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Stylists for the masses? That’s the concept behind Style for Hire, a company created by Stacy London, co-star of TLC’s reality show “What Not to Wear,” and her friend and former apparel executive Cindy McLaughlin.
This story first appeared in the August 3, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I meet people all over the country who ask me, ‘Where can I find someone like you without getting on national TV?’ This company is my answer to them,” said London.
“People think of stylists as a luxury, for somebody like Angelina Jolie. We are trying to make stylists accessible to everyone,” said McLaughlin, who noted she lost virtually any sense of style when she dropped out of the fashion industry and became a mom with priorities other than updating her wardrobe. When she decided to return to work and go for interviews, she saw nothing suitable in her closet. “I was chronically covered in banana and wearing yoga pants, so I went to Stacy for help.” That’s when the two came up with Style for Hire, realizing that plenty of Americans are sartorially challenged and that London can’t possibly single-handedly take on the nation.
The Web site, Styleforhire.com, has a landing page but the actual service launches Sept. 13 in Washington, where McLaughlin lives. Initially, there will be 15 stylists, although the goal is to create a “national platform” for personal stylists in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston, among other cities. Ultimately, London and McLaughlin, ‘‘stylist in chief’’ and chief executive officer, respectively, envision a network of 2,000 to 2,500 stylists in four years. Stylists already exist, of course, but London said hers will be “hand-picked, trained in our body-based approach and certified by us.” Also, retail partners are being sought. The idea is if Style for Hire stylists bring clients to the stores, they’ll receive commissions from the retailers based on customers’ purchases, and clients will receive discounts.
The service isn’t cheap, about $100 an hour on average, but prices will vary. The stylists are independent contractors so they will set their own hourly rates based on their experience and the clients they target. They will provide:
• “Closet audits,” whereby stylists rummage through closets and pull out anything deemed unwearable. It’s typically a two- or three-hour process, depending on the size and number of closets, and the inventory. Reject clothes will be sent to charity or consignment, potentially offsetting costs of the appointment.
• Closet shopping, involving building outfits from what’s left in the closets and developing a shopping list to fill the voids.
• Personal shopping.
Style for Hire intends to make money by taking a percentage of what stylists receive from their clients and from commissions from stores. Stylists also undergo Style for Hire’s two-day training program and attend seminars and are charged a fee which, the company said, would also vary depending on whether it’s London or someone else providing the instruction. McLaughlin described the training as “a very body-centric approach” that helps the customer look at her body very objectively, and dress it to show it off to maximum effect. “It’s not about losing weight,” McLaughlin added. “It’s about taking the body as it exists and making it look fantastic because she is wearing the right outfit. It deemphasizes trend and emphasizes the body.” The training is also a way to weed out stylists that don’t meet London’s and McLaughlin’s standards.
Asked how she evaluates a stylist, London said, “I pay less attention to the way a stylist looks — though I do check to see that they are polished and appropriate. I don’t seek out the tough-love, made-for-TV approach I use on ‘What Not to Wear.’ I look for people who have a clear understanding of body types, a kind way of discussing them with their customers, and a strong grasp of methods they can use to accent their customers’ best features and downplay others. I look for a stylist who listens. I look for a stylist who has compassion and knows that appearance and self-esteem are intertwined.”
Added McLaughlin: “I look for someone with a flair for style, who has a great deal of natural grace and tact, and an attitude of trying to help people.”