Simply Stylist hosted yet another fabulous event, this time at Kitson on Melrose. Speaking on the panel were actress Mena Suvari in an amazing leather bustier and Chanel necklace; Pursuit of Shoes blogger Ashley Torres, who dispensed advice about following a career path you want instead of one you feel like you must travel (she left the world of accounting to pursue fashion); WWD writer Khanh Tran, who pointed out that what journalists do in today’s digital world isn’t different from what we’ve always done—it’s the execution that has changed (e.g. finding sources through Twitter); and Kitson’s Director of Operations Courtney Saavedra, who emphasized the importance of networking for your career. It was an engaging and entertaining discussion that ended with champagne and yummy snacks.
Fashion PR is not just a tough business, but it can also be a mean one. But Sarah Pollack Boyd has taken a different approach as she kills them with kindness — and it’s certainly working. After nine years spent building a successful fashion-focused career in public relations, Sarah launched the stylist-centric SimplyStylist.com in January 2012.
In just a few short months, SimplyStylist.com has become a hub for stylists and lovers of fashion. And the recent Simply Stylist Seminar event at the W Hollywood drew many participants who flocked to learn valuable career advice from industry experts, including Brenna Egan, Refinery29.com Los Angeles Editor and former Vogue staffer; Jamie Krell, E! and Style Network Style Expert; Alexis and Kym McClay, Naven Designers; Jeanne Yang, Celebrity Stylist, who also collaborates with Katie Holmes on their clothing line, Holmes & Yang; and Shea Marie, CheyenneMeetsChanel.com Fashion Blogger.
Sarah was nice enough to take time out from her hectic schedule to answer The Gucci Hoochie’s questions about her career, her fashion and her advice for PR newbies. Read on!
How did you make your way to Los Angeles?
I’m a small town girl from York, Pennsylvania. I ended up in Los Angeles because, for fashion, it’s really Los Angeles or New York. My sister had moved to L.A. when I just started college, and I would visit her at least once a year and always told myself that I would live here. So, as soon as I graduated, I packed up and moved out!
You were inspired to work in the industry after shadowing department store buyers. What was it about their work that inspired you to work in fashion?
It was at Bon Ton back in Pennsylvania. I had no idea what I wanted to major in for college, let alone my life path! My high school offered a field trip to shadow store buyers, and I couldn’t believe that shopping could actually be a job. I immediately started looking into fashion schools, and the next year I was beginning to pave my path into the world of fashion.
Fashion PR sounds really glamorous, but it’s a lot of emails and pitches. With current technology, editors and producers want everything pitched through email so it makes being in fashion PR much more email intensive. It is fun though when you get to be on-site for a fitting or a celebrity showroom visit.
What was the most difficult aspect of working in fashion PR?
Being denied. You have to hear the word “no” or even worse, get no response multiple times a day. There are countless pitches going out daily and very few make it to print. It’s a long and tedious process, but it all pays off when you see the placement!
What is your favorite part of your job?
Ummm all the free clothes?!
What advice would you give to new faces in the fashion PR business?
I would say to definitely have THICK skin! And intern, intern, intern — get as much experience as you possibly can. Also, be kind. It goes a long way, and you never know where you can help someone or someone can help you down the road. PR people are known for not being the nicest, but I chose the route of being super sweet and it has proved to be successful so far.
When you launched SimplyStylist.com, what were you most nervous about? What were you most excited about?
I was definitely most nervous about my customers — do I have enough? Will people be as interested in the topic as I am? Will people come to my events? I was most excited to build my own business from the ground up and to be able to bring a service to women that I know everyone can find value in. People buy the fashion magazines, so why not hear about the trends in person from the experts?
You note that people buy magazines, so why not hear about the trends in person — was this your motivation behind starting simply stylist? What sparked the idea for the website?
From my years in PR I noticed that some of the best celebrity placements (a celebrity wearing my clients’ clothing) came through their wardrobe stylist. And the wardrobe stylists never got any credit for it! The fashion editors and the celebrities get showered with gifts and taken to fancy dinners. Years ago, stylists were lugging around clothing, working 150-hour work weeks and got no credit for some of these amazing trends THEY started by putting it on their client. I started SimplyStylist.com to give back to these stylists and show the world who the trendsetters really are.
