Miss A Columnist

A writer, entrepreneur, and natural fashionista, Jessica Quillin lived abroad for nearly a decade before moving to the DC area, studying literature and music in France, Montréal, and the UK, where she obtained her PhD in English from the University of Cambridge. From 2003 to 2006, Jessica cultivated her passion for the art as the Communications Manager for Washington National Opera, where she served as managing editor for all company publications, including the bi-annual magazine and website. In 2006, she took a position as a Sr. Researcher at American Institutes for Research, where she honed her business and management skills. In April of 2010, Jessica opened her own consultancy in order to find new ways to combine her love of fashion, the arts, and great style with her background in writing, communications, and marketing. An active freelance writer and columnist, Jessica is a regular contributor to a number of local and international publications. She also is a member of The Junior League of Washington and is Chair of the Marketing and Public Relations Committee of the Alexandria Film Festival.

Style for Hire Launches in DC

Stacy London

Stacy London, Style for Hire launch, Puro Cafe, Georgetown, DC, September 13, 2010

Stacy London, style guru from TLC’s hit show What Not to Wear, sat down with journalists and bloggers on a lovely Monday morning at Puro Café in Georgetown to talk about the launch of Style for Hire, a new company she co-founded with fashion executive and DC-resident Cindy McLaughlin. This press briefing preceded the Style for Hire Crawl, a day-long launch event with the company’s trained stylists hosted at a selection of stores throughout the DC area.

Created based on a belief that good style advice should be accessible and affordable (services start at $100), Style for Hire comprises a network of trained stylists who will offer clients tailored personal shopping and wardrobe consultation services. Partnering with both local stores as well as national retail partners, like Ann Taylor and Lord and Taylor, the company will initially focus on providing wardrobe and shopping services, though will connect clients with local outlets for hair and makeup consultations at their home upon request.

Style for Hire is making Washington, DC the site of its initial launch with 11 trained stylists selected as a part of this new initiative, though Stacy and Cindy plan to expand quickly to provide similar services in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco with over 2,000 stylists on board. When asked about the choice of the nation’s capital for this launch, Stacy commented that DC is “the perfect city” for the company’s efforts because of the variety of people it attracts who are savvy about style but don’t necessarily have the same firsthand access to fashion as those who live in New York or Los Angeles.

Stacy and Cindy were down-to-earth and passionate when discussing how they formed the company in response to an overwhelming call from viewers of What Not to Wear on how to achieve the same level of personalized style service in their own lives. However, the impetus for the company also came through their own personal experiences. In particular, Cindy spoke frankly about her own wardrobe issues after deciding to return to work after staying at home with her two children.

According to Stacy and Cindy, the main mission of Style for Hire is to provide affordable style services that are personalized for each client, including both men and women. Stacy emphasized that they want to show clients first how to shop their own closets, vetting out the old stuff, and only then adding new clothes as necessary. Discarded clothing will be consigned or donated to Goodwill or Second Time Around. This approach is not only cost-effective but also encourages clients to make their wardrobes a “constant reinvestment,” as Stacy pointed out.

However, Style for Hire is also concerned about the confidence-boosting powers of fashion and style. Cindy cited that every clothing purchase must do two things: it must have “function” and it must “give you joy.” This two-pronged approach seems to form the core aesthetic of Style for Hire’s business model. Here, Stacy was blunt to point out that their company, unlike other stylist services, takes a client-focused, service-oriented approach. Trained stylists, whom Stacy described as “part-clinician and part-psychologist,” must obviously be well-trained in the science of style but also be sensitive to the unique preferences and tastes of each client. The goal is for clients to feel excited when they open their closets and to keep their own individual style, rather than feel pressured from a stylist’s own particular aesthetic.

Cindy McLaughlin

Cindy McLaughlin, CEO of Style for Hire, Puro Cafe, Georgetown, DC, September 13, 2010

To become a part of the Style for Hire training system, there was initially an open call for stylists to attract people from varied backgrounds and experience. Prospective stylists then were put through a rigorous 2-day, 20-hour initial training session, during which they were observed and evaluated by industry experts on their styling abilities, customer skills, attitude, and experience. Yet, even after passing this initial training phase, stylists were hand-selected by Ms. London and Ms. McLaughlin to ensure that they bring the right energy, knowledge, and passion to their job.

However, Stacy cited a desire to eventually set up a standardized stylist training system in order to create a measurable framework by which to teach and evaluate stylists to allow the company to grow more quickly on a national scale. The company also aims to provide quarterly trend updates and interactive learning modules to stylists and retail partners to help keep clients abreast of the latest trends.

Technicalities aside, Stacy and Cindy continually highlighted the central importance of self-esteem and confidence to the work of Style for Hire, particularly for female clients for whom this can be a major issue. Stacy commented, “the first step to true style is self-acceptance.” She said that she constantly advises women to “stand in front of the mirror for a really long time” in order to take in every aspect of themselves. Stacy continued, “you have to accept that this is your raw material. And that’s when style is possible.”

Before departing, Stacy and Cindy graciously greeted attendees before heading off to a day full of activities as a part of the Style for Hire Crawl, for which they would be visiting a number of stores throughout the area. Journalists and bloggers were also treated to a gift certificate for a discount on services as a part of the launch event.

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