Today’s 5 Questions series is extra special for me. I spend more time obsessing about the things I’ve done wrong over the years than the positive choices I’ve made that have brought me to this place in my career and business. This morning, I have an opportunity to talk about what was perhaps one of my best decisions and that was bringing on Erica Bondarev Rapach as our D.C. stylist. I stumbled into the Washington market early into the business. When our first regional stylist (Steph, who many of you know and love) moved into a different industry, I had to figure out if I was going keep a presence in the area or not. On a whim, I posted a note on Facebook looking for a new hire, and Erica reached out within a day.
I took the train to Union Station and met her for a drink (or two) and liked her instantly. She’s sharp, smart, funny and an incredibly hard worker. It’s rare for me to meet someone who I think shares my energy and hustle. For almost six years Erica was my steady rock. I never worried about her abilities, care of our clients, and trusted her completely. After her appointments, her clients made it a point to contact me and praise her, more than anyone else who’s ever worked with us. Erica’s hustle and work ethic were and continue to be unmatched. Which is why when it was time to focus on other areas of the business and remove our D.C. offerings, I called Erica to see if she was finally ready to start her own business.
Happily, she was, and this month launched her practice, ReStyle serving the busy men and women of the metro D.C. area. Personally, I’m incredibly proud of her. I feel like somehow what started off as a little business with no real plan, grew into something special, and now someone else can take a piece of the foundation I built and make it her own. How awesome is that?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a million times more, if you are one of our one of our Kristel Closets D.C. clients or if you are local to the area and have considered working with a stylist, please work directly with Erica. She has my full, enthusiastic support. To follow ReStyle and receive their updates, please follow this link and sign up to receive emails directly from Erica, with her whereabouts, business news and of course, style tips.
You were with Kristel Closets for almost six years, and our clients adored you. What do you love the most about your work?
I love helping people to be the best they can be. Your style says something about you and being aware of what that is and putting your best image forward is what I love about this work.
With all of your experience, what do you see as the greatest challenge your clients face and how do you help them overcome it?
I think the greatest challenge my clients face is pushing beyond their comfort zone. That’s not to say I don’t want to help them look and feel like themselves but my job is to help them try something new. I always say that I know I have done my job well when in the dressing room, a client tries something on, loves it, and says “I would have never picked this out myself.” From there it’s my job to help them understand why I’ve picked things for them so they can choose for themselves in the future.
We have a lot of readers who aspire to be entrepreneurs. What has been the biggest lesson you learned in the process of starting up your own image business?
>Knowing to trust your instincts about what’s best for your business and ultimately, you. Running your own small business is about developing relationships with people and that’s a two-way street. Working together has to be a good match – dare I say there has to be good chemistry – and knowing how to recognize and foster that is a key skill. You have to know what’s important and where you want to focus your energy and resources.
People reading may not know that you are an amazing thrift store shopper. It’s a skill I have never been able to master. What are some tips you can share with our readers to make it less overwhelming?
I would say think of it as a journey and not a destination. Thrift shopping takes patience and a long-term commitment. You can’t walk into a thrift store and expect to build a wardrobe for yourself instantly like you can in a major retail store – they just don’t usually have the selection and variety you need to do that. But what it can do, if you visit thrift stores over time, is add interesting pieces to your wardrobe that can’t necessarily be found in major retail stores – pieces that have a history and a past life to them. I love the idea of these items living on and being re-imagined with the new person who owns them. It’s not for everyone but if you have the endurance and can find enjoyment in exploring what’s out there, it can be extremely rewarding.
With Spring right around the corner, what are the five items you would love to see in your client’s closets for the upcoming season?
SCARVES: Lightweight, colorful, patterned scarves are a fantastic accessory to pair with any outfit -work wear or casual. And Spring is a perfect time to wear them as the weather moves from cool to warm.
A STATEMENT BLAZER: A blazer with a little intrigue – whether it’s the color or the print or the cut, but nothing feels better as Spring arrives then walking out in the morning in a blazer (and a great scarf!). Blazers are super versatile – they can be worn over dresses, with skirts or pants and as long as the fit and fabric is right, always look pulled together.
DESIGNER DARK WASHED SKINNY JEANS: Everyone needs a pair. Joe’s Jeans are my favorite but finding the brand that fits you best will reap your years of reward as you can go back to that brand whenever you need to replace them. Dark washed skinny jeans look great on anyone when the fit is right and are a great Spring piece for business casual (pair them with pastel heels) or a weekend look (with suede loafers).
Which brings me to shoes…
A PAIR PASTEL HEELS: These can pair with lots of spring dresses and skirts as well as pants to really feel like spring is in the air
A COMFORTABLE PAIR OF SUEDE OR LEATHER LOAFERS: Great for Spring without socks, paired with ankle or capri pants or even a spring dress for when comfort is king!