MY THOUGHTS ON H&M AND REVOLVE

First off, for context, I'll quote directly from a piece written by my business partner Brittanny Taylor for The Branding Edit blog, entitled "When Brands Have The Responsibility to Do Better"

"There has been a lot of press this week surrounding clothing brands and their lack of diversity to flat out racist imagery. One of the stories is of online store Revolve. They often send a group of influencers on trips so they can blog and share content from their adventures. They are currently in Thailand with a group of influencers, the majority are white, some are Asian, and they are all straight-sized. As of me writing this post, in the last 120 images, Revolve has posted on their Instagram account, only two of the photos feature a black woman. TWO. Black and brown faces are increasingly forgotten in marketing for clothing companies. But, H&M has a little black boy on their European website! Oh wait, he’s wearing a sweatshirt that says “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle”… I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain the long, horrible history of comparing black people to animals and especially monkeys." 

We have the tendency to hold world leaders, celebrities and media outlets accountable for what they say and do, but brands, designers and retailers - we get kind of hesitant. Maybe even complacent. Sometimes reactionary because there was a racial/sexist controversy around their products at some point, and we made the decision not to invest in them anymore, then a year later, we give them the benefit of the doubt (they must have learned from their last offense) and send them our hard-earned, budgeted dollars on their merry way (once again) because we gotta have that dress. 

My family has purchased and worn items from H&M - we have given them our hard-earned, budgeted dollars for clothing we liked. As a personal shopper, I have purchased items from H&M for clients who are professionals/business owners with very limited funds to spare on their wardrobe. My style is also different than most of my clients. I love to wear vintage and to look for luxury, second-hand items; and occasionally will purchase pieces made by emerging/up-and-coming designers and retail brands. However, not everyone likes vintage or second-hand clothing. Not everyone likes fast fashion either but H&M and other retail companies alike present a relief in terms of shopping trends on a budget. 

I am sure most women I work with would love to be able to invest in high quality, stylish and consciously made clothing but not every designer/brand caters to the variety of body types and the variety of style preferences. And most certainly, not everyone caters to the woman who may be living paycheck to paycheck or working on squirreling away to pay off student loans or start a business or whatever it is that will bring her one step closer to living a more fulfilled life. Not everyone can afford to invest in consciously made products. And please know that I am only speaking from both personal and working experiences. 

So as a West-African immigrant mother of a beautiful brown boy AND a personal stylist, when links to the H&M ad popped up in a group text and on my social media feed, I felt once again frustrated by the ways of our current world. Then one day later, the Revolve controversy followed. 

The lack of diversity, representation and inclusivity of voices & bodies has been an ongoing conversation in my DMs, in group text, at coffee meetings. This is nothing new from our side. Our side meaning - the creators of color, bloggers of color, stylists of color, writers of color, models of color, entrepreneurs of color...women of color. period.

And because of that, from time to time now, I do an Instagram following filter. I go through the feeds of brands and designers I follow, and if all I see is them feature and promote mostly one particular body type (size 2) and one particular skin color (white) - I happily hit the Unfollow button and unsubscribe from their newsletters. I cannot relate to that ONE-way of looking at the world, at WOMEN in particular. Exactly why I stopped following Revolve about two years ago. If there is one thing I can control from my phone is what I want to consume from my social media feeds. 

As a stylist, my work is to primarily encourage women to love themselves more, love their bodies more, dress for who they are and where they are going, to feel ready to take risks and see their personal style as strength and their way to self-expression. I, myself, love to follow brands that empower women and girls to do the same; brands that celebrate and promote ALL WOMEN. ALL BODIES.  FROM ALL CULTURES. ALL RELIGIONS. ALL SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS. WITH ALL VARIOUS STORIES and BACKGROUNDS. 

This is 2018! If not now, when? And maybe you're reading this and you're thinking, "that's always been the fashion industry, Olivia. It's not going to change overnight." And believe me, I am aware of it. Affecting social change takes a while. But I no longer want to sit by the sidelines wishing how things could be different for us women of color.

