Today on the podcast we are going to learn a bit more about style coaching with personal style coach Elyse Holladay.
Elyse is on a mission to help women transform their relationship with clothes and show up fully as their authentic selves.
In this episode, Elyse is going to talk about:
- The power of style — and why that power has been so underestimated,
- What personal style coaching is all about
- The importance of habits, why it’s so challenging to shift consumption behaviors
- How she integrates her values into her business,
- The balance of fair pricing as a socially conscious business,
- And her advice for others who want to start service-based slow fashion businesses of their own!
If you know someone who would find this episode on the power of style and running a values-based business interesting or useful, you can share it with them through sending up the show notes here or sharing through your podcast app of choice!
Tune in to this episode of the Conscious Style Podcast below, or on your favorite podcast app
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Read the Transcript From This Interview:
Elyse is starting off sharing her journey to becoming a personal style coach!
It’s very much a meandering journey and I think like a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of new online business entrepreneurs, it didn’t start with, I want to have a business. It started more with my own, my own journey and my own experience. In particular my journey through sustainable style through defining my style.
You know, because I’m not a fashion person. I think a lot of personal stylists are often like fashion people who are like very interested in fashion. But I was a software engineer, like I do not have a fashion background and that wasn’t really how I came to things.
You know, I went through my own life transformation where style was just like a really painful part of my life. I had gotten engaged, I had a job that I really liked, I was like, who am I?
Like, what does it mean to dress in a way that feels like me? This just feels wrong and I feel like so much of my energy was sucked in this like negative spiral, right? I wanted to like style but I was like I want out of this cycle.
I’m like rushing to the mall after work. I’m stressing out every morning trying to figure out how to make an outfit. I’m spending all of this money on clothes that were just either falling apart, or I would get them home and I wouldn’t like them.
And you know, I don’t think my journey is all that unique, actually. I think lots of people experience that. And I was like, how do I, how do I get out of this? You know, and so I went through my journey of figuring out… I read every book, I read every article, I read every blog. And I went through all those stages of being stuck and frustrated blaming my body, trying on all these different style identities.
Discovering unfancy and capsule wardrobes and being like, okay, now I’ve got it figured out. Only I was still trying to like, how many pieces can I put in one capsule per season and like just, it was still the same behaviors just in a capsule wardrobe situation instead? It really didn’t feel good.
And it took me a really long time to figure out how do I do this in a way that is in alignment with my values? That, you know, how do I find clothes that fit my body? How do I find clothes that fit my lifestyle? And then also how do I do that and shop within my budget but also with brands that I feel good about?
And what does it even mean for me to feel good about a brand? What brands are doing “good” and what brands are “bad”? And that’s I mean, an impossible question but it was really for me about my habits, my behaviors, articulating my values, understanding that for myself, instead of just constantly being in that spiral.
At some point I started developing systems for myself, systems of behaviors, systems of tracking my wardrobe, systems of figuring out how to shop, assessing my closet on a regular basis.
And so instead of ping pong-ing around between all these different tactics and ideas, I was really getting on a steady way of relating to my style. And I was like, I just feel this could help other people, I feel like I could help get other people to think about their habits and their behaviors in that same way.
So my original notes around that time, this was like 2018-2019, where like, I think that uncovering your personal style can be a way to practice self awareness and conscious consumption. And I want to help people spend less negative mental energy on their clothes.
I feel like we’re just stuck on this hamster wheel and I want to help people understand themselves, understand the relationship to clothes. So it really started with that, because I feel like our clothes and bodies are so caught up in like, there’s such a source of internalized sexism, internalized patriarchy, and like beauty standards, and like, shopping and consumptions, that’s a really excellent place to start thinking critically about our values.
And so that’s really where I started. So it really didn’t have anything to do with clothes, or like styling, but it was really more about how do we relate to our clothes? And then started to see how that could be a business, which I’m sure we’ll talk much more about as we go.
Definitely, no, that’s so true that clothes can be this source of such negative energy. And it is really transformative to develop a more positive relationship with what’s in our closet. And I think that’s really underestimated, like a lot of people assume that fashion is superficial, and maybe thinking about our personal style is frivolous, or whatever.
