Bella Hignett talks about how she turned her passion for clothes and style into a career.
Many people change direction multiple times in their working lives and it can take time to figure out what you really want to do. Bella Hignett is one of those lucky people who have managed to turn their hobby into a career after moving from PR to styling.
Bella fell into PR after getting a job at Sony in Australia where she had travelled to stay with her sister. It was a small office and she was given a lot of responsibility and learnt a lot, including about writing press releases. When she returned to London just over a year later she got a job at Sony’s London office in marketing and PR.
She continued to work in marketing and PR for several years before setting up her own consultancy with a couple of friends, focusing mainly on media, film and tv. She had joined the small consultancy and the founder then decided to retire so Bella and another woman decided to buy her out and run it themselves. Along the way through personal contacts they picked up some clients in the luxury fashion and hotel industry. Bella really enjoyed branching outside of the media and film industry. “It really resonated with me,” she says. Her mum had run a successful boutique when she was growing up and she would spend the holidays watching her at work.
While she continued to work in PR Bella, who has two children aged 11 and 15, was helping friends with advice on what to wear. “I was always well dressed. I spent my first pay cheque on a Ralph Lauren catsuit! My friends asked me to dress them for parties and weddings and someone said that I should monetise it,” she says. She also found herself helping her fashion clients on shoots and helping to dress some of their managing directors. “I didn’t get any extra money for it. I just loved doing it,” she says.
Then came Covid and many of her PR clients fell away. Bella thought the time was right to try something different and to move on from PR. “I felt a bit of a fraud when I was doing PR, but when I suddenly became my own PR agent it felt much more real and honest because it was something I felt passionately about,” she says. She began to build her client base through word of mouth. They include a breast cancer charity who she runs styling workshops for, having previously done PR for their events.
Most of her clients are women and she would love to dress more men. She says she has inherited an intuitive way of working with people from her father. Many of her clients are business leaders, tv presenters or up and coming actors, but their need for Bella’s advice is not just a professional thing. They often have a personal reason for getting in touch – divorce, for instance, or a traumatic illness which has changed their body shape and how they feel about themselves. Bella says how they dress can have a big impact on their sense of self and she loves seeing that transformation.
Bella works with clients with a whole range of budgets to spend. The four-stage process starts with an initial chat on the phone and then a wardrobe edit to see their style [this can require a lot of tact and sensitivity as people may feel emotionally attached to some items of clothing, she says]. Next comes note taking and the creation of a Pinterest board of things the client or looks they can emulate and, lastly, comes a personal shopping day to build a capsule wardrobe which will work for all occasions. This is often in Selfridges as Bella knows them well and they have a range of brands at different prices, but it may also be charity shops. She also works on a one-off basis, for instance, to help a client dress for a particular event and one client asked her to help her pack for her holidays. Bella’s emphasis is on timeless elegance rather than fast fashion trends that might not flatter her clients. She mentions, for instance, skinny jeans.
She says: “I am quite intuitive. I can read people quite easily from their body language and where they live and their relationship with their families as well as when I open their wardrobe. I know how to find something that works for them.”
*To find out more and book a session with Bella go to www.bellahignettstyling.com. Instagram: @bella_hignett_styling. Bella is offering a discount for February and March – 20% off all her styling services, plus a free consultation if you quote the code BHS20.