early 90’s I used to go into the Trellini store on Elizabeth Street across from St James station and borrow the VCR copies of the Commes Paris shows in where I would “double tape” videos of each season, and watch over and over. I was 14 years old. They were so sweet and kind to me. You never forget these things.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow your career path?
Don’t ever give up. Don’t be lazy. Dream very big as they will come true in ways you didn’t expect. Always remember the people that have helped you and be thankful. Find designers, stylists, agencies that inspire you the most, and gain experience with them for as long as you can whether it be through interning or employment. Become a sponge and absorb everything you can. You can never stop learning. My first internship was at Carla Zampatti when I was thirteen years old where I helped pack orders with Allegra and Bianca. Please don’t ask me about the time I dropped a tray of tea in Carla’s oriental style office. Unforgettable!
What are your thoughts on social media and how do you employ it professionally and/or personally?
It’s exciting, direct and exhausting at times. It helps get what you want people to know out there which can lead to many opportunities professionally and personally. Social media has helped the Australian fashion industry reach people around the world where normally it could only happen through traditional channels of communication.
What challenges have you experienced?
Coming from design I had to prove myself again to an industry I had been in for fifteen years. Financially it was difficult to move into styling. Going from head designer for a brand to a fashion assistant for old friends like stylist David Bonney, who taught me how to assist and think for someone else. I had to learn how to think differently going from being the client to working for the client.
What are your interests outside of fashion?
Family, food, friends and fitness.
We know you have a little connection to Eva! Tell us about this…
At my graduation parade in November 1998 Nicola Finetti had seen my graduation collection and had asked me to work for him as head designer for his first collection and runway show at MBFWA 1999.
That is when I first met Eva, who became my guardian angel. Eva was working for the top sales agency in Australia and took care of Nicola’s sales. I will NEVER forget her helping me pack up Nicola’s 50 look collection which took hours after his evening show and taking it back to the showroom to unpack for sales appointments the next day. She didn’t have to do this at all but she still did. I was only 20 years old and this is someone who showed me a few things that I would never forgot. Eva, who is a strong retail and fashion power house might not let many people know that she is discreetly and humbly a very generous, sensitive and kind human being. It’s always the best and the ones at the top who are the nicest.
How do you measure success?
By celebrating it when it happens.
What words do you live by?
Love, love, love and love.
What can we expect from you next?
To surprise, inspire and to always evolve.
You can find Mikey on Instagram at @mikeyayoubi