05:57 Monique: So, Renée, please share with our audience your professional journey. How did you make that pivot from corporate life to really becoming an expert stylist?
06:07 Renée: Well, it started-- I’ve always loved fashion and style. I have-- from a little girl, something I did with my mom, we always went to pageants and fashion shows. And really, I just loved it. It’s something that I’d done throughout university. But I really never knew that I could get paid to help people to look good or to get dressed. That was just never something talked about in our family or even growing up. And so, I just went to school, got my degree to get a good job.
And so, I had a career, was very successful. I reached the top of my mountain. I just decided that, “Hey, this is the wrong mountain.” I really wanted to do something that I was excited about, where I felt that I could pour into women. And it really helped them to stand up and to own their space. And I looked good when I put myself together, when I was feeling great. I was able to walk into these rooms because at my level, I was the only woman in my role, only woman, definitely only black woman. And so it gave me that confidence that I could ask for more, I could negotiate for more, I could-- I felt I owned my space. And so, I just decided. I said, “You know what? This is-- there has to be more to life. And I really wanted to give my bet on me.”
07:16 Monique: I love that “bet on you.” I love that. And so when you first set out, what field did you study and what field were you in professionally within corporate?
07:25 Renée: Yes. So, my degree is in Biology. I went to Penn State University, coming from Jamaica. Don’t ask. It’s a long story. Just heard the name and applied and got in. So ended up-- so one day, I was on a beach. The next day I was on a snowstorm, literally. That was it. That was my welcome.
07:43 Monique: Welcome to Penn.
07:44 Renée: So, my degree is Biology. And so I worked in pharma. My job was with-- I started off in pharmaceuticals. That’s my whole career – pharmaceutical sales and then into sales leadership.
07:55 Monique: All right. And so what makes having an executive presence so important for those with executive ambitions?
08:03 Renée: Well, if we talk about our style, right, and how we show up, our style is, I say it’s one of our biggest communication tools. It is how we tell the world who we are. It’s how we introduce ourselves to the world. It is how people get to know us. And so that is the first thing that people see. And so it’s really important. And when you think about data, the data tells us that within a few seconds, people make decisions about us. And so, if we understand that and if we know that-- and I see it as our style being the packaging of our personal brand, right? It is the first thing that people see.
So, before, people-- I get pushed back sometimes. So people will say, “Yeah, but I’m a great employee. I’m a good worker. I do great work. I’m bottom line. I cut costs,” all of those things. Those are really valid points. I get that. But before you can dazzle us with your skill and your work, people see you, right? And people, when they see you, when they see-- it communicates something, right? Inside emotion is that feeling that people get when they work with you and they’ve seen you on.
So, if you have executive ambitions, people want to see you in that role. People want to see you dressed as if that role is just a normal progression for you. Right? So, make it easy for the higher up or whoever is making that decision, make it easy for them to say, “Oh yeah, she fits in. She’s a natural fit.”
09:22 Monique: It’s almost like an unconscious passively others start seeing you in that.
09:28 Renée: Yes.
09:30 Monique: Yeah. So, what have you witnessed to be some common missteps in particular that young professionals make when it comes time to their personal style?
09:39 Renée: I think common missteps, for sure. People just don’t give it any importance. They don’t think it’s important. They think that they can advance their careers. They think that-- just on merit. They think that “If I work hard, if I do a good job, then I’ll move up.” And that’s just not the case. We see that. I mean, there are other things, of course, right? Your network, your relationships, mentors, all of that. But also, what is important is how you are showing up. How are you communicating the work that you’re doing? How are you being visible? How-- especially in our virtual space, are you opting out by turning your cameras off? Or are you being visible online? Are you showing up in clothing that are great colors, that project well online so that people remember you, so that you’re memorable for the right reasons?
