Picture a dark and stormy night, rain ceaselessly beating down on the roof of a cocktail bar where two ladies have come together to talk over candlelight. No, this isn’t the opening of some Hitchcockian suspense thriller. This was the scene I found myself in with Rachel Levin of Rachel Levin Style to find out about how she parlayed several years of experience with luxury retail into her own entrepreneurial adventure. I’m inspired by sisters who are doin’ it for themselves (can I get a "hell yeah" for the Eurythmics/Aretha Franklin reference?), so I had a ton of questions for Rachel on how she utilizes her expertise as a personal shopper, stylist and image consultant for private clients. Hours of great conversation later, I left more informed (and much drier) than I had arrived.
Rachel and I met up for a second time under sunnier conditions so that she could take me around to some of her local favorites in Williamsburg including Joinery, I.D. and a gorgeous new flagship store for 7115 by Szeki. (On an exciting side note, we’ll be sharing a feature on the designer Szeki in the upcoming weeks!) You can see the photos of our day out below, along with the full interview where Rachel schooled me on her style philosophy. In her own words, “I feel as though there is a special connection between the inner and outer selves. I think that people, in order to achieve their fullest potential, need to honor that relationship.”
In the beginning
I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life managing luxury retail businesses in New York. I have coached and developed management, top performing sales associates, operations teams and dealt with merchandising mix. But when I started my career, I really thought it was so important to get experience with hands-on selling. That’s the backbone. If you are missing that key interaction between the associate, the client and the product, then the magic of everything falls apart. I got my start selling for Saks Fifth Avenue's designer collections when I was in school. When I graduated, my clients were very supportive of me starting my own business. I explored it, but I decided I was more comfortable at the time taking the road more frequently traveled. I was committed to this idea of running big businesses with other people’s money, and I wanted to have that opportunity here in New York. Plus, I had the pleasure of learning from really talented people.
Realizing her passion
When I was in a position as General Manager at Intermix, I was working more hands on with clients. I realized that it gave me this wonderful, euphoric feeling. I loved these clients, I loved knowing about their lives, and I loved solving problems for them that made them so much more confident in themselves. I realized that I wanted to offer my knowledge and services to individual clients and companies at a value so I could be the most accessible. So I left Intermix to start Rachel Levin Style.
Normally someone is seeking out a personal shopper at a time in their life when there’s been a change. Maybe there’s a new job and there’s a new dress code, or they need to separate themselves because they’re at a point in their career where they need to project more authority. It could be someone who has a new baby because so many changes come with that. New moms are my superstars. They’re balancing so much, whether or not they’re working or staying at home. In any case, the thing that’s important is that someone acknowledges that something is going on in their life, and what they usually know is no longer working for them. They’re either feeling that way because of how they feel about themselves or they’re getting feedback from other sources, and they know that they need that leg up to make a change.
It’s a really lovely thing for me to be there to support people in that way. It’s just acknowledging that it’s good to go to people with expertise in areas that aren’t your strongest suit. I think we’re all really interested in our appearance, and what we’re projecting to others. But some people aren’t that confident in their skill set to project what they like or mirror what they like. That’s the perfect person to come to me, and I can help and educate them about how to do that.
It’s all about a process. Some people have the approach of an instantaneous makeover. They’re going to recommend things head to toe, your hair, your nails, your makeup. I’m more holistic in that I need to work with you and understand you more. It’s an evolutionary process. It’s about figuring out where you’re comfortable. But it’s also about educating you about your choices based on the issue you’re coming to me with. We need to build that trust and get there over time.
Room for improvement
One of the most common mistakes that people make is not being consistent with how they’re representing their brand, whether that’s personally or professionally. Part of that includes not consistently finishing outfits with what I call the magical third piece, which could be a jacket, a scarf, an accessory, whatever that may be. And also the grooming, people forget how important that is. Those are the two common threads among most clients, and they have nothing to do with whatever fluctuation is happening in your life, in your career or your body.
Empowering the people
There are so many stylists out there who will say that they’re going to put together this whole photo book of images for a client. Most people think of Alicia Silverstone’s closet in Clueless. But I think it’s more about having that knowledge in your mind. It’s more about a formula that works for you, both personally and professionally depending on your needs. The end goal is that you are able to do it yourself.