Traveling to The Ivory Coast (La Côte d'Ivoire)

I am going back home. In exactly three days, I will be hopping on a plane with my sister Laurinda and will be headed to Abidjan, Ivory Coast - my birth place. This trip has been long overdue. But they say, everything has its timing and I believe it to be unequivocally true. For years, I kept telling myself to wait until things would align correctly { business, lifestyle, finances etc…} - it’s as if I was waiting to have all these things figured out to give myself permission. It’s safe to say that some things I’ve figured out in my 20s + early 30s. And those things weren’t even on the list of things to figure out - and yet they’ve brought me here to this point. And where I stand now, it has never been more clear that the choice I am making today might just expand my world in ways I cannot even begin to comprehend.

When I am asked if this is a vacation, I feel a pang in my heart because going back home shouldn’t be considered a vacation nor a luxury, it should be the norm. I want it to be the norm for me. I want it to be the norm for my family. How can something be the norm or a way of life if a concerted effort or choice to make it be that way isn’t acted on? Same goes with a dream idea - nothing will move in that direction if small formative steps aren’t taken to make it flourish.

Does this all make sense? It made sense to me. Most importantly it made sense to my loving husband + partner. His support of the vision (since day one) and perspectives on success and the long game have served as daily reminders and propellers for adapting a risk-taking attitude with patience. I couldn’t be more proud and thankful for the life he and I are slowly building together for our family. Lastly, this made sense to my support system, my tribe + The Branding Edit team.

 So as I travel to re-acquaint with and ground parts of myself, revive old friendships and create new + meaningful connections, I hope to share my experiences in a visual format that is thoughtful and in alignment with my truth, my story and my creativity, while taking in account the truths and stories of the people I will be with as well. This might be a #StyleStop #globaledition in the making…It’s an exciting time and I sincerely hope that you stick around (If you're new to my blog/website (first off, welcome!), you can follow me on Instagram and see what I'm up to). 

Cheers! 

~ Olivia

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. 

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

Style Stop with Maison DNA - Interview Recap

Jesse Stuckey and Beth Loomis are the brains behind Maison DNA, a vintage boutique located in Newport. Last month they welcomed me into their treasure-filled world and answered a few questions for our Style Stop FB live Interview. 

Watch the video here or read our recap below!

What surprises people the most when they visit the shop for the first time? 

What surprises people most upon visiting the shop for the first time is our unique atmosphere. Our historic building, eclectic decor and curated clothing collection all work seamlessly together to make for a magical shopping experience. First time visitors and regulars alike love that everything in our store has its own personality, energy and story. From the clothes, to the decor, right down to our price tags, everything we do and carry has a sense of intention, purpose, uniqueness and fun attached to it.

How do you decide that an item is worthy to grace the racks of Maison DNA? 

The process for deciding whether or not to carry a specific item on our racks starts with the surprisingly simple question of "Do we love it?" It may seem unorthodox but instead of carrying inventory that we think people will like, or based on trend, we purposefully do the opposite. Instead, our philosophy is to carry product that inspires and excites us first and foremost. Then, if almost by magic, this energy is subconsciously picked up by our customers and in turn they become inspired and excited by what we carry.

On a side note, I feel like this process is based on intuition or instinct which also inadvertently leads us to picking specific styles or fashions a few weeks or months before they become a trend on the runway.

Once we give the initial OK to an item, but before bringing it "home", we meticulously check for quality, condition, craftsmanship and overall visual impact. 99% of the time, even the tiniest flaw on a piece is a deal breaker and although we loved the piece initially, it does not make the cut and we leave it behind. Such strict guidelines not only allow us to deliver a product of value and quality to our customers but allows us to take pride in what we do.

Where do you source pieces from?

After being in the vintage fashion industry for almost 20 years, we are fortunate to have made invaluable contacts in the business. For the first time, without giving all the magic away, we can say that our inventory comes from professional buyers who have inside access to collections from certain New England "homes" that otherwise the public does not have access to.

The most flattering comment you have ever received...

That'd be from a well dressed gentlemen from Milan visiting Newport for the Summer who told us that Maison DNA would be a big hit where he lives.

To stay connected with Maison DNA, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.  And on your next visit to Newport, be sure to stop by their boutique located at 64 Spring Street!

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