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What It’s Like to Work with a Stylist

This past week I hired a photographer for a brand photo shoot at my home (more on that next week!). And along with my photographer came brand stylist and wardrobe coach, Katherine Bignon. For the record I’ve never worked with a stylist, but I knew that for a photo shoot that was this important, it would be worth the investment. I basically didn’t want to worry…does this look good on me?

She started with creating a Pinterest board and linked various pieces to it so I could easily go in and order them. It took a few trial-and-errors to get all the pieces just right, but she was patient and had plenty for me to choose from.

Her goal with styling me was to find the merging point of my personal style and my brand’s style. That’s where I struggle…I like certain pieces of clothing, but lack the know-how to put them together in a smart way for me personally and for the face of my business. We wanted the pieces to be realistic…would I really wear this to work in my studio?

When I asked her about her process for styling, here’s what she said: “I begin each project with a deep dive into the clients brand, their brands visuals, and what specifically they are selling – I want to make sure I know exactly who they are. From there I develop a list of the feelings/visuals/emotions that I want to portray in the shoot, and on the set, and I then match certain brands and certain styles to that list. For this shoot some of the key things I was capturing were color, texture, the feeling of whimsy and enchantment, all while maintaining a very specific sense of elegance and tailoring. After I’ve mapped out the vision for the shoot with that list, I can begin diving into which specific brands and styles we’ll be using, but that initial processing is key because it lets me know automatically which brands and styles to stay away from because I know clearly what the vision is, and what it isn’t.”

Katherine convinced me that working with her didn’t mean I had to overhaul the looks I love and change them. Instead, it was her goal to streamline and cultivate a look that showed who I really was and what I wanted to showcase. For example, my favorite J.Crew pants I purchased last summer had to be part of it. She agreed and made it happen.

Katherine’s intention went well beyond this shoot, too. She wanted me to have things to wear for events that would be coming up. Her goal wasn’t simply to have me drop a bunch of money on clothes and call it a day. She mapped out a stying guide that explained my wardrobe for this event and beyond. Here’s a sneak peek:

Each outfit and scene had layers upon layers of texture and visual interest, so that each time you go back and look, you see something new. She was intentional about honoring my values, my boundaries (no super short skirts!), and my intrinsic style…I love color!

Katherine knew that I loved pattern mixing on my chairs and went looking for a floral skirt. But we didn’t have any luck finding one that had the right colors and fit. So, she proposed sewing a custom one for me using Liberty of London- an iconic British print house.

One thing I learned about Katherine was that prior to life as a stylist, she specialized in custom bridal designs. Part of her secret sauce as a stylist was when she couldn’t find the right piece on the market, she designed it from scratch to bring the creative vision to life!

By the way, she also designs a collection of silk robes available in her online shop shop.katherinebignon.com if you want to check those out! I love this skirt and couldn’t be happier with how this entire process turned out. Many of you had questions for me this past week and I want to address them below…

What’s branding all about? For me, branding is about what I stand for as both a person and a business. It has to do with how I show my values and my intentions for my business. To simplify this, when someone goes to my website, how do I want them to feel about what I do? How can I serve them and make their lives better by what I do? And how do I show those things in my pictures, words, and offers?

I want to know all about your branding process. What brought you to this point and where do you see yourself going? How did you make this branding your reality? Did you dream and did it, did you plan it as an objective? How do you arrive at your brand and the style that it ties to, and when you do, does it “feel” like you? For me, it’s taken a few years. But, as I have tried to be true to myself in what I want to represent and create, it has happened organically over time. It definitely feels like me because of how it has come about. You have to listen to yourself and be true to who you are. I think my brand will continue to evolve somewhat based on what I dream up to do in the future. I’ll have to wait and see…I have no idea right now where I’ll go but time will tell.

Once you decided to do this shoot, how did you go about finding the right people to make it happen? How long did the process take? What was the most daunting aspect of it? I found Katherine through my photographer (I’ll tell you more about her next week). Referrals are the best way to find the people you need. We worked together for almost 3 months and it really wasn’t daunting at all. I let her do her job and I gave her feedback on the clothes she suggested. I just had to be open to what she suggested and give the pieces a chance to see if they fit and looked right for me.

Did you get inspired to make a chair out the wardrobe? Definitely! I’m always inspired by clothing to see what I can create on my chairs.

Which one are you framing for your memento? I intend on wearing all these pieces, but when I do frame one, it would be the red and pink dress…that’s the hero piece of the collection!

How important is it for those building their brand to do an update/promotional that is as professional as you are doing? It’s important to have photos…good ones. The last photo shoot I had of me and my chairs was a couple of years ago at my friend Sara’s house in Louisiana. I hired a photographer I could afford and we shot for almost 2 hours. I got some great shots from it. My advice is to work within your budget and get what you can. When you can afford more, invest in it. By the way, most of the pictures you’ve seen on social media and my website (until now) have been with my iPhone. The camera in my phone is amazing and I use good editing software that I do myself.

So what is one thing you expected in this process that was different than what actually took place? And what is one thing that was just completely unexpected?  I hoped I would feel good about the clothes picked out for me, but I didn’t expect to really love all the pieces…which I definitely do! I couldn’t be happier. But I was most surprised at how much some new styles she suggested looked so good on me…things I never would have picked out in a million years.

What is something that surprised you (good or bad) in starting your own business? What has surprised me the most is how many people I’ve been able to help in various ways because of my business. That makes my work meaningful, which is the most important thing for me. I want what I do to matter.

Could you share the brand of the clothes and the shoes? We got both high and low. Here’s the list: Frances Valentine, Diane Von Furstenberg, Target, Boden, J.Crew, Keds, Loft, Madewell, Vineyard Vines, and Anthropologie.

(I’ve got a blog on my bedroom rug here. And the art on my mantle came from Carrie Schmitt, Wayfair, and Minted.)

Wendy Conklin

I'm Wendy Conklin, The Chair Stylist.

What brings me joy is helping others live more creatively. I design antique-inspired, boutique chairs, and I teach others how to do what I do. Check out my shop, services, and courses to bring more whimsy into your home and life!

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