All of those things are important as you are progressing your career, as you’re progressing your personal brand, because your personal brand is always there. It’s always working for you, whether you know it or not, whether you think about it. Your brand is what people know of you when you’re not even there. That’s your reputation, really. And so when you package your brand, just-- let me step back. You control the narrative. You control how you want people to receive you. You control the message that you want to send. And so, since you control that, make it so that-- tell the story that you want to tell. Just tell your story.
10:57 Monique: It’s been interesting is, I heard it said a few years back now that from a company standpoint, that’s a very general statement, not specific to any one organization, but it was like, “Oh yes, as a company, we want new employee. We want you to come and bring your authentic self,” but silently, it was like, “As long as I’m comfortable with your authentic self.”
11:19 Renée: Exactly.
11:20 Monique: Right? That was the message that was then being delivered. So, they’re saying one thing, yet doing another. And yes, there are bits of evidence that there is a shift on that front. And let’s hopefully continue with truly authenticity being a full representation of self. So, to personal style, how does one even begin? Right? You have-- you’re in adulthood, you make choices on your wardrobe. How do you begin to build a professional wardrobe that is reflective of the style you want to convey?
11:52 Renée: I think the first step and how I work with clients is to get really clear about who you are, right? Clarity is so important. Who are you? How do you want to show up? What is important to you? What kinds of words do you want to be associated with you and your brand? Is it that you’re thorough or approachable or authoritative? Whatever it is.
So, I think being really clear on who you are really is that first step, and then understanding also your body and your body shape, what looks great on your body. What looks great on a mannequin may not look great on you because your weight is in a different place. And so the clothing and the fabric won’t lay on you the same way, right? Look at the fabric that you choose, right? Certainly, if you have more curves, then you want fabric that may have a little bit more stretch in it so that it moves with your curves.
So there’s certain things for sure that I work with clients on in terms of what to look for, depending on their body shape, what silhouettes are going to accentuate their assets the best so that they feel confident. They’re not constantly tugging and pulling at, right? So, the first thing is to really think about who you are, how you want to show up, and then be very clear on your body shape and what styles will work best. And I have a free guide as well on my website that people can avail themselves to free – dress in your body shape – that they can get. That’s really helpful.
13:10 Monique: And that’s a really good point just to remind our listeners that at the show notes for today’s episode of TuesdaysWithCoachMo.com/podcast, I’m going to make sure to include all that valuable and rich content, Renée, that you have available for the audience. And so it sounds like you get started with some clarity, right? What I’ve also come to discover is sometimes one’s clarity of who they think they are and what their style is and what their body type may be different than what an outside person, such as an expert stylist like yourself, what you see.
13:46 Renée: Yeah. I think also-- well, that’s tough, right? If you think-- because we see ourselves all the time, right? We serve ourselves. And that sometimes, is when we see pictures of ourselves, we’re like, “Oh my goodness, when did this happen?” But also, maybe I helped client-- I tell clients to look at things that inspire you, maybe look at Pinterest, people whose style you like, people who-- or style icons or movie stars or celebrities that you like and start to curate a board, curate some-- or even a magazine and take pictures of things that you really like and think about what it is about that that you like. Is it the flowiness of it flows on the body? Is it that it’s more tailored? Whatever those things are. And then keep a track of those and then compare that with your current wardrobe. Is it out of alignment? Does what you own in your closet look like what you’ve been curating or is it completely different?
And that’s so key, right? Because over time, we evolve and change and mature and so thus our style. Our style should change and evolve with us. We’re not-- we shouldn’t be stuck in a, “Okay, I am at this type and this is I’m going to be forever.” No. Styles change and we like different things, and our tastes change. And so just to embrace that, right, and be able to move with it and love and honor every stage of life and say, “Okay, I’m no longer a size 6, but I’m a fabulous size 10.” Right?
