I had a fabulous time at Simply Stylist: Do What You Love Chicago 2016 Fashion & Beauty Conference last Saturday! The Dana Hotel and Spa hosted the event. (If you were following me on social media, then you know that I live tweeted and instagrammed the event.) I got to interview some of the celebrity guests attending including e News’ Catt Sadler and acclaimed stylist, Eric Himel. Most of the people who attended were fashion and/or beauty bloggers, vloggers, and aspiring stylists. A handful of attendees, myself included, were there as members of the press and we got to meet some of the celebrity panelists and attendees.
A Seat At the Table
If there were two themes that dominated the breakout sessions and discussions at Simply Stylist, they would be inclusion and women empowerment. Simply Stylist founder Sarah Boyd took to the mic while we were having brunch, the first event of the conference, to explain why she started Simply Stylist. Boyd explained that she was able to easily pursue a career in fashion because of her sister’s connections. Boyd wanted others to have the same opportunities or as she put it, “Everyone should have a seat at the table.” And so, Simply Stylist was born–with annual conventions in three locations: Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, Simply Stylist provides beauty junkies and fashionistas with networking opportunities. The infamous “swag bag,” which I’ll talk about later is just icing on the cake. I had a chance to talk to Sarah about fashion and people with disabilities, a subject close to my heart.
Another speaker was industry titan Joy Chen, the CEO of H2O+Beauty who is also known for turning around Yes To Inc. I wish I had a chance to talk to Chen but she left soon after her speech. Chen talked about the importance of being current and staying hungry as well as “doing the right thing” and striving to make “a bigger impact.”
One of the most fun parts of the day was meeting industry experts who were all very approachable and lots of wisdom to share. Stylist, Eric Himel, was one of my favorite people to talk to and not just because he said I have “amazing skin!” Himel told me he likes helping people who need a confidence boost. We bonded over a mutual interest in helping sick women feel better about their appearance; Himel has done volunteer work in the past with Immerman’s Angels, helping women with cancer. Himel shared his philosophy on fashion:
A lot of my clients are going through some type of change whether it’s weight gain or aging. I really like working with people going through changes; everyone deserves to look good. I like clothes to mirror who a person is on the inside on the outside.
I also got to talk to veteran journalist, Catt Sadler of eNews–about what fashion means to her and advice for summer humidity. Wearing a yellow top with vertical pleats and jeans cuffed at the ankles, Sadler said:
I’m a creative person. The news is very black and white. Fashion allows me to be creative. When I was younger, I was in a band. I was a makeup artist in college. I’m from Indiana. Ten years ago, I didn’t know Louis Vuitton from Gucci. When I moved to L.A., this whole new world opened up to me. As I started learning little tricks for my body type, fashion became fun. Fashion is an outward expression of myself.
On the humidity, Sadler said, “less is more.” She recommends using a tinted moisturizer during the summer and taking care of your skin.
Another fascinating person I spoke to was Paolo Nieddu, a costume designer and stylist. Paolo has been a costume designer on many shows including Ugly Betty, Smash and Saturday Night Live but he is most well known for being the man who dresses the fabulous Taraji P. Henson’s “Cookie Lyon” on Empire. Clad in an army green jacket and black pants, Paolo explained to me:
I love working with Taraji because she allows me to create on her. I dress Taraji in bold colors and prints. For Anika, I use a lot of solids and creams. I call Hakeem, ‘Boy Cookie’ and dress him in bold prints versus Jamal, who I dress in earth tones. I have Andre wearing navy suits–more professional and serious looks.
The Panelists Discuss Hard Work & Sacrifice
There was a plenary panel discussion; Catt Sadler interviewed the panelists: Helen Berkun (fashion photography & style expert), Cara Santa (actress, blogger, founder of The Glam App), Lindsay Albanese (stylist, video blogger), Paolo Nieddu, and Alaina Kaczmarski (co-founder of The Every Girl). One thing all the panelists emphasized is that success did not come over night for them. It was the product of years of hard work and due diligence.