To the H&M and Revolve executives of the world, please do me an outrageous (insert eye roll here) favor, aim to be leaders in CHANGE and challenge the status quo within instead. And perhaps try hiring people that don't look like you, speak like you, walk like you once in a while. 

From the time being, thanks for helping me reclaim my time, along with my hard-earned budgeted dollars AND the hard-earned budgeted dollars of my clients. 

Summer Sales to Shop Now

Right now is a magical time. And by magical time – I mean this is the perfect time to shop your favorite styles and start squirreling away for the fall season. 

With that said, I mean it when I say – do not fall into the temptation of the beautiful Fall collections you’re about to see drop. Have you seen Zara’s yet?! If you haven’t, stay awaaaayyy. Gah. My team and I took a peek…uh…for inspiration of course (gulp) and I can tell you that the vibrant autumn colors, the shapes, the dresses, the boots are bound to make you melt – not of heat – but of envy. Which can quickly turn into “Hell! I’m just gonna buy it!”.... and then you see the waiting lists, oy.

I tell you – it’s madness out there and you don’t have to participate in it…yet. Hear me out.
 
Summer sales are happening pretty much everywhere (I’m sure your inbox is being bombarded right now as we speak which can be quite overwhelming), so my shopping advice is simple:
 
Look for items that you can wear for the rest of the summer and that will easily transition into the fall season. For instance, if you see a dress or a jumpsuit that fancies your little heart, can you envision it with boots and a cool leather jacket/blazer, or could you wear it over a button-down blouse or a light turtleneck sweater. And if your wallet allows it, stock up on closet essentials like plain tees, shirts and jeans.  
 
Also a lot of these online shops still have a sales section for last year’s inventory – as a matter of fact, that category may just be final sales because they are looking to rid off these items. 

Never let the Outerwear/Knitwear/Boots sale sections go unbrowsed…it’s a gold mine! Just make sure you feel good about the sizing and that you do love what you’re buying and actually plan to wear it, because final sale is…well…final. 
 
So I thought we’d give you a head start - Check out the links to these amazing sales below and start building that Fall wardrobe with intention, darling!

1. Striped Apron Dress:  Thomas Mason for J. Crew  2. Pom Pom Hem Straight Leg Jeans:  Topshop  3. Satin Mules:  Sam Edelman  4. Zipped Biker Jacket:  Mango  5. Infinity Crystal Earrings:  Anthropologie  6. Knot Tie Slinky Midi Dress:  Topshop  7. Ruffle Jumpsuit:  Need Supply   Also check out these other amazing sales going on now:    Need Supply  - up to 70% off  Loft  - Extra 50% off sale items  Zara  - Starting at 50% off  Anthropologie  - Extra 40% off sale items  J. Crew  - Extra 40% off sale items ; 50% off final sale items  Ann Taylor  - Semi Annual Sale;  up to 70% off  Mango  - from 50 - 70% off everything  Topshop  - 50% off  Aldo Shoes  - 50% off shoes and hand bags  GAP  - up to 50% off everything

1. Striped Apron Dress: Thomas Mason for J. Crew
2. Pom Pom Hem Straight Leg Jeans: Topshop
3. Satin Mules: Sam Edelman
4. Zipped Biker Jacket: Mango
5. Infinity Crystal Earrings: Anthropologie
6. Knot Tie Slinky Midi Dress: Topshop
7. Ruffle Jumpsuit: Need Supply

Also check out these other amazing sales going on now: 

Need Supply - up to 70% off
Loft - Extra 50% off sale items
Zara - Starting at 50% off
Anthropologie - Extra 40% off sale items
J. Crew - Extra 40% off sale items ; 50% off final sale items
Ann Taylor - Semi Annual Sale;  up to 70% off
Mango - from 50 - 70% off everything
Topshop - 50% off
Aldo Shoes - 50% off shoes and hand bags
GAP - up to 50% off everything

The Lady Project 2017 Summer Gift Guide

The Lady Project 2017 Summer Gift Guide is out and I am happy to be able to finally share photos from the editorial photoshoot. 

