Designs on being a personal stylist

Title slide - Designs on being a personal stylist

Have you ever been to a personal stylist? Ever thought you’d like to but were too afraid to try? Read on to find out what a personal stylist does and why you might engage one.

Last week I introduced Annabel Hayles, personal stylist. We focused on how she has created flexibility in her work. In this post, Annabel gives us her design on this career path.

Tell us about your business
My main interest is to help people focus on their own personal style. To identify it, grow into it and have a better understanding of it. It’s as important at a personal level as it is in a business sense. It’s about perception – self-perception, and the perception of others.

What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.
~ Miuccia Prada

It is all about knowing how someone wants to look and helping them achieve it, helping them to know what that means and what that looks like. It gives people a certainty, a positivity, an ease and a freedom. It is one of the joys of the job. I see how they [clients] respond to me and the clothes … how they respond to others responding to them. It’s fascinating actually.

Some clients have had strangers come up to them and say how good they look. That’s very nice but the important thing is that they think that’s quite amazing. The idea of transformation –  that’s the key.

It’s a journey
My job is about taking someone on a journey that helps them into the right skin. It can be a slow transformation – step by step. It is about making them feel comfortable making that transformation, like putting on a costume that they know they will wear, inviting them to see the potential. Sometimes, while shopping, they’ll try things on and I’ll say, “this mightn’t be for you now, but it may be for you later.”

Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.
~ Rachel Zoe

The important thing is finding the clothes that people believe they can wear and will fit into their environment well. It’s about people feeling comfortable. That journey can take no time or a long time.

Isn’t it just about fashion?
Personal style is not about the fashion that changes with every season. It’s more about understanding the fashion and the trends, and translate that to work for someone and what they want. Men’s clothing is affected by trends but nowhere near as much as women’s clothing is.

How does styling for men differ?
The impact of getting your style right is important for everyone. There is a different approach to working with men – but not as much as you would expect. I find men respond really well to the benefits of establishing their personal style. The delivery of the message has to be slightly different.

One male client originally came to see me following a big change in his life. We shopped and worked to get him on the way to making that change. He bought the remaining things he needed while overseas and came back saying, “you have given me the tools … I’ve gone out and I have bought things – they look great – and I am really happy.” That’s what I find rewarding. I was absolutely rapt.  He was really celebrating it and THAT’S what it’s about!

Why do people come to a stylist?
There are many reasons. Some people have seen what I do but are not sure. I meet them and we talk about it.  It could be that they have had weight loss or gain, are returning to work, needing to step up their dress, or the fact that their dress doesn’t say anything about who they are. Some clients don’t have the time to find the clothes to get the right look – so they engage me to help them.

Some clients come as the recipients of gift-vouchers and that requires a different approach. For those who have made the connection themselves, it’s quite different to those given a gift.

Is personal styling new?
Offering personal styling is not a new service.  Personal style, image and perception are age-old. The need to adorn ourselves – goes back to pre-history.

We look at a person and we make a decision about them in a split second. People are much more about being front and centre in their lives so styling has become more prevalent nowadays. Television has brought this to the forefront of people’s attention and that it’s an everybody thing/service. It is much more reachable for an everyday purpose.

What do you enjoy most?
I love the transformation – people transforming into something that they enjoy the outcome of. For some, the process is difficult. For others, it’s not. It is always a learning process. I love seeing people happy and hearing the little vignettes about how it has transformed their lives.

What’s challenging?
There are always difficulties with change. Most  people’s difficulties don’t bother me because I expect them. To be able to help them through that is a learning process for me, as much as for them.

One of the hardest things for clients is when they find no joy in it. I can give people tools; I can teach them. But, if they don’t want to do it – it’s not going to stick. It all comes back to feeling good.

Working with clients, one of the first things is to establish the benefits they are seeking. For meI like seeing people get some joy out of it.

Is colour important?
Colour is important to me. Harmony in colours and style is what this is intuitively about. Harmony. Balance. Line and proportion. It’s subtle. People know when something looks right. They mightn’t be able to say why. Getting everything in the right balance – proportion, colour, line – that’s what I do.

What is your approach?
When I work with people, I explain how every part of the service fits together to create a whole picture, or personal style – body shape analysis, wardrobe audit, shopping, colour. I share tools with them. It is so empowering – they grow into it. Clients I have worked with for four years just love looking great and having a wardrobe that works. It’s about giving people a sense of freedom – they don’t think about it – they just grab something and go. They enjoy the lightness of feeling right, not the uncomfortableness of feeling heavy or self-conscious.

Because of what I have done all my life in design, there is an intuition to achieving harmony. I know when I have something right – it has a physical and an emotional effect on me. Sometimes you try something on and if it looks great, it makes you feel great and you think – I’ve got to have it!

Why do make-overs make people look a younger?
The sheer nature of people knowing what they are wearing is right – brings about a different emotion. There is no anxiety – am I looking good or not? I think there are a lot people who dress older than they are. Many women worry about dressing younger than they are but then they tend to dress older rather than thinking – I want a contemporary style to wear that suits me. There is no reason why a person who is 70+ can’t go into what might be considered a younger person’s store and buy, say a jacket.  They just might wear it differently.

Tell us about your style
Since doing this, I have become more adventurous in my style, more attuned to how I dressed when I worked in window dressing/visual merchandising. I have embraced my love for colour and pattern, becoming more casual and less tailored. My style has become more relaxed, and so have I. I’d say I have an eclectic style that changes depending on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I want to make a statement and other days I want to be a little more reserved. I enjoy soft tailoring, particularly with a whimsical feel. There’s a calm and relaxed state with it.

Read more about Annabel’s client transformations in their “Before and After” stories.


Photo credits – clients – Anthony Basheer

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