When professional stylist Allison Berlin and her colleague Megan Freese join Sawako Furuno for green tea and coffee at The Wing in Soho, they take their time examining the workspace, discussing the features that accommodate their respective businesses, and looking at Sawako's stylish helmets.
Allison runs Style Made Simple, a personal styling service that is changing the traditional mindset that a stylist is strictly a luxury. Allison has worked with high-profile clients for over 10 years, but now seeks to help make fashion—and the “best-self” confidence that comes with it—even more accessible.
Taking seats in The Wing’s cozy, plush setting, we stay on the theme of the workday and the process. Allison’s thoughtful answers provide an insider’s take on the world of personal styling.
What’s your typical day like?
A: A typical day is not typical, and that’s what makes this exciting work. Any given day, we are in stores, sourcing clothing, in showrooms, pulling accessories, communicating with our clients, or maybe we’re in a fitting.
Two of the main activities of styling are pulling clothes and fittings. Pulling is sourcing and gathering all the clothes that I want to show a given client, and the fitting is when I’m with a client and we’re working one-on-one together, and the client is trying everything on, and then they get tailored, and we make outfits. Those 2 terms guide the business activity. So either of these could be happening on a given day.
Now we have a lot of online work as well, and that’s been a newer focus: to source product online and make it easier for the clients to shop. We’re always trying to come up with ways to meet people where they are, and make it convenient, fun, and easy, because our clients can be overwhelmed by the world of fashion, but it’s so important to them to look their best. So we are always working on how can we evolve our process, always. That’s why there is no typical day.
What is your online process like?
When we work with a client, from start to finish, we’re very engaged with them and it’s extremely personalized and customized. Sometimes the price matches that level of high service. What I’ve been trying to do is take aspects of the entire process and set them up as their own service. This meets people where they are and it can be more cost effective. We also capture online shopping, which can be even more frightening than walking into a store for some people because there is so much choice.
So we build custom, shop-able Pinterest boards for people based on their needs and specs. What’s nice about the Pinboards is you can see how items would all work together so it’s all very visual. You just click on it, it goes right to the website, and you can buy it from there.
We do video chat consultations and video fittings to help support that process. So, we deliver online curation in a way that builds a wardrobe one outfit at a time, and the outfits are cohesive and planned intentionally. Hopefully, this provides a little styling education as well.
What’s one message you have for shoppers?
We do try to send the message to always invest in quality over quantity, that is a core value. There are great quality things that are affordable as well. Sometimes it makes sense to buy the higher price, sometimes you don’t have to. It’s fun to find something that’s $100 and looks awesome.
A tailored item is where you want to invest. A good blazer, a coat that you could use for many years. An investment piece.
What’s your ideal client like?
She’s so busy, she has so much on her plate, but she’s expressed an interest in fashion, and she wants to engage with it.
[Speaking to Sawako] Can we talk about the glitter helmet? I’m in love with the glitter one. I’m not a glitter person, but I love that one. So cool. Sophisticated. Fun. It makes me want to ride a bike
M: Or go skiing
S: It’s great to wear helmets because you don’t need a hat and its cozy. At the ski resort I never took it off.
What’s your favorite trend at the moment?
I personally love the utility trend. Being someone who lives in NYC, it’s always just amazing to have functional fashion, because this is such a mobile city, and so to be able to like look great while you’re running around is huge. And then there’s a comfort aspect, which is always a nice perk. So utility would be my trend pick for the season based on functionality and the color palette, and the fun ways that you can wear it. You could pick a neutral floral helmet that works with the color palette of utility and pair it in that way.
S: People tend to go for black croc because it’s very subtle.
A: Right. Red feels like a statement, but this one [Python Black] is very neutral.
I think more people need to be wearing bike helmets. I see so many people on Citi bikes riding without a helmet, in the traffic patterns of the city, which is so frightening.
S: And now there are electrified bikes, so you can go 3x faster than a normal bike! Imagine! It’s so fast, without a helmet that’s a serious matter.
A: I’m surprised they let anyone get on those.
S: It’s fun though.
A: I like to ride a bike in the country.
S: That’s the thing. Hopefully our item will empower those people to say, I can still look good and express that I care about my style. And you don’t have to deal with traffic in a major city.
What’s your process to find a client’s personal style?
Part science and part magic. When we start working with a client we have a proprietary questionnaire that we ask them so that we can build their profile, and their answers tell us so much about who they are, plus logistics like what size they wear, what their clothing budget is, what their aspirations are, their goals, and who they look to for inspiration. All of those questions tell us so much, and then there’s the translation aspect of that. Asking “what does that mean, what does that look like in actual clothing?” And that’s where the magic part comes in.
I’ve been styling professionally for over 10 years and I’ve been in the fashion industry for longer than that, so the experience of seeing every season, seeing clothes, how they fit, knowing trends, knowing designers, and being immersed in it to this degree enables me to walk into a giant store and pick out the 20 meaningful items.
There’s so much thought that goes into it and experience that informs the choices I make that it does feel a little magical—to the client. It is hard to explain and put into words frankly, but when you do it again and again, patterns emerge, there are some common threads.
M: For example, one of our clients is going on this vacation. She tried to order all this stuff on her own, and she probably ordered 10+ items—nothing worked out for her. Allison went ahead and got some things together, sent those to her, and I would say 75% of it worked out, which is a very high success rate for ordering stuff online. The client was mind blown.
A: Providing online curation for people is about saving them time, money, and sanity, which are arguably people’s 3 greatest resources.
And its really a mindset. It’s changing the traditional mindset that a stylist is a luxury. Well, if you spend all this time wasting money making fashion mistakes, now you’re stressed out and overwhelmed. Shift your thinking. Invest in a service that can help you. You get so much targeted product that long-term you fully save money, because you don’t make all these purchasing mistakes and end up with nothing, which leads to other problems.
Who are some brands you’re following at the moment?
M: So many.
A: Nanushka, thank you. She’s great. She’s from Budapest. She was this small, emerging label for a long time until she got investor cash for distribution, and people quickly caught on. Because she’s always had an amazing collection, but it wasn’t available in the US. She does the most amazing vegan leather. It feels incredible. It’s soft, light, and stylish. She’s someone to watch.
M: You might have seen her puffer jackets before.
A: They spawned some internet fame.
M: The leather puffer would look super cute with the Python helmet.
SMS is sharing some spring style ideas soon, stay tuned!