Ask the professionals, I had the opportunity to host a discussion panel at the perfectly decorated Saint Cloud Boutique with other panelist with Houston stylists Travis Cal and Kendra Smith. We chatted about everything from the psychology behind getting clients to feel good about themselves (Kendra replied that wine helps) to how professionally others view our job. In the end we had a lot in common with lots of different view points. A big thank you goes out to our moderator Sarah Rufca and our audience that asked great questions: 1) About the slow goods movement and whether that changes the pace of commerce. Travis and Kendra replied that being paid per-hour it doesn't affect them, while I gave a anecdote where I proudly told someone to wear something I sold them 5 years prior. Thus she got to splurge on a high prices beautiful shoe 2) What really goes on under there, which brought up all our not sexy laundry list of Spanx, Petals, and whatever else is needed to get the outfit out the door. Here are some other topics we went over:
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to become a stylist?
TM - I always knew I wanted to be in fashion, and when I moved from a small boutique to Tootsies, I looked around and coworker that were there for a lifetime, building clients, paying mortgages, and sending kids to college. That's when I figured I could become an adult doing that.
KS - I started off in retail and then worked under a professional wardrobe/dresser. I quickly realized I can do that myself, especially since every client that I have had two friends that want the luxury of having a stylist too.
TC - God works in mysterious ways. After bouncing around working high end retail for a while I settled at Saks. They let me go after verifying a fake doctors note (they really check those!) Distressed, I went to a client's who immediately put me to work. I under balled myself that first day, charging minimally for a full day of work. Now I've grown my charge-per-hour and clientele.
The need to express oneself is a universal experience. What are you trying to achieve when you dress yourself and your clients for the world?
TM - I am what you call a Trend Slave, because I get so excited for every new movement. I guess that's also called 'contemporary.' I always need the new trend, concept, decor, restaurant, food ingredient. That's what I talk about with my clients.
KS - I believe in building on classics. Classics should be your bread and butter, with pops of color and trends. Trends can come from Topshop or anywhere, that's how I dress myself
TC - As you guys can probably tell, I'm over the top. Some days I wear my bracelets, chains, headphones, and sunglasses around town. I want my clients to be whomever they feel comfortable, but with a Travis Cal twist.
How did you cultivate your own aesthetic? What was the impetus for creating that aesthetic - (i.e. a need to look professional, more confident)? Is this something that is constantly evolving or do you find yourself going back to the same looks over and over? How do you steer clients towards finding a style?
TM - I would have to say I have many different hats, my work hat, my party hat, my cocktails hat, etc...it also depends on what my client's need are, whether she's going to need to win a case, look conservative at church/synagog, or make an ex jealous. We need dress those needs with what's available on the market.
KC - Agreed, and I always have a pair of flats or heels in my car, depending on what the situation needs
TC - I have three different looks: nice boy, party boy, and label whore. It depends on the situation, today I'm dressed 'nice boy' because consulted a client on what I should wear, but 'label whore' is my favorite.
Kim Kardashian recently told Harpers Bazaar that her & Kanye took styling Kim into their own hands after trial and error with a lot of different stylists, that they all had to put their 'mark' on their styling job. Do you find yourself having a 'signature' that you have as a stylist? How do you let someone's individuality shine through a styling job?
TM - I love this question because it really focus' on the stylists job, which is to make the clients happy. I am completely biased, but I think I dress my client's differently. I'll usually tell new clients "I don't really know you yet, so tell me when I'm getting it wrong' and then show them my favorite things until they light up.
KS - I believe the client has to feel great. She could spend three hours in a salon and if she doesn't like what she's wearing then it won't look good. You can tell when someone feels good in what they are wearing and are going to be confident in it. If they are tugging at their outfit I make them move on to the next one. Every client has their hangups, so with one client I'm covering arms, and another one it'll be something else, so the look is going to be different.
TC - A lot has to do with budget: a client that have 5k to spend will get more of a complete wardrobe than one with 50k to spend at once. If you don't have a lot to spend, which is totally fine, then we'll be purposing what you have, which is my job. But honestly, I can dress a lot of women for the same party and they would look completely different. I could dress this whole first row and you guys would look like yourselves. When you're dressing a woman you see her in a bra and panties, it's very vulnerable for them. Maybe the most vulnerable they are. And you have to see what they think they look like and what they want to be seen as. Yes, all clients have different hang ups and we are constantly coaching her on what she can wear for her age and body type. Its
KS - WINE HELPS!
TM - More on the subject of idiosyncrasies, I have clients that have very strong feelings and aversions. I have one client that scared by buttons. For years I thought she had a bad dry cleaning experience but she just really hates them, so much that her mother said maybe something happened when she was small. I personally love it that I know things like that about people and that I can customize their experience.
What are some dressing or shopping rules you think every woman should follow? Is there a dressing rule you wish people would stop doing? Or do you think there are no rules? Let's start with you Travis.
TC - I think there are three things that always need to be checked off the list, does it fit, can you afford it, and does it make sense for your life.
KS - Agreed
TM - Well put
Photography by Teresa Munisteri