Back in the latter end of 2012 Susan Baxter was kind enough to meet me in Didsbury’s Gusto Restaurant for a chat about fashion and her business. What was intended to be a brief encounter flourished into a friendship and it was Susan that introduced me to the wonderful world of Stella & Dot. How? Well yes, Stella & Dot jewellery is fantastic and a perfect brand to complement my blog but it was Susan’s warm, passionate and enthusiastic nature that convinced me that the opportunity was for me. It is this element of Susan’s personality which has certainly established her as one of the leading Fashion Stylists in the Manchester region. If a woman wants anything when seeking the services of a personal stylist it is an approachable person, who is going to get the job done and re-vamp their wardrobe but is also going to make them feel great about themselves and I believe that this is the service clients receive from Susan Styles You. Along with Susan’s involvement with Stella & Dot, she is also a fully trained and dedicated Colour Me Beautiful stylist and offers a range of services from make-up lessons and personal shopping to a complete make –over.
Read below to get an insight into Susan’s fabulously fashionable world…
How did you get involved with [Stella & Dot]?
Oh, really? So you just found them on Twitter?
Jewellery comes into Colour Consultation and Style Sonsultation but mainly with a Style Consultation because I show ladies firstly, what colour jewellery they should wear, either gold or silver and then we look at face shapes and we look at proportions so chunky jewellery or fine or longer chains or shorter chains, what shape earrings and things like that. So I was basically using a big box full of my own jewellery to show [clients], so I just thought, well really I could be selling jewellery at the same time. So, I was looking around for a nice jewellery line that I liked, because it had to be something that I liked, otherwise there is no point, and I connected with my Sponsor, Liz Cooper on Twitter. As soon as I saw and felt Stella and Dot jewellery, I was like “yep, I love it”.
One thing I hate about people’s looks is when they overload on high street jewellery and it really looks cheap but nothing on Stella and Dot looks cheap. It looks high quality and classy.
The Chief Creative Officer, Blythe Harris at Stella and Dot was identified as a rising star by top design houses DeBeers and Cartier. People say, “Oh, it’s quite expensive” and I say, “well the quality of what you’re getting… it is all handmade”. What they do is, they hand design the samples in New York and then they source the best people for the job for each particular piece or for a particular collection, so they send it all over the world to be made. It might be India, it might be China, where ever. Wherever they think is going to make the best job of that particular piece and you know all the beads are all hand threaded. The craftsmanship is really, really top class and that is what you pay for.
So is this all Stella and Dot now that you have on?
I only ever wear Stella and Dot now, apart from my watch and my wedding ring.
I love your ring, it is gorgeous! (in reference to Aurora cocktail ring)
Yeah a lot of it is quite vintage inspired as well. I was at a vintage fair in the Armitage Centre on Saturday and I had a pair of earrings on and lots of the stall holders were like, “oh my God, they’re amazing” and I was like, “they’re not vintage”!
Aurora Cocktail Ring, £40, Stella & Dot
Have your clients responded well to Stella & Dot?
Yeah, everybody loves it. I think people who are coming to me are making an investment anyway in my services and they want to improve their image so having a quality line of jewellery is just, sort of, second nature really.
Do you think many women could really shake up their look if they learnt to accessorise better?
I think accessories is the key really because you can just put a dress on and look nice but it’s the way you finish off an outfit. In Stella & Dot speak we call it “Finish the Look”. So if somebody says “Oh I really like the Bianca Tassel, I am going to buy it”, we say, “how are you going to “finish the look”” because that on it’s own looks nice but it just needs a few extra bits to go with it. It is just getting the balance right. Definitely, finish the look.
Elle Mcpherson wearing Stella & Dot’s Bianca Tassel Necklace
When you initially planned to become a stylist did you plan to do all the extras like the make up for example or has this kind of come together with the idea of “Finish the Look”?
Erm, well a long time ago, I trained with another company who were colour analysis people, they don’t exist anymore so they can’t have been any good. I trained with them when I still had a full time job with the intention of doing it as a little part time thing but at the time I didn’t have any resources to put into marketing or anything like that so it just sort of fizzled out but they did make up and style so I got really interested in it then. The right colour of makeup is so important as well, I used to wear all the wrong colour make up and I look back at some pictures now and think “Oh my God”.
