I went to school for fashion design in Philadelphia and I became a fashion designer. It’s now called Jefferson University; at the time I went there it was called Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. They had a four-year fashion degree and incorporated into the fashion degree was a lot of textiles. As a designer you learn weaves, you learn about knits, you learn the structure of fabric — that’s a key component. You learn how they behave and how to take care of them and all those core components that go into not just drawing a picture and slapping a fabric on it, but is the fabric stiff, is it soft, does it drape, does it create pleats. So I did that, and I had a whole career in New York. I did my internship which led to my first job and then I moved to New York where I was a designer and a design director.
When I was growing up, my mother had great style; that was very important to her. My father worked at Price Waterhouse. He wore a suit five days a week and he had his fall suits, his winter suits, his spring and his summer suits. He had a whole suit collection. When he was younger, he always had to wear a hat. My mom, when she worked when she was younger, it was hat and gloves, when you came on the train you had to be properly dressed. They were brought up with a sense of style, the value of it, the importance of appearance. And now… people aren’t being taught style. I have a lot of young clients who have no concept of how something should fit, what fabrics are. They wash sweaters. How can you not know that? I know that because my mother taught me and I would never wash a sweater, or you hand wash it and you lay it flat – things you learned along the way. And I’m just as guilty – my boys are completely uninterested in clothing. Ok, if you’re not interested, I’m not going to force it on you. So they wear athletic clothing or soft clothing or their uniforms for school.
There are other people who are stylists who also have a design background; sometimes stylists become designers, whereas I was a designer who became a stylist. It obviously benefits me because I have a complete knowledge of structure, pattern, I have a very specific background that lends itself to what I do. Which is something I thought about when I decided to become a stylist. I have this whole background, what can I do with it? I wanted to have my own business because I had my children. When I was a design director, which is what I was at the time I left fashion, I worked 7 days a week, I got home at 11 o’clock at night. And the fashion industry is… it’s not an easy industry. I have this whole skill set, creativity, etc., what am I going to do with it that I can have my own business? Because if I was going to go back to being a design director, I would have to hire someone to take care of my kids because my husband works, too. I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t have children to have someone else raise them. So starting my own business offers me flexibility which is invaluable. There are a lot of people that don’t have flexibility; I do. On the other hand when you own your own business… the only way I get paid is if I have clients. And the only way you get clients is by you getting them.
Now, instead of just being a stylist — it’s marketing, it’s tech, it’s sales, it’s endless other things. The styling part’s easy compared to what those other things are. And those are the things that take up a lot of my time because I’m constantly learning new versions of how to do it. The thing I struggle with the most is the back end of the website. When we started, it was 11 years ago, I had a website built and that was my second website. There was organic SEO in it, and you put in for a stylist in Los Angeles and there I was. Amazing. I had press, I had a lot of things that were really helpful. And then… you know, Google keeps changing their algorithm constantly, so you’re endlessly doing a dance to figure out how to position yourself. Because 50% of my business is Google. 50% is referrals, donations, stuff like that, and then the other 50% is people looking for someone, looking at a bunch of people, trying to figure it out. I employ someone just to keep us relevant. That’s an expense that I never had before but because my business is 50% Google… if you can’t be seen, you can’t be seen.
We generally have four different personality traits of clients. We have a 28–35 year old woman, up and coming in her career and looking to really elevate. And then I have the much more established woman who’s at that CEO, CFO, CMO level, who has a very developed career and is travelling and speaking and has a family and is doing a lot of juggling. I am helping elevate but helping take some things off her plate. Help her feel great but shoulder it so she doesn’t have to do it because she’s got too much going on. I have a similar dynamic with men, because I do men and women. The young guy, career is a huge part of it but also socializing, dating, things like that, trying to take himself from that coming-out-of-college person to the next step. But a lot of times when guys in their 40s, 50s come to me, maybe they’ve fallen into “I’ve been wearing the same thing for a long time and I realize I need to modernize.” Maybe he got divorced… people come to me through life transitions. Generally it’s career elevation, it’s social, weight loss, weight gain, relationships and marriages, babies, divorces, moving from one place to another.
I get a lot of people who come from New York to L.A. or L.A. to New York. L.A. people going to New York is really hard, especially if they’ve grown up out here they really have no sense of seasons and what’s appropriate. New York is way more dressed up. So much of what’s a part of it is the climate. It’s so sunny out here that wearing bright-colored clothes makes sense. But if you go into New York City in November, you’re not walking around in a floral maxi dress with flip flops. You wear that on the east coast when you’re going to the Caribbean or you’re out at the Hamptons in the summer. But out here, it’s sunny and hot. So those kind of things, that people don’t have a pulse on or they’re not thinking about . When a lot of people come to me, is having made some big missteps and feeling really crappy about themselves because they didn’t know or they didn’t realize.
My most important thing that I always want to relay to whomever I’m working with is authenticity. I am never the one to be like, “Oh, you need to buy that designer bag,” or buying style – I never want to be about buying style. I never want someone to think that I’m trying to morph them into something that they’re not. We just want to highlight and brighten who you are so everybody can see who you are. That’s another thing that’s really hard with the website: does my website express how I feel about authenticity? That thing that you have is helping people find you, see you… but does it express who you really are?