15:02 Monique: It just prompted the thought in listening to you to say that, Renée, what if someone isn’t really comfortable with a really suggested direction for their style and they are just very conservative, right? Because I imagine, just as I think about investment or investment, financial investment strategies, there’s a certain degree of risk tolerance. And so, even when it comes to your style, like a degree of risk tolerance, like, “Wow, if I do wear that, yes, I will accent how I’m built, my body type. I love the color. I love the feel. It’s representative of where I want to go,” and man, I just think it’s going to be too many eyes on me because it gets too much attention.
16:49 Renée: I always say, our style is an inside job. The way we show up and what we put out in the world starts-- it’s an inside job. So, I do-- even though I’m a stylist, people just may think and speak nice clothes or cute outfits, but we do a lot of work. Right? We spend time-- I spend time with plans to really talking what was limiting beliefs. Why do you think you can’t wear that color? And then what’s wrong if somebody looks at you? So, we do some work. We have-- I go through visualizations. I have women write out what’s the-- how do they see their next level of sales? How do they want to show up? And so we do some work there and really try to challenge those beliefs. Why do you think you can’t wear that? You pick whatever body part you want. “Oh, my ears are too big. I can’t wear that. My knees are too fat. I can’t wear that.” And so, when you think of-- and peel it back. Somebody, when they were a child or some person told them they couldn’t wear that, that’s become their truth and it has followed them throughout their life. And we’re like, well, that’s not true. Right? Who said that’s true?
So, a lot of it starts-- not a lot of it. A lot of it is mental, that it’s an inside job. Right? And we start with challenging those limiting beliefs. And when I work, I’m not forcing clients or pushing clients, but I am challenging them to think about, “Really? What if we try this?” And style confidence, confidence in your style and how you show up. It’s just that confidence in anything. I always say, it starts with the mindset and really believing and believing that you deserve it. You can do it. And then also by action. That’s the second pillar of confidence. And so taking that action to build that confidence muscle can be small steps, but at least you keep trying it, you keep doing it, and then it becomes a part of you.
18:30 Monique: And along those lines, in terms of even test driving a completely different style or something new and different that you may deem risky. As I do with clients on their leadership competencies, when they’re looking to try out a new approach, I’m like, “Okay, how can you create a low-risk case for trying it out” So, as with wardrobe, what was coming up for me as I’m listening to you is, “Why not try wearing that and go to the grocery store, if you’re a church-goer?”
18:56 Renée: Absolutely.
18:58 Monique: Or go to a community meeting. Do you see anything other than-- because if you go into the workplace, it may be too high-risk. If you’re trying something for the first time, you may think it’s too high of a risk in the workplace. So, go try it for just wearing this outfit for a couple of hours and you go to the grocery store church or--
19:15 Renée: Right. And I also did that during the pandemic. When I was working with clients, I’d say, “Hey, it’s a perfect opportunity to put some different outfits together. Try some new looks. You’re at home, you’re working at home. You still want to show up. But try this top with this bottom that you hadn’t thought of putting together. Try-- just try different things.” And then you either create new, fantastic outfits you never thought of, or you can get rid of, or you’ve gotten rid of stuff that no longer serves you. Right? So, I love that. The low-risk is absolutely a great place to start.
19:45 Monique: And so if someone’s committed to take steps toward developing their personal style, what’s an ideal range of key pieces to have in one’s wardrobe? And then I’m thinking, what if you’re on a budget. So, what are your thoughts?
20:02 Renée: Sure. So, a few things. Sometimes you’ll see all these lists in magazines or wherever about the key pieces that you must have. And I just don’t subscribe to that because I think it really varies depending on your lifestyle. You need to build your wardrobe really depending on your lifestyle. How much time do you spend? Are you traveling? I mean, let’s say-- but after, we weren’t able to-- are you traveling a lot for work? Are you a stay-at-home mom? Are you just working from home? Are you an entrepreneur?So, you really have to first think about your lifestyle.
