“There is no such thing as an average day in styling,” says Nicole Valentine Don, better known as Little Nicki. “Just yesterday, we were feeding cockatoos apples to get them to sit on a lounge for a shot! I’m always sitting back, looking at the situation and giggling to myself about how ridiculous some moments can be.”
Having been assisting in interior and lifestyle styling for the last four years, and doing solo work for the past two, Nicki is well versed in the crazy and unpredictable nature of styling. Undertaking a wide range of work from advertising to editorial to online videos and everything in-between, 2014 in particular has been a year of milestones; having her first home styling project featured in Inside Out, becoming a contributor for US lifestyle blog JB EST 1979 and winning Inside Out and The Home’s Search for a Stylist competition. This involved styling a mock Inside Out cover. Her efforts won her a senior stylist role at the online homewares retailer.
“Winning The Home’s competition means meeting new people and sharpening my skills as a stylist,” explains Nicki. “The brief was so open; it was simply to style a vignette with products from The Home. To narrow it down for myself, I decided to make it entirely my style and embrace my strengths, so I knew I had to introduce something handmade. Once I decided that ultimately I was the only person who had to love it, it became more focused and fun!”
A clear lover of all things handmade, Nicki is not only a stylist but also a maker, running her own Etsy shop where she sells feather arrow sticks inspired by her time in Mexico. “I started my Etsy shop because I had just come back from a trip to Mexico City where I visited the Museum of Anthropology and loved these feather sticks the Huichol Indians made. I really wanted to find one to buy and take home, but of course, couldn’t find them anywhere. I came home and made my own interpretation, mixed with native traditions from Canada. A lot of what I make is inspired by travel.”
While it seems like a natural fit now, Nicki wasn’t always destined to become a creative, having spent a lot of her time as a competitive gymnastics coach in her home country of Canada. But after a stylist friend saw her knack for decorating her own home, she started referring her assisting jobs, and the first job? Assisting the legendary Sibella Court with her book, Nomad.
Assisting turned out to be a very valuable experience and not only led to her first solo job, fitting out the HQ for documentary feature film Storm Surfers 3D, but also gave her the skills that can only come through practice. “Assisting is essential; you might have style and a creative flare, but you need to learn the subtle nuances of making a picture perfect and do a bit of time on the less glamorous side.”
But it’s not just assisting that Little Nicki recommends if you want to get into the industry. More than anything, she believes it’s about putting together a body of work. “My biggest tip for any budding stylists is to absolutely be producing your own work, all the time. Make friends with photographers (often assistants) on jobs that you’re on and make time to get together and shoot. Soon enough you’ll have a body of work and will undeniably be a stylist. You’ll hopefully get a whole lot better as you go and develop your own style as well.”
Find out more about Little Nicki here.