“Kooky” is one way to describe the work wardrobe of Heleena Trahanas, the co-founder of fashion-and-lifestyle destination Alex and Trahanas. The label she started with friend Alex Heard is largely inspired by holidays spent in the beachy region of Puglia, Italy, and it specialises in breezy linen dresses, shirts, shorts and one-off ceramics, including plates, espresso cups and Italian vases.
Balancing her growing company with a full-time role as PR and marketing manager at Dinosaur Designs, Trahanas doesn’t have the luxury of lots of time to get dressed for work – but she makes it an enjoyable ritual nonetheless. Over time (and travels) she has developed a signature work look that doesn’t change much on the weekend: her outfits rotate eclectic jewellery and comfortable linen staples, usually finished off with a pair of Venetian Furlane slippers, which she imports and stocks on her site.
Trahanas invites Broadsheet inside the Mediterranean-inspired Paddington terrace where Alex and Trahanas is based to share a few wardrobe and beauty essentials.
Broadsheet: How would you describe your personal style?
Heleena Trahanas: Chameleon – bold, eclectic, inventive, avant-garde, contemporary, androgynous, comfortable, kooky, fun, playful, creative and classic.
BS: What’s your definition of a good work wardrobe?
HT: It’s all about comfort for me and having core, go-to staples to draw from, which are very wearable. A solid work uniform is no-fuss and [one that] can be elevated by adding a few interesting pieces, which add dimension, such as jewellery.
BS: What is your approach to jewellery?
HT: I’m a maximalist when it comes to jewellery, which I believe helps to complete and elevate an outfit. I love wearing lots of Dinosaur Designs jewellery and I think it’s all about the layers, colour and form. I get particularly excited when my jewellery matches my outfit. [Dinosaur Designs co-founders] Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy are artists and colour maestros – I love the unique sculptural elements and colours they bring to their jewellery designs.
BS: What about your impressive ring collection?
HT: I wear 17 rings every day, on the same fingers. I had 18 but I recently lost one. I take them off when I go to bed and when I go swimming because I have a fear of losing them – most of them can’t be replaced. Each ring was purchased on my travels (New York, India, Greece) and a few have been gifted to me. One is from my sister, which she bought when she travelled to China. And a third are from Dinosaur Designs. I’m still planning to grow my ring collection. It takes time; it needs to be right.
BS: Your lifestyle label promotes making life’s ordinary routines into beautiful ceremonies. Can the same be said when you get dressed for work in the morning? What does your ritual involve?
HT: Yes, absolutely. My morning ritual involves an early coastal walk, a stop by Iggy’s to pick up bakery goods, followed by a coffee in one of our Apulian espresso cups. Breakfast is fresh figs, walnuts and yoghurt in one of our little bowls – so simple but I just love it.
My ritual for getting dressed varies. Sometimes I’ll think about it the night before, other times I just wake up and it really depends on how I’m feeling, what the weather is doing, or what’s on for the day. It’s generally informed by the latter. I always think about clothing first, decide on that, then I will put on my 17 rings, then further work through jewellery and add bangles and earrings. I like to try and match jewellery with my clothing and then if I’m lucky my shoes and socks will also match. Then with a spritz of Hôtel Costes room fragrance ($72), I’m out the door!
BS: How would you describe your travel uniform? Do you feel you can take more risks with what you wear in another country?
HT: It’s all about our Italian linens when travelling during a European summer. They’re effortless and easy. On the plane I wear our tailored pant, oversized shirt and carry our linen throw for warmth. I love wearing our shorts and shirts when meandering around old cobbled streets of any European city. But for more seaside escapes I live in our dresses, which are easy to throw on and seamlessly take you from day to night.
When it comes to taking risks … I try not to get caught up in cultural and social constructs and take risks wherever I may be.
BS: Would you say what you wear reflects your personality and attitudes?
HT: Being from southern Europe, there is quite a relaxed way about people, which is reflected in the way I dress for work. I’m all about comfort and ease [and don’t like] anything too fussy, but have an appreciation for quality design and fabrics.
BS: Does anything or anyone influence how you dress?
HT: Lots of things influence me. European culture and fashion; I love the history, it’s so rich and there’s so much beauty there, which I’m fascinated by. It has particularly influenced the Alex and Trahanas brand, too. I also love Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garcons. I admire her unconventional ethos and raw creativity, the way she continues to push the boundaries. Her work is such an art. I’m also moved by art, design, travel and culture, which I’m constantly inspired by every day. There is so much to digest – the world is a huge visual feast.
BS: What skincare do you use?
HT: I use Australian beauty brand Rationale’s Essential Six, which is a collection of six products that work in synergy.
BS: So, your attitude to make-up is simple?
HT: Yes – au naturel. I don’t wear a lot of make-up, I prefer not to. But my bathroom vanity is home to the Kosas Tinted Face Oil ($64), RMS Beauty “Un” Cover-Up and the Hourglass Lighting Powder, which are all available from Mecca.
BS: How do you like to wear your hair? Where do you get it cut/styled?
HT: I leave it quite textured. I have been going to Raw, which is Anthony Nader’s salon in Sydney’s Surry Hills, for over 10 years now. Marc has got to know my hair very well.
BS: What's the last fashion purchase you made?
HT: A pastel-coloured oversized Celine sweater from one of Phoebe Philo’s last collections.