Emily Balius, Stylist + Art Director

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Emily wears Tigre et Tigre Jayme Organza Dress

“My background is in Justice and Peace Studies with a focus of social justice and non-violence. I have always been dedicated to social justice and have worked in this field for almost a decade. In my personal life, I also practice this through my faith as a Buddhist. It was a very thoughtful decision for me to pivot my career from social justice work into full-time creative work. I came to a realization that I could bring the same values, commitments, and ways of life I always have into art direction and styling. Once I had that realization, the decision flows naturally for me to move into creative work. I excel in art direction, styling, and production and know that as humans we are constantly adapting, changing, and honing our skills. There’s something about digging into a project from start to finish, doing the research, casting, and delivering a product that is extremely fulfilling to me. A lot of my values around hard-work, resilience, and follow-through come from my midwestern roots. Thanks Minnesota!

In the beginning, I had a difficulty accepting myself for shifting into a new career. I felt guilty for leaving something I was so committed to. But again, I realize that I could bring my personal values with me to whatever career I transition into. When it comes down to it, I think I was able to get into this work because I found balance in my life - a balance of my values, desires, and expectations. I was leaning to the extreme by trying to be someone who was 100% committed to social justice and peace but I wasn’t paying attention to my other needs and desires. I knew I needed to find a balance between my personal life and work. In finding that balance, I was able to put my determination and passion into my creative work while still maintaining my values from the past. I have never been happier than I am working for myself and collaborating with inspiring and motivating individuals. It’s also important to me to recognize the extreme privilege I have had throughout this entire process. I have a supportive network of people around me, a strong education, a social safety net and so much more. Finding our own path is a lifelong journey and has been an intuitive and factual process for me. One that I will continue to welcome with open arms and gratitude.

On Living and Working as Creatives in Portland

My partner and I are originally from Minnesota and moved to San Francisco many years back. We loved San Francisco but we were ready for a West Coast city that was slower paced where we could grow our relationship, friendships, and careers. My partner worked on Mt. Hood back in the day and knew I would love Oregon/Portland. I had never been to Oregon but I trusted my partners thoughts and we packed up and moved 5 years ago this summer. 

Portland, like most metropolitan areas, has its own sense of fashion. Style here is very effortless, minimal make-up, dressing up could look like jeans and a sweater, and a beanie is an always appropriate fashion accessory. My style has become more relaxed and earth-toned but I still like to dress up and play with new styles. As a kid I would get ready to go to the grocery store and I loved the feeling of getting ready for a dinner out with my family. Lucky for me, my work resides inside and outside of Oregon, so I have the pleasure of working with all different types of brands. 

On Getting Dressed

I love getting dressed for the day! Style is one of my favorite ways to express myself. Ever since I was little I have been particular about what I wear. I am not someone who is tied to one designer, one color or one style of clothing but I know what I like. I am someone who will find a favorite piece and wear it multiple days out of the week. I get really excited about new pieces and want to experience them as much as possible. I also have a vintage store so I am able to test a lot of the pieces I sell. One thing that is super consistent for me when getting dressed is choosing one item that I’m super excited about. Sometimes it’s something new I’ve thrifted or a piece I’ve had in my closet for ages, and I build an outfit around that item. I like to do this because I know I love that piece and that I’ll feel great wearing it and then I get to have fun thinking about the different ways I can style it. I could have one item that I really love and wear it every day of the week with a totally different outfit. It’s something I really enjoy and I love the time dedicated to getting creative right off the bat in the morning.

Outside of Work

I think I touched on this quite a bit before, social justice and peace are extremely important to me. However, I am also extremely passionate about people (broad topic right?!). The human experience and maybe more specifically human relationships are something I will always be fascinated by. I love to read about relationships, sociology, intimacy, family marriage, why we make the decisions we make, and how humanity got to the point we’re at now. I think this is something I am passionate about because I am extremely invested in the relationships I create. To me, holding a friendship is the same as being in a relationship in most ways. Because we cannot get everything we need from one person, whether it’s a romantic partner, friend, family member, etc. We need many trusting relationships in our lives. I am always searching and thinking about how I can bring my best self into my relationships. One thing that helps me check and balance how I am doing is thinking about negative and positive peace. Negative peace is the absence of violence, while positive peace goes further to include action against violence. I bring this up because I think there’s more to a positive loving human experience and human relationships than the absence of violence, hatred, anger, greed etc. The difference is the extra work we put into relationships, the positive action that propels us towards shared understanding and growth. I am continually aspiring to positively add to the human experience through learning about just that.

Photos via Emily (@emily.balius)


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