Is it since you have kind of learnt the science behind it that you now know what colours to wear?
It is all about balance and harmony and going with what you have got originally. You have got a blank canvas; you’ve got a particular skin colour, particular eye colour, particular hair colour. It is about going with what you’ve got, not trying to change anything. It is just going with what nature has given you really. Like with the colour hair that I have got anything that is peachy or golden looks great on me. Like before, I used to go to MAC and MAC do some amazing make up with some lovely colours and everything but when you go to the MAC counter they say “well, this is our new lipstick”. They don’t really look at your skin tone, apart from foundation..
Well, it just isn’t for everyone is it? Not everyone can wear the same colour lipstick.
I think people really, genuinely do not know what suits them.
I think make up is one of the main things where people do follow the fashions unfortunately. Particularly with the younger girls you know with the black eyeliner and the false lashes and the scouse brow. That is all in fashion and I mean I did it as a teenager. I remember a lipstick that I used to wear from Boots called Poncho Pink. It was a very frosty pink and it just looked awful on me but at the time I thought it was gorgeous.
I [have been thinking] that fashion in general has survived the economic crisis. I mean there are high street brands that have really suffered and gone under but in general people still spend on fashion and the expensive design houses do not seem to have suffered at all. There is the theory that people spend on quality now rather than on mounds of cheaper items.
I think it has to be a mixture really. I mean I love Primark. I am a big advocate of Primark. These shoes (points a pair of fabulous wedges with faux snake skin detailing), I think they were £12. I have quite a few pairs of Primark shoes and I mean these are clearly a copy of a designer shoe, I have a pair of green snake skin platforms with an ankle strap and a big heel and I think they are a Gucci copy. There are certain designers that are so recognisable that people will just go, “oh that’s a….” or “that’s a…” but does it really matter at the end of the day?
(points to a nude, heart shaped Vivienne Westwood handbag) This is my designer piece that goes everywhere with me. If I had £1 for every person that has complimented me on that bag it would have paid for the bag. I have had it for about 2 years and I use it every day so it probably cost me about £1 a day.
I think this is the thing isn’t it? You need to have a mixture of pieces that need to be good quality and items that, actually, you do not need to spend hundreds of pounds on. I was in Primark recently and saw a pair of gorgeous baroque trousers…
Were they blue?
I’ve got them. I did a blog recently and included them. They are being altered actually because you know the length this year is seven eighths? And a little big above the ankle? My legs are not that long so they are going to have to be altered but I think they were about £12.
I mean that is great, baroque is not something that is going to last forever, so it is great to be able to pick something up for only £12…
And then just ditch them next year. Or turn them into a pair of shorts or something. Bermuda shorts will be big for Spring 2013.
Do you do much of that? Customising and altering your own clothes?
I don’t no, I am rubbish at that sort of thing. It would save so much money. I did a presentation last week and I was showing slides on what was coming into fashion and one of the ladies said to me, “all of the slides are showing quite high necks” and she was quite a busty lady so she said, “what can you advise me to do?”. If you like something, buy it and get it altered. Find someone who is a good tailor and you can usually have it made into a scoop neck or you know, something that is going to be more flattering. So, you know, don’t rule out things just because on the hanger they are not for you. You can always take something out or change something to make it suitable for you.
What could a customer coming to you for a full colour and style consultation expect?
