Times might be tight but personal style coach, Kerry Finlay says, whether women are at work or home, presentation counts. However, she tells HELEN PERRY there is an art in buying clothes tailored to the individual.
Fifteen years ago, Kerry Finlay’s husband gifted her a personal styling session on her first Mother’s Day, just months after giving birth to her eldest daughter.
“It was the best gift ever,” she recalls. “It changed the way I saw myself, the way I shopped and spent money and it took the second guessing out of how to build a capsule wardrobe for my lifestyle.”
That was the beginning of a career shift for Kerry.
“I’d previously worked in the cosmetic and fashion industries but that Mother’s Day gift really inspired me. So, 12 years ago, with a two and four-year-old at the time, I trained in Image consultancy and started my own mobile and virtual personal styling business.
As a stay-at-home mum with three daughters, this has meant juggling home commitments with client appointment, a formula this fifth generation Howickian manages ably.
“The majority of my style coaching is on a one-to-one basis but I host workshops for a range of community and commercial organisations. Pre-Covid I was also the
Botany Town Centre stylist.
“Now, I work mostly independently and enjoy collaborating with local businesses, especially women in business.”
Interestingly, Kerry says her affiliation with local boutique, Brave and Be (within Howick village), seems especially fitting – “in the early 1990s my family-owned land in Moore Street for many years and I followed in the tradition of my mother, grandmother and great grandmother by marrying at All Saints Church on the corner of Selwyn Rd.
“It’s great that I am continuing our Howick connection although I do take clients to shop where it best suits them whether that’s a local mall, the high street or even online.”
Kerry adds that there is a lot more to personal styling than just knowing one’s colours.
“In the 70s and 80s having your colours done was huge and while the science behind understanding colour doesn’t change, I approach styling as a whole – flattering colour palettes, understanding dressing for one including shape and building a wardrobe around a client’s lifestyle, personality and budget.”
On an individual basis, Kerry says she may start with a style audit beginning with a personal style consultation before getting stuck into the wardrobe to identify why some items aren’t working and where the gaps are.
“Having a fresh pair of eyes look over a wardrobe can be empowering. Sometimes it’s about being colour stuck, not knowing styles to flatter your shape or not having a clothing range which reflects your stage in life.
“Learning whether to tuck or not tuck, cuff a sleeve, slip on a cami or how to accessorise – these make a difference as to how an outfit looks.
Kerry maintains a key part of personal coaching often lies in helping clients to buy confidently and critically.
“Many stores and their staff don’t have the tools to connect products with shoppers. In the majority of cases helping to advise on colour and style is not part of their expertise and, sometimes, the sale matters more than giving the customer a genuine sales experience.”
Kerry adds that understanding personal style is about selling one’s personal brand.
“How we dress expresses who we are and what we are about; to spend our money where we spend our time. For example, there is no point in a stay-at-home mum splurging in a smart, two- piece suit when she needs easy wash, easy basics, cool sneakers and current accessories.
“But remember not all stylish, and even quality garments, are expensive. Discerning shoppers can work on a limited budget.”
With many people tightening their belts, Kerry says she is intent on making sessions all-encompassing and as cost effective as possible. She adds that more than ever it is a time to be investing in understanding personal style.
Even in a nervous economy, she says women returning to work, or wanting to re-evaluate a long, outdated wardrobe, are seeking advice to better place themselves when it comes to employment opportunities, their current job and, sometimes, just finding themselves again after loss, divorce or a change of lifestyle.
“Buying clothes at any time can be challenging,” she asserts. “In particular, online shopping may prove disastrous for those who don’t know a label and how well it fits them.
Sending clothes back can be costly and inconvenient so we often hide items in the back of the wardrobe thinking we will wear them ‘one day’ but ‘one day’ never comes.
“For some, group workshops are helpful; others benefit from a one-to-one style session but, whatever the case, personal presentation can make a big difference not just when selling your brand but to self-esteem.
“That’s why I’m so passionate about helping clients know themselves better when it comes to personal style, dressing with confidence, shopping with direction and looking their best on the outside while feeling awesome on the inside.”