And if we’re talking about professionals, and I think some basic pieces or some key pieces to have, I like a great blazer because even if you’re showing up virtually, even if you just have a t-shirt on, if you throw a blazer on top that elevates your look right away, right? So, blazer. maybe since you’re working from home, it may not be a very structured blazer, but maybe something that has stretch so it moves with you and it’s more comfortable. So, I like the blazer. I like-- something professional. A white button-down shirt, I think, is awesome to have. You can dress that up. You can dress that down, under a dress, under a blazer skirt, endless options for a white button-down shirt.
Tailored black pants, nice fitting black pants that work with your body shape. dark denim. You can dress that up or down, put a blazer on top, work for casual privacy if that’s allowed. What else? Some nice kameez are great layering pieces as well. And then some-- I always like a little shoe that has a pointed toe, whether it’s flats or little pump, because that just makes it a bit more-- that just elevates your look. Whether it’s flat or a pump, a pointed toe is much more elevating that around.
21:38 Monique: The round look that--
21:40 Renée: Yeah.
21:42 Monique: You mentioned the white shirt and I instantly thought like, “Ugh, dreadful.” I am just not a fan of the whole ironing. I’m like, I am such a wash and wear type of person or dry cleaning. And when I think of white shirt, it seems simple in concept, right? A nice quality white shirt. And it could be all over the place. Do you want some with a little spandex?
22:03 Renée: Yeah, exactly. The options are-- there’s so many, right? You have those that have stretch, right? So especially if you have a heavier chest, if you have a heavier chest, you may not want- you can have the one. It’s a stretch because it will stretch over your bust area, but you can also wear a cami under that, or maybe your white shirt, depending on the lifestyle that you and the work that you do. Maybe it’s not a structured white shirt, maybe more of a white blouse, right? And the fabric is loose and that it’s not as structured. So, it’s looser and it moves with you. Still button-down. But that’s how we think about fabric. So, you really want to think about, the key is your lifestyle. How are you spending your time? And then you build your pieces around that.
And then you talk about budget. Important. When you’re building your budget-- sorry, when you’re building your wardrobe and you’re really conscious of your budget, again, think about-- first thing I tell my clients is, shop your closet. Go in your closet. Many of us have tons of stuff in our closets, some great gems that we’ve forgotten about because there’s just so much stuff. Shop your closet and look at what you have.
Make a list. That’s another key point. Make a list of some of the gaps that you have in the closet. Maybe your black pants doesn’t fit as well anymore or your black skirt. So, you need to add that to your list. When you have a list and you’re more deliberate and intentional, and when you go shopping, you’re not distracted by shiny objects where everything looks exciting and you’ve wanted to pick up stuff, right? The idea really for a functional wardrobe is to choose pieces that you can create outfits from, right? It’s not about just picking one-off pieces that you love. It’s about, if you buy it, if you’re thinking of a piece, how many ways can I wear this? And I always recommend clients to have at least three ways, different ways that they can wear a piece. If it doesn’t pass the three-way test, it doesn’t make it to your closet. So, everything needs to earn the right to be there.
So, first, we start in your closet, then we make a list. We understand our body shape because you’re going to buy things that suit you. And then think about the colors that work great for you, especially we’re virtual now and people are showing up more like-- even when we go back to “real life” or in-person events, some of us are already there, but we’re still going to be utilizing the virtual platform, I’m sure, because it’s cheaper and it’s for lots of organizations. So, think about the colors that you wear, how do they brighten your face? And so, those things are key to keep on budget, I’d say.
24:23 Monique: So, that’s where I want to go next in terms of really unpacking how you work in a one-on-one relationship with individuals who come to you before making that pivot. I just have a-- I’m curious. I was a fan, believe it or not, of the good old shoulder pads, not the really big pads, but some shoulder padding. I’ve actually seen some shoulder padding coming back.
24:46 Renée: That’s right. And I love it.
24:48 Monique: Is it? Once again, I’m tall. Right? So, I’m 5’9” and that just helps to, I think, just give more--
24:55 Renée: It gives you more definition. Right? So, if you’re slim especially, it gives you-- it widens our crest sense, so it gives you some shape.
