I get by, but I’ve never been a “fashionista”. I just wear what I like and what’s comfortable to me. A fashion risk taker I’m not lol. Meeting Caitlin Alfred at a women in business brunch changed that a bit. Caitlin is the CEO of wardrobe consulting and personal styling company, True You. During her presentation at the brunch, Caitlin gave us all kinds of tips on matching prints, closet must-haves and dressing the part for our business endeavors. But the gem that stood out for me was being bold and fearless with your style. There have been a few times when I wanted to wear two pieces in one look that didn’t fit what some might consider “fashion rules”. What I learned from Caitlin was that at the end of the day we should wear what makes us feel confident and that there really aren’t any rules to fashion. The next time I knew I would see her, I wore one of those statement outfits and shared with her how she had helped me to be bolder with my personal style. I decided to chat with her a bit more about her business, being an entrepreneur and how we can use our personal style to empower ourselves and each other. Check out our girl chat below.
“I think fashion is about suspense and surprise and fantasy. It’s not about rules.” ~Wolfgang Joop
Keyauna: What inspired you to launch True You?
Caitlyn: There were actually three things that inspired me to start a wardrobe consulting and personal styling business — College, Rejection, FEARLESSNESS. True You started as an idea I brought to life for a capstone project I worked on in graduate school. I was so passionate about the project that despite having procrastinated on getting the assignment done, developing the elements needed to satisfy the criteria came super easy. I knew something about this had God written all over it. After finishing grad school, I just knew that I was going to be hired at some fabulous company in New York where I was living at the time, but rejection after rejection after rejection after MORE rejection, nothing landed. I decided to move back home to the DMV area and in a quiet moment with God, I asked, “What am I supposed to do with this rejection?” I clearly heard “I already gave you what you need”. That was True You. Hearing that scared the crap out of me because I didn’t know what He wanted me to do with TY or how I was really going to make money considering it began as a blog/publication that I thought I was going to start. Fearlessness came as an inspiration when I received a bracelet that read ‘Fearless’ as a door prize at a friend’s Women’s Empowerment brunch. Shout out to Taney and the Girlfriend’s Network! Prior to the brunch I’d been brainstorming how to rework the brand to be a bit more lucrative off top, collaborated with a graphic designer to curate a logo and researched website providers. But I wasn’t sure when I was really going to take the leap and get to work. Receiving that bracelet felt to me like another confirmation from God.
Keyauna: Why do you think people choose to use a personal stylist in lieu of shopping for their own wardrobe?
Caitlyn: Most times people seek out personal stylists because they just don’t have the time. We’ve become such a busy society, which to me is awesome because I stay booked – HELLO! 🙂 Having someone else take care of shopping for a special event, weekend getaway, restocking your closet, or being there to offer style advice when you really have no time or frame of reference is awesome.
Keyauna: I’m sure you have worked with some pretty eclectic clients in the past. What was the craziest event or situation you had to style someone for?
Caitlyn: I partnered with a photographer who was working to build her portfolio and wanted to shoot as soon as possible. I agreed to do it, traveled what felt like forever to get to her place, all the while thinking “she never mentioned anything about a budget for wardrobe pulling, designer collaborations, etcetera. I wonder what I’ll have to work with.” Once I arrived I quickly realized that I was going to be putting looks together from the photographer’s closet and none of her garments fit the model. At that moment, though I wasn’t a designer, I understood what Tim Gunn of Project Runway meant by ‘MAKE IT WORK!’
Keyauna: What do you think sets you apart from other stylists?
Caitlyn: I actually don’t like calling myself a stylist. I feel like anyone with an Instagram account, a decent camera, a pinch of passion for the art of fashion, and a desire to tell people what to do can consider themselves a stylist – and they have. The term has become very watered down which is detrimental to the legacy that many fashion leaders left behind. With that said I consider myself a wardrobe consultant. My ultimate goal is to guide Style Stars in connecting who they are as individuals to their wardrobe. Considering style is such a personal thing, I do my best to give style tips and tricks that will make them more comfortable conquering the world through fashion, encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone and embrace their inner fashionista(o), as opposed to simply telling them what to wear. I want them to eventually feel confident enough to shop on their own, envisioning me as the Little Fairy Stylemother on their shoulder reminding them of the things they’ve learned under my tutelage.
