Souk is a force of nature. Stylist extraordinaire, this Chicago-native is hitting her stride in a big way: styling clients and working on many projects, including producing fashion shows to raise funds for non-profits and working on a book. She works and speaks from the heart in all of her work. I met Souk a few months ago when she first appeared on TFIO; we caught up again to talk about the art of styling, or in Souk’s case, the heart of styling …
MKG: How long have you been styling? Was it a natural evolution for you?
SOUK: Technically, almost 8 years. But I have to say that I’ve been styling my whole life. My friends always asked me to shop and pick out outfits for them. Just this past weekend (at a dinner party), a good friend of mine was remembering how I styled her over 15 years ago and she felt lucky because she didn’t have to pay! At that time I was in the insurance industry and even before then, I knew I was meant to be in fashion. This friend couldn’t believe that a dress that I saw off the rack, that she didn’t think was cute, turned out to look so beautiful on her. Then another friend said,’I know, Souk, you picked out a dress for me online that I had never would have picked out for myself – and I fell in love with it!’ Hearing these recollections validated I was meant to be a stylist.
MKG: What have you learned about the effect of the right clothes on a woman?
SOUK: It is amazing – once you find the right clothes! When you put the right clothes on a woman and she feels great both physically and emotionally, that is the most important thing. How you feel about yourself on the inside will always be connected with how you look on the outside. People feel that energy about you.
I have learned a lot styling clients, but being a good stylist is: 1) science, 2) having great taste/presenting yourself well (you get hired to possess this, right?), 3) being perceptive, 4) having confidence, and, 5) being authentic and nice. Anyone can call himself a stylist. I have heard it so much and sometimes, I just roll my eyes when I hear it from people who clearly say that to look like they have a job in fashion. Breaking it down …
SCIENCE: Being able to visualize her body shape before you even meet her. So when I read the assessment she fills out with her dimensions, I already know what cuts and which designers would fit well on her. I do have an advantage having gone to design school to learn how to measure the body form and make patterns to clearly understand the human shape.
GREAT TASTE: Yes, you obviously have to have this to be a stylist. But the first thing someone sees is YOU as his/her guide. So what you wear yourself as a professional stylist has to look tasteful and fashionable. Don’t look too artsy and definitely not a hot mess because you think you can. Dress appropriately for the client. Perception is everything!
PERCEPTION: Perception is everything. Having strong instincts and understanding will put you one step ahead of other stylists. The way people speak or what they wear can tell me their style. When I meet my clients for the first time, I understand who they are and I am 99.9% right. In the first few minutes, being able to gage their mood and where they are in their lives gives me the clues about what options I will present to them.
CONFIDENCE: I am very confident in what I put on my clients. You can hear it in my voice. One stylist told me the other day how she hopes she could be as confident and convincing. I told her, “You can only be convincing when you are confident with your choices. I am a very honest person too, so people would know if I’m simply blowing smoke in their face.”
AUTHENTICITY, AND BEING NICE: Let’s just bring it back to how you make friends and keep friends. This is an essential rule in life: Be authentic and deliver it right. But don’t doubt yourself either. If you do, then you are not confident.
MKG: What is it that keeps styling fresh and different with each new client?
SOUK: Every new client is different. Keeping it fresh happens two ways: Fashion is always changing and new every season, providing endless possibilities for clients. And keeping it fresh also means seeing your closet as a living, breathing wardrobe – I have owned things for over a decade, and I love being that person who rearranges and gives new ideas to clients for the pieces they already own. It must be the artist in me.
MKG: You met a woman recently who was getting married; you helped her select bridesmaid’s dresses and she left in happy tears. Tell me more about that experience.
SOUK: This women was looking for a dress for a black tie gala. I could tell she was nervous to see me. She was feeling vulnerable – unsure if anything would look good on her, and stressed about getting a dress for any occasion. First, I wanted her to feel comfortable in the setting, explained to her the options, and gave her clothes to try on from different designers. Next, I told her not to look at the sizes because every designer runs differently (she was a plus size). Our society is so consumed with numbers – it keeps us feeling trapped and insecure. All that matters is the fit. I wear a size 0 in most designers, but put me in an Elizabeth and James dress and I’m a size 4 or 6! My client tried on her first dress and fell in love. But I didn’t stop there; I gave her no more than 5 pieces to try (didn’t want to overwhelm her) and she picked another outfit for her bridal shower. This woman was so happy – she cried and told me how much weight was lifted off her and how grateful she was to me for being so good at my job.
MKG: When you are styling a client, what do consider a successful outing?
SOUK: She needs to be happy with the result and feel beautiful.
MKG: When it comes to selecting clothes what should we be looking for?
SOUK: I can’t say it enough: know your body shape, know what fits are good for you, and don’t be afraid to take risks.
Photo Credit: Jason Mei