As cultured as Winnipeg likes to behave, one thing the city isn’t is high fashion; from Polo Park to sprawling outlet stores, slim shopping options leave much to be desired. Despite these limitations, Chanelle Salnikowski - a local stylist, makeup artist and model - has found a way to take advantage of Winnipeg’s abundance of sleaze and tackiness.
“Winnipeg simply doesn’t have access to beautiful clothing,” says Salnikowski, 20. “Meaning you have to improvise the shit out of it. It’s one of the fun parts about styling and that’s why I think I’ve been able to be more creative.”
We are spending a cloudy afternoon with the fashion triple threat, browsing some of her favourite thrifting haunts, teaching us a thing or two about the magic of a keen eye.
“Downtown Winnipeg is my favourite,” Salnikowski gushes. “Not necessarily for styling but for myself. The area has such a bad rap but if you just look there are so many cool niches. It’s all about having an open mind and just exploring.
“Styling-wise though I often end up at the Bay because they have a great return policy,” Salnikowski says with a giggle. “Honestly, my whole life is just buying and returning shit. You have store employees who know you’re just going to be returning all of it and it’s like ‘oh God, don’t mind me.’”
Salnikowski got her start modelling before working for Sandbox magazine at 16. Though the award-winning local fashion and culture publication only existed for two years, the gig helped to get the fashionista’s foot firmly in the industry door.
“Being a stylist is a lot of hard work,” Salnikowski says. “It’s not just putting outfits together. Everything has to be cohesive and that’s when you can show your individual aesthetic.”
Salnikowski often flies to Toronto to work styling gigs, the most recent ones being a country music video, a Pepperidge Farm commercial, and editorial shoots for Borealis magazine.
“I have this way of throwing items together that ends up looking really polished and unique,” Salnikowski says. “I also like to throw in little cheesy elements and campy shit. You can’t take yourself too seriously.”
Of her personal style, Salnikowski often keeps it basic by throwing on a leather jacket and tons of jewellery.
“I find myself wanting to dress like a cool man,” Salnikowski laughs. “A cool, sleazy man with an unbuttoned shirt, tons of rings, tight pants and a big belt buckle. In fact, I’m wearing a scorpion belt right now.”
Eventually, Salnikowski would like to translate her knowledge of fashion and aesthetics to film.
“I like to have as much creative control as possible,” Salnikowski says. “It’s always exciting for me to have this complete vision in my head and to recreate that. In fashion I place a model in certain scenarios where I can imagine what they’re wearing and the mood they’re projecting. It’s all film-based really.”
Salnikowski finds most of her inspiration in film, citing David Lynch’s Blue Velvet as an all time favourite, as well as Prince and ‘80s hair metal. “I love drama,” she admits.
By the end of the shopping excursion, Salnikowski has snagged a white and red Coors toque topped with a bright pompom, and a vintage black leather motorcycle jacket emblazoned with a big heart and “True Love” banner in sailor tattoo style on the sleeves and back. It is magpie gold, and adds to her massive collection of jackets.
“I just want to make people feel as good and as cool as possible,” Salnikowski says. “It’s all about confidence. Whether you’re wearing something or putting something in a shoot, it’s all about selling it with confidence.”
For more information on Salnikowski’s work, visit chanellesalnikowski.com or check out her Instagram @chanellesalnikowski