Whether it’s a Hollywood star, an Insta-famous fashion figure or a royal role model, we all have our own style icons for various reasons. In today’s ‘click and fix it’ world, particularly now – when we’re spending more time online than ever – we don’t fall short of inspiration to look and feel fantastic. The problem, however, is how we take those tips from the wider world and implement them into our own lives.
Personally, I think I know what I’m looking for when I shop. I know which colours I am drawn to. But I have never actually sat down with an expert and defined my wardrobe, my style and my ‘best neutrals’.
In search of inspiring female figures doing good things in the fashion world, I stumbled across the lovely Rhona Langan – a personal stylist and colour analysis expert based in Harrogate.
A lightbulb moment over 12 years encouraged Rhona to take the plunge, leaving her life in Croydon for a slow and steady life in glorious Yorkshire. All in the bid to pursue a passion project as a qualified fashion stylist. Shortly after, Style Illuminated was born.
“I have always loved fashion,” says Rhona.
“As a child, I would pour over historical fashion books. I loved to visit stately homes and follow fashion through the ages.”
A childhood craze which she didn’t shake off in her teenage years, Rhona’s love of all things fashion only grew with age.
“I studied Spanish at university in Scotland,” she recalls.
“Much of what I do comes down to Spanish influence – hence the ‘camino stories’ on my website. In Spain, a ‘camino’ is a path, a journey, an adventure.
“I lived in Galicia, North West Spain, for some time, teaching in secondary schools as part of my degree.
“Black and purple dominated my wardrobe in those days, and when I arrived in Spain, I was shocked to see so many bright colours. I was way out of my comfort zone, but as I settled into life in Spain, I was enjoying experimenting with style.”
It wasn’t just the flamenco colours that inspired Rhona to ‘find her fashion’, it was the Spanish lifestyle, too.
“As people, they are so well put together,” she says.
“They don’t spend their fortunes on homes and cars – they often rent tiny flats and keep their funds for fun, food and fashion. Spanish people look fabulous, enjoy life and really own it – and I was totally inspired by that way of life.”
Rhona’s return to the UK saw a move to Harrods’ fashion department as she entered the world she was always so fascinated with. Fast-forward through marriage, children and several training courses, and Rhona’s path led her to North Yorkshire, where, little did she know, her own personal styling journey
was waiting in the wings.
“It was a hobby to begin with, but when I moved up north it really transpired.
“Fashion is a wonderful thing, you know. It’s amazing how it can alter people’s feelings and completely change their outlook on life.”
Swapping city life for village living was quite the challenge, Rhona tells me – but a move she will always look back on as a career defining moment.
“We set up home in Spofforth and I felt like I’d been beamed up. It was like therapy. Although, I do remember going to a party in an asparagus field near Harewood and thinking, ‘I can’t quite believe I’m here, in my wellies!’
“But everybody was so friendly and I was enjoying the slower pace of life. It suited me perfectly. I got involved in community work in the village and started to feel a little bit Vicar of Dibley,” she laughs.
Rhona started her Yorkshire fashion journey at Phase Eight in Harrogate, which tied in with the launch of the brand’s personal styling service.
“I got to travel all over the UK, which was fabulous,” she explains.
“And I appeared in the Daily Mail as part of the ‘This is what 50 looks like’ campaign.”
The campaign was linked to the ‘silver-and-sassy’ movement in over 50s fashion. An initiative encouraging women to be loud and proud; to be grey, gorgeous and full of mid-life optimism.
“As you get older, your skin dulls down, your eyes soften a little and your body starts to change. And with all of that, so does your style.
“The Daily Mail campaign was all about using high-street fashion to lift and shift the aspirations of mid-life ladies.
“You don’t have to be a ‘beige lady’ when you hit 50,” says Rhona.
“It’s about adjusting your wardrobe to work with how your body and lifestyle is changing. And once you’ve cracked it, it’s a
Fashion isn’t just about sticking to catwalk styles and rolling with current trends, Rhona tells me. It’s about finding your ‘you’, mixing it with new-season style and having the confidence and courage to enjoy it.
“There are so many ways in which we can experiment with fashion; and once we’ve got our confidence back, we’re unstoppable.”
The ‘This is what 50 looks like’ campaign was, for Rhona, all about homing in on a mass of people who have the money to invest in new wardrobes, but don’t quite know how to reinvent themselves as they transition into the next stage of life.
“It felt very empowering for me, as a mid-lifer who had gone through two divorces, moved halfway up the country and had been a single mum for years.
“That was three years ago now, and was one of the events that, in turn, gave me the confidence to take the plunge and launch my own business.
“It then snowballed into this huge, exciting movement, and here I am, styling with a smile.
“I feel like 2020 is my year – and it just shows you that you can do it at any age. I’m 54 and it’s the best I’ve ever felt!”