Firstly we would decide what their dominant was. We have six dominants when it comes to colour and I would show them their best colours. Then I would give them a makeover using the best colours, using Colour Me Beautiful cosmetics. Then we would do a style consultation. Firstly in the style consultation I would start off with a questionnaire about their personality and their lifestyle and we use six style personalities so I will tell them which style personality they are and maybe they will want to push that in another direction. They might be one thing but that might actually want to be something else. They might be a combination of two things and it is about showing them how to bring out that style personality. We then look at face shapes and body shapes. We have seven body shapes so we look and those and decide which one they are, then I will give them advise on the best lines of dresses, trousers, jackets. I do a little critique where I ask them to bring maybe six, maximum of ten, pieces of clothing that they either like or they don’t like and usually by that stage, I’ll pull them out and they’ll say, “I know why that’s wrong now” because it will either be the wrong colour or the wrong shape and everything I will have told them up to that point… they’ll know it’s wrong but they won’t know why it’s wrong until that point and then they’ll go, “Oh yeah, that’s because…” I will try and show they how they can wear it, if it’s possible, if it’s not, I’ll say “Ebay it, if it is worth selling or a charity shop if it’s not”. Then I maybe give them some things that they could add into their wardrobe along with what they’ve already got and then [..] go through some shops that they might not have thought about going to, and that’s about it really.
Example of the Seven Different Body Shapes
I know you like Marks & Spencer’s and Primark, are there any other shops that you are a big advocate of?
It depends of the age of the person. For somebody a bit younger, I think River Island. For someone around my age I think Zara is amazing. I do love Zara because they are so quick at turning around the fashions and they have something for everybody; they do a lot of tailoring, they have a lot of casual, they do a lot of separates like dresses, coats, everything, it’s brilliant. And shoes, they do great shoes as well.
Zara is a shop that I can go into with my Mum and we will always both find something.
I think it’s quite… yeah you’re right, there is something for everybody but I think particularly 30s and 40s, it’s really, really good for somebody of that age. For more classics, Banana Republic is quite good and Cos, they are quite good for someone who is a bit more classic but it really does depend of their age and what their style personality is really.
Do you often find that when you suggest shops to people they do say, “oh, I’ve never been in there”, “I’ve never thought of shopping in there”?
If I am personal shopping with someone, what I do is, I go round first, maybe a few days before and pick out some things that I think they might like and then I say “right, I’ve got a few pieces in Marks & Spencer that I want to show you” and they’ll say, “Oh, I was in there last week and I didn’t see anything” and I’ll say “Try that on” and they’ll go, “really?!?!” and I’ll go, “just try it on!” and then they go, “Oh my God, I love it!” When somebody does that, that’s really good because they have walked past it in the shop without even thinking about trying it on.
It is crazy isn’t it? There must be so many things in shops that we don’t even look at which would probably be great for us.
And it is putting things with things, they might pick something up and say, “oh, I like that” and then, I’ll think of things that they could put with it which they haven’t thought of before and that’s a way that I can give them something to complete the look.
Moving away from the high street, are there any designers that you particularly admire?
Vivienne Westwood, obviously. Another English designer, Alexander McQueen. I also love American designer Betsey Johnson.
Are you much more an advocate of high street fashion [than designer clothing]?
I think it really depends on the person again, it depends on the client. If somebody has a lot of money to spend, they aren’t really going to want to want to go to Zara but the type of person that comes to me is generally going to be a high street shopper.
Are you a fan of vintage?
Yes- I love vintage. It is difficult finding the right things and I don’t have a lot of time to go to vintage fairs and things like that but I do love vintage.
And Manchester’s a great place for Vintage shopping as well. Actually, I saw on your website that you had wrote, “Manchester the City of Fashion”. Do you think that Manchester is a particularly fashionable city?
Well it is, don’t you agree?
Absolutely, I think that people have a bit more courage here to express their individuality through the way that they dress.
Have you seen my Susan Styles You feature? I did one today on a girl that works in one of the restaurants in Manchester. She has a really, edgy, androgynous look and she just looks fantastic. When I do that, I try to pick different age groups and different styles, different ethnic backgrounds. I don’t want to use all young girls. I want to mix it up. I want to do a cross section of women. Women are so flattered when you approach them and say, “I really love your style, can I take a picture of you for my blog?”
Manchester, City of Fashion
Where would you like to take your business in the future?
I would like to take it as far as I can take it really. I am quite ambitious and I don’t see why I can’t be one of the top stylists in Manchester.
And you will never achieve anything if you don’t think that you can achieve it.
And if you have the enthusiasm as well, and I am really, really enthusiastic. Anybody who knows me will know that I never shut up about colour, fashion, Stella & Dot…
To find out more about Susan Styles you visit www.susanstylesyou.com.