As a woman with a platform and a mission to help expand other womxn through our unique stories and gifts (and as a woman who worked in the fashion industry for most of her career) I’ve been feeling lately that this is an area that feels ripe for a reframe.
What if clothes could be a way we loved ourselves harder each day?
A way that we leaned into and embodied ourselves as a brand?
A tool in our toolkit for attracting the humans we want to spend our precious time with <clients, lovers, friends>?
Whether she is working with six-figure female biz owners to bring their brands to life in their style or giving Lauryn Hill the shirt off her back while styling her concert tour (that’s a true story), Jenni Lee helps her clients to use fashion as a way to be truly seen for who they are.
Read on for our interview, where we delve deep into “why clothes,?” what they can do for your confidence, magnetism, self love, and business, and ways that you can support fashion brands that are making a difference.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a fashion stylist and specifically, working with powerful female entrepreneurs.
The constant thread in my whole life has been clothes and using clothes as a way to survive and to thrive. Everybody has to get dressed, but not everyone has used clothes to attract what they want into their life. To enhance the you-ness they’re putting out into the world.
Fashion has always given me the strength to be myself in any situation. I remember when I was starting out and assisting, having to go into stores like Gucci and Prada that I felt so uncomfortable in and would never step foot in to shop for myself. I’d show up, this punk rock girl in ripped-up denim overalls, and it felt like my armor. I was saying, “I’m my own person, I don’t wear your clothes, I’m just here to get them for Halle Berry.”
For years I worked with private clients, most of them in the celebrity world, and was a fashion director for a magazine, did costume design for movies, you name it. And then I started working with a client who was a life coach, and it changed everything. She went from a high school math teacher to a millionaire life coach, and had all of this magic that was not expressed in how was getting dressed each day. She has a lot of old, patriarchal ideas about dressing that were passed down from her mother around how she needed to be showing up professionally, and she was really trapped in that. Working together and watching her transformation unfold around how she could express herself through clothes, as she was becoming more and more successful, was really expansive for both of us. She kept saying, “You need to do this for more people.” And my partner was telling me simultaneously, “I think you need to find more clients like her because you’re coming home really happy.”
I’ve been full steam ahead with this new work during the pandemic, and it’s been a major journey of learning to be the one out in front for my own business, instead of always being behind the scenes as I’ve been used to my whole career. And now I’m owning helping women who run their own businesses to unlock their style and really experience what style and fashion can do for them, in their careers and in their lives.
Fashion can be a challenging concept to embrace for many (cue me wanting to reclaim fashion after working in the industry for so many years). How can we begin to reframe this and reclaim the positive power of fashion and dressing?
That’s easy… I believe in the power of clothes. Think of it this way – you have to get dressed and put on clothes in some form every day. And it is the perfect opportunity for self care, for ritual, for self love, and for creativity. This perfect little bundle that you get to experience daily, and you get to decide how it will affect the rest of your day. You get to decide how to honor yourself by choosing things to put on your body that light you up and make you feel amazing.
And that doesn’t mean you have to be putting on fancy things – you could wear a vintage ratty cardigan from that one night stand in college that makes you remember being wild and free, or your grandmother’s favorite dress. But it’s that moment of being thoughtful and intentional about how you’re showing up wherever you’re going. Honoring yourself that day. Feeling real love towards yourself in your clothes, and using them as a tool to make your day just a little bit more exciting, brighter, and better. Or even just giving yourself the strength to get through that hour, that morning, that day.
How is fashion such an important tool in your toolkit as a business owner aka a brand?
Especially as womxn, we get trained to believe that we need to dress a certain way to be taken seriously in business. So often we haven’t had the space or freedom to allow ourselves to experience fashion in a creative, juicy way. The other narrative I so often see is that embracing fashion is vain or superficial. That you need to invest in A, B, and C for your biz, get the high ticket business coach, over more clothes. “My clothes are perfectly fine as they are,” I hear a lot.
But the question I have is, “Are your clothes growing with you? Are they reflecting who you want to become? Are they helping you to level up?” As forward-facing entrepreneurs, you get to think about the humans you’re getting in front of that day. Who’s looking at you, and who do you want to attract? What you’re wearing, the energy that this projects, is a tool that helps to convey who you are and who you want to draw towards you. That could be clients, speaking opportunities, a romantic partner, friends. The clothes you wear are literally your words before you open your mouth to use words.
Fashion is also a place where some of our hidden blocks and limiting beliefs can show up. A place where we may be living small. I hear my clients tell me so often that our work together goes so much deeper than they expected. They decide to finally stop waiting. Waiting to explore their style until they get to a certain size. Waiting in limbo there. Holding onto clothes in their closet for when “they lose 10 lbs.” It’s an opportunity for you to make physical and emotional space for the things that you love and that fit your life. Fashion really can help us to love ourselves and our bodies even more, and the confidence you get from that is incredible.
I think/feel/talk a lot about the concept of Expression (I even named my new group program Expressed!), and I love that we can use our style to express ourselves more deeply. What’s a good starting point for someone who is looking to start their style journey?
Something that I always advise, especially for younger womxn or womxn new to their style journey, is to make time on their calendar to go to a higher end department store like Bloomingdales or Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue. Do not bring your credit cards or money, and throw on some basic black clothes. You can have fun with it – make it an assignment to go back weekly or monthly and visit different departments. Use your time to try on clothes that are not what you would normally wear. Different items, cuts, personas. Don’t be afraid to try on more expensive items. Yes, you may feel uncomfortable and nervous at times during this exercise. But if you don’t try it, you won’t have the chance to really see how you feel in all of these different types of clothes.
Anything that feels amazing, snap a picture of yourself in it and of the tag so you have the details. And remember that sizes don’t matter at all – they’re just a guide to help you understand that particular designer. If there’s something that you really love, sign up for the brand’s newsletter. Check out resale sites later. See if the designer does sample sales. Follow the brand on Instagram – you can even start a separate IG account that you curate with your favorite styles and brands and fashion inspo. Like an Instagram magazine all for you. You’ll see what you gravitate to and start to shop that way.
How we can leverage fashion to vote with our dollar and support causes we care about (thinking sustainable, female-owned, etc)?
Admittedly, this is going to require a bit more research on your end but it is so very worth it. You get to put your dollars where your values are.
Spend some time researching on Instagram, ask your local boutiques about the designers they carry. If you desire to be conscious about what you’re bringing into your closet, say to yourself, “next time I buy a pair of jeans, they’re going to meet X criteria.” Then follow the brands you like that meet that, join the brand’s newsletter, take advantage of that intro promo, wait for a sale. Then go for it. Here are a few great brands to start with…
Vision Quest – Gorgeous shoes made out of leftover scraps of leathers. They are limited run and funky, and not only sustainably made but also owned by an Asian American woman.
Mara Hoffman – This female-owned NYC-based brand has been moving towards being more eco-friendly since 2015 and is a leader in the space.
Vetta Capsule – They primarily use Tencel (made from sustainably harvested wood pulp that’s processed in a closed looped system that recycles solvents), Organic Cotton, and deadstock fabric (leftover fabric that is saved from the landfill and given a new life).
Rachel Comey – If you want to put your dollars towards a brand that cares about animal rights, Rachel only sources textiles from animals that have died from natural causes.
Sezane – ¾ of their materials are eco-friendly, four of their lines are 100% eco-friendly, and more than 13k pieces have been recycled to date.