25:01 Monique: And I look at my shoulder pads of suit jackets, I remember in my corporate days and I felt like when I put that on, I was in my-- started to get in my zone for being in my corporate--
25:14 Renée: Yeah. It’s like an armor, our clothing.
25:16 Monique: It really is. Yes. And you wear uniforms for a reason. And I think having-- even if it’s casual, professional, whatever the scope is for you, knowing that those pieces are for work for you in your expertise. I just-- how I’ve been rolling it. I’m glad to hear you say that. Shoulder pads are coming back to a certain degree. And so, take us through how you onboard someone, someone reaches out to you wanting-- how?
25:43 Renée: Sure. Yes. Awesome. So, reach out to me usually will start with an initial call just to understand what they’re looking for, what their needs are. And then I speak about my services and how I could help. If they decide to move along, we start with a style discovery call. So, I send a questionnaire, style questionnaire to my new client, and I ask questions about their style. What are their styles? What do they want it to be? How are they feeling? What do they like to wear, not wear? What colors do they like? All kinds of questions for me to get a good understanding of their style and their goal. Because usually, when they’re coming to me, well, obviously they want to change something. So what do they want to change? How do they want to feel?
So I understand that from their questionnaire. And then we get on a call, a Zoom call. And then I go through the questionnaire with them because writing is one thing. But when we have that conversation, so much more comes out and I really get a good feeling of their personality because your style is not just, okay, what fits your body shape, but it’s also about your personality and how we can use the clothing to really enhance that.
So, I go through the questionnaire, I’m chatting about their style and getting a good understanding of that. And then from our discussion, I’ll put a mood board together. And they can also-- I’ll put a mood board together and I share that with them and we go back and forth. So, it’s really a partnership. We are doing this together. Put a mood board together in what I think would work great. We talk about-- I talk to her about her body shape, bring images of what that would look like when we’re working to attend to her assets in a mood board.
And then when she signs off on and agrees, then I have a virtual platform that all of my clients use, and it’s a virtual closet. So, I’ll go shopping for them and find pieces that support their goals and their lifestyle, put that in their closet. They can also upload pieces that they’d like for me to work with. And then they have the closet and they look. And once they sign off, then I create a lookbook and put all the looks together for them. If they want more corporate, I’ll put it together. And I work in modules where I put certain pieces together so that they can have tons of variety and variability within these modules. And then that’s it. They have their closet. Their lookbook is managed off an app on their phone. So, it’s easy in the mornings to say, “Okay, what can I wear today?” And then a picture is ready and they are good to go.
And then I also complete the service with a PDF, with a summary of all of everything that we covered – their body shape, their style words, and all of that. So, it’s a really supportive relationship that really takes them on a journey on their style, from being confused and overwhelmed to confident and I say killing it, where their style really speaks for them.
28:29 Monique: I love that, confident and killing it. What do you find as some common challenges that your clients-- and I heard you reference “her” a couple of times. Do you work exclusively with females?
28:40 Renée: Mostly females. I’ve started working a little bit with men now because they’ve approached me on LinkedIn, which is fine. But yes, I work mostly with female clients.
28:52 Monique: And so Renée, what are some of the common challenges you find amongst your clients?
29:01 Renée: Usually, people have tons of clothes and nothing to wear. That’s one of the main complaints. They feel overwhelmed. “I have so much clothes, but nothing. I don’t like anything. Nothing fits. Lots of stuff I got from my mother-in-law or my sister, what have you.” And they just cannot put a nice outfit together. That’s a big one, right? Because people, as I mentioned before, people think that, okay, if they have a new opportunity or a new job or a new event, they need to go shop, which before, instead of really thinking about, “Okay, what am I trying to do here? Can I create an outfit?” And when they shop, they’ll buy a one-piece that they like, but it doesn’t go with anything else. So, they have a closet filled with one-pieces, another closet filled with outfits, and that’s a huge difference.