The Lady Project is an economic development non profit and membership organization that connects, inspires and showcases awesome women doing amazing things through membership, events and community engagement. The organization publishes an online gift guide twice a year, that features a wide variety of products and articles submitted by its very own members. 

This is my fourth year contributing to the guide as the editorial stylist; working alongside photographer and LP staff member Brittanny Taylor

Credits for this photoshoot go to Brittanny Taylor (Photography), Simony Resende (Hair and Makeup), Anthropologie Rhode Island (retail partner), and our models, Mia Rose Andreoli, Stephanie Gonzalez, Catherine Kwolek and Colleen Rossignol.

My Summer Essentials Pt. 1

It's hard to believe it's finally warm and sunny. I was almost afraid that spring showers were going to turn into summer showers and then fall weather in August...oh God no! 

I am one to unapologetically self-describe as "tropical at heart". I love sunny/ breezy/ warm/ hot days - even if it means that I have to carry 11 deodorants, 5 facial mists, 1000 blotting papers in my handbag. 

The occasional makeup melting doesn't bother me so much - it's the wet armpits that can be quite the style conundrum. Other than that, I am the happiest of souls in the summer.

To celebrate summertime, I poured my heart into bringing you our most stylish, most lively Summer Essentials Pt.1. 

Let it be your inspiration for all your enjoyable outdoorsy plans, whether it's lounging by the pool, or having lunch al fresco, or traveling to Greece...or all of the above! 

Cheers, 

~ Olivia

Coconuts Swimsuit:  Express  Rectangle Necklace:  Jessica Ricci  Slides:  Charlotte Stone  Drop Earrings:  Anthropologie   Flamingo Clutch:  Kent Stetson  Sandals:  Bernardo  Cat Eye Sunglasses:  Derek Lam  Straw Visor:  Athleta  Hoop Earrings:  Ann Taylor  Halter Swimsuit:  Mikoh

Coconuts Swimsuit: Express
Rectangle Necklace: Jessica Ricci
Slides: Charlotte Stone
Drop Earrings: Anthropologie 
Flamingo Clutch: Kent Stetson
Sandals: Bernardo
Cat Eye Sunglasses: Derek Lam
Straw Visor: Athleta
Hoop Earrings: Ann Taylor
Halter Swimsuit: Mikoh

Five Ways to Style A Bomber Jacket

My newest Youtube video featured the floral bomber jacket from the Who What Wear Collection, and jewelry from Above/Below

Video production by Brittanny Taylor

She So Stylish Feature: Romina Ramos Doing Meaningful Work Abroad In Style

There are many, many women out there doing important work in various places of the world, and most of the time they're out of the spotlight because 1. They prefer to remain free of outside validation of their purpose and their life choices, and 2. Capturing every second of their lives on social media (to show how amazing their lives are) isn't simply their thing. The fact that they alone know it to be true is the only authenticity they want/need.  

These women are freelancers, advocates, ambassadors...they are underground leaders making environmental impact one healthy turtle at a time, and are doing all of that while creating their own narratives. I mean...how inspirational, right! 

Last December I had a wonderful time working with one of these smart + driven women, Romina, as her personal shopper + stylist. If you're a frequent visitor of my blog, you may have noticed that sharing my client's stories is one of my favorite things to do. And this one is definitely worth reading...

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Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your work with turtles and the organization?

I work with endangered leatherback sea turtles in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. This year marks my third season with the project team at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. I patrol a beautiful beach from evening to sunrise to collect scientific data from nesting female turtles. The work is intensive and fun if you like wildlife and aesthetic views. 

Q: What prompted your desire to work abroad? 

Since middle school, I've had an obsession with maps. My favorite class was geography and I told myself that I would discover other countries one day, because I wanted to see how different cultures live day by day. Being American and growing up in a Cabo-Verdean household, I'm naturally drawn to the island life, natural foods, sleepy towns, and beaches.

Q: When you came to me, you were very intentional and decisive about where your personal style was going, can you talk about your style evolution and why this was important to you?

