The elements of style from a personal stylist

June 7, 2023

The elements of style from a personal stylist

Vlad Tichen talks us through perfecting your personal style and caring for your dream capsule wardrobe.

Vlad Tichen is a personal stylist with over 20 years experience in the fashion industry. He consults one-on-one with people looking to refine their style and level up their wardrobe. Vlad also styles commercial photoshoots, holds corporate team-building workshops on finding your business style, and, not least, choreographs the contents of the wardrobes for Boston’s photography. He’s unassuming, talented, and a fun guy to be around. Vlad generously sat down with us to share his wisdom on finding your style and how to get the most out of your collection.

How did you come to do what you do?

I usually answer that question by saying – by being terrible at everything else!

But actually, I have worked in fashion retailing and wholesaling my whole career. I have always been very interested in how people communicate their personality to the world via how they present themselves. Not just their clothing but also their hairstyle, their manner, their language, the way they joke, this all makes up your personal style, in my opinion.

Also, how lack of attention to this can negatively affect how you view someone. If I see a person presenting on stage but I can see some ketchup on their shirt or some beat-up shoes – I’m not going to be able to take what they are saying as seriously, it loses a bit of value in my mind.

On a subconscious level, I think the way you dress is a sign of respect for yourself, and also for others. It shows that you are confident in your place in the world and of your capability. I love the psychological aspect of personal style.

So I was really interested in this, and over time I developed my own sense of style and taste. I started dressing my friends when we were teenagers, and it sort of grew organically from there into a part-time gig in Europe. I moved over here and kept it as my side hustle until eventually I was able to make it my full-time job about eight years ago.

I love what I do, it’s an amazing feeling, to be part of a positive shift in someone’s life. I’ve seen people literally transform their life – improve their career, their personal lives, all from the confidence they gain when they know they look their best. It’s a reciprocal effect because if you present professionally and well put together, people treat you with more respect, which in turn gives you the confidence to be that person.

What would you say are your top fashion rules?

Well first of all I want to differentiate between fashion and style. We’re talking about fashion as a progression of different tendencies. Sometimes it’s provocative and it can be quite forward, and also erratic. Personal style is slightly different.

Compare fashion with an ocean storm: if we have huge tsunami waves of fashion trends, with personal style, we’re talking about a smaller wave. Your style evolves slowly over time as opposed to rapid changes with the trends.

Trends do affect people’s personal style – for example, the tendency to wear high waisted pants with pleats in the fifties, it would be a bit hard for someone to wear really skinny pants with a low rise, even if it was a part of their personal style. Although right now, we can have a personal style that could be quite different from the mainstream fashion, it’s not as rigid as it was in the fifties.

I would say my main advice for personal style is to know what fits you well and to invest in getting your clothes tailored.

99% of clothes are “ready to wear”, off the rack. So you buy something and it’s made to fit pretty much everyone. That’s why most of the fits are too long for most people, because if shirt sleeves are too long, people will still buy it. If they’re too short, they wouldn’t. Psychologically for people, it’s hard to accept the fact that if I paid $200 for a shirt, why do I need to pay another $50-70 for shortening the sleeves? But it’s so important.

It’s not cheap to get things altered. But the idea here is that you are making this item truly your own, to fit and accommodate your unique body and present it in the best way possible. You won’t have to subconsciously change the way that you move or sit or stand to accommodate ill-fitting clothes. If you start worrying about these little things, they occupy your mind and then throw you off your game. Invest your time and money in some professional advice from your tailor to alter your clothes.

If you buy a pair of jeans, Make sure that they’re the right length. If you have an additional 10 cm bunching at the bottom of your feet, it’s not going to make you look good. If it’s a coat that looks quite cool, but the sleeves are long, make them a bit shorter. If they’re too wide, slim them down from your elbow to the bottom of the sleeve to create a cleaner silhouette. Be mindful of the fit, with all your clothes, always.

The next thing is quality over quantity. Instead of getting multiple pairs of cheaper versions, invest in two pairs of expensive, high quality items. I’m not necessarily talking about big brands with their huge marketing budgets and Hollywood stars promoting them. I’m talking about high quality brands, more niche kinds of brands that focus on quality fabrics and hardware.

Out of these quality pieces, put together a capsule wardrobe.

You allocate pieces that work for your particular demographic and lifestyle. Think about a work wardrobe, a going out wardrobe, a casual weekend wardrobe. Construct your collection with nice, essential, high quality pieces. The thing with high quality is that it is actually the same, cost-wise in the long term, as buying cheap stuff. Cheap stuff wears out quickly. It doesn’t wash well. And of course, it doesn’t look as good. So when you buy a premium pair of jeans instead of three pairs of medium or low-range jeans, you wear them longer. And at every given moment of the timeframe, you look better in them.

