Meet Aliyah Semillano, a woman seizing her dreams in the global fashion world
When we were young, we were told to reach for the stars, that the sky’s the limit. To dream big. As we got older, we defined and discovered what these meant: climbing the corporate ladder, settling down with a small business or even making it in another city. For fashion stylist Aliyah Semillano, it means breaking away from traditional career expectations and going for what she wants. “As I got older and started to explore my interests and passions, I realized that my heart was leading me in a different direction,” she shares in an interview with Wonder. “I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by creativity and artistry in different forms, which instilled in me a love for beauty, detail and imagination,” she expounds. “Whether on the streets of Paris, the vibrant cultures of the Middle East and the Philippines, I see fashion as a way to celebrate individuality and creativity.”
Fast forward to now, Aliyah Semillano is constantly aiming to make her mark in Paris, France as a stylist after wrapping up her studies at Istituto Marangoni last year. Since then, she has expanded her portfolio by working with Lacoste, Montblanc, Gucci, Longchamp and more. On the editorial side, she’s worked with titles such as The Forumist, Sicky Magazine and Numero Netherlands. Apart from working on several more projects, Aliyah also attended Paris Fashion Week. “Seeing the work of my favorite designers for brands like Schiaparelli and Yohji Yamamoto come to life before my eyes is a moment that the 17-year-old version of myself would be incredibly proud of,” she recalls.
Ahead, we retrace Aliyah Semillano’s journey toward becoming a stylist.
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Wonder: How did you fall in love with fashion to the point that you wanted to take it up as a career?
Aliyah Semillano: My love for fashion had deep roots in my childhood. My father, a painter, taught me the importance of appreciating beauty in different mediums. His passion for colors, shapes, and textures inspired me to develop a keen eye for detail and see the world creatively. Meanwhile, my fascination for how people dressed and how fashion could transform someone's look and personality led me to fall in love with fashion and pursue it as a career. However, it wasn't until I started creating my designs that I realized how much passion I had for this field. There's something magical about taking an idea in your head and bringing it to life through fabric and thread. I found myself constantly inspired and driven to create, and I knew I wanted to pursue fashion as a career.
W: What does a day in the life of a stylist look like?
AS: Every day is a new adventure, and I never know what to expect. One of the things I love most about my job is the variety; no two days are the same. Some days, I might spend hours pouring over fashion magazines, Pinterest and brand lookbooks, searching for inspiration and the latest trends. Not to mention Paris Fashion Week is the ideal place to study and detect the latest trends and up-and-coming designers. My work is not limited to just attending fashion shows—I am still a stylist tasked with bringing a vision to brands, which requires a lot of advanced preparation. I go around the city looking for clothes and accessories, visit showrooms, meet with designers and search for the perfect pieces to complete my vision.
When I'm not out and about, I'll be in my apartment putting together looks and experimenting with different combinations of clothing and accessories. I might spend hours pinning fabrics and adjusting the fit of a garment, trying to get everything just right. There are also hectic photoshoot days when I'm on set and have to deal with last-minute emergencies. These moments can be stressful, but they also make me feel alive and energized, knowing that I'm working in a constantly changing and challenging field.
Left: Aliyah’s styling work for Sicky Magazine, Right: Aliyah’s styling work for Bettina Vermillion
W: What was your first styling project? How did it go, and what did this teach you?
AS: It was for an editorial in Sicky Magazine in Paris. My nerves were through the roof, and I remember feeling overwhelmed with doubt and uncertainty, but I poured my heart and soul into the project. Even now, with more experience under my belt, I still feel a bit anxious before starting most jobs. Looking back, this experience taught me the importance of being confident in my abilities, even in the face of hesitation and fear. Since then, I have continued to learn and grow, embracing each new project as an opportunity to improve my skills and hone my craft. I’m constantly working to produce the best outcome possible, regardless of the project's size or scope. This industry demands the best from me, and I strive to deliver it with every project I take on.
W: Styling is a creative job, which, admittedly, can also run your tank empty at times. How do you usually overcome creative block?
AS: When I was younger, I was always so pressed whenever a creative block hit me. I'd get frustrated, anxious and sometimes even discouraged. It felt like I was failing at something I loved, and it was hard to shake off that feeling. Instead of getting caught up in the pressure to produce something new and amazing, I now try to embrace the pause and use it to explore new ideas, gain fresh perspectives and recharge my creative batteries. That means taking a break from the project I'm stuck on and working on something else entirely, or going out for a walk and reminding myself that I’m living in this beautiful city. Self-care is an important part of staying motivated. Taking some time to rest and recharge can make a big difference in how I feel and how productive I am.
W: After working with a handful of publications and brands and even attending one fashion week after another, what did you discover or realize about the fashion industry? How does it influence the way you work with your peers?
AS: I've come to realize that the fashion industry is not just about the clothes but about the people and stories behind them. It's a world where creativity, innovation and individuality are celebrated and embraced, where trends are constantly evolving and where diverse perspectives and cultures come together to create something truly beautiful. Working alongside my peers in this industry has taught me the importance of collaboration, respect and open-mindedness. I've learned that each person brings their unique perspective and expertise to the table, whether it's working with designers, models, photographers or fellow stylists.
The fashion industry is also a constantly evolving landscape, and staying on top of trends and changes is crucial. But I believe that the most successful and fulfilling work comes from creating something that is true to yourself and resonates with others on a deeper level. Overall, my experiences in the fashion industry have taught me to appreciate the beauty and diversity of this field and to approach my work with passion, creativity and a willingness to learn and grow next to my peers.
Left: Aliyah with Mia Khalifa at Paris Fashion Week, Right: Aliyah with Heart Evangelista at Paris Fashion Week
W: What changes do you hope to enact and see in the fashion industry in the coming years?
AS: The fashion industry has a significant impact on society and the environment, and it breaks my heart to see the damage it causes. While progress has been made, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done. As a person who loves to go thrift shopping, upcycling garments and turning something simple into my newest wardrobe staple, I believe that sustainability should be at the forefront of the industry's priorities. There needs to be a shift towards more sustainable practices that don’t harm the environment or exploit workers. This means using better methods of production that minimize waste and pollution, all the while ensuring fair wages and working conditions for all involved. There is only one Earth, let's take care of her!
W: Establishing such a career and portfolio is not entirely a walk in the park—do you have any advice for any rising stylists who want to explore making it in the global fashion world?
AS: My advice to rising stylists is to approach this journey with a genuine love for fashion, kindness, passion and an unwavering commitment to your craft. Pour your heart and soul into your work, and never lose sight of what makes you unique. Remember that your background and personal experiences are what set you apart from everyone else. I, too, am still learning every day and consider myself a work in progress.
Learning is essential, so be open to new ideas and different perspectives. It's also important to remember to be kind to others along the way. The industry is cruel enough, so why add to it? But most importantly, the best way to become a stylist is to dive right in and get your hands dirty. You won't learn the full experience in school—trust me. So watch, learn and listen to the pros. Don't just wait for the perfect opportunity to knock on your door. Go out there, create your own opportunities and go for it!
Aliyah at work for Lacoste
Reaching for the stars means following your heart. And for Aliyah, that equates to going for what you want and creating opportunities for yourself, eventually leading to bigger and better things in store. So while patience is a virtue, there’s no harm in making things work in your favor.
Photos Aliyah Semillano
Art Macky Arquilla