Originally a dentist, Asma Charles left her medical career to fulfil her passion for fashion. Upon graduating from ESMOD (École Supérieure Des Arts Et Techniques De La Mode) in Fashion Design, she embarked on her fashion career from working with the elite of the fashion couture world to styling celebrities on the red carpet, to coaching and conducting lectures on fashion trends worldwide. In recent years, she became the first in-house fashion stylist for Louis Vuitton in south east Asia and today exclusively styles the elite clientele of the Maison in Hong Kong. We caught up with Asma in her home, which was filled with eccentricity, colour, print and accessories to learn more about her exciting fashion journey.
What is your day-to-day like being a stylist at Louis Vuitton?
It varies really. It could be a hectic day of one-on-one styling appointments catering to our VIPs, or coaching the team on the floor on fashion and style, or private trunk shows introducing the upcoming show collections to our clients. It could also be a mellow day of not much appointments but with surprise walk-ins who wish to be styled for fun!
Meeting Christian Louboutin when he visited our Maison for the Louis Vuitton iconoclast collaboration. It was surreal chatting with him over the styling of his bag design’s video shoot and coming up with a fun idea for an LV red beret, his signature look!
What are the challenges?
Mostly it’s finding the right dynamics with the client advisor who is usually the person catering to the needs of his/her client at the Maison. My work rhythm is very fast as I usually have a quick mental vision of the looks I have in mind for the sessions, but translating that to the Client Advisor and getting them on board smoothly isn’t always easy, especially if they have been serving their clients for many years with the same vision on what their clients usually wear. Getting the client on board is the lesser challenge, many are open or at the very least curious to the stylist’s approach.
How did you go from fixing teeth to fixing outfits?
Ah, the story of my life! Being a nerd in school and raised in a conventional way, my father envisioned a future for me in medicine. But everyone knew that I’ve always been into fashion and art ever since I was a little girl grabbing my parent’s vintage clothes from the attic and styling them in school plays. Sadly, I couldn’t sway my dad from his vision, so I chose dentistry just because it’s the shortest medical journey! Once I completed that, I registered myself for a fashion styling course at ESMOD and the rest is history. Never used my Dr. title again and never looked back ever since!
What’s the most memorable career moment you’ve had so far?
All my firsts in the different corners of fashion are very dear and memorable to me. My first drape of a mannequin, my first fashion week backstage, that first atelier visit with the smells of fabric rolls and beautiful chaos, my first China factory visit, my first speech presenting the show collection at a private event at Louis Vuitton.
Who would be your dream client?
Queen Rania of Jordan. Being originally a Jordanian, she speaks to me. Her timeless elegance, her charisma, and the way she balances royalty wardrobe etiquette and creative fashion styling! I itch to push that border a bit more and create iconic fashion moments!
Top,Necklace, Belt & Glove: Asma’s own, Skirt: Toga
What won’t you want to be caught wearing?
I always tell my husband: if I ever end up wearing crocs, terminate them and me! No matter how many designers try to make them fashionable, they are a big no-no for me!
What is your advice for someone who would like to get into styling?
Most and foremost: Be in it for the passion of it. Approach it with fun because it’s infectious and will translate to your client and always remember that the most important rule of styling is your client’s personality! It’s the main element to pull of any look.
Top: Céline, Glove: Asma’s own
What colours do you love?
I love bright colours!! From bubblegum pink to jade green to canary yellow, the clashing of colours in styling attracts me.
What items should everyone have in their wardrobe right now?
For an SS18 wardrobe update: a pastel tailored piece top or pants, an over-sized or contemporary trench, a transparent chiffon vest that you layer on top of anything, and the LV Archlight sneakers to pair up with everything.
It will have to be my aunt Mona! Always looking eccentric and fabulous, I would remember her dressed in a feathery Valentino couture with an apron in her kitchen cooking us her signature Middle Eastern dish!
If you could swap wardrobes with someone who would it be?
Anna Dello Russo! Utterly fabulous eccentric chaos just as fashion should be! And the chunky accessories of Iris Apfel!
What is the favorite item in your closet?
It might have to be the first piece I ever created at ESMOD. It’s a thick jacket I designed with a unique foamy curtain fabric with biscotti yellow silk check lining. It was intended for my husband (my friend at the time) but I borrowed it from him once in Paris, and it stayed with me ever since. I fell in love with its oversized look and it has become my favourite outerwear short coat.
Who are your favorite designer brands and why?
Today with the fast life cycle between designers and brands, it has stopped being for me about favourite brands but rather about favourite collections or collaborations. I love Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton’s AW15 collection (Nicolas Ghesquiere’s first for the Maison and Cruise18), Prada’s first cruise this season, Sacai and Galliano for Maison Margiela. They are all striking collections which expressed their brands’ voices in free unprecedented ways.
Has someone ever passed you something amazing that you will always treasure?
Mainly for its sentimental value: it will have to be my mom’s custom made Furla bag: a collector’s edition featuring Alice in wonderland, I got it for her on Mother’s Day and it became her favourite, then after she passed away, it’s become one of my most cherished items.
Asma’s fashion sketches
Tell us about any vintage pieces you will always cherish?
My mom’s bridal velvet pieces: a gorgeous gown and cape with golden thread embroidery by Choueiter Haute Couture (an old renowned Middle Eastern couture house) and a tailored velvet bustier by Locran Mullany for Belleville Sassoon, one of princess Diana’s old British designers. I love velvet, it’s timeless and keeps coming back in trend every few seasons, but the richness and tailoring is never as it used to be in the 50’s and 70’s.
If you had to choose – heels or flats?
I’m afraid it’s not a choice: I have to wear flats. As much I’ve wanted and tried, I could never walk in heels, and got funny feet and bones that deprive me of this styling pleasure!
What is your top styling tip?
Create the occasion for your look and not vice versa. You are the occasion, so always dress up mirroring your mood! I say this to my clients all the time.
If you could live in another era where & when would you live?
I would love to have been in the 50’s in Paris. Those pop colours, the silhouette, the tailoring, the new Dior look! The fun of it all! Not to forget those chic hats and gloves! You could feel that anything was possible, and designers were game for it!
What are your plans for this year?
To continue my journey with Louis Vuitton, getting more involved with coaching on fashion and trends, and volunteering at my kids’ French school to style the year book. It’s my favourite styling shoots and working with kids. As a mom who can’t even bake cookies, playing dress up with my kids is the best I can do!