I’m wearing ALL types of hats so I try to think big picture and delegate the smaller tasks. Otherwise I find myself running in circles trying to be everything to everyone. I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses — and what I enjoy doing. My love is relationship building and connecting, so I try to book at least one meeting a day with either a stylist, a clothing brand, a fellow PR executive, etc. Each day I put together my to-do list of what I want to accomplish, which sometimes includes going to setup a business license for the company or going to a runway show. This is why I love my job … every day is different and exciting. I also have two AMAZING interns who help with everything from finding content for the site, local errands, research for events and more.
What would you say is the key to your success with SimplyStylist.com?
Staying true to what I would want out of an event. Making sure there are fantastic panelists, amazing networking opportunities and that the content of the seminar is useful to the attendees.
Finally, for the most important question: Who is your favorite designer?
I learned a few surprising lessons yesterday that, normally, wouldn’t be surprising. But before we get into it, lets talk about Los Angeles. It’s the nature of the beast (the beast being the industry that defines this town and everyone in it) to put its willing enablers to the test. For every person who is fighting and clawing their way to the top, there are a hundred more who couldn’t get there and gave up.
Though this breeds talent and ambition, it also tends to breed cattiness and pessimism. And, more often than not, disappointment.
But after talking to a panel of industry experts at the SimplyStylist.com Seminar who have seen the sunny side of success, the crowd of stylists, editors and designers — myself included — learned that success comes not from back stabbing and bitchiness, but kindness and hard work. Those were the words that were spoken by every panelist, which included (left to right): Brenna Egan, Refinery29.com Los Angeles Editor and former Vogue staffer; Jamie Krell, E! and Style Network Style Expert; Alexis and Kym McClay, Naven Designers; Jeanne Yang, Celebrity Stylist, who also collaborates with Katie Holmes on their clothing line, Holmes & Yang; and Shea Marie, CheyenneMeetsChanel.com Fashion Blogger.
Hosted by Catt Sadler, E! News Host, the panel was held at the W Hotel in Hollywood, where the attendees were whipped into a fashion frenzy. After the seminar, we were let loose on the shopping boutiques in the next room. Forgive me for not taking more pictures (It’s time I got an iPhone, my Blackberry just isn’t working well for photos), because we were treated to a bar, DJ, photo booth and the hottest up-and-coming designers in Los Angeles. Jammy pack, anyone? No?
Anyway, I especially loved speaking with Jeanne and Brenna (both of whom I STILL can’t believe I actually met — they’re amazing!).
While building her business, Jeanne worked 120-hour weeks for three years straight. Just, take a moment to think about the dedication that requires. That’s 17.14 hours PER DAY. Her advice (directly to me! ah!) was that anytime someone gives you a negative, as she traced a small minus sign with her finger, “just turn it into a positive and give it right back to them.” She finished by tracing another line to make a literal positive sign. Her message was, always always be kind and grateful, no matter the circumstances, no matter how rude some people may be. Even if a Vanity Fair editor takes the credit for your work styling the biggest selling issue of the magazine ever (You know it — you probably had it, it was the Tom-and-Katie-present-Suri-to-the-world cover).
To continue what I will now call the inspire-a-thon, I also got to chat with Brenna. Before starting at Refinery29.com three months ago, she had previously worked as the West Coast Editor for OK! Magazine. She was also once a Vogue staffer. (Side note: To get hired as an assistant, she sat through an 8-hour interview with “Anna and the team.” Vogue does not mess around.) Brenna meets seven deadlines per day to create the content for R29. Basically, she’s writing all the time. All. The. Time. So I asked what she does in the event she has writer’s block? For her, she says, “It’s not an option.” I love that. I love that! She has to meet her deadlines, so, she has to keep writing. And you know what? She does it so well.
So that was my day, and it made me so excited to be in Los Angeles, to be an editor and to love fashion, over and over again. Special thanks to Sarah Pollack Boyd and SimplyStylist.com for hosting the event. Is it too early to buy my ticket for next year?