From adventures in Spain and training with the best of the best at Harrods, to Phase Eight styling and mid-life inspiration, Rhona was ready to take the fashion world into her own hands. Style Illuminated is about empowering women to look and feel fabulous. Rhona’s guidance gives courage and confidence to clients who feel a little lost.
“My job is to get the outside to reflect the inside. I like to focus on identity and personality, then the fashion follows,” she explains.
“I have a lot of mid-life clients, but also ladies in their 30s who have loved fashion in the past but have lost their sense of style because life is running away with them. That’s where I step in… my job is to reignite the light between you, your wardrobe and your sense of style. It’s all to do with confidence and wellbeing.”
In a world where we’re all exposed to the pressures of social media, celebrity culture and the expectations that come with how we should feel, act and look, it’s refreshing to see a businesswoman focusing on the feel-good aspect of fashion.
“My work isn’t just about body shape and colouring. The fundamentals are found in who you are as a person and how you feel in your skin.
“Once we’ve established your ‘you’, we can move on to the fun stuff. I always start with colour,” says Rhona.
“Your colour match is based on eye colour, skin tone and hair. Once you’ve got your base tone – or your ‘best neutrals’ – we work with the seasons to find your colour match, be it bold brights or soft, muted hues.
“In the same way that people believe in horoscopes, I have found that the palettes relate to personality characteristics, too.
“I think autumns are quite deep thinking and quite solid – they analyse and are quite careful. Winters are quite dramatic – a lot of really bright colours and strong contrasts. Springs are social butterflies – a bit like a Gemini. And summers are very ladylike – all of those very pale pastels, quite demure.
“I think it does all connect. It’s really interesting.”
To establish colour and style, and to break the ice a little, Rhona starts with a ‘celebrity style icon’ quiz.
She guides me through the main ‘looks’. You’ve got the ‘creative’ Ferne Cotton, the ‘dramatic’ Gwen Stefani, the ‘romantic’ Holly Willoughby, the ‘classic’ Kate Middleton, the ‘natural’ Jennifer Aniston, and finally the ‘chic’ Victoria Beckham.
“Having your style icon and colour match is enough to see fantastic results,” says Rhona.
“Wearing the right colour can take years off you. It instantly adds sparkle to your eyes. It’s a very powerful tool.”
Conscious shopping is a hot topic at the moment, and something Rhona and I discuss in great detail. People want to buy the right clothes and want to be as
sustainable as possible when rejigging their wardrobes as the seasons come and go.
“We all need to buy less and make it last forever, which is another great reason for having your colour match, because you’re not going to waste money on clothes,” says Rhona.
“Once we’ve established your colour, the next step is body shape. I help with the tips and tricks to play up the best bits and create a harmonious whole.”
Though spring feels like the perfect time to renew your wardrobe, styling doesn’t always have to move with the seasons, Rhona tells me.
“It’s best to work on your wardrobe when you’re having a transitional time in life,” she explains.
“More and more people are buying clothes that work all year round. You’ll see people wearing a midi-dress with a polo neck underneath and biker boots in the winter; but then come summer, they’re styling it with strappy sandals or espadrilles. It’s called ‘clever fashion’.
“I think the whole fashion industry is going to change in terms of collections. It used to be that collections would come out every few months, but I think it’s going to be more transitional now. It’s much more sustainable too.”
Not only will you learn a thing or two about current trends, a session with Rhona will help you establish a sense of inner and outer style.
I leave our converdation feeling full of confidence with my newfound knowledge – ready to spring clean my wardrobe and colour-match my way through the new season, even if it means hours of online shopping, rather than hitting up the high streets.
On reflection, it’s safe to say, my shopping has never been so ‘focused’. I know exactly what I’m looking for and with Jennifer Anniston as my ‘colour icon’, I’m over the moon…
Rhona’s fashion findings >>
Long-lasting statement pieces are key
“It’s great to invest in things like blazers and jackets. During wardrobe overhauls, you can change up the buttons to create a completely new piece.”
Revamp, revamp, revamp! – (great for those weekends spent at home, working through your wardrobe)
“The single best thing anyone can do when it comes to sustainability, is to keep their own things for longer. Rework and restyle what you’ve already got so it keeps its space in your wardrobe, without missing out on key trends.”
Spring/Summer 2020 style >>
The power of the puff-sleeve
“Puff sleeps are massive, literally! They’re everywhere. The nicest version of them at the moment is a lovely square or sweetheart neckline. Really flattering – particularly for the pear shape.”
Stunning sunset hues – (a great way to reflect those summer nights on holiday, right here at home)
“Sunset colours are big this season. Think bright orange accessories, dramatic red fabrics and splashes of warm purple.”
The return of neon nights
“The bright lights of neon are back! Lime green is the big one this season. Pair with black and white – just perfect.”