When I started this blog, I had no idea the doors it would open or the fascinating people I would meet. Today, I get to introduce all of you to one of these amazing people, Niki Whittle. Blogger at Style Studs and Lace, personal stylist at nikiwhittle.com, designer of gorgeous scarves, world traveler, and the force behind the #StylishPittsburgh Campaign, Niki is an incredible talent and one of the nicest people you will meet. Niki is a Pittsburgh-transplant by way of the UK! So not only is she super great to collaborate with, but she uses fun British words like "chuffed" and "rubbish". I have to admit that I am a tad jealous of all the places Niki has called home. Can you believe she lived in India for two years before coming to Pittsburgh? Talk about experiencing two different worlds! Read on to learn more about Niki and pay her a visit today on Instagram at @nikiwhittle!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and the history of Style Studs and Lace.
I’m a personal stylist and textile designer from the UK and I moved to Pittsburgh with my husband just over a year ago after spending two years living in India. I live for travel, love fashion and style and am a huge music fan! When I’m not styling and designing, I spend my time hiking in our beautiful state parks, watching live music and travelling around the US, exploring our new country!
I started blogging back in 2008 as I thought it would be a great way to promote my styling business; I’d also been following blogs for a while and loved the idea of starting my own, so I was pleased to have an excuse to start one J. Back then it was called Hip Shapes and Bristol fashion (a play on the words ‘Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion’, an old nautical term from my home town of Bristol in the UK) but when I moved abroad, I decided I didn’t want the blog to have a name that was location specific, so I changed the name to Style Studs and Lace (which I felt encapsulated my love of pretty, edgy style) and re-branded - www.stylestudsandlace.com.
As my life has changed, the content has changed – In India I wrote a lot about travel and my inspirations and here in Pittsburgh, I’m keen to share local style with the outside world so the content has shifted again. Ultimately I write about style, share my experience and knowledge as a personal stylist, and intersperse this with travel and inspirations.
Obviously blogging is still a great way to show potential clients that I know my stuff, but I feel it’s more personal to me than that now and has become more important than ever to me, as it enables me to share my life away from home with my friends and family back in the UK, and it enables me to stay connected to my clients and business in Bristol, UK. Not only that but it’s been a great way to network, make new connections with other local fashion businesses and make friends in my new home…it’s how we met, Kim!
2. I know you have lived in some pretty amazing places, tell us about that and how you landed in Pittsburgh.
I have, and I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to see so many amazing and inspiring places! My husband and I have always loved to travel and often talked about living abroad. We were always on the lookout for jobs that would take us overseas but it wasn’t until a job in India came up that we actually took it seriously. We travelled around India as part of a five-month world tour after university and both fell in love with the country, so when we had the opportunity to actually live there we couldn’t ignore it! Leaving the UK was a tough decision to make as I had been running my styling business in Bristol for about 4 years and it was doing really well. Moving meant putting that on hold and I was worried that would jeopardize all my hard work, but I think ultimately we both knew we were going to do it. In the end my business hardly suffered, I put a lot of effort into keeping it alive remotely and travelled back to the UK every 4-5 months to style regular and new clients. I actually think that the fact that I was only in Bristol for a limited amount of time gave me an edge – I had a ridiculously long waiting list and found that people were happy to wait (in some cases) up to a year to see me!
I loved living in India so much, we travelled extensively and I felt so inspired…I definitely have a strong connection to that country. I wasn’t permitted to work in India so (when I wasn’t running my business back at home), I spent my time doing all the creative things that I never had time to do in the UK, one of which was revisiting my textile design background and working on producing my own collection of scarves.
Fast forward a couple of years and we’re now in Pittsburgh and I’m just about to launch my accessories business! My husband was keen to look at the next step in his organization after India and as we weren’t quite ready to go home, we looked at the options and decided America would offer the right promotion and could be fun! I’ve been in Pittsburgh for a year and we plan on staying here for a couple more years to come…who knows we may put roots down here, we both think it’s a great city!
3. What was the biggest adjustment you had to make when you moved to Pittsburgh?
Well we’d already successfully made the transition from the UK to India so we were prepared for all the frustrations and difficulties that are involved with moving countries and setting up home in a new city (and trust me there are plenty!). To be honest the biggest adjustment was getting used to the fact that I was no longer in India, I missed the assault on the senses that I got on a daily basis, I missed the color, the noise, the smell and the history! Pittsburgh seemed so quiet, and sparkly-new in comparison.
Oh and another thing that I hadn’t thought would be an adjustment but was - the language. It still tickles me how many things get lost in translation…I often say something and get a blank stare in return or giggles. I had no idea there were so many things we say differently between the US and UK…pants = trousers, sweater = jumper, trash = rubbish…I could go on! Two nations divided by a common language, right?
4. How would you describe Pittsburgh’s style and what would you say to the critics out there who claim it has none!?
Haha! I recognize this question ;) The first time I saw Pittsburgh was when we arrived at the airport with 7 suitcases in tow ready to make it our new home. I’d never been to Pittsburgh before, and if I’m being honest I’d not heard of it either! We spent ages reading up about Pittsburgh online and learned about it through word of mouth, but sadly, Pittsburgh doesn’t get a great rating from outsiders. There were some great reviews of course, but it was hard to ignore the bad ones…the one that stands out the most is an article in GQ magazine that slated Pittsburgh’s style and rated it the 3rd worst dressed city in the US. I was pretty apprehensive about moving here, especially as fashion and style are such a big part of my life (and business) so I crossed my fingers and toes and hoped that it would be better than I had read. Thankfully it was better, it was MUCH better!