When creating a capsule wardrobe, you don’t need to rush out and buy it all at once. Just like when you are fitting out a new house, you don’t necessarily buy all of your furniture and fittings in one day. You can add classic, quality pieces over time. Although if you are working with a stylist, you have the option of taking them shopping with you – which will result in a more immediate result. And it’s fun too!

Similarly to interior design, if you want to work with a professional stylist, you would research their portfolio and make sure they are aligned with your personal style – or your aspirations for your style. You would work with them in much the same way as an interior designer, discussing looks and styles and exchanging imagery until you land on a direction you are happy with. That’s why I do the initial consultation as a complimentary service, so people can understand whether we are the right fit.

Also you need to take care to have balance, think about the project as whole, in the same way you would your house. If you have a lot of patterned pieces, you might tone them down with block colors. For example, if you’ve got a patterned jacket, you probably want to pair it with a plain top and a plain pair of trousers. As a rule of thumb, you want to balance things. But if you want to go maximalist with ALL the patterns, and this is part of your personality, of course, we can work with that as well. It is just a bit harder to work through how to mix up bulk patterns and make them work nicely together.

Make sure that you have enough good, new socks. I am shocked by how little attention people pay to their socks! Especially men. Underwear again, is important. It makes you feel good about yourself, it’s not your shameful secret, it needs to be as good as the rest of your clothes. This also goes for loungewear – everything in your wardrobe should be considered and of good quality.

So when you have these beautiful clothes, how should you look after them?

Don’t keep your clothes unwashed. I see this sometimes in my client’s wardrobes, stuff that needs to be washed, but it’s hanging in their wardrobe. For example, a business shirt – if you wear it once or maximum twice, you will have marks on the collar and the inside of the cuffs, this needs to go through the wash straight away.

How you wash your clothes is important so that the fabric doesn’t get damaged. Use stain remover spray, wash at 30 degrees, no tumble dryer, dry in the shade on a hanger, iron inside out while damp. If you have winter sweaters, before packing them for summer, give them a slight air through, just put them outside. Treat your clothes gently and with respect, and they will last a lot longer and stay looking good.

So, wash your clothes, and fold your clothes properly.

Lighter knitwear is better stored on hangers with wider shoulders, rather than folded, to avoid creases in the middle that don’t go away. Same with t-shirts. I keep all my t-shirts on very thin hangers, it saves me potential steaming or ironing. You just put on a t-shirt and it looks nice. I actually don’t own an iron. I do own a steamer. But I don’t work in an office environment. You probably would need an iron if you worked in a corporate role.

Take care of your shoes too! If we are talking about good quality leather shoes for men, I’d recommend storing them with shoe trees – basically wooden inserts that you put inside the shoes to help to keep their shape. From time to time, give them a wipe and treat them with clear shoe cream, to nourish the leather and prevent it from cracking.

Don’t wear stuff often. If you have one pair of shoes and you wear them every day, you’ll wear them out much faster. If you have three pairs of shoes and you rotate them, they will all last a lot longer.

Try to avoid dry cleaners as much as possible.

I have people who would go to dry cleaners like it’s a washing situation. It’s not the right approach. Dry cleaners use chemicals that potentially destroy the structure of the fabric itself. It becomes rigid, flat, it won’t sit, fold, the way it is supposed to, after too much drycleaning. So if you have, for example, a suit with a minor stain, I’d recommend you to take care of that stain separately.

Also sometimes dry cleaners don’t really know how to iron things. You can give them a blazer and instead of having a natural fold on the lapel, you could get a sharp crease because someone pressed your lapel because they didn’t know that this blazer costs $2,000 and someone rolled the lapel by hand, and your jacket is ruined. So if you do use a dry cleaner, use the best you can get. Regal would be the best that we can get here in Auckland.

So basically look after your clothes. Don’t put dirty stuff inside your wardrobe. Have a rotation of items so they last longer. Take care of your clothes and they will take care of you!

Lastly, the presentation and accessibility of your clothes at home is also key to making the most of your collection. It’s important to be able to see everything and have a well-lit space for your clothes. It’s such a shame to see nice quality clothing thrown into poky corner shelves and forgotten about. It doesn’t need to be state of the art, but it should be fit for purpose and respectful of your clothing.

I think we can all take away some valuable learning from this, thank you so much Vlad!

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