I have a long history in dabbling with a career in fashion: I worked as a sales assistant, and then a visual merchandiser for stores like Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, River Island and Calvin Klein. Whilst at college, I studied Fashion Design and even when I went to building a career in marketing, I still launched this blog because I wanted to keep up to date and express my interest in fashion and style. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, my heart will always turn to fashion because I love it - shopping, dressing up, styling others… In fact, for a long time I considered going on to do a styling course at university or get an internship with a stylist, but I just simply couldn’t afford not to have a full time job. And as so many ‘helpful’ websites out there say that you absolutely MUST have qualifications and experience, I quickly dropped the idea. But it stuck in my head, years and years after I initially thought I might make a pretty decent stylist so I never passed up an opportunity to get my foot in the door.
I first met Melissa Murrell at a bloggers event in Basingstoke where she held a mini masterclass on body shapes and how to dress them. The way she interacted with us and taught us how to best dress the apple/pear/hourglass shapes was really educational and interesting - I left that day feeling like I have really learnt something. A year from then, I am catching up with Melissa on what it’s really like to be a stylist for real women and her newly launched Styling Academy.
Melissa has built her styling career with no formal fashion related qualifications, but rather a great eye for style and a desire to be self-reliant in her career which came after a devastating crash in her previous business venture. Whilst living in Australia, she set up her own loungewear company which really took off, and Melissa took her business back to the UK when she moved. The loungewear was a success, and soon enough stockists like ASOS started placing their orders. Melissa outsourced her loungewear to a company overseas, and just as if by some terrible magic - three days before her order was due to arrive at ASOS HQ her supplier went bust and closed down their company. Such devastating events helped Melissa realise that she wanted to be independent in business and make sure that she’s only got to rely on herself - eliminating the possibility of such heartbreak and disappointment.
Melissa has been styling the real life women of Hampshire and Wiltshire for about 10 years, and she has built an incredible reputation for herself. I always thought that potentially being in an area outside of a big city won’t bring you that many bookings - but boy was I wrong. Melissa’s diary is bursting with appointments from regular and new clients with the next available appointments starting in early July. She tells me there is work for a stylist around local areas - you just have to put in the effort and find these people. Some tips and tricks for budding stylists include starting to build your portfolio by offering styling services to your friends and family, who will then spread the good word to their friends and your reputation should hopefully grown like wildfire. Melissa grew her clientele organically without much effort or investment into publicity - she’s a true inspirational case study for women who want to start their own business.
I also found out some exciting news about Melissa’s newly launched Styling Academy - a three day course which teaches anyone how to become a personal stylist. I think it is a common misconception, one that I have always believed and one that has stopped me for years, is that you need formal qualifications. This course is open to anyone no matter what education or background they may have - whether you’re a receptionist at a dentist, or a marketing director looking for a career move, this course is for anyone who thinks they’ve got what it takes to be a personal stylist. The course will include topics on body shapes, capsule wardrobe, wardrobe re-style, personal shopping, and how to run your own business.
The next dates of The Styling Academy have been announced and will take place in Festival Place, Basingstoke on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of June - to find out more about the course, or book a space visit http://www.stylingacademy.co.uk
Now I know that a lot of you have an interest in personal styling, or wanter to ask Melissa a question about fashion so I have gathered your questions in an interview - find your answers below:
What is the biggest misconception people not working in your field have about your job?
That all my clients are rich - I actually deal with normal every day family women. Another misconception is that I only style using designer clothes when in fact it’s quite the opposite: I only style using highstreet/online pieces.
What challenges do you have as a stylist?
My challenges come with balancing my home life with work - and that’s currently due to the high demand. Challenges are not with dressing people - my clients have different body shapes which require them to try on a lot of clothes, for me that means taking up a high volume of clothes with me to the styling sessions - that can sometimes be a challenge because it takes a lot of prep work before the actual styling session. And it’s that prep work that is difficult to fit between work and family life.
How do you choose what looks work for each individual client?
I use a style questionnaire prior to my sessions with clients. The questionnaire includes questions like what types of shops they usually shop in; what are their issues; what body shape have they got; and what look they would like to achieve. Styling a client has to be appropriate to their lifestyle, budget and personality and if you don't take these things into consideration the client will lack confidence in their new look - some people prefer to wear a jeans and t-shirt for breakfast, lunch and dinner so we need to style their wardrobe according to what they will actually wear!
Everyone loves a good deal, what are some of your favorite places to find bargain buys?
Zara is my go to for all ages. For the older profile always rely on Jasper Conran to be age appropriate, but still on trend and suited to their lifestyle.
What items do you feel are worth investing in?
A leather jacket - I can’t live without a leather jacket; and a nice handbag. Investment doesn’t mean expensive - it’s something that won’t date. It’s about choosing the hero pieces from the highstreet, not about buying just expensive pieces. A watch and a nice necklace are great investment pieces - I’m never without my watch and one piece of accessory.
How do you stay updated on the current trends?
I am in shops all the time, and read fashion magazines. With my clients, it’s not necessarily about trends but rather providing them with foundation pieces in their wardrobe, and then using accessories to stay on trend.
What’s the best style advice you’ve received?
1. Everyone needs a friend - always wear two pieces from the same colour palette at any one time and you’re guaranteed to look stylish!
2. I live by the Coco-Channel quote "“ Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory” - It works!
3. Invest in a selection of jackets; a leather, a blazer, several coats etc. For a lot of clients coats are an after thought and they ruin a lovely outfit by putting on their 'black wool coat or weekend waterproof over the top'.
What advice would you give other women who are interested in a career in styling?
Go for it! You have to be true to yourself, and you have to be a personable individual. If you notice that everyone compliments you all the time, you know you have something to start with there. Don’t be afraid to start because these days you can do a course to learn the ropes at the weekend and build up your business slowly by taking on clients that suit your time. It’s a risk free business and can be set up with virtually no budget.
You have recently launched The Styling Academy. Can you tell me more about the course and what budding stylist will take away from it?
The course is aimed at women who want to style everyday real women. This is not a course aimed at high fashionistas who want to work with photoshoots in London. It’s very practical based - etching the theory a little but not too much, as the theory in reality is different when styling real women. The participants get practical experience and deal with real women not models. The latter part of the course will teach you how to set up your own business - best website development tools, what is search optimisation, how to create invoice templates / style questionnaire templates. All of these will be available to download so you really can start your business on day one. During the course you also get a Styling Bible in which you can write notes from the course, but it will also contain all the content which is discussed during. You can then keep the booklet to refer to whenever you need to! As a bonus, you also get 12 months post-course support and even get to assist me on a real wardrobe re-style or shopping trip.
What's the best way to cure the 'I have nothing to wear' syndrome?
Start by sorting our your wardrobe. Top tip - stop being sentimental about items of clothing. The beloved jumper that has millions of holes is great, but it shouldn’t be in your wardrobe. It simply should not be where you look everyday to choose your clothes from. The prom dress - get it out of your wardrobe. Size 8 pair of jeans you use as a motivational item should not be there - they’re not motivational, they’re depressing! They’re a constant reminder you’re not at the size you’re aspiring to be, and it’s not a good start to your morning.
How would Brexit impact the fashion industry?
Oh wow - I haven’t decided whether I’m in or out myself! To be honest, on a day to day basis styling your everyday woman I haven’t give it a second thought. But…if i was to think about this topic I guess prices may start to go up but really where there’s a demand theres a supply, and as long as the demand is there the price will stay relatively low. So no, I don’t think so.