But I like how you talk about style as more than just aesthetics, but that it really can influence our mindset, and so many aspects of our lives. So can you tell us more about that, like what you see as the power of style?
Yeah, I actually have a whole Instagram rant post that I go on where I talked about this, because I think this is actually really, maybe damaging is a strong word. But this idea that style is frivolous, I think is one of the things that keeps us in some of our bad behaviors.
Well, I can’t think about it seriously, I can’t take it seriously. It’s shameful to take it seriously, or to look really seriously at my spending. And so we are like, well, I shouldn’t spend so much money on clothes, I’m going to restrict myself.
But we don’t really take a look at the underlying reasons, because it’s “just clothes”, it’s “just shopping”, it’s just haha girls go to the mall. We don’t, you know, we don’t look at it really deeply. And that’s, I think that stops us from understanding how powerful it actually can be.
And I think that the two things that I really want to talk about here are the ways that style is powerful, just from like a human nature perspective. And how style in a modern sense can really kind of help us navigate beauty standards and the world.
You know, we are social animals, we are social creatures. And we have always, always decorated… we’ve always made art, we’ve always decorated ourselves. And we’ve always used clothes and style to make social judgments and make a social hierarchy like this is every culture does this in some way. We are visual creatures, and we’re social creatures.
So of course, we can talk about beauty standards in society and judgment. But like some of this is just human nature. And so of course, you get a group of humans together, we make a culture, right? And we make cultural expectations and social norms.
And that stuff like, you know, what, what does a hoodie mean? What does a doctor’s coat mean, we associate things with that. We associate, you know, in the West, white means purity. And in the East, in a lot of cultures, white is like a morning color, like we make these cultural meanings with clothes.
And so that’s a real way that we engage with each other. It’s a real way that we engage with the world. And I think when we were like, oh, it’s just trends and fast fashion hauls, and like girls shopping, like I think we’ve really aleed how powerful that actually is, and how important it is in our life in our culture.
And again, like we can, we can complain about society and I think there’s a lot of societal stuff around clothes that we should work to fix. And I also think that we are, we’re never going to not be like this. We’re never going to not use clothes as culture, religion, belonging, self-expression, like we make meaning with clothes. And I think that’s one of the reasons that it really matters.
Yeah, so true. I feel like it’s, even if you go to a museum and see from thousands and thousands of years ago, you see how they used clothing or adornments like jewelry to sort of set social hierarchies and communicate something to the rest of society, so very fascinating.
And there’s so much more that we could explore with that but I know, there was a second part of that power of style question that you wanted to touch on.
Yeah. So I think the second reason that style is really powerful is that in a modern way, it really helps us navigate beauty standards. We know that there really, there’s a lot of impact in how we show up, and the way that people perceive us.
And some of those are really negative, right? And we can and should push back on those and also, we can use clothes to help us feel to armor ourselves in to help us feel prepared to navigate those situations.
There’s a beauty journalist Jessica DeFino, she talks a lot about this. And she says, there are two ways to address the stranglehold of beauty standards, and one is by helping women better perform beauty like to do it more easily, and an expanded perception of what is beautiful.
And the second is by pushing for a future where beauty has no bearing on how women are treated. There are really, she says, there are distinct social and economic advantages to performing beauty, and existing within a culture that pressures us to change our appearance.
And so I think, you know, we have to do first layer is like, how do we do it for ourselves? And then the second layer is how do we interrogate our own stories and model for others a different way of being where beauty or clothes and that judgment is less important?
But it’s really hard to do that second level work when we’re still like, stuck in how do I dress myself? How do I feel good in my clothes? So I think we do this work for ourselves first as like, well, how do I feel good, how do I navigate beauty standards? How do I show up in the room feeling well dressed and like, I know that people are perceiving me in this way.
And then once we understand that, I think it’s a little bit easier to be like, Why do I care about this? It’s really hard to dismantle those stories when you’re still stuck in them. And so there’s kind of like two layers. And this is what I mean, when I say that, we can use style as a way to navigate and interrogate our stories around beauty and like good stuff.
