My style secrets: Sally-Ann Mullin

10 October 2016

As editor and fashion director of Fashion Quarterly, Sally-Ann Mullin has serious style credentials. Her daily outfits have to take her from the boardroom to a fashion shoot to a glamorous event, so she’s become a master of making her wardrobe work for any occasion. She shares her style tips, and how it took several tries to find her personal look – even through a grunge and punk rock phase!

1) How do you define your style?
Dark, minimal, classic tailoring mixed with more casual pieces. From Monday to Saturday I’m anchored by my high heels. I tend to wear a palette of black, grey, beige, nude, white and denim with the occasional pop of red if I’m feeling outrageous.

2) How did you find the look that works for you?
It took about 28 years of extensive trial and error! I experimented a lot with my personal style, which included several reinventions (each with full commitment, I might add). A few highlights were the following: the full-noise grunge in the late nineties, eat your heart out Kurt Cobain; two years at University where I dressed exactly like Cher in Clueless (tiny kilts, over-the-knee socks and tight sweater vests over fitted button-down shirts); next was “The Club kid” phase – this included hot pink, red and purple dread extensions, fingerless mittens, crazy trainers, glitter eyeliner and full-length denim skirts. After that came my punk rock “I’m with the band” look, which consisted mainly of black hair with a short fringe and Chuck Taylors worn with all black everything. Somewhere between then and now I evolved into my current style incarnation, and I think I have finally found the one that will stick for at least the next few years!

3) Who’s style do you admire and why?
Australian designer Kym Ellery, fashion editor and stylist Christine Centenera and former editor in chief of Vogue Paris, Carine Roitfeld. Also, New Zealand designer Georgia Alice Currie who manages to mix oversized tailoring, bed hair and no makeup and still looks polished.

4) If you were building a wardrobe from scratch, what would be the first 10 items you would buy and why?
- 1. Black tailored blazer.
- 2. White oversized button down shirt.
- 3. Fitted, high-waisted black leather pants.
- 4. High-waisted, black shin-grazing pencil skirt.
- 5. Silk camisole.
- 6. Black ankle-grazing overcoat.
- 7. High-waisted black fitted jeans with ripped knees.
- 8. Silk mid-length, long sleeve dress.
- 9. A pair of black high heels
- 10. A structured black midsized leather handbag.

5) What is the biggest style mistake Kiwi women make and why?
Silk or viscose tunic tops/dresses, and boardshorts worn over togs are my two bug bears. Ill-fitting, sloppy and oversized clothing can often make you look larger than you are; even if you carry weight, I think some fitted elements can help you achieve good lines.

6) How do you work colour into your wardrobe?
I don’t often wear colour but I do love to be around it. I might wear a red lip or nail with my neutral tones and I’ll occasionally wear a red dress to a special event.

7) What is the best piece of fashion advice you have ever been given?
My mother and grandmother always said, “A woman can never be too overdressed.” I live by that rule – it doesn’t faze me if I turn up dressed for a black tie event at a BBQ!

8) How many shoes should a woman own and why?
I would say as many pairs as you can fit in your wardrobe! But at the very least a heeled boot, flat boot, trainer, stiletto, loafer and sandal in a neutral and a black.

9) What is your go-to special occasion look and why?
I love the ease of wearing a voluminous high-waisted full or ¾ length skirt, paired with a little t-shirt tucked in, stilettos and box clutch.

10) How do you define ‘smart casual’?
A mix of formal and more casual items. Blue jeans, white shirt and a black blazer, mixed with killer heels and large earrings is my go-to smart casual look.

11) What is your favourite item in your wardrobe and why?
A black Camilla and Marc double breasted blazer with gold buttons and exaggerated shoulders. It’s a wardrobe staple that I always feel incredible in.

12) What is your top fashion tip?
If in doubt, keep it simple. You can’t beat the classics.

13) What was your biggest fashion mistake?
I have had a few in my time! Possibly the worst was my Barkers trackpants, rugby shirt and fob chain stage, when I was at boarding school.

14) What do you wish women knew about fashion?
I wish New Zealand women were a little more confident and adventurous when it came to fashion. I feel like they don’t know how beautiful they are a lot of the time.