Persistence pays off for style maven Deanna Palkowski

Styling by Deanna Palkowski for TLC magazine (photo by Chris Haylett)

 After a wild goose chase around Gastown to meet up-and-coming Liz Bell fashion styling talent, Deanna Palkowski, 21, we finally settle down in Tinseltown for a serious and heated discussion about her passions.

“Shakespeare’s cool. And I like animal books. Love tigers. Obsessed with tigers,” Deanna tells me, gripping her skinny vanilla latte with long fingers, which are weighed down by an assortment of metal rings that leave very little flesh exposed. Sitting across from me in an oversized coat that engulfs her petite frame and bantering at the speed of light, Deanna is indeed a character.

I’m entertained, but not too diverted by her quirky and humorous demeanour. Deanna may have one of the most enchantingly whimsical personalities I’ve encountered, but underneath all that imagination is a keen intelligence and business sense that had her learning the ropes from top Vancouver stylists Leila Bani and Luisa Rino before most of her peers had thought about their future careers. “I did it pretty early on," Deanna says. "I started interning in high school [Grade 11].”

 

After graduating, Deanna decided to pass on going to fashion school. Instead of spending an exorbitant amount of money on tuition, Deanna took what some may consider the risky route and continued on with her real-world education. She interned, worked part-time at vintage stores, and helped out at her father’s law firm. “We were all supposed to be lawyers,” says Deanna with a laugh.

Tough luck for Mr. Palkowski, though, as Deanna continues to pursue her styling aspirations, working with publications such as The Pet Club, TLC, Slave Digest, The Lab Magazine, and more recently, Ion.

It only took Deanna a focused year of test-shooting to build the portfolio that got her signed with Liz Bell, one of the city's leading talent agencies.

“I pursued it. I was so annoying," Deanna says. "I was super keen. I was a keener to the core. I would do anything basically to just be there, and to learn and soak it all up and ask questions...I went after it. I was like, this is what I want to do and I just went right after it.”

She pauses to reflect for a moment.

“Let’s rephrase 'annoying' to 'persistent,'" she corrects.

It sounds very simple and straightforward as Deanna explains to me how much she’s accomplished through persistence in a relatively short period of time. Unlike many occupations, there isn’t a very clear and direct path to becoming a fashion stylist. There is no formal education required to book work, and outside of working for long-term film productions, it is largely freelance and entrepreneurial in nature. You have to take full responsibility for carving your own path. You have to go get it, and you can’t get it alone.

 

A couple of Deanna’s key defining moments in her career thus far have been meeting two of her biggest supporters. “Meeting [make-up artist Negar Hooshmand] totally changed everything because we built our careers together in a sense," she says. "We’re like a team. We’re like a family. It’s really nice to have someone in the game with you." She says that Hooshmand pushed her to strive for more, while fashion photographer Chris Haylett helped put her on the map. 

Liz Bell talent scout Amanda Rozak was first introduced to her through Haylett, who had worked with Liz Bell for several years. “He had nothing but praise for her, even though at that time she was fairly new," she recalls. "He said she had a keen eye, and was really good at sourcing.” Rozak later signed Deanna. 

Based on her experience, it's no surprise that Deanna is a big proponent of networking and face-to-face meetings.

“E-mail is really great, but if you can meet them in person and go to the events and have a handshake to them, they remember you," she explains. "Connections is everything in every business otherwise you don’t get with the right people.”

 

Some of those "right people" can turn out to be in your very own family. Coming from a corporate family background led Deanna to develop a backbone and self-awareness that separates her from the crowd, even at Liz Bell. “She’s probably one of the only artists on the roster that requests constructive criticism," says Rozak. "She’ll really take that and improve.” 

“You gotta have thick skin to be in my family,” admits Deanna. “We’re critical. All of us. We’re all critical towards each other, but we mean it in a good way.”

 

Creativity is a top priority for Deanna, and she thrives on presenting novel ideas. “When someone’s like, ‘I would not have thought to wear that that way,' that makes me happy," she smiles. "It opens your eyes to something different.”

 

So what’s next in the works for Deanna? “I want to go over to London and do a couple courses over there and an internship at a PR office or for a designer," she says. She hopes to set off for her work abroad this August. 

 

While Deanna keeps her eye on the prize, she encourages aspiring stylists to be annoying, err, persistent in their attempts. “You gotta put yourself out there and just talk to people," she emphasizes. "Just say, here’s my card, I’d love to work with you. And just keep on at it, because someone’s going to say yes sometime.”

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