Welcome to ON BEAUTY, a monthly feature highlighting creative, like-minded people who inspire us.
Comparing fashion to wellness and self-care is a rarity, but New York City-based stylist Allison Borstein is the exception. And while she’s known for her incredible work with Katie Holmes and makeup artist Violette, Allison wants to reinvent the conversation around styling. After assisting for many years, the fashion connoisseur went off on her own, giving women a wardrobe that will aid in self-care.
That said, Allison encourages her clients and her social following, who love to utilize her amazing tips and tricks via images and descriptive examples, to trust their own instincts. She believes there’s no right or wrong when it comes to fashion and Allison wholeheartedly admits it took her time to learn that for herself.
Here, Allison reveals why getting dressed should be an indulgent, self-care moment, how she’s crafted an Instagram that benefits her followers, and why it’s not about how you wear clothes, but how you make them your own
Tell us about your background and how you got your start in styling?
I got my start when I moved to New York. I was going to FIT and I started interning at Teen Vogue. Before that, I knew that I liked fashion, but I didn't really know exactly what a stylist even was until I went on set for the first time. After that, I started interning with stylists and then working with Julia Von Boehme and then doing my own thing.
Did you always know that you wanted to work in fashion? When did you know that styling was the direction you wanted to go?
I knew I wanted to style the first time I was on set. I saw how the stylist put various clothes and accessories together. It was well prepared, but she was also making decisions on the fly. I loved how she was telling a story and creating this whole world through the clothes.
When I first started interning and assisting, the industry was different. I thought to be a respected stylist, you needed editorials in French Vogue and have the opportunity to style big campaigns. But then I realized, everybody needs help getting dressed. You can style “regular people,” there’s the celebrity aspect, and then there is working for brands and consulting—even e-commerce. I didn’t know that was a thing. Social media gives us all the opportunity to tell our own story, access people, and give our followers access to us. There are so many other paths and once I realized that, I started to come into my own.
Without you, the clothes mean nothing and are nothing. So it’s really about how you wear them and how you make them yours.
Since you’ve gone on your own, you’ve reinvented the conversation around styling and given women a wardrobe that aids in self-care. So what does that mean to you?
When it comes to skincare, a lot of people are not ashamed or embarrassed to tell you that they have a 10-step routine. But when it comes to fashion, it’s usually, “I just threw this on.” It’s okay to get dressed, go shopping, and care about clothes. That can seem vain or negative, but it shouldn’t be. It’s self-care. It’s about taking care of yourself and presenting yourself. It’s a form of creative expression.
That said, I want to try and change the conversation that getting dressed can be an amazing, indulgent, self-care moment. It doesn’t have to be stressful. I feel if you shop smart and buy things that fit you and you know your body and know what you like, then getting dressed can be something so fun and creative.
You talk about fashion through the lens of wellness. So how do you feel that the two align?
Getting dressed and fashion, in general, should be something that you do to take care of yourself. For example, even if you get something from H&M, taking good care of it gives it value and makes you feel powerful when you wear it.
It’s not about how much you spend or what the piece is. It’s more about you and the way that you wear them and the meaning that you attach to them. A sweater is just a sweater, but how you wear it, how you style it, what it means to you really elevates that experience.
You speak about embracing imperfections and about individuality through clothes that make you feel good. So can you give me some examples of that?
I love clothes that look like they’ve been worn and have a feeling of the person who wore them. That doesn’t necessarily mean vintage. I just don’t like when something looks brand new. I like the personality of a garment and that’s part of imperfection. Like when pants have a little fray in them.
Right now, it’s so easy to buy new stuff. You can just run to Zara when you want something fresh. But I believe the most beautiful pieces are the ones that have been loved and have been worn and have your personality imprinted onto them.
In terms of styling, rolling up a sleeve or doing a little tuck of a sweater or making something your own is important. Like I said, without you, the clothes mean nothing and are nothing. So it’s really about how you wear them and how you make them yours.
It’s okay to get dressed, go shopping, and care about clothes. That can seem vain or negative, but it shouldn’t be. It’s self-care. It’s about taking care of yourself and presenting yourself.
Your Instagram is really unique and shows off your beautiful aesthetic, yet it provides a service to your followers. Tell me about your strategy and why it’s important for you to incorporate high and low price points?
Instagram was always a tough one for me. I couldn’t figure out how to interact with it. I was told to put up pictures of myself. And that’s just not very me. So I decided that I wanted to show my expertise and show what I do in an educational way. That’s why I started finding a cute or easy, simple look and breaking it down. I explain why it works. Even if you don’t want to wear it the exact way its recommended, I can at least share why the proportion works.
Also, mixing high and low is a great technique. I love the thought of having a piece forever, wearing something a million ways, and having it be really versatile is ideal. That being said, it doesn’t need to be something super expensive. An investment piece could also be a black Zara blazer. It’s about telling yourself, I’m going to wear this blazer in a bunch of ways.
How do you feel that fashion should evolve when it comes to feeling good and empowerment?
Instead of looking at what other people are wearing, take time to think about what you like and why you like it. Shop according to that. When I work with people in their closets, I ask them to show me all the things that they wear the most. A lot of times it’s surprising to people because it might not be the things they like the most. I feel like then you can see your personal style, you can see what you like. A lot of times, what we think we are and who we really are in terms of fashion are kind of different. Be true to yourself, not trying to incorporate too many trends. But don’t forget to challenge yourself to wear things in different ways and throughout various seasons. Be creative in terms of styling more than the shopping.
For me, my favorite ritual is getting dressed. I used to think about it the night before, but I’ve made my closet so easy that I actually enjoy getting dressed and putting on clothes. I know that I like everything that I have, so it’s not stressful.
Aedes de Venustas Signature in the winter, and in the summer, I like Frederic Malle Carnal Flower.
Tips for long haul flights.
Wear something comfortable. Always bring socks. Little luxuries like Comme Si socks are great. When I have those in my bag, I’m so excited to put them on for the flight. That, to me, feels luxurious, but also practical.
Favorite beauty food?
I love water, so much water. I drink about 2 to 3 liters a day.
What’s your vice?
Food. Bad food. Non-beauty food. Pasta and sauces. I love dips.
Do you have any charms or talismans?
All my rings. They remind me of my family and I just like the way they look. I call them my power pieces. When I’m wearing my rings, I feel like me.