Part of it is educating people on building a wardrobe – what is a wardrobe? A wardrobe that supports your lifestyle, that’s another thing. People, women especially, tend to very emotionally shop. It’s impulsive. “Oh my god, I love that.” Yeah, yeah, that’s great – you don’t need that; we have a whole list of things that you need. What people tend to do with shopping is they buy the thing that’s easiest. So for a woman who’s maybe big on the bottom, she’s got a tush or thighs or whatever, and buying bottoms is just soul-sucking. Every time, nothing fits right. Too big in the waist, too tight in the hips. They just bought tops. So I go over there and they’re like, “I have a whole closet full of clothes.” Well, you have a whole closet full of tops. But you can’t make an outfit if you don’t have bottoms, and that’s why I’m here because I know your body shape and I know what brands work so we’re going to get you bottoms so you can make whole outfits so you can feel great, head to toe, and balance your wardrobe out.
The psychological component of what has happened through the last six and a half months… everybody’s career has been impacted by COVID, negative or positive. But for me, watching the process of everyone sartorially shutting down, going into comfort mode… what most people have no clue is, what you’re wearing has such a direct impact on your mental state. They don’t realize that until you can really see a contrast, and then you’re like, “Oh my god, when I’m dressed and put together and things fit properly…” you feel this sense of confidence and building of self-esteem that then exudes from your personality. So it makes sense that when quarantine happened, was so excited to wear sweatpants every day. They couldn’t wait to not have to put on work clothes, anything restricting. Like, “Ahhhhh! What’s happening?? Sweatpants, sweaters! Hoodies! Wrap me, wrap me, make me feel safe!” Wait to see what everyone’s wearing the day of the election! What will that be? How are they going to make themselves feel protected, waiting for the outcome? It’s just so interesting, the psychological journey of how people are wearing clothes, projecting themselves.
When I work with a lot of my clients who are in that level of running meetings, speaking, and they have to walk into a room full of people… knowing that they’re putting their best self forward, it’s amazing how far that goes. How your talent shines through and you connect better with people. One girl that I work with, she’s insanely amazing and I love her. She’s in her mid-20s. She couldn’t afford to work with me, and so I said, “We’ll do a payment plan.” She was really struggling with clothes. She had lost weight but she was still a 16, so it’s hard because you can’t buy it in-store, it’s all online. She had a small budget to work with; she’s a teacher. We would shop, and I tried to — as I do for every client — shop on sale, or we would strategize on the best way we could use the money and we would go and buy little bits at a time. I’ve been working with her for two years now, building this wardrobe, styling the outfits, her wearing them. After we had done two shop and style sessions, she said the most amazing thing is the way that people talk to her, the level of respect is different because of visually, and how confident she feels. That’s frightening to people, to walk into a room, especially if they’re questioning. Like, I don’t question what I put on, this is my world, I can do whatever I want to do, as long as I own it and I don’t look ridiculous. But for so many people, the fear is what to wear, where. I break it down: these outfits are for this, these outfits are for that. For a lot of people, they don’t want to stand out in the room, they want to fit into the room. So they’ll say to me, “What will everybody else be wearing?” We’re not focusing on that, we’re focusing on what you’re wearing so you look great. You don’t have to be walking out in red floor-length sequins in the process, but people feel safer following versus leading and that trickles into all areas of our life.
So many people, when you go through their closets, you realize they have a closet full of things they’ve never worn because they buy things for a lifestyle they don’t have. When that’s happening with people, I actually don’t encourage that much shopping. I look for the holes. Ok, you really react to print or color. Or “on sale” — whether it fits or not, it was on sale. So getting that tailored so it will fit you so we can wear it. Or, yes, that’s an amazing piece but it’s a little too dressy for your lifestyle. Let me style it, dial it back so you can wear it to go walk down the street and sit outside and have dinner. And then we focus on getting people to wear their existing clothes in their closet. Ultimately, what you want in your closet: you want to love everything and you want to feel great in everything. You shouldn’t have anything in there that tortures you, like that pair of pants that fit 20 years ago. It’s just making you feel like shit, so why do it to yourself? Get rid of them. “Well, maybe someday I’ll fit in them…” But the day you fit in them, do you really want to wear pants from 20 years ago? No, you don’t. Women do that. Men do that a little bit, some men do it. Because men tend to hold on to everything. But women, it’s kind of like self-torture. Like somehow I was better 5 pounds ago or 7 pounds ago and then they get stuck on the number. Life is on hold until I lose those 10 pounds. What I have found with a lot of clients, when they have said, “I need to lose 10 pounds but I need clothes in the meantime,” some people just won’t buy, they’ll wait. But when they do buy and create a small wardrobe, they end up losing the weight because they feel good about themselves. Let’s focus on where we are right now and feel great where we are right now.
People think it’s just clothes. And on a level, it is. It’s texture, its color, its pattern, silhouette, and how it’s all put together and that’s one part of it. But how much it can really impact you psychologically, emotionally, physically — that has taken me a number of years to really unearth. That’s what I think I bring: I kind of specialize in being bicoastal, that differentiates me because I know both head sets. I work with men, because a lot of stylists just work with women, or they work with men, but I work with both… But having the experience of what that psychological component is for people and being able to explain it to someone without overwhelming them. I don’t want to scare people by telling them too much, because it could come off like, “Whoa, am I getting into a therapy session?” Maybe they don’t want to do that dive. But expressing to people that the energy that you put into it and the financial part of it — because it’s a commitment, it’s paying for me, it’s paying for clothes — that it really can go into so much more of your life than you realize. The value is way more than just shopping. It’s about letting people’s inner shine. That’s the thing that I love about my business because I meet these people and I meet their families, I meet their animals, I’m in their homes. I learn about their kids, I learn about their business, I learn about their careers and their talents and their hobbies and their struggles and their accomplishments. That is so rich for me. I don’t just shop, I offer a service and a talent to people and when we connect, it’s very fulfilling. It’s like building any kind of relationship. You’ve got to put the time in and when you put the work in, you get the reward.