Educator and Stylist – Founder of Australian Style Institute
Watching Lauren Di Bartolo carve out a successful career combining her lifelong loves for fashion and business feels like a step in the very positive direction of us all being able to thrive as exactly who we are. As the Founder and Educator at Australian Style Institute, Lauren is insanely busy – from travelling to teaching and even planning the expansion of the institute to Sydney, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The consummate professional, and always stylish business owner was happy dive into her career trajectory and take us into the ‘why’ behind ASI and we are so grateful for this opportunity. Lauren is the kind of woman you just want to learn from, and not to mention head out for a cocktail with… well after she has styled you and told what to spend your next pay check on. If you are planning on a career as a fashion stylist, or wanting to know the best resources to consume while building your business empire then this is the interview for you.
Please welcome Lauren Di Bartolo…
Hey Lauren, thank you so much for giving us your time today. Let’s start at the very beginning. Where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I’ve been blessed with very hardworking parents who were self-employed for much of their career. It’s taught me a lot about self-starting and the importance of consistently delivering a good job. Whilst it had its benefits, when it came down to it, I had to recognise that whilst they could teach me a great work ethic, I needed other people in my field to help me. I also learned the importance of backing myself.
I teach all my students how to gain the necessary skills, trust themselves and take the leap into their own passion after graduating from Australian Style Institute. Remember – it’s your life and your journey, and you need to trust yourself to spread your wings.
Love this advice, so good. So, when you were a young girl what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be in fashion but I couldn’t always put my finger on what job it would be exactly. Back then, we didn’t know what styling was. I knew I would never cut it as a fashion designer, and I learned over time that the real draw for me came from putting the product on clients to help make them feel confident. You may want to be in fashion but that doesn’t have to mean design. There are so many different pathways in fashion, and with our courses at Australian Style Institute, you can go on to do a huge number of different things.
Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to an all-girls school called Genazzano. Whilst I didn’t fit into the traditional mould of music, maths and science, the school did teach me to find the strength in my voice as a woman and to value the contributions that women make to society. I also made some of the best friends for life.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
No. And this is something we speak to prospective students about every day. Often, they find what they want to do by realising they don’t tick the traditional boxes or pathways at school. They might be interested in fashion, have entrepreneurial skills, and not fit into a typical mould. And that’s when it’s important for them to find people in the same boat – to support and propel each other. That’s why my students consider the Australian Style Institute community a real family – we lift each other up as we educate.
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
I volunteered for a number of fashion festivals. I learned lots about work ethic, dealing with clients and communication – all while being in one of my favourite environments! It also helped determine what I did and didn’t like. After my studies, I was offered a role with a lady who was a difficult manager and who wasn’t committed to teaching me. Whilst it wasn’t a good experience, it taught me everything I wanted to be in business and leadership in future. Sometimes these are the most powerful experiences. It taught me I want to be empathetic, graceful and supportive of those around me.
Ohhh, that is such a great lesson. Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
After school, I was offered a place in an arts degree, but I opted for a year 13 course, something which gave me options, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for other people. I was offered places in a Bachelor of Textile Design, and a Bachelor of Fine Art, but they weren’t entrepreneurial. I was studying to wait to find out what I really wanted to pursue. I studied visual merchandising at RMIT, a course I enjoyed but I do realise now I pursued this because fashion styling didn’t exist back then. Fundamentally, I felt I had to study because I didn’t know what to do yet.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?
I founded Australian Style Institute eleven years ago – and what a journey it’s been! Since then we have developed a huge range of courses which all reflect my unique approach to fashion styling, client services and business building. It’s a career which has taken me beyond styling for some incredible names and faces in Australia and further afield, to helping others create their own businesses. A real highlight has been to see how many graduates have gone onto build styling businesses of their own. Teaching someone to hone their craft and thrive – financially and emotionally – is second to none. There are thousands of people in this position now thanks to our courses. I’m proud of what we have all achieved.
How did you get into the job that you are in now?
I founded the Institute after my own experiences in the fashion industry left me thinking that we needed a new approach to styling. I felt the old way of doing things – labelling different women apples or pears and saying they could only wear specific colours – was totally restricting and wrong. My courses blend fashion creativity with human behaviour – allowing my students to see the science behind what we choose to wear and why. I believe this allows us to take a deeper look at styling, which in turn leads to stronger and longer lasting effects from clients.
What is the hardest part of your current job?
The hardest part is knowing what projects to take on, and when to say no. The creative in me wants to do it all, and that’s not always possible at times. I also recognise that everyone who works for me needs to grow their careers and the projects I bring in need to support that. So, sometimes we have to turn things down so that better things can come along.
What does a day a typical business day look like for you at ASI?
Part of the thrill of running your own business is that no two days are the same. Yesterday morning, I was interviewed for a segment on Sunrise to discuss sustainability in the fashion industry, and look at the future of fashion. After this I hopped on a flight to Sydney to do a site visit at our new campus opening later this year. It’s so important for me to ensure that every space we create is inspiring, creative and helps people thrive. Our new space in Surrey Hills will do just that. On the plane I took the opportunity to do a guided meditation. It’s something I like to fit into my routine – I always have some saved and ready to go, usually via Calm or YouTube. I’ve actually taken some meditation courses and am a firm believer in the good it can bring, particularly from a creativity standpoint. Some days it just can’t happen – but we shouldn’t overlook the shower moments. These are some of the most powerful moments for thinking about nothing. In the evening I had a meeting over dinner with an amazing woman in business, before flying home. By 10.30pm I was in my car listening to a podcast and preparing for the next day.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
I’m constantly inspired by people who can have the foresight to reinvent themselves to maintain relevance and move things forward. Here are two funny examples: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg. The two have come together over their shared love of food and friendship, and are now talking to a youth demographic even though their careers have lasted half a century but couldn’t be more different. There is power in people who can reinvent themselves. More recently I’ve been admiring Harry Styles. I’m so impressed by how he has pushed the stereotypes sartorially and really challenged what we think of a typical singer/musician. I’m also in love with Alicia Keys. She has taught us all about the power of our natural beauty.
What advice would you give young women who are interested in your career?
Don’t wait for a careers councilor to tell you what to do. Get out, get started and give things a go. The real answers are already inside of you, you don’t need someone to tell you what to do.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Websites: Business of Fashion, Repeller and Fashion Journal.
- Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: Curated Spaces, Pedestrian TV, The Design Files.
- Favourite Podcast: How I Built This (HIBT), So many Aussie podcasts to love, Gemma Watt’s ‘Glow Journal’, Wardrobe Crisis – Clare Press
- Favourite Netflix/Stan/ Series: Have watched ‘The Intern’ about a hundred times. Formula 1 ‘Drive to Survive’ working under pressure ‘The Spy’ Sacha Baron Cohen was incredible in this.
- Who is your mentor? So many positive influences but no one in particular.
- Favourite all time book/s: For fashion it’s Stylists by Katie Baron and Advanced Style – Ari Seth Cohen.
- Favourite App that you use every day: Voice recorder – it’s how I capture and share ideas, Sleep Cycle, I’ve had to start tracking my sleep in order to get enough. Moda Operandi – for the love of luxury fashion. Tiktok – Obvs