Mhm yeah, really interesting thinking about just how style informs so, so much, and I feel like we’re starting to get into a little bit of like, what you do as a style coach, but I would love for us to sort of clarify both for myself and the audience. You know, what is the difference between a personal stylist versus a style coach?
Yeah, so the main difference is that I don’t shop for my clients. As a style coach, I work with them more as a coach than on the style part. And I work with my clients to help them define their personal style, look at their shopping habits, learn to shop strategically, and look at their self identity.
So we do a mix of style education. So that is the kind of the styling part: it’s like, fabrics, colors fits proportions, like, how do you make clothes look the way you want them to look on your body? How do I decide what I even like?
But we also do a lot of mindset and emotional support, unpacking our stories, a lot of coaching, a lot of self reflection, habits, science. I love like brain science, behavior change, you know, so we look at like personal values and stuff like that.
And it’s really teaching you the skills, you need to incorporate how you want to show up, incorporate how you want to shop — not just how to make outfits. So you’re really doing the work and I’m a guide.
So you know stylists, it’s like we’re going to clean out your closet, we’re going to go shopping, they’re going to make you a lookbook and often they make a commission on clothes. And so it’s still like there’s this focus on being styled by someone, they make the outfits for you.
And they tell you, even when they say like, I don’t tell you how you should dress, they’re still the ones that are kind of like, put these things together, and here’s the outfit and here’s your lookbook. And so my focus is really like how do I get my clients to learn how to do that for themselves. So they never have to be reliant on me or anybody else in the future.
And so what does it exactly look like to have you as a personal style coach?
So right now I work with clients inside my program, it’s called The Unfolding. And it is a personal style and self development lab. So we again, we work on defining your personal style, like how do I even figure out what I like? What is it? How do I put words around it? How do I use that to shop? How do I shop strategically? And you know, by that, I mean, how do I make a plan? How do I budget but without restricting myself and trying to go on a no buy and failing and like, you know, like how do I actually change my habits and behaviors? And how do I show up fully? Like how do I develop that kind of confidence to wear what I want to wear?
And how do I incorporate that into, you know how to incorporate my values into what I do. So, you know, just for an example. Inside the program, we have live lessons. So, I’ll teach on a topic, sometimes there’s pre recorded videos, sometimes they’re live. But then really the bulk of it is I do style reviews and then there’s group coaching calls.
So there’s a couple different ways that I actually work with clients inside the program and the style reviews are one of my favorite because, like I said, I’m not doing I’m not making a style profile for you, I’m not making a lookbook for you, you’re doing all that yourself.
You’re looking at your closet, your outfits, what you like, through guidance and worksheets and exercises that I’m providing. And then you submit that work to me and I provide personalized feedback just for you. So you’re getting my eyes and attention. But you’re actually still like going through yourself so that you’re learning as you do it.
So just the other week, I had a client who submitted some photos of herself in jeans that she didn’t like, and some inspirational photos of outfits, and she was like, are the jeans that my photos like the ones that I have in the inspiration? Like they never fit the way that I want. How do I make jeans work? Should I just give up on jeans? Jeans are hard. Like how do I like why can’t I make this work for me?
And so I get to provide her some feedback on that but she has to go out and try on some other pairs or cuff or hem hers or like fix the waist or like try on different styles. It’s up to her to determine whether or not she’s happy with the way that that looks in the end, instead of me going, oh, buy these. These are the ones that you want.
And then we have the group coaching calls and so that’s more of the coaching part. So people are like, I have a mindset challenge or I’m frustrated by this. What do I do for fall? Like I have a client right now who’s like, I don’t have any good fall clothes, my body has changed, I have to go back to the office. I don’t have anything in my closet that even works for this cold weather, like what do I even do?
How do we develop a strategy for her so that she’s shopping on purpose? And she’s very, very, sustainability in particular is very important for this client, more maybe then some other clients. So she’s very much like, I’m not buying it if it doesn’t fit these standards.
So yes, lots of personalized coaching and feedback direct to people as you go through learning these skills, learning the mindset shifts, changing your habits, so that you can really create style that evolves with you.
