Go on a style run

Go on a style run

We talk to Stylist, Sasha Elina, about 90's fashion, Miami housewives and the cities that shaped her career in fashion.

Interview by Chad Balkum

Photography by Olivia Seally

Unlike most other career path's, a creative career doesn't usually have a clearly defined trajectory. This becomes more evident when a creative decides to take the risk of going freelance. Fashion Stylist & Toronto native Sasha Elina's career has taken her from being a personal shopper for Miami house wives to working retail in New York and styling Travis Scott for a late night TV performance. A large part of her journey involved taking leap's of faith while capitalizing on opportunities as they were presented. I caught up with Sasha in Toronto while she ran errands for an upcoming shoot.

SH: We first met in New York but you’re originally from Toronto right?

I was born in Toronto but grew up in Mississauga, which is about 25 mins away from the City Toronto.

Growing up in Mississauga my Granny would always make outfits for my sister and I. I use to watch her sew a lot. She was the sewer in the family always fixing a button, doing a hem making dresses for Church or matching dresses for my sister and I lol. That’s where it all started for me really one year her and my mom helped my cousin Keshia and I make matching sequence halter tops but in different in but in colors for Caribana. Man, we thought we were so cool and couldn’t wait to wear our new tops.

My mom's side of the family is originally from Guyana,  my mom always liked spending the holidays and long weekends in FL. Those trips are what really made her feel comfortable to relocate my sister and I to Broward County! Thinking about it now it's so crazy, my mom only had one good friend in Florida named Theresa who helped her get more acquainted with the Sunshine State. 

Although I spent a lot of my teenage years in FL. My mom would always plan for us to spend majority of the summers back home in Mississauga. 

As my journey in FL went on I really started to take a strong liking to discovering fashion creating my own style. A lot of my first experiences in Fashion/Styling happened in FL when I worked in Retail. I was able to start small at store like the Gap and then grow to being a “Brand Specialist” for Marc by Marc Jacob which at the time. Marc Jacob was also the Creative Director at Louis Vuitton which I know a lot of my peers remember what crazy time that was! I felt like that was my favorite job of all time. My Brand Manager was based in NY and would come to the store every season and we’d go over the collection along with going over clients, selling goals, inventory and my favorite part my “clothing allowance” it was so cool to me. From that position I moved onto another favorite brand of mine, Helmut Lang, in a similar role. 

I went to NY one weekend in October of 2011 and went for a walk around Soho that was honestly an amazing experience for me. I got to walk into a lot of stores and I remember being able to see full collections in person and seeing how every store had such insane layouts, themes and merchandising… Then add walking the streets of Mercer. I was in Fashion heaven!! I knew that NY was where I had to be to take my Fashion career to the next level.

SH: You seem heavily influenced by 90’s music & style, where does that inspiration come from?

The 90’s influence is something I really get from my Mom. Her style was a mix Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston and Princess Diana.

She would buy new pieces and mix them up with older items she had in her closet. A sharp Blazer, skirt, a red lip, red nails and small gold vanity accessories were my moms go-to when she was going out. On her errand days she would be in Nike track suite with a sports bra that she definitely took from my stepdad. She would wear that with a pair of white and purple huaraches; it’s crazy how you remember certain outfits.

I like to think I adopted all of that from my mom, I actually have/wear a lot of her old stuff including jewelry. My short hair is also something I got from her, she had short hair in her mid 20’s and 30’s. It’s also funny cause so many of my family member’s tell me I remind them of my mom when she was my age. 

SH: At what point of your life did you first get into styling?

The longer I worked in fashion retail, the more I would lean towards Luxury and Contemporary Brands. I remember one day I stumbled across this store called the Webster, it was honestly so small, probably 800sq. It was their small temp location on Collins Ave before they moved into their flagship store on South Beach which is still there till this day. The Webster has always been one of the best multi brand Luxury stores to me. I would take monthly trips to Miami from Broward to check the store and soak up as much Fashion as I could. 

A few friends of mine at that time who worked in the music industry would always have to an event/ concert to go too and would reach out to ask me if I could help style them I began doing that on the side. At the same time a small portion of my clients in Miami, began working with me one on one closet maker overs and styling consulting sessions. I started off by going to one specific clients' home to help her redo her closet and rework the things she already had with new pieces she bought while shopping with me. I was helping her get rid of things while showing her how to re-use pieces that maybe she hadn't worn in a while. From there, she told a few of her friends and my client base grew. Working with my friends really prepared me for doing it with my Miami clientele.

One day at work a stylist came into Saks where I worked for Helmut Lang, she was shopping for a video shoot with an upcoming artist named “Prince Royce”. I helped her find a few outfits; it was the perfect timing because everything she needed we had in stock or better alternatives. When she was checking out she asked me if I would be down to help assist her. I wasted no time saying yes! I had never been on set with an actual stylist or a music video. All 16yr old me could think about is watching "BET’S Access Granted".

The whole experience was a lot of fun. It was interesting to see how it all went down behind the scenes. Afterwards, she asked me to help her on another video. Before I moved I worked at for a little over a year before moving. My very last job before I moved to New York was at UNKNWN. It was my first retail job in a store that mixed Street-wear and Contemporary brands. It was also highly backed by Lebron James who played for the Miami Heat at the time. My time working there was definitely a moment and a great way to end my Florida years.

"I like to think I adopted all of that from my mom, I actually have/wear a lot of her old stuff including jewelry. My short hair is also something I got from my her."

SH: Did you have anything lined up already before moving?

When I got to New York I applied to Helmut Lang. I remember walking into the store in Soho during that trip I took back in October. All the girls working there that day had on a leather item, boots and blazers with edgy hairstyles. I literally ended up getting hired a couple days after I walked into the store even though it was a new city & work environment. I was already very familiar with the brand so they gave me a chance. That job ultimately shaped the trajectory of the next six years that I lived in New York.

New York City taught me simplicity, luxury and Street-wear; you just really have so many unique styles & aesthetics in New York depending on which part of the city you're in. My life in New York outside of work also impacted my style in a creative/positive way. I was always down to switch it up with different seasons while creating a uniform for myself that's still a part of my look now.

SH: Was there ever a moment over the course of your journey that you didn’t see the value in while going through it but now can say has taught you a lot?

That's a really good question. I can't really say there was ever a time I didn’t see the value in anything I’ve done. Even if I did it for free or a small payout I would look at the bigger picture and know that I was gaining experience in something I was super passionate about and everything always worked itself out. I also moved to NY during the “Internship” days. At that time if you weren’t willing to even do a small internship it was like no one took you serious.

"I've done so many different things in the fashion industry to get to this point of my career but I feel like I had to, that's how you learn. That's how you figure out what you ultimately want to do."

There were definitely times I was just like, damn, I would love to be doing this and actually getting paid. For example, my experience interning at Milk studios. I already had a full time job so, I only interned at Milk on my days off from Helmut Lang. Sometimes what I would do is have my two days off back to back because at Milk there were two shifts, a day shift. As time went on, I began to see the purpose of the extreme shift hours and how they were necessary for the many photoshoots/ Fashion Shows and NY Fashion week events Milk would have to prepare for.

I've done so many different things in the fashion industry to get to this point of my career but I feel like I had to, that's how you learn. That's how you figure out what you ultimately want to do.