In St. Croix, I travel and work outdoors so a lot of my clothes are basic jeans, shorts and tees with a few nice pieces for outings. Because I'm active, I look younger than my actual age. I was particular about upgrading my wardrobe because I wanted to learn how to dress for my age and body type. There's a different response you get from people when you are and look 26 as opposed to when you look 18. I'm at a time in my life where I'm building on my ideas and networking, so investing in a fresh, new wardrobe seemed right. 

The right outfit for me has to say outgoing and authentic because I'm very grounded to my roots. I'm surrounded by tropical plants, fruit trees, farm animals, and the ocean, very similar to Cabo-Verde (where my family is from). I realized that's where I'm the most happy. For my style evolution, I wanted to play with ocean and desert colors because I'm very attracted to those environments where I live and work in. It's amazing how adding a few essentials such as dressy pants, cute blouses, simple and elegant dresses and jumpsuits can really transform how you feel and carry yourself. 

When I returned to the U.S. for the holidays, I had a budget in mind and knew I needed to stock up on basics and invest in pieces to last me all year long. It made sense to work with you because 1. I needed styling expertise, and 2. My one-week stay was going to be limiting and it was crucial for me to spend most of this precious time with my Rhode Island family, rather than in stores.

Q: What do you like about your wardrobe now? 

It's speaks feminine and maturity! 

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in StCroix on your off time? Your favorite food?

My favorite thing to do in St. Croix is to snorkel with my GoPro Hero4. My favorite food on the island are mangoes. I live on a lush property surrounded by the best mango trees in the west side of the island. 

Q. Do you have any advice for the nomad life seeker out there on where to begin? How to make the leap?

Always be kind to yourself and to others in all situations. Being kind and respectful pays off (especially if you are traveling). You learn to appreciate more and you will receive more. I made the leap when I quit my job, applied abroad again, and traveled on a tight budget for 8 months before I returned to St. Croix. I didn't know where I was headed, but that was okay for me because I felt confident, and I attracted this life that I am living now.  I've gone through so many challenges that I know myself a lot better now and I love that. Be fearless or else you will limit yourself.

She So Stylish: Patsy Culp, Founder & Experience Designer of And Celebrate

A few weeks ago I wrote a mini-post, a.k.a long caption, on my Instagram feed to accompany a photo of friend and client, Patsy Culp, and it read...

"One of my favorite times to work with clients is when they're in the middle of a branding/re-branding phase. There is excitement;  positive emotions are running high {They have nailed down their color palettes for their website and marketing with the graphic designer...Everything is in motion etc}. Often all of that preliminary work leads clients to ask themselves an even greater, deeper question: "How does my personal style represent my business brand and new direction?" Which makes total sense, right! Because authenticity, alignment, and cohesiveness do matter across all the various parts of this phase. What's even more fun is clients generally have a pretty good idea of what they are leaving behind, and are fully ready to refine the role of best brand ambassador for their business. I mean...that is who they are at the end of the day. It is a transformative phase and I get to play a teeny tiny role in making sure that the vision materializes as a whole. Projects such as this one with friend + client Patsy Culp, and @brittanny made me feel excited about @andcelebrate's next chapter. This shot is one of my favorites from our photoshoot back in August. It conveys how I want to wake up and feel every morning, and every day...Laughing and celebrating like Ms. Patsy Culp."

And I meant every word, especially the last sentence!  This entrepreneur talks the talk and walks the walk. Her business And Celebrate helps entrepreneurs create meaning and impact through extraordinary event experiences. Patsy also encourages daily celebrations of family + friends, big milestones, as well as small accomplishments (such as devoting time for self-care/wellness or hobby)! And because i've known Patsy for a few years now, i can tell you that the latter is always the hardest thing to recognize and celebrate, because it forces me to be in the present, and not only to be okay with the Now, but celebrate what Now is currently offering.

I mean...What a gem of an entrepreneur, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with her on her personal style and be part of her re-branding process. 

And Celebrate's website re-launch will happen very soon...In the meantime, check out some of my favorite pictures from Patsy's photoshoot with photographer Brittanny Taylor.

How to Nail Your Next Professional Headshot

When Business Coach, Personal Stylist, and Creator of the popular “How to Double Your Instagram Following” webinar, Hilary Rushford complimented me on my IG profile pic for its hard-to-miss pops of color (seen below), I knew I had found my formula.