Mm hmm. Totally. That’s really, really interesting. And I feel like such a different approach to what’s out there now. So you mentioned that, you know, one of your clients is really passionate about sustainability, maybe others I imagine are less so, but still want to have this service.
And I know that from reading about what you do and talking with you that slow fashion is something very important to you personally.
So I’m curious, how do you sort of meet people where they’re at, and integrate sustainable and slow fashion values in your work, while giving clients advice and guidance?
This exact balance has informed so much of what I do, because, yes, different clients come to me with different levels of awareness. Some clients are like, I’m absolutely not shopping anywhere that’s not what I consider a sustainable brand, and other people are like, well, I’d like to but you know, it’s… like we all come to it with from different places, like different starting points.
And I honestly believe that to get anybody to change, we have to meet you where you are. You can’t just like, we were talking before the podcast started recording about What Not to Wear and it’s like it’s not, throw it on your clothes, buy an entirely new sustainable wardrobe, the end, everything’s great now, you are not contributing to the fashion climate problem, like done.
And I can’t tell you how many times I hear stuff like, my body has changed, I had to buy new clothes but I feel too guilty. The old ones don’t fit and what do I do? I feel so bad in all my clothes. I hate everything in my closet but then I feel so guilty that the fashion industry is so terrible, that I’d rather personally suffer because I’m obviously personally responsible for climate change. If I buy anything and it comes in the mail in a plastic bag like it’s all my fault.
You know, and I think we are we have responsibility as individuals, but there’s so much shaming and misinformation and frankly, just conflicting information and uncertainty.
Part of the problem in the fashion industry is that we don’t know how many garments are being produced. We don’t know how much waste is being produced. There’s just the supply chains are unclear and that’s why we can’t tell if you’re greenwashing us or not.
And so like as an individual, it becomes people get truly frozen and I think that they are unable to wear clothes that make them feel good and also unable to do any fashion activism because they’re just like, What do I do? Like, how do I navigate this?
And so one of the things that I really, really focus on is helping my clients define what they value and what those values mean. So we talk a lot about sustainable fashion or slow fashion or ethical fashion.
What levers can you actually pull to act on your values? What does sustainability mean to you? How do you do sustainability in your own life? So like, you know, it’s like, ‘Oh, don’t shop fast fashion.’ Okay, well shop good brands. What does that mean?
And so, you know, how do you focus on that? And determine like, what does it mean for me? What things am I willing to — or what things I want to look, look for? What things am I not willing to support? How do I change my behavior when a brand that we all thought was beloved around sustainability turns out to be terrible? Like, then what do you do, right?
And so it gets down into these little nitty gritty decisions, where it’s like, is it more important to you to have ethical organic cotton bras and undies, or a bra that fits you even though it’s not organic or sustainable? Is it fabric, is it how it’s made, is it where it’s made, is it the human rights aspect? Is it like, there’s so many questions, and so I really help my clients get down into like, what does it mean to me?
What do I want to focus on? Like, do I care about human rights? Is that the thing? I’m looking at factories, I’m looking at the people part? Am I looking at organic fabrics, natural fibers, you get to pull a lot of different levers, and there’s literally nobody doing it perfect. Like, there’s no perfect, you can’t be perfect. None of us can be perfect. No brand’s perfect.
So we try to figure out, what does it look like in real life for you to do the best you can? So for me meeting my clients, where they are, is also helping them figure out like, what is my style? What do I like and what fits me so that when I go to make purchases, no matter where they are from, they last. They stay in their closet, they’re happy with them. I think that the best way to get us to like shop less is to like, make better shopping decisions.
Yeah, absolutely. And everybody has sort of a different, you know, different access, different privilege, there’s size, there’s income, there’s location, you can’t have it all. Yeah, you maybe can’t get something organic and sustainably produced that’s also local, or you can’t have…
Right, there’s no right answer. And none of those things are, you know, as individuals, we have different levers, we can pull around like, well, I’m going to focus on budget, or I’m going to focus on you know, I have money, so I’m going to focus on things made locally, or organic things or whatever.
