In the center of Macy’s Court at Westfield Southcenter Mall on September 24, enclosed within a frosted-glass labyrinth, model-esque stylists were buzzing around like beautiful bees. They were pulling various items from open closets stocked with an array of fashions–some high-end designer articles, others budget-friendly but nonetheless chic. Makeup artists, stationed along the perimeter of the venue, perched at the ready with their brushes. Others had already begun to practice their craft on faces freshly primed for foundation.
The space was shared with mannequins standing proudly and donning boldly eclectic ensembles that only a professional stylist could envision. Standing in the very center of it all, seen from the entrance, was a sassy photo of Stacy London, hand-on-hip with a knowing, obliquely-angled pose.
London, creative director of Westfield Style and co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear, was smiling from ear to ear when she arrived. She came to Seattle as part of the award-winning Westfield Style Tour, which celebrates its fourth season this year. Shoppers received free one-on-one style tips and wardrobe recommendations from Style for Hire stylists trained by London herself. Chatting with bloggers and other writers, she showcased a side that was down-to-earth and relatable.
“Due to some very formative experiences, I started to worry about my appearance,” London said. “I had a skin disease that I was diagnosed with at 4 and got at 11 very severely. It made me feel less than, which is what lots of women due to our culture feel all the time. It made me want to compensate for it. So I’m not entirely sure that my original desire to be in style was altogether healthy. I think that it was maybe even an overcompensation.”
After training at Vogue, she said she needed to apply her skills in a way that had more meaning and social responsibility. Clearly, she is on a quest to connect with the average consumer, and she is doing it well.
“This is your mall,” London said. “I don’t want to make it intimidating. I want to take what you already know and refine it.”
London’s newest book “The Truth About Style,” to be released October 2, follows women between the ages of 19 to 65. She said she enjoyed seeing how a different outfit changed their confidence. A person’s physical appearance is tied to how they feel about themselves, it becomes our emotional investment, London said.
From her experience as a co-host on What Not to Wear to helping people regain their confidence, London said she learned what she already knew.
“We tell ourselves stories to define who we are, to come up with a sense of self, ” London said. “The mistake we often make is we limit ourselves by believing those stories are true and not changing. Your story doesn’t end, it is always changeable. There is always more to write. Style is how I know how to get you there. Style is an unbelievable tool to remind yourself you can always evolve. I was hoping it was true, but I know it’s true.”
Two days prior to the event, the stylists chose outfits from 27 retail stores, which included Sears, JC Penney, Macy’s, Arden B, The Limited and H&M. Tracy Pendergast, a stylist from Portland, has been working for Style for Hire for two years. She said an important tip is to use tailoring as a resource.
“If you can’t afford to tailor it, you can’t afford to buy it,” Pendergast said.
London said fall fashion this year will include leather, tweed, lace, brocades and jewel tones. She encouraged Seattlelites not to be fearful of color and, for all her empathy, has some tough love for us. Asked her opinion on Seattle fashion, London proclaimed there was “too much fleece and dirty hair.” Hey, we loved her for her bold honesty on What Not to Wear. We’re not mad.
For those Seattle ladies who took offense to that statement, though, this tidbit might just make you come around. Out of all her awaiting fans, she spent the most time with a little girl named Lakeisha whose wish to meet London and to partake in a shopping spree was granted in partnership with Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Her inner strength and independence shine in response to the statement, “Behind every great man is a woman.” London responds simply with “I have a great cat.”
*Written in collaboration with Ashley Craig