Merivale’s event stylist Alisha Rich made her styling debut at the tender age of 8 when she made the bold decision to take charge of family Christmas. She hand-painted the entire tablecloth, picked and styled flowers to match, and pulled together a full Christmas lunch (featuring no less than homemade crab puffs as an appetiser). Ever colour-coordinated, she even mixed a custom cordial to match the tablecloth. Not too shabby for an 8-year-old, if we do say so ourselves. Keen to learn more about the magical world of styling, we sat down with the woman behind the puffs, Alisha, to find out what she’s all about.
In the beginning
Being a stylist is pretty covetable, as far as jobs go. When asked how she ended up on this path, Alisha doesn’t hesitate, “Dollhouses” she states. “I used to spend hours making my own dollhouses using bits of cardboard and wood from the shed. I was obsessed. And then after the Christmas thing…I kind of just put the two together.” Of course, having a dressmaker for a mother and an artist/engineer for a grandfather didn’t hurt. “I grew up surrounded by people who were always making things, constructing things. People who loved to innovate.” And so it went. When she was 15 years old, Alisha got her foot in the door with her first job, as a window dresser. “It was a dream come true,” she says, “I was a teenager getting paid to do something I would have happily done for free.”
Getting your hands dirty
Alisha has always preferred to make her own decorations and styling props wherever possible. “Making something yourself that people love and appreciate is a really nice feeling.” she says. “It’s not always going to look perfect, but it’s unique – and that’s special.” What about those of us who are… stylistically challenged? “There are literally tutorials for everything online,” she says, “and they’re usually pretty easy to follow, you just need to set aside the time. It’s so relaxing.” Hmmm…relaxing? Sounds… complicated to us. Alisha’s suggestion? Call in the troops! “Get your friends together for a creative gathering or weekend away.” Alisha suggests, “Doing something creative together is such a great way to catch up and connect. With snacks, of course.” Can’t argue with snacks.
“Plastic can really suck the soul of a room.” Alisha says. She suggests bypassing throw-away plastic and instead heading to your local art or hardware store, or stopping by an op-shop for some one-off bits and bobs. “I always do my best to repurpose props,” explains Alisha, “I’ll have a sculpture which can be turned into a vase which later becomes a candle holder. When I’m planning a big event like Melbourne Cup, I’ll always be thinking about how to re-use the materials after.” Thrifty. Any other tips for minimising waste? “Biodegradable glitter and balloons are available pretty much everywhere,” she says, “and of course, sustainably sourced floral and botanical elements are always beautiful. We recently did a suspended garden installation in the ivy ballroom with lots of natives and foliage…flowering gum, peppertree, banksia and burnt branches. It totally transformed the space.”
Keeping your eyes open
A born creative, Alisha is forever finding beauty in unusual objects and sourcing things from unexpected places. “I always start close to home,” she says, “There’s so much to be found in your local area. Garage sales and fetes are fun. I’ve also found loads of stuff at building sites and industrial factories. And I love a good antique store, obviously.” For those of us who lack the ability to sort trash from treasure (and still want to do our bit for mother nature), Alisha suggests heading to the source itself. “I love pottering around my garden. Something as simple as a cool stick or branch can make a fabulous centrepiece.” The grapevine from Alisha’s own garden features regularly at The Paddington, and she’s always bringing home-grown flowers to photoshoots and events. “Nature is a huge inspiration to me,” she says, “I always have a few of my favourite elements growing in my backyard.” Her other favorite go-to? “Mesh,” she states, “It’s hard and soft at the same time. I like that – things that can be both tough and pretty. You can make it whatever you want from it.”
When it comes to inspiration, Alisha’s always looking towards the art world. Installation art and fashion runways are amongst her top sources of inspo, but it’s architects in particular that fascinate her. “When it comes to sustainability, they’re usually the ones leading the charge,” she says. She loves the ease of online research, “Being able to see what other artists are doing really fuels creativity. Social media has made it so much easier to connect and share feedback,” she pauses, “But I’ll always have a soft spot for the library. It makes me feel like an excited little kid.” When asked what drives her, Alisha’s answer is heartfelt. “Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to make people feel special. It’s not really about making things look better, it’s about making people feel loved and cared for. Doing something nice for them.” As for the venues she most loves to style? “Establishment, because it has incredible ceilings. And Pool Club, because it’s just…fun.” What about her biggest styling challenge to date? “I once had a 260kg fibreglass elephant craned in through a window. We had to block two roads. It was awesome.” All in a day’s work, right?
By the way, we’re always searching for talented people. Check out the Merivale Careers page.