{This shot was taken outside against a bright wall, which provided the perfect setting and the most appropriate backdrop color for my yellow mustard jacket, given that spring had just begun.} 

As a stylist and an entrepreneur, I want to make a powerful first impression, and it’s essential for my business and my brand that my professional headshot reflects my individual creativity and expertise in the art of styling.  Therefore the traditional approach to professional headshots doesn’t work for me because of the industry I am in. 

I also understand that not everyone is a fashion blogger, and generally, most professional headshots happen inside a studio or a small booth.  So fear not! You too can find your formula.  Here's a list of things you can do to ensure that your new headshots reflect the professional rockstar that you are.

Focus on what has always worked well for you

Your professional headshot is your opportunity to stand out and simply be you. Please do not tone it down.  That being said, it’s also wise not to try something extremely new or trendy.

Yes, it’s essential that you look professional. And yes, you want your LinkedIn profile to look flawless and be an attention-grabber to potential clients/employers, absolutely – two more very good reasons why it’s important to let your personal style radiate.

  • If you’ve always loved how red, or purple, or prints look on you – why the hell not! Do it by pairing your bold piece with a neutral color piece for good balance.
  • If statement necklaces make your heart go boom – yes, yes, yes! (Always keep in mind that balance is your friend; meaning one statement piece at a time will go a long way). 
  • Are you a vintage curator? You have an amazing pair of funky glasses that showcase your authentic personality? Darling, go for it.
  • Or … Are black, white, and grey practically your wardrobe mantra? Opting for a sleek, minimalist outfit works fine too! Perhaps you can add your favorite watch for added elegance and/or apply a soft pop of color on the lips.

Really the key is to focus on details, and not necessarily big items.  Also, remember that your top half will be the main focus because … well, your gorgeous face is what the photographer is looking to capture!

However, just because the camera focus is on your top half doesn’t mean that bottom half will get zero attention.

Your entire look should be cohesive from your hair to your shoes, because 1.) Your bottom piece or some part of it will most likely get captured at some point during close-ups, so you want to make sure it is a piece that complements the overall vibe you’re going for. 2.) Your photographer might have props on hand for full shots.

Let’s imagine for instance that you are wearing a blazer over a tunic blouse, and opted for black leggings and very comfortable pair of flats you like to wear everywhere. During your session, the photographer pulls a high chair for you to sit down (as props often help expand the options for poses and shots), so you sitting on the high chair could add elements of elegance, fierceness, and approachability. Unfortunately the leggings and super, extra comfy shoes you wore do just the opposite and might even appear a little too laid back.

Seriously … You want to love these photos and feel great when you upload them into your social media profiles, and feature them on your About page.  So give it your all and play big!

Selfie yourself up to find your unique angle(s)

Selfies have sort of gotten a bad rep, but if it weren’t for selfies, I wouldn’t have realized that the way my hair was parted would determine the angle to position myself in for a good shot. Although most of my work as a wardrobe stylist happens behind the camera, as a blogger, the lens gets turned back on me many times. And because the goddesses didn’t bless me with Kate Moss’ heavenly symmetrical face, I practiced within the (thankfully) private walls of my home quite a few times … shamelessly.

Here’s my rationale: if I am going to pay for professional photos, it matters to me that I learn my unique angles and beautiful imperfections. That way the latter will get minimum to zero camera attention.  

I can tell you that once you’ve practiced how to position your face, and which direction to move your chin towards, your posture and stand will be more assertive and will emanate an air of confidence. You won’t have to worry about how you look or all the crazy, self-doubt things we constantly tell ourselves about our bodies.

Inquire about the backdrop and color options with the photographer beforehand

This step won’t hurt your PH preparation at all. In fact you will get a better idea knowing exactly what your outfits are up against.  For example, a stark white backdrop can backfire when you show up wearing an off-white top or a pretty little white dress. Blending in is certainly not what we’re going for.

Finding out those details is certainly easier if you’ve secured the service directly with the photographer and the shoot is happening in their studio.  However, if you are going to a conference and there will be a booth for attendees to have their professional headshots taken, you may simply email them and inquire about that.

