Welcome to 'At-Home With'...our new feature series where we (virtually) get up close and personal with some of Ireland's most interesting and creative women. They each give us an honest peek into what their "new normal" looks like–from life lessons they've learned in lockdown to the beauty and health products they've been using to self-soothe.
Ellen Church (@byellenanna) is an established fashion professional from Dublin who, through hard work, hustle and passion for the industry added her own seat to the exclusive fashion table.
It’s no secret after a little (a lot of) grind the fashion world opens its doors to hopeful newcomers, and once you’re in, you’re in. After a successful internship at a leading, luxury retailer Ellen climbed the ranks to global success working with brand ambassadors, organising fashion shows and rubbing shoulders with the best creatives in the business.
Yet, equally as impressive as her business credentials is Ellen’s pristine Instagram account where she showcases her effortlessly cool and chic personal style. A blend of neutrals - the dream! - with timeless staples, Ellen’s outfits are easy to recreate for a taste of NYC sophistication wherever you are in the world.
Eager to catch up with this style queen we got the scoop on all things fashion, career and lockdown in NYC - which, I can imagine, there are worse places to be quarantining.
How are you, and what has lockdown been like in NYC?
"Lockdown in NYC has been a bit of a rollercoaster. It’s been very strange to be in an epicentre and to see the city that never sleeps become a ghost town. The news was tough to watch, many people left the city, businesses shut down, mass graves were built, the death rate was extremely high here…it was a very eerie time that thankfully is now slowly passing.
We tried to make the most of the situation and took advantage of a quiet city. We biked the Brooklyn Bridge at 5 am and had a cup of Barry’s tea watching the sunrise. We biked all through Manhattan in the middle of the avenues since there were no cars, all the way up to Central Park. To stand in Times Square with nobody around was something I will never forget and would never have seen unless it wasn't for these strange times. That, plus some rooftop movie nights at home kept the spirits up!"
What attracted you to New York?
"I had to travel to New York multiple times a year for my previous job, so I knew the city very well. Having worked with so many people here and also having friends based here, it already felt like a second base for me. I love the buzz of the city, how diverse it is and that everyone here is chasing their dream, whatever that might be. It’s definitely an inspiring place to live."
What has been a saving grace for you during quarantine?
"Honestly, I think my Instagram account - as weird as that may sound. I only started my account this year in the middle of January and luckily built a lovely following in that time, many of whom are Irish. That has allowed me to stay creative during quarantine and connect with so many people, making me feel much closer to home during this time. I also need to give some credit to FaceTime, where would we be without it?!"
The secret to good style is…
"Confidence and comfort.
I think it is so important to know what works for you and to keep it simple. Trends are fun to dabble in, but knowing what silhouette suits you and finding pieces in those styles that are simple, will always look effortless and stylish. When you know they fit you well, you’ll feel confident straight away and that always shines through."
What made you decide to take Instagram more seriously and post daily outfit inspiration?
When everyone was doing their throwbacks of the decade when 2020 came around, I couldn't help but think where my blog would be that I started when I was 19, if I hadn’t deleted it over the fear of what people would think of me. With a little push from my friends, and knowing I had the time now to do it, I just started. In just over a month I had already 2,000 followers and was getting such an amazing response to it. So I stuck to it and posted every day and found I really enjoyed it. Styling outfits has always been my favourite thing to do since I was really young. To have space where I can share my outfits and give other people inspiration has been great, and if it takes the stress out of shopping for some, then all the better!"
How would you dress-up a casual/relaxed look to make it appear chicer?
"I think the tip to making any outfit chicer is the small details and tweaks. Be it rolling up the sleeve, slicking your hair back, statement earrings or even wearing a bold lip. It’s these small things that elevate an outfit and give it a more chic and polished look.
My followers also know how much I love a pair of sunglasses! I think they can really make an outfit and there are so many great styles to choose from on the high street that won't break the bank, so you can have some fun and experiment with different frames."
Do you think New York lives up to its reputation as a fashion capital?
"I’m quite 50/50 on this. NYC is home to some of the world's biggest designers and top modelling agencies. While it is still considered a centre for fashion, the high couture and major influence is coming from Paris and Milan. To be in Paris for Fashion Week especially is just another world to NYFW. I personally get more fashion influence from cities such as Tokyo and Copenhagen."
What has been your biggest career takeaway so far?
"The fashion industry is so much smaller than you think and you never know who is watching you and where that one connection can lead you. Be respectful to everyone you meet!"
How challenging was it to make the big move to NYC?
"Honestly, it was pretty fine. As I mentioned before, I knew the city well, so it wasn’t daunting to move here and it made the first months a little easier running around sorting out life admin. I think if I didn't know the city I would have been a fish out of water, as it can feel extremely overwhelming being in a city as big as New York.
Your Instagram account is so dreamy, how do you plan out the look of your feed?
"I actually didn't think too much into planning my feed at the start. I just knew I loved mirror shots as well as close up shots, where you can really see the details of the clothing. I started posting each day a full outfit mirror image incorporating a detail shot now and again. It was only until this month that I thought about planning more and maybe switching things up a bit."
How tricky was it to break into the fashion world and what advice do you have for young creatives looking to do the same?
"What I found tricky was that I just didn't know where to start. By doing a course, I found it a great way to see exactly where my interests lay, gain access to industry people and develop new skills.
In regards to advice, get experience! I had 5 years working in retail under my belt, assisted fashion stylists any chance I got, did a full-time fashion styling course by day, a part-time art portfolio course by night and applied for multiple internships weekly. Out of all the internships I applied for, I only heard back from one. Don’t be put off by rejection, follow your passion and put yourself out there.
The most valuable thing hands down for me was my internship, which led me to over 6 years at an incredible company. I think people underestimate what an amazing position you are in as an intern. Be a sponge, help out where you can and learn as much about the company as possible. Have your manager set up meetings with other teams so you can really understand where your interests are.
Lastly, patience. It is not going to be an overnight success so do not go into any company thinking that. Work hard, be respectful, wear a smile and your time will come."
Has your lockdown experience taught you anything in particular?
"I think it really put a lot of things into perspective for me. You can be in one of the best cities in the world but that doesn't really matter if you’re not close to family & friends. It has made me realise how much I miss home after 7 years abroad. Definitely looking forward to settling back in Dublin in the future!"
Main image by @byellenanna on Instagram