Wow, come to think of it, I have embarked on this "Fashion" journey for a decade now. From my first day entering America in an all-denim ensemble, to styling and modeling my own fashion shoots all over New York. From working at "Charlotte Russe" as a seasonal sales associate, to walking the contemporary sales floor of the iconic "Saks Fifth Avenue" flagship store. From learning how to sew in a straight line to creating my graduation collection, which included metal cages. From assisting the VP of marketing at a home textile company, to now being the right hand of law firm partners whose clients come from the high fashion or high tech worlds. And never did I imagine that I would go from being the five-year-old who had an opinion of what she wanted to wear, to now helping other grown adults figure out what to wear.
"Fashion consultant" is still a title that I am learning to embrace. I embarked on this path to build a deeper level of relationship with fashion, people, and myself. Prior to this path, I have always felt like an outsider looking in the fashion industry as if it was a snow globe. I admired it but never felt like I understood it nor was a part of it. Often times, I felt like it was reserved only for the selected few: those who have the money to spend; those who know the right people; those who live and breath fashion everyday; those who follow the fashion rules. So I guess this path is really for me to immerse myself in the nitty-gritty aspects of everyday fashion. I want to understand the different types of relationships that people have with fashion. I want to help enhance the benefits and resolve challenges that fashion present to people. I want to become someone that people feel comfortable "consulting" in regards to how they reveal themselves to the world. I want to see fashion beyond just fabric on our bodies.
So far, this path has been very rewarding for me in terms of building that deeper connection with fashion, people and myself.
I have always admired fashion as an art form, even before I studied fashion design. I would go to every fashion exhibit or show that I know of, snapping pictures at every outfit and description that is displayed, feeling that creative juice flowing after. I would stop and stare at extravagant fashion window displays, sticking my nose up to the glass in an attempt to examine closely. I would flip through and tear out pages from magazines to be used as inspiration for my "future designs". I would drool over red carpet dresses while watching the pre-award show broadcast, admiring the beautiful people that are flaunting familiar designer names, wishing my name was one of them. But this, this is different. This is clothing people in real life, not at the "la la land". This is dressing real bodies that are of varied heights, sizes, shapes, skin shades, personal tastes and lifestyles, not the models and celebrities who have unattainable body ideals and calendar of events. This is getting down to business; doing research online and conducting analysis of the outfits; using fashion terminology to explain different styles; going to retail stores and looking through every piece of clothing available, then conducting a trial-and-error session with the client as they try on options; this could be sensory overload as sight, hearing, touch, and maybe even smell are all heightened during the experience. This is fashion at its core. This is putting the "clothing" part of fashion back into focus.
What I have realized through my work is that more than ever before, both men and women care about the way they look.
For women, most of us were taught to wear our "self-value" on our sleeves since birth, so appearance has become a very important part of who we are. A lot of us have invested heavily on clothing, accessories, make-up, hair products to achieve the beauty ideals imposed to us from the media, society, family and peers. There are abundant, manufactured resources that guide women in fashion and beauty, online and offline. But some women are saying: "That's not good enough for me." They are learning to recognize themselves as individuals who need personalized and healthy guidance on how they should look. It warms my heart that I have seen many women accept who they are, but strive to be better versions of themselves and to love themselves more. They are asking for what looks good on their bodies, instead of wanting to change their bodies for the clothes. I feel that as a woman who possess fairly healthy body image and lots of confidence, I have a responsibility to share that with other women, so that they can lead successful careers and fulfilling lives.
For men, I believe outer appearance was not embedded in their early education. I am sure there are men who have gone through struggles with their body images, but comparatively, men were more focused on their achievements rather than picking out the socks that would complement their shoes. I think it's because of that, there are not as much resources to guide men in terms of appearance than for women. And a lot of men simply don't care nor have time to keep up with the online tutorials on "how to dress to impress". From what I have observed, most men know that they are individuals and require customization for what they need. They either have their own styles and want to add pieces to enhance those styles, or start from scratch to reinvent themselves, or they just want to take their appearance to the next level by working with a professional who can offer a fresh perspective. As much as we want to think that: "oh men are simple, they will figure it out", the truth is that men also need guidance in building confidence, healthy body image, and a wardrobe that serves every stage of their lives.
For me, embracing the "fashion consultant" identity has been exciting, challenging, and rewarding.
With this newfound understanding of fashion, I realize there is a lot more for me to learn not just in terms of the styling aspect, but also people and their different needs. I consider this position an important one as it can better people's perception of themselves and their lives. I look forward to going on different journeys with many of you. Thank you in advanced for being vulnerable and allowing me to get a glimpse of your lives. I will do the same: )
Your fashion consultant-Ting