Keyauna: What does an average styling service consist of?
Caitlyn: It depends on what the client is looking for, how much involvement they want to have in the experience, how much time they have to put into the experience and their ultimate goals for the experience. We offer five unique services. Four of them are directly related to styling. Virtual Styling is more for the independent fashionista(o). I put together desired looks typically based on an occasion, a theme, or an image utilizing styling programs allowing the client to make online purchases of styled items. Closet Confidential is my favorite. This is where we get to explore what you have in your current wardrobe, assess its functionality and explore ways to keep it current by working with what you’ve got. Lastly, we have the Personal Styling and Personal Shopping experience. The classic styling for special occasions and an in-depth 1-on-1 style therapy session, respectively.
Keyauna: I think there’s this idea that to become a stylist or to get into fashion, formal education is not required. What do you think about that? Do you have formal training?
Caitlyn: LIES! No, formal education isn’t required but I do believe that it is necessary for success. I earned both an undergraduate and graduate degree in fashion related fields of study. There are so many things I learned in school that I don’t think I would have without it. Fashion is way more complex than one would assume. There are things to learn about the inner workings of the industry like it’s vast history, it’s direct correlation to other core subjects like science and math and how it translates into more than just the arts but business and marketing. Formal training is great when it comes to internships and building experience/a network as well. Many companies today require that you be enrolled in someone’s institution or have the ability to receive some kind of credit for your work. I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to give back to the community by teaching a class to elementary school students a fusion of fashion as an art form and fashion as a business. Had I skipped out on the education I received from Virginia Commonwealth University and the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising, I would have shorted my students a chance to learn about a field of study that is often scrutinized.
Keyauna: What’s one thing you know now that you didn’t know before that you would tell the aspiring entrepreneur looking to get into the fashion industry?
Caitlyn: Invest in your craft, your business, your journey NOW, reap the benefits later. We live in such a “If it doesn’t happen for me NOW my life is ruined” and it ruins our ability to grow. As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that you will put forth the time, the money — did I mention TIME! – and you may not get it back right away. Consistency, patience, and perseverance will have you reaping the benefits in due time.
Keyauna: We all go into our line of work to be successful, but a nice bonus is the ability to inspire others. How important is that to you?
Caitlyn: That honestly is how I define success in my business. Yes, a hefty little coin, a bit of recognition and a calendar that keeps us booked is what we all desire as we grow in business but there is something so much more rewarding about seeing my Style Star’s smile. Having conversations with them about how they never would have thought of themselves as fashion forward individuals prior to working with them; hearing them share so confidently how they put the tips and tricks I’ve shared into action – it does my heart so much good.
Keyauna: Share with me a memorable story about a client/styling that tugged at your heartstrings and gave you that “this is why I do what I do” feeling.
Caitlyn: Honestly, every client that I work with gives me that feeling. That satisfaction, that new found happiness, that recognition of their beauty gets me every single time. I go into almost every job nervous about how they’ll react to my advice and my eye for either fashion or makeup. So as soon as they begin to marvel at themselves in the mirror at a look I’ve put together and the “I’ve never seen myself look like this”, “Who is this beauty? I’m going to cry”, “I look so amazing”, “I can’t wait to put this to use” start rolling in, I know for a fact that THIS is why I do what I do.
Keyauna: Name three entrepreneurs or business owners, past or present, that you draw inspiration from?
Caitlyn: Madame C.J. Walker the queen!, June Ambrose my fashion fairy godmother and Angela & Vanessa Simmons. I’ve been obsessed with them since High School.
Keyauna: Tell me something that no one would ever guess about you Caitlin, the entrepreneur.
Caitlyn: My business requires me to connect with others, which I love to do but I am also a bit of an introvert. I’m the type who needs a minute to warm up before I “get going” in a room unless the situation calls for something different.
Keyauna: How can people find you and True Style You on the internet, social media, etc.?
Caitlyn: We are on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube! IG: @Truestyleyou ; @Sincerelycdani; FB: Search True You – Wardrobe Consulting & Personal Styling, Website: Truestyleyou.com