Fashion forward

Introducing our alumni who are styling the stars and setting trends in fashion design

You may know Donny Galella as a stylist to the stars, dressing everyone from style icon Sophia Loren to Kelly Rowland, Randy Jackson, Jane Krakowski, Dannii Minogue and countless more. But it’s when Galella talks about helping everyday Aussies to shine that he really lights up.

“I grew up in a middle-class family; we didn’t have lots of money but it’s part of my Italian heritage to always present yourself nicely,” Galella says. “You don’t have to spend a lot to look and feel good. I love playing in that space of making fashion accessible for everyone.”

Today Galella is a household name and one of the nation’s most sought-after stylists, synonymous with high-end fashion photoshoots, red carpet events and regular appearances in the media including top-rating television shows such as Sunrise and The Morning Show.

So how did the boy from West Wollongong with a UOW Bachelor of Commerce end up here?

“As a child and throughout university, I was obsessed with fashion design, drawing and making. I went into a graduate position with Commonwealth Bank and, though I loved it, it just wasn’t me,” he says.

When Virgin Money launched in Australia, Galella left the bank and jumped on board, attracted by the brand’s vibrant personality. A workplace encounter with founder and entrepreneurial savant Sir Richard Branson would alter his path forever. 

“I’d started dabbling in making men’s shirts. I thought, here’s an opportunity to give one to Sir Richard Branson. I hoped he’d wear it to his public event that evening and that I could style him.”

Branson loved the shirt and styling tips and asked how much he owed him. Galella insisted it was a gift, but Branson gave him a stern look and some solid advice – that he’d never have a successful business if he kept giving away his product.

So began the shift. When a horseracing carnival-bound friend complained about excessive retail prices for hats, Galella crafted a unique millinery creation that placed her in Fashions on the Field and triggered a slew of business card requests. Then Myer asked to stock his hats, manufactured at that point on the coffee table of his Randwick home.

“That was a catalyst. I started to dress people, matching my hats with this dress, that bag, these shoes, hair and makeup ideas. I enjoyed the holistic element of dressing someone head-to-toe, and that’s where my career as a stylist took off.”

Since then, Galella has left his styling imprint all over, dressing celebrities for glittering awards ceremonies, performing makeovers on hit television shows including Beauty and The Geek and The Biggest Loser, and inspiring everyday people as a spokesperson and stylist for Westfield. A regular feature at Australian Fashion Week, this year Galella was style correspondent for designer clothing rental business Glam Corner.

“It was amazing to be there and see all the incredible Australian designers’ runway collections. This season we’re seeing colours like cobalt blue, red and fuchsia in bold combinations, dramatic volume in frills and ruffles, and big, sculptural shapes,” he says.

“Sustainability continues to be the fastest-growing trend. With piles of clothes wasted globally, we need to be smarter about our wardrobes. Services like Glam Corner that enable you to hire a designer outfit for a fraction of the cost are the next evolution in fashion. We could have a small capsule collection at home and just borrow clothes when we go out.”

With so much of the nation lockdown-weary as the pandemic rolls on, activewear has become the go-to. But Galella says a little effort goes a long way towards feeling your best.

“Loungewear puts you in a lounging mindset, but if you spend 10 minutes putting on an outfit, some lippy, brushing your hair, you instantly feel more uplifted and motivated. Popping on a bright colour or a fun print can spark joy – it’s incredibly powerful.”

With COVID halting red carpet events and personal consults, Galella has found new avenues for his trademark creativity. Early in the pandemic, he hatched his 100 Makeovers in 100 Days initiative to lift everyday Australians in challenging times.

“One of the first women was a nurse who had been doing incredible things. I gifted her a dress, we had hair and makeup artists, videographers and photographers – it was amazing. Soon all these sponsors came on board gifting clothes, jewellery, makeup, even food. It just snowballed,” he recalls.

“You actually see people’s lives change – they’re happier, more positive about themselves. If you are in a position to do that for someone, why wouldn’t you?”

This year Galella launched Pampered with Purpose, making over unsung female role models in the community. He’s also used the relative downtime to progress his long-held dream of a signature fashion label, due to land in time for Christmas.

“It’s an opportunity to show who I am as a designer. I’m less about following the trends than offering classic pieces that make women feel confident. The range draws on everything I’ve learned over the past 15 years about what women want from their clothing. It’s an exciting new chapter for my brand.”

Defining a new fashion identity

Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), UOW Dubai alumna Khulood Thani is creating a fashion storm of her own.

Thani founded the BINT THANI label in 2012, rapidly building a reputation for innovation in locally-inspired everyday luxury. She fuses design acumen and a fascination with fashion history to create unique collections inspired by her environment, spearheading a new and distinctive design identity in the burgeoning Emirati market.

Her global entrepreneurial focus honed while studying her Master of Strategic Marketing at UOW, Thani has been a fashion advisor for the Berlin Dubai Festival and a cultural pioneer for Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation. She won the art and fashion industry category in the 14th Middle East Women Leaders Excellence Award and was the first UAE national to complete the prestigious ESMOD Paris Fashion Marketing and Management degree program. She was also the first Emirati to hold a Master in Fashion Curation from University of the Arts London.

In 2015, Thani’s 3D-printed dress – a collaboration with architect Amer Aldour – broke new fashion ground.

“I’ve always seen my brand orientation as occasional fashion; that’s why I introduced special commissions such as the 3D-printed dress or my experimental work with camel leather,” Thani explains.

“One has to be thinking out of the box, or it would make him or her just another a designer.”

Building on her master’s degree at the University of the Arts London’s prestigious College of Fashion, Thani continues to research and explore fashion in a museology context, support other young designers to shine, and passionately nurture a thriving fashion ecosystem within the UAE.

“Fashion is a medium of communication, and via this channel we project our personality, values and ideas. The way we dress helps people understand us or get a glimpse of who we are,” she says.

Donny Galella
Director & Fashion Stylist, Galella Fashion
Bachelor of Commerce (Management and Marketing), 2000

Khulood Thani
Creative Director, BINT THANI Design Studio Dubai, UAE
Master of Strategic Marketing, 2010