Feeling confined by her small hometown, she turned to Tumblr to feel connected to fashion trends around the world. “I was very attracted to trashy artistic things," says Abellan, "and the internet was perfect for that." Her first job in the industry was modeling for Spanish department store El Corte Ingles at age 15: “Somehow it felt a little empty but it made me learn a lot after working for five years. It gave me a lot of knowledge -- but it ultimately wasn't what I wanted to do.”
In 2013, she moved to Milan to study advertising and public relations at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart; soon after, she signed with local modeling agency Monster Management and started booking campaigns and runway shows. Soon enough, Rihanna came across Abellan while searching for models to appear in her bandit-inspired 2015 “B-tch Better Have My Money” video — Abellan booked what became her breakout role, and later walked in Rihanna's Spring 2017 Fenty x Puma fashion show in Paris, propelling her status in the industry.
The now-26-year-old has since styled Italian designer Riccardo Tisci for his 2017 collaboration with Nike, designed for Fendi's Peekaboo mini-bag project in 2018 and created capsule collections with brands like Faith Connexion, HTC, MISBHV and Freak City. But she found her mirror in J Balvin; the two met at Coachella in 2018, and he has been her sole styling client since. “I’ve been a big fan of reggaetón since I was young,” says the multi-hyphenate, whose personal style is a fusion of ’90s club kid, Harajuku girl and goth dominatrix. “I told my friends, ‘I wish I could style for some reggaetón videos’ -- then I met [Balvin].”
Keeping such a trim client list enables Abellan to expand her own endeavors, and in Dec. 2018 she officially launched her jewelry collection Lilith By Sita. “I fall asleep in my rings,” she says. "Accessories are a very important part of a look.” The inspiration derives from her admiration for serpents -- “they're creepy at times, but I love the idea of renewing yourself” -- which serve as a running motif.
The name also holds significant meaning: mainly found in Jewish mythology, Lilith is represented as the first woman to exist before Eve who was banished from the Garden of Eden due to her defiant nature. “Lilith is an independent woman,” says Abellan. “She's strong and doesn't take orders from anybody." The jewelry has since been spotted on Kim Kardashian, Billie Eilish, Jorja Smith and Rosalía, and Kesha wore earrings from the collection for her Billboard cover shoot last September.
When Abellan isn't dominating the fashion industry, she can be found DJing at clubs and festivals worldwide including Ushuaia, Art of the Wild, DC10 and Sonar. "I started DJ'ing as a hobby in my hometown at a basement bar," says Abellan, whose favorite DJs include Ben Klock and Marcel Dettman. “I realized I could express myself through that and I loved to connect with people through music too.”
She continues: “I enjoy playing in clubs more than for brands because they actually listen to the music. (Laughs.) But obviously I'm super happy to work with them -- it's such a dream. I'm very picky with who I work with. If the brand doesn't share the same vision as mine, I don't do it.”
Abellan’s go-to genre is techno, which has become a form of self-care. “It brings me to a different state of mind,” she explains. “I feel like I'm in a bubble when I listen to it. Techno is really about closing yourself from the world, and I love that.”
By 2020’s end, she plans to launch her own clothing line and start producing music. Most recently, the stylist curated GUESS x J Balvin Colores -- the iconic fashion brand’s latest campaign with Balvin. The new capsule collection, inspired by the Latin star’s upcoming album, features various hues of the rainbow that reflect the sunny nature of Balvin’s hometown of Medellín, Colombia.
Below, Abellan breaks down three of her most notable fashion moments with Balvin.
Premio Lo Nuestro Awards 2019
For last year’s Premio Lo Nuestro awards, Abellan played off Balvin’s penchant for oversized clothing and chose an emerald green suit from Virgil Abloh’s Off-White label. “I wanted him to look cool and comfortable, but I didn’t expect it to be as oversized as it was,” says Abellan. “So when he first tried it, I thought ‘Oh my god he's gonna say something.’ But he loved it. I thought he looked like the Grinch!”
Paris Men’s Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2020
Before attending Dior Homme’s fall/winter 2020 collection show in Paris in January, Abellan and Balvin partnered with the label’s creative director/designer, Kim Jones, who proposed specific items he wanted Balvin to wear. Says Abellan: “With other brands, like Louis Vuitton, Casablanca, Off-White” — all shows Balvin attended — “we just go to the fittings and select the coolest looks. It's the same process I have for myself when I go to fashion weeks. I just feel like I have to dress myself up as [if I were] him.”
February 2020 Billboard Cover
Ahead of this issue’s cover shoot, Balvin had one request: tons of color. The artist has become known for his ever-changing hair, which can incorporate anything from neon leopard spots to bubblegum-pink color. The styling in the photos -- from the artist’s rainbow-striped hair, the and the myriad of balloons -- captures the vibrant energy found in his chart-topping singles and personality. The black Louis Vuitton suit is the only item that isn’t in color, which reflects the stylist’s former love for rocking all things black as a teenager before moving to Milan. Says Abellan: “He really trusts my vision and lets me be free.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the Feb. 29, 2020 issue of Billboard.