Aleksandra Olenska, 42, is a life-stylist based between Paris and the United Kingdom who holds a fabulously colourful background from within the world of fashion, and now helps an international portfolio of female clientele to up-level and live authentically stylish lives.
Having studied The Masters in Fashion Design at Central St. Martins, Aleksandra enjoyed over 20 years in the heart of the fashion world working as Creative Director for brands including Chanel, Celine and Vanessa Bruno, and styling projects have seen her also work for clients ranging from Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, to Adidas, and Paul Smith, to styling Maximo Park and Kylie Minogue.
Her idiosyncratic approach, which has seen her featured in the likes of Forbes and Elle, and on catwalks globally for brands such as Roksanda and Marc Jacobs has also led to her creating her own line of shoes for Topshop and a jewellery line that was worn by Kate Moss. Aleksandra has also spread her influence into the worlds of wider brands, delivering keynote speeches, talks and workshops, for companies including Tate, L’Oreal and Kering.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role
I’m Aleksandra Olenska, a life-stylist based between Paris and the U.K.
Having grown up in a traditional Polish community in England, watching my Sound Designer father design and build the family home (and a gorgeous yellow sports car that I inherited!) I left behind my academic roots, and travelled the globe from within the world of fashion and culture with my elegant and individualistic style. I now help an international portfolio of female clientele to up-level and live authentically stylish lives.
I’m now known as the-style-whisperer, as I discretely help clients around the world who know that respect is more important than attention, to feel excited, confident and ready for a stylish new chapter, bringing more joy to living, and helping them to feel more powerful, confident and in control, so they can stylishly flirt through life with a renewed calm, lightness and grace. My unique and personal, inside out approach to supporting modern mid-life women to rediscover themselves and lead authentic three-dimensional stylish lives starts with my signature Next Level You method to find client’s INSIDE OUT STYLE IDENTITY™.
I believe that style is self care, and in a world of shouting – my clients know the power of a quieter strength of and appreciate a confidential service – be that on or offline!
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not exactly! Though I did always want to do the Masters at Central St Martins, and to work with style and interiors ever since I saw Daryl Hannah in the 1980s movie classic ‘Wall Street!’ It’s been about having ideas and putting steps in place to work out how to achieve them.
I’ve followed my dreams and trusted my instincts, and as a younger me – took the academic route that my parents thought was best. I was raised with the belief that you can have it all, and am not too sure that’s true anymore – or even desirable, at least not all at once – it’s exhausting!
So I pushed myself very hard in my 20s and 30s, to the detriment of other sides of life, and am determined to find greater balance (and rest!) now – and it’s important to evolve. Within this renewed importance to balance different sides of myself, within my career I seek the creative, the intellectual, the financial…and the sunshine! And I feel fortunate to live a life that allows me to fulfil these differing dimensions. My career has evolved both organically and by design, as I have grown, changed and adapted. And all the time, fuelled by a love for inspiring others, and bringing more beauty into the world.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Apart from the usual challenges of working in an oversubscribed and ever changing industry, on a personal level, a deep dark hole of depression swallowed me up out of the blue for a while…
I’ve always considered myself to be a bright side of life kind of a person, and that depression didn’t happen to ‘people like me.’ I love life, and find it endlessly fascinating, and suddenly I just didn’t feel like myself. All the joy was gone, and I could barely conceive of a future. Just breathing was difficult, food that I loved seems unappetising, and oceans of tears spontaneously fell from my eyes.
Whilst I’ve always prided myself on my independence, I had to accept that I couldn’t deal with everything alone, and whilst asking others for help didn’t come naturally to me – I’m from quite a traditional background, where you keep your problems to yourself – it was absolutely necessary.
Allowing myself to accept the situation – and the feelings, rather than trying to ‘stay strong’ or ignore them was also crucial. The other thing that really helped me, was building small rituals to elevate everyday practices, and trying to do one thing a day – no matter how small – that helped me to feel like myself again…a pilates lesson (even whilst in tears,) putting on some crimson lipstick (with my pyjamas,) wearing ridiculously high heels just to walk to the bathroom, listening to a cheesy Madonna song, painting my nails in a joyful colour…
This experience played a profound impact on launching my private client services, and I find that many women (and men too,) in their 40s. 50s, 60s and beyond have some sense of losing themselves or feel invisible at mid-life. Many experience life changing events that have a huge impact – menopause, divorce, the kids leaving, retiring and moving – even turning a significant age (replete with the feeling that time is running out!) With this can come a desire to evolve, redefine, and explore new passions and sides to themselves and their style so that they feel like a gorgeous, sexy, self assured and magnetic best version of their next level selves, living life to its fullest. And that’s what I help with!