I couldn’t believe how WRONG those critics were! Not just about the city as a place to live, but about the style. It inspired me to start my #StylishPittsburgh campaign in a bid to prove the city’s critics wrong!! Pittsburgh has a fantastic sense of style, and it’s pretty diverse too. I’d describe the city as a collection of small neighborhoods that each have their own personality, and this is reflected in the style you see there. Southside is an eclectic mix of sport luxe, preppy students and rockers covered head to toe in tattoos. Lawrenceville is hipster, arty, and quirky - like the boutiques and bars that line Butler Street. Shadyside is more upmarket and you’ll see slightly more conservative outfits here…although it’s not restricted to this! Then there are the hard-core sports fans who proudly wear their favorite black and yellow t’s (I’ve never met a prouder city!), it’s so eclectic that it’s hard to give it a label.
What I can say is that it doesn’t seem to be defined too much by what’s in fashion, people don’t take themselves too seriously and they wear what they like. There isn’t any pressure to look a certain way and I think that lends itself to a much more relaxed, comfortable and real style. I really like this attitude!
5. How did you get into personal styling and what do you love about it?
I began my career in styling, working as a Personal shopper for one of the UK’s biggest department stores - John Lewis. I loved the job and gained invaluable product knowledge along with a wealth of knowledge on dressing different body shapes. But after two years, I started to get frustrated with the sales targets I was supposed to meet and reached a point where I wanted to offer customers shopping and style advice without the expectation that they would spend a significant amount of money on clothes. I also believed that an important part of the process was missing – Closet Consultations – and knew that if people assessed their closets before hitting the shops, they would not only unlock hidden outfits but would be able to make more considered purchases in the future, ultimately building a hard working collection of clothes that truly suited them and worked for their lifestyle.
So in 2008 I made the decision to leave and set up my own Personal Styling business.. It was so scary but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try. 7 years on and I haven’t looked back!
I now work totally independently and take a lot of pride in the fact that I’m not affiliated to any retailers, I don’t take any commission - I work for my clients not the retailers. I also don’t align my business model to fit with a franchise or another business as some Image Consultants do. I am totally independent! This frees me up to take clients to the shops that work best for them and removes the limitations I had when I worked in-store.
The main thing I love about my job is the ability to make someone feel fantastic and to boost their confidence. I see a lot of women (and men) who have low self-esteem or feel lost with their style, but after four hours with me they’re standing up straighter and are oozing confidence! Clothing and style have a powerful effect on how people feel about themselves and what they can achieve and it’s an amazing feeling to be in a position to be able to help someone to grow in confidence and achieve their goals!
6. How would you define your personal style? What’s your style philosophy?
My style has evolved definitely over the years, but right now, I feel like I’ve arrived at a place where I’m happy with it. It’s easy, I don’t have to think too hard about it and can truly say that I know what my style is…trying to define it however, well that’s not so easy!
Music has always been an influence on my style, especially in my early teens when I loved Grunge music! But as I got older I started to become interested in fashion so my style morphed into a mix of fashion and grunge, I knew what I liked but it wasn’t all that flattering. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I started to understand my body shape and what flattered it, once I understood that I found shopping and styling myself much easier, and the outfits I wore were far more flattering!
I guess if I was to try and define my style I would say it’s feminine and edgy. The one constant throughout my evolving style is my love of music and how I bring elements of that into my outfits. I’m a huge fan of rock, and grunge, so studs, leather, skulls and leopard print often feature in my outfits…as does, black. But over the years my style has grown up a little and has become, dare I say it, a little more classic.
My style philosophy? I like this question! Its wear what makes you look and feel fantastic and don’t get too caught up in the latest trends. I’m not saying don’t follow fashion, I’m just saying don’t be a slave to it - wear the fashions that work for you! I try to only buy pieces that fit me well, look great, that I love and that (if possible) go with other things I already have in my closet. I’m constantly striving to curate a collection of hard working clothes that work hard for me and mix and match to the max. It’s what I teach my clients to do and I definitely practice what I preach!
7. What are your favorite spots in Pittsburgh / things to do?
I live in Southside and in the summer, I love grabbing a drink in the early evening sunshine and watching the sun set over downtown! I love to hike and we have a brilliant selection of state parks within easy distance. We’ve actually been camping a lot this summer. I love that most pitches get a fire pit, it’s something you rarely get in the UK!
But I think my favorite thing to do, especially in the summer is to watch some of my favorite bands play at Stage AE! Being able to watch live music outside is a novelty to us Brits, and Pittsburgh gets far more bands playing than we do in Bristol. I love it!
8. How should someone get in touch with you if interested in personal styling?
The best way to get in touch is to visit my website www.nikiwhittle.com and call or email me from there. I’m actually offering 10% off all closet consultations and in-person personal shopping trips throughout September to celebrate being in business for 7 years!