You never know; your questions might not be something they thought of, and if they want their conference guests to have an amazing experience, they might share that info including a few great tips on “How to nail your professional headshot at (Insert Name) Conference” in a mass email weeks before the big event. 

What to avoid ( because they tend to conceal or downplay rather than enhance the look) :

  • Scarves
  • Hats
  • Jean Jackets/cargo jackets { Better alternative: fitted blazer, cardigan }
  • Turtlenecks
  • Low necklines
  • Oversized sweaters
  • Tank tops
  • Neon and pastel colors can distract or look harsh
  • Clothes that appear wrinkled

And one final thought and this one’s the most important … Remember to relax and have fun! 

Photography credit: Brittanny Taylor 

Bloggers Collabo: Styling Holly Vine of Holly Likes to Cook

Back in June I had the opportunity to collaborate with Food + Lifestyle blogger, Holly Vine, for a Maternity style post over at Holly Likes to Cook.

Holly and I met at an event hosted by The PVD Lady Project last year and we've been friends since. So when she presented the idea of chatting maternity style on her blog back in the spring and incorporating a photo shoot with friend and photographer, Brittanny Taylor, of course I was going to say Yes. 

It was a lot of fun talking easy, breezy outfits for a summer pregnancy with her. I invite you to check out the blog post here, and if you enjoy making delicious dishes at home and doing chic DIY home projects, definitely subscribe to her newsletter. 

Or if, like me, you have the tendency to melt over adorable photos of babies, I not only invite you, but I urge you to follow her on Instagram. Holly and her husband welcomed two beautiful twin boys last month. Seriously - adorability galore!

Photography: Brittanny Taylor

King Congdon: Luxurious Home In The Heart of Providence, Rhode Island

I had the opportunity to collaborate with business BFFs, Patsy Culp (Event Stylist), and Brittanny Taylor (photographer) on a lifestyle photoshoot inside a gorgeous home, located in the heart of Providence.

Named King Congdon (as identified by its geotag...I mean the house is worth $2.8 million), the house will make you feel emotions...as it should! The breathtaking view of Providence can be seen from the living room to the master bedroom to the in-ground pool, leading down to the steep backyard area. A modern fairy-tale-induced experience from a house de luxe that is audaciously, and yet secretly nesting right on one of the hills of our Creative Capital.

Credits:  Brittanny Taylor Photography | Hair:  Jeannine Calia | Makeup: Sydney Tessaglia | Set Stylist: Patsy Culp | Wardrobe Stylist: Olivia Rodrigues | Retail partners: Feminine Fancies, Lumiere Boutique | Designer partner: Kent Stetson

 

Planning and working on photoshoots are a fun aspect of my business...actually better than fun ...ecstatic aspect of my work! They require a lot of attention, patience, a ton of energy, and most of all great detailed, and organizational skills, above all the passion and creative expertise. And I love it!

They always begin with a vision, and slowly unfold, taking various forms (some anticipated, and others not so anticipated) and the result feels magical! It takes the fusion of different talents and great team chemistry to create magic, and every time it happens I am fulfilled and humbled to have been a part of it. 

Outfit Details

Photo #1:  (in the hallway): She/"Queen Congdon" is wearing a knit sweater from Feminine Fancies over black denim for the laid-back look. 

Photo #3 (in the backyard): She is wearing a fitted button-down shirt tucked in a floral hi-lo puffy skirt from Feminine Fancies with SJP pumps for the formal look. The gold earrings and bracelet are from Feminine Fancies.

Photo #7 (by the pool): She is wearing a two piece-set and feather sandals from Lumiere Boutique; the white clutch is from Kent Stetson (view it here).

Photo #10 (terrace with the guitar): She is wearing a black and white off-shoulder dress and beaded bracelets from Feminine Fancies. 

Photo #14 (stairway): For cocktail hour, Queen Congdon is wearing a sheer black blouse tucked under a pair of structured culottes (both from Lumiere Boutique), accessorized with a Kent Stetson handbag (view it here) and black pumps.