Berkun shared that when she is asked to do something foreign, she always says “yes” and figures it out later. Albanese talked about the importance of responding to every email and consistency (uploading a video whether you have two or two hundred YouTube subscribers). Nieddu shared a touching part of his own journey: When he was young, he wanted to work for Interview Magazine but had no experience. He emailed them every week to be an intern and eventually got a response. He got to work alongside the legendary fashion director Patricia Fields. As an unpaid intern, he put in more work than the paid interns. He showed up three consecutive days a week and worked long hours. Nieddu was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on Empire. Nieddu told conference goers “it’s important to stay visible.” Kaczmarski talked about the importance of always following up, especially when dealing with busy people. She also gave career advice about tracking what you are doing and observing what works and doesn’t work. Alaina Kaczmarski said:
When something isn’t working, don’t take it as a failure. Pivot. Shift. Your ability to pivot is what’s going to make or break you in the end.
New Friends, Fun, & Food!
While I learned a lot, Simply Stylist, wasn’t all serious. I got to bond with other fashion lovers like Katy Herman, who was also there as a member of the press. This summer Katy is interning at the Chicago Tribune’s Splash. Can you believe she’s still in college? I also got to eat a lot of yummy food including these macaroons from A Baker’s Tale, which were too scrumptious for words. I have never been to A Baker’s Tale but now I have to go! Apparently, they ship nationwide.
In addition to delicious treats from a number of vendors, Simply Stylist attendees could get back massages. Other fun activities included having your portrait drawn by fashion illustrator, Kristine Steiner. The Glam App was doing attendees’ makeup, hair, and nails (more on that in a little bit). For charity, people could dive into a ball pit. H2O+ Beauty donated $10 for every person who shared a pic of themselves jumping into the ball pit on instagram. If I did not have a disability, I totally would have jumped into the ball pit.
Cara Santana & The Glam App
I got to meet actress Cara Santana. Cara is an artist and philanthropist. You can check out her artistic side on her website, Cara Disclothed. Cara is also the co-founder of The Glam App, which you can download for your phone. Santana described the app as “beauty on demand.”
The Glam App makes beauty more accessible, which is especially great for people with illnesses and disabilities. For example, if you needed someone to give you a manicure or style your hair, you could log in and order a certified manicurist or hair stylist to your door. During the panel, Santana emphasized her desire to make beauty more accessible. For example: If you wanted a makeup artist to come to your door and deliver the “contour queen” look, you could book someone at $60/60 min (a stylist with a year experience and/or graduate beauty school), $80/60 min (a stylist with 2 to 5 years of experience), or $100/60 min (a sought-after stylist that has 5 years or more of experience or excessive callbacks). I can’t wait to try out The Glam App!
Erin Armstrong: Knowing Your Worth
One person I became friends with was speaker, Erin Armstrong. Armstrong’s breakout session, “Own It and Significantly Increase Your Income” was a highlight of the conference. Armstrong has a course for bloggers; check out #bloggermoneycourse on Twitter.
One of the best pieces of advice she gave is “figure out what your time is worth.” Armstrong talked about how women often undercharge–for example, only counting the time it takes to complete a service but not counting other things like the time spent driving to the destination or time spent following up. Armstrong talked about the importance of sticking to your fee after you decide what to charge for your service. She also talked about the importance of intention and setting bigger goals for yourself. Her breakout session led to a number of meaningful conversations about the difficulty women have in charging for a service.
Michael Corrigan: Public Relations and the Power of Being Nice
Another speaker who hosted a breakout session is publicist, Michael Corrigan. Corrigan talked about how he got his start in PR by becoming an intern for a celebrity PR firm. He cited Samantha from Sex in the City as his inspiration. Corrigan cited some funny stories about dealing with celebrities. While he has multiple PR clients, his main client is The Tie Bar, which is based in Chicago. Corrigan talked about the importance of being nice in his industry and in life in general–a much needed message in our increasingly divisive times.
There were so many goodies in the gift bags, which included brands like H2O + Beauty, Erin Condren (who designed the the beautiful conference notebooks and binders), Biossance, Olga Lorencin, eSalon, Chapstick, Colour Pop, Double Scoop, Physician’s Formula, among others.
I had a blast at this year’s conference! I suggest checking out Simply Stylist’s website and attending a future fashion conference of theirs. Pull up a chair and take your seat at the table.
–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno