Cindy’s style story …

Cindy and Stacy when they launched Style for Hire

Cindy and Stacy, launching Style for Hire

One remarkable day five years ago, Cindy McLaughlin and her friend, well-known stylist Stacy London, realized they had a great idea: to help regular people on regular budgets feel good about their clothes, their bodies and themselves. That was the day that Style for Hire, a network of top personal stylists handpicked by Stacy, was born. Cindy is not only the Co-founder of Style for Hire, but she is also its original client. I asked Cindy about her own style story …

MKG: Have you always been in the fashion industry?

CMI’ve been in the industry since 2000 – which, by now feels a bit like ‘always.’ Prior, I worked at a consulting firm doing banking technology research + consulting, and before that I was in the Peace Corps digging latrines and wells in Congo. Either of those jobs is as far as you can get from fashion, really.

MKG: Tell me where you were emotionally in 2008 when you called Stacy London to help you with your wardrobe?

CMI was schlubby. I was a restless stay-at-home mom of two young kids wishing I had something more intellectually fulfilling. I couldn’t muster the energy to apply for a job, though, because I didn’t fit into any one my work-appropriate clothes to wear for interviews (much less to the job if I got it.) One of the more inane reasons not to work, but if you’ve ever tried to navigate a day of shopping at Bloomingdale’s, exhausted and solo with a toddler and an infant, you’ll know what I mean.

MKG: What did you experience as you began to recapture yourself?

CM: Here’s what happened: Stacy took me shopping for a couple of hours. She made a bunch of clothing recommendations and they were spot on. Every single piece she helped me find was well within my (limited) budget and still lives in my closet 5 years later. And it was fun! I felt like I had a moment for myself that I hadn’t had in months. Then the result: I simply looked MUCH better. With that, I was inspired to make more incremental improvements. My posture improved, I bothered to brush my hair and put on a touch of makeup and I grew excited to get out there and be a part of the adult world again. That’s all the internal stuff, and then I started getting compliments from friends and family and noticed by strangers. It’s impossible not to feel more cheerful and open and even more powerful when people are smiling at you and telling you all day how great you are. Maybe years of psychotherapy could get you there too, but a couple of hours of intense retail therapy is more my speed.

MKG: Tell me about the moment when you and Stacy decided to start Style for Hire? What was your goal?

CM: We were having wine on my porch after the fact, talking about the unexpected psychological impact of feeling good about your style, and it hit us like a ton of bricks. The mission was – and remains – to help our clients look great, and save them time and money in the process. Of course, there’s only one Stacy and a whole world of clients, so we had to figure how to scale to include the best personal stylists in the country.

MKG: How is the company changing since you started?

CM: Nothing at all has changed about the mission; it’s still at the core of everything we do. Reading our client’s testimonials keeps us inspired and reminds us everyday that we’re still on the right track. Of course, some of the tactics have shifted over the years. We’re ramping up the frequency of our workshops (the vetting and training ground for all new stylists) to be able to extend the service to more people; we’re offering our stylists lots more in the way of ongoing information and training directly from Stacy and we’re helping to connect our stylists to each other. It’s exciting to watch our stylists become friends and bond as colleagues within a community rather than competitors. We’re always focusing on how technology can be used to help our stylists and clients interact more effectively.

MKG: Can you explain the role of a professional stylist? How do you select the stylists?

CM: A professional stylist earns a living by helping others build flexible, functional wardrobes. Generally speaking, this means the following:

1. Making sure the garments in the closet are all wearable, visible and clean/mended/tailored. Those that don’t work are sent to charity or consignment so that the client can milk the value of what s/he already owns.

2. Making sure that as many outfits as possible are made out of what’s already in the closet. This can save clients a tremendous amount of time and money as they look at old garments with fresh new eyes.

3. Making sure that any additions to the wardrobe make more outfits (so you’ll never have an ‘orphan’ garment that doesn’t go with anything else) and that money is invested wisely. All our stylists use ‘cost-per-wear’ as the metric for investment. It’s how a businessperson evaluates assets. It’s OK to spend more on something you’ll use everyday, but you’ll want to be careful for things that are only good for a few occasions/year or even a single wear (Bridesmaids – listen up!).

Stacy handpicks our stylists after a rigorous process in which we view their resume + portfolio, gather client testimonials, interview them 1:1, and spend two very intense days in a challenge-based workshop getting to know them. What’s great about the network is that our stylists help us find other top-tier stylists because they now trust that we’ve brought the best stylists out there. It’s a virtuous circle. We also take on newer stylists who have great talent but who lack experience, train them, and help mentor them through their career.

MKG: What is your favorite thing to hear from a client?