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Being alive and seeing as much of the world and its beauty as possible – I feel extremely fortunate to do what I love everyday. I have to admit that it is wonderful to guide and inspire others to feel like their best selves, and find a renewed joy of living. It’s amazing seeing clients evolve and ooze magnetism, self confidence and get that renewed spring in their step through life, as well as a self assured style that comes from deep within. It’s such an achievement to be recognised not only by my gorgeous clients, but also magazines and media that I spend my travel time pouring over! Vogue listed me as a shopping secret, saying ‘Olenska can make anything look unique’ and Forbes spoke about my love of clients letting go of how they think they should appear for example.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
A healthy curiosity for life and all things beautiful, that brings together diverse ideas to create lasting memories and enhance and elevate everyday living! The ability to bring objects and ideas together has helped me to inspire some of the worlds top designers and brands such as Tom Ford, Chanel and Celine, and to juxtapose items to create thoughtful homes, memorable moments and desirable outfits for private individuals ready to rock their next level selves!
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I think it’s so important to inspire others – young and old!
I love going into universities and business schools and sharing ideas, experience and points of view, and have been asked to give talks and workshops for Universities such as St Martins, IFM in Paris and Conde Nast, and brands such as Kering and L’Oreal.
It’s especially interesting discussing EQ, soft skills, styling and the creative process with business students (and indeed businesses!) It’s time to change that old distorted paradigm of right and left brain thinkers, and instead to find a balance between rational analytics, instinct and modern manners, so that cross cultural communication – especially with teams of increasingly diverse cultural backgrounds – is massively improved, agility enhanced, and employees and future employees feel heard and understood, not to mention and company culture and reputation enhanced.
I also offer a mentorship scheme for a limited amount of independent fashion businesses – stylists and designers (including one scholarship per year,) to help guide them towards success. Starting a fashion business is tough, and often creatives lack the know how and mindset of how to turn their ideas and passions into a viable business – there are so many moving parts to being a stylist or a designer, other than just designing or styling!
Just as I offer an external pair of eyes as a style confidante to my clients, I have a business coach as an objective outsider for my business. Having a support network of a range of people is so crucial, whether you have your own business or not!
Part of my Next Level you method, is to help clients find their INSIDE OUT STYLE IDENTITY – to live as a true expression of who they are from the inside out, via my unique blend of styling, coaching and mentoring. It’s a privilege that clients open up to me – maybe things that feel silly or deeply personal. Self judgements that go profoundly beyond the external self they’ve been trying to project. They sometimes share things they feel they’ve been unable to say to loved ones or colleagues, and the sense of relief having done so, is tangible.
Sometimes we just need someone to share things with. We all want to be listened to and understood. And we’re all complex, multi- dimensional people! At times, especially in mid life, we can become one sided – life can feel flat…Maybe without meaning to, we’ve overdone it in one element of our life – work for example – and have forgotten how to be (and how to present ourselves!) in other parts of life, and end up not feeling like ourselves. I help to redress this, so that clients feel like a true expression of themselves, wherever they are!
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
I often reflect on whether global capitalism is inherently about inequality, and if there is a solution to this. I hope so, and look for a more humane form of conscious capitalism which accepts amongst other issues, that child raising and looking after others is a part of life, and to accept and enjoy an equality of difference.
Having said that, I’m helping companies with internal training – especially with female Executives in Financial Services – to dress professionally to increase visibility, confidence and promotion in the workplace. It is crucial for gender parity that more women speak up and move up, and as a Style Consultant and Lifestylist, I help individuals and organisations to improve the productivity and performance of female leaders through my proven styling, visibility, assertiveness and confidence training, so that women develop skills and confidence in an appropriate manner, to fully occupy and amplify their voices, and feel completely confident in their appearance and themselves.
It’s so important to create an environment where female talent can thrive, and employees feel respected!
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
It’s going to be ok.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
To keep finding my own balance! Honestly, whilst online 1:1 services are working really well, right now I can’t wait to be out meeting clients in person again! I’ve just launched an online magazine style-whisper.com – style and soul solutions for a modern mid-life and beyond, and am working out where to take that. I’m also really looking forward to running more style, soft skills and confidence workshops in companies, as well as hosting quarterly style suppers around the world. These are planned as intriguing cultural events that bring together interesting and interested people, in a celebration of style and living. Watch this space!
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