29:46 Monique: It’s interesting because you’re now reminding me of a recent podcast guest on the topic of decluttering and she was talking about so many individuals. In particular, she starts with the closet because people just accumulate and accumulate over years. And it does make me wonder like, “Hmm, I wonder if there’s a framework to how often should you really do a cleanup when you look inside these-- your closet and clothes have been there forever.” And some are just sentimental. Right? “I remember I spent all my first paycheck on that outfit, so I’m keeping it.” But it’s out of style. It doesn’t--
30:24 Renée: But why are you keeping it?
30:25 Monique: Yeah.
30:26 Renée: Why? It no longer serves you. It served you so well then, and you’re so excited about it. But if it doesn’t serve you-- and I say this all the time, our closet is prime real estate. Right? So, everything that’s in the closet really needs to earn the right to be there. It has to pay their dues. Right? It has to have a use. You can’t just have stuff taking up space. No.
30:49 Monique: Yeah. So nice. So, as we’re preparing to draw to a close, I’m interested in just learning from you, one of your clients, like success stories. What was the journey there?
31:00 Renée: Yeah. So, I had a client, she’s an attorney and she’s just opting out, right? She just did not feel herself, did not feel good, and just didn’t want to show up. But then it got to a point where she knew, gosh, she’s starting or she was going to branch off and start her own business. And so she had to show up. And this was even when we were in the middle of COVID. And so, she reached out because she said she wants to feel good again. She wants to get her mojo back. She really wants to feel like her image and when she’s out networking, meeting new clients, that her image really speaks to who she is as a successful attorney.
So, we started the process and we worked together. And I was able to really understand who she was at her core and how she wanted to show up and how she was most comfortable, because when you’re most comfortable, that is when you glow. That’s when you’re in your power, not trying to fit and be someone else. So, I was able to create outfits using what? some of the pieces that she had and that she liked, found new pieces that really gave her some more color, added life, had that spunk, and put it together in, as I’d mentioned before, in her lookbook. And my goodness, she left out a testimony that she just felt so-- like it shows herself again. Right? She got her image back. She was out there networking and out there talking to people, meeting people, and she just felt alive. So, that was really, really so awesome to see that transformation from just opting out to now being a very active participant in her life.
32:35 Monique: Nice. Really nice. What period of time, Renée, do-- is it typical that you’re working with someone from when they first went down to they’re off on their own?
33:44 Renée: It depends on the kid and some of them. When I send things, how long it takes to respond. But I would say maybe a few weeks, maybe three, two, between 2, 3, 4 weeks or so. It’s usually how long it takes. Yeah. Maybe that’s probably three, three to four weeks on average.
33:03 Monique: All right. Well, before we go, and I so appreciate you being here and absolutely going to share with the audience ways to get in touch with you. And if they aren’t already following you on LinkedIn, you just really add fire on LinkedIn. Renée is now on point. She’s doing it.
33:23 Renée: Thank you.
33:27 Monique: So, I have a fun question for you before we close. So, this is the best on-the-spot answer for you, right? And the question is, suppose you were attending a costume party tonight, what or whom would you want to be?
34:48 Renée: Oh my goodness. Who would I want to be? Oprah.
33:54 Monique: Oh, and how would you show up as Oprah at a costume party?
33:56 Renée: I would show up hair, big hair. You’re done. Dressed on a fabulous-- I can see her another way. She accepts hair was enough. Fabulous designer gown, her glasses, just looking fabulous. I love how she’s style into owning her body, owning her shape and wearing pieces that really accentuate her body and makes her feel confident. It’s definitely a fabulous long gown, hair that’s big and out there, classic makeup and--
34:29 Monique: I got to ask, would you have a microphone so you can walk around and interview people?
34:34 Renée: No, I don’t think so. No.
34:38 Monique: Great. All right, Renée, thanks so much for being with us today. I really appreciate it.
35:44 Renée: Thanks, Monique. It was great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
35:47 Monique: My pleasure.