CM: I love variations on the phrases, ‘you’ve changed my life,’ and ‘I’m shocked at how powerful this was!’ I hear both all the time, I’ve felt them both myself, and I know them to be true. I get inspiring emails every day from clients – most recently a woman whose daughter got styled as part of a Make-a-Wish program. That reminded that what may on the surface to be a bit superfluous or indulgent can be incredibly deep and a source of great joy.

MKG: Finally, have your feelings about your personal style changed since starting Style for Hire? And … do you ever get a little closet touch-up from time to time?

CM: Yes on both counts! I see one of our stylists periodically and know a lot more about how to dress my own body. I’ve sat through a whole mess of Stacy’s workshops by now, so I know the theory of ‘science of styling’ cold. I also have more fun with fashion. I like to take more risks now and I’m more comfortable with my choices. Literally comfortable, too. This spring I love wearing sweatpants or leggings, a slouchy sweater and booties, as long as they’re flattering and kind of edgy. (It’s possible I’ll get a raised eyebrow from Stacy for this …).

 

 

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It’s a new day!

Photo credit: Patricia Saxton

Photo credit: Patricia Saxton

Kim, professional stylist with Style for Hire, changed the way I dress and see myself when she came to my house a few weeks ago, and audited my closet. But cleaning out the old is only part of the transformation; tailoring pieces you already own and finding new pieces to build your wardrobe are the second steps. My new finds: a black, a-line skirt (a style that flatters all body types), red lipstick (Cover Girl #355, which Kim told me to imagine as an accessory all its own!), and tall black boots (well, these were not on my formal list, but I did hear you, Kim, when you asked if I owned a pair!). Breaking down my outfit: skirt – Theory; sweater – a Marc Jacobs‘ I have had for years but forgot how to wear; and boots – Sergio Rossi, I found at a super price on sale at a consignment shop, because … who can resist that!?

I am still on the lookout for a camel skirt but I feel energized with what I’ve changed so far! I wish new fashion days for you, too!

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Shop your closet first …

photo 2-2

I want to put on the clothes and let them do their job … you shouldn’t have to work too hard for clothes.” Kim, fashion stylist

How well do you know your clothes? When was the last time you checked what was in your closet? I thought I knew my clothes and I thought I knew what was in my closet. I am often telling people to shop their closets first before heading to the store to make a new purchase. But what did I really know about my own closet? It turns out, not as much as I thought, and today was the moment when I put my money where my mouth is! My new friend, Kim, a professional stylist with Style for Hire, a company co-founded by Stacy London and Cindy McLaughlin, came to my house where we spent a few hours editing my clothing and performing a closet audit.

I was nervous and I didn’t know what to expect. First, I worried about how I was dressed. Would Kim think I was dressed appropriately for a closet audit? What is appropriate anyway? (in turns out that it didn’t matter because I was dressing and undressing the entire time!) And what would happen if Kim removed clothing to which I was still attached? I had too many questions, but fortunately for me, Kim was delightful and warm and funny and kept the mood light, which really helped. What also helped was that she knew what she was doing. Here is what we did: we pulled out everything in my closet and Kim looked it over. And if it was a ‘no go’ I said a quick good bye and didn’t look back. If it was a ‘yes,’ I tried it on. But here is where the magic came … Kim showed me surprising and unexpected ways to wear my own clothes. She styled everything with a twist and by the end of my time with her I had new outfits and was seeing my clothing in a completely new light. It was exhausting and draining and uplifting and fulfilling and emotional at the same time. Kim took pictures too, so that I could recreate the looks on my own. Continue reading

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Kim: Portrait of a stylist …

Kim

Kim

Co-founders Stacy London and Cindy McLaughlin were lucky when they found Kim to join their network of professional stylists at Style for Hire*. Kim is warm, effervescent and incredibly knowledgeable in all aspects of the fashion industry. In other words, she is the quintessential fashion stylist, or “style therapist,” as Kim refers to herself. We met today and Kim shared her story with me: how she started her career in fashion, and what does it mean to be a stylist:

MKG: Kim, how old were you when you first became aware of fashion?

KIM: I must have been about six years old. My mother is, and always has been, glamorous. There is no one like my mother. She always loved wearing hats – big, statement hats: she could rival any Royal! She wore them with a dramatic flair; slightly tilted across the eye. The hat was part of the ensemble, no removing it. No second guessing the color, no tugging. And THAT’s style. Confidence in your look regardless of what labels you’re touting. Style means you wear your Payless as proudly as you wear your Prada. My mother was very brave in her fashion conviction and her courage inspired me …

As a Turk, I take full ownership of the Harem pant. Love it or hate it – it taught me about drape and proportion. No self respecting emperor would wear a tunic over a pant with such volume! My sister and I are only seventeen months apart and are very close. And while my sister took the lead in the beauty industry working as Ad Director of Vanity Fair, she is now the CEO of Glossybox. It seemed fitting that I would take the fashion route, covering our bases … Continue reading

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