But brands do that, too, right? Brands are also navigating well, do we have a certification? And are the certifications even good? You know, which certification do we do? Or do we do organic fabrics? Or do we do deadstock? Or do we do made in the US, and it is made in the US even good?
So like, as a brand, they’re navigating that too. And so this is a problem, like the fashion industry and the problems related to the fashion industry: human rights, capitalism, waste pollution, climate, like all of that is a really complex problem.
And I think it’s really naive to think that any individual purchase is making, solving or not solving the problem, right? Like, they’re all just different angles that we can take to try to do to live out our values.
And same for a brands, we’ll talk about this, I think. You know, for me as a business, like what does that mean, for me, like, my values, but brands making clothes are the same way, like they have values, and they’re just trying to do the best they can and kind of in a really complex environment.
Yeah, so true, sometimes, especially if they’re a smaller brand with a limited budget they have to choose and then the bigger brands with the biggest budgets and the you know, they’re the ones that do the least. Anyway, I could really go on a rant about that one but we’ll move on.
So we had a fashion psychologist, come on to the podcast, Shakaila Forbes-Bell. And I asked Shakaila about what is keeping people from making more conscious consumption choices on a psychological level? And her first response was that, you know, it’s just really difficult to change our habits like we are creatures of habit.
So, Elyse, something that you do part of your work as a Style Coach is to help people take action and change their style habits. So can you tell us about that? And you know, how do you help people change their style habits?
For sure, this is a topic close to my heart. I love Shakaila and I love her work. She actually commented on my Instagram post about how style isn’t frivolous and was like, this is amazing and I was totally fangirling so it’s kind of funny that you this.
But this was really, you know, like I said, this is really one of the driving motivators for me in starting my business because it wasn’t that I wanted to do style. I didn’t want to style people or I didn’t want to shop for people. I was like, we’re struggling with this incredible negative mental energy like this hamster wheel, we’re in agony over this stuff and the way that we change that is by changing our habits and behaviors.
Changing your habits and behaviors is a whole, like, this is a huge topic of research. There’s so much going on here. And I’m not going to pretend, I am not a neuroscientist, I, you know, there’s so much but this is like a real personal, passion topic. I really love to read all the books.
Because it’s really, really complex, we are complex, we live in a really complex world. Just like the fashion thing, it’s hard on Instagram. There’s just not a lot of room for nuance and a lot of these discussions and so you get an Instagram post that’s like, we’ll shop less. That’s how you, that’s how you do better at fashion. Just don’t buy so much stuff.
Okay, but like, how do we do that? How do we actually want less stuff? You know I think often we force and restrict ourselves and that makes us miserable. It’s just like diet culture. We’re like stuck in these like endless rules and endless restrictions.
And in the end, the pressures of beauty standards, or like the cultural norms are so strong that we actually want to look stylish more than we want to shop less. Like deep down, maybe it’s the desiring of approval, or maybe we’re still trying to wear clothes that make us look thin, because those beauty pressures are so strong. We live in the world. I don’t think it should be really shameful. It’s the pressures that we exist in, and we all experience.
So one of the things I’m really excited to do with my clients has helped them rewrite and unpack those stories. How do we get to a point where we are so clear on what we like that when we go and we look at the new arrivals page, we’re like, I don’t even want any of that stuff. Right?
Like how do we untangle ourselves from that desire? How do we understand where it’s coming from? How do we figure out you know…
So for me, personally, like I’m quite curvy on bottom. I’m a couple sizes different in the waist and the hip. And this was a place of real difficulty for me shopping, because most things at the mall just do not fit. Even with tailoring they often don’t fit.
And so this was the place where I was constantly like, Oh, these jeans are going to be the ones, nope, they’re not the ones. Oh, I’m going to give up on jeans. No, I really want jeans like look how cute she looks in this inspiration photo. These jeans are going to be the one.
Like obviously, this is more complex for you know, people even in bigger bodies for fat people for gender non-conforming people, or if you’re gaining and losing weight, if you have a lot of body fluctuation. There’s so much shame and there’s so much to navigate there.
But when you find things that you like, for me personally, like now when I go look at jeans on the new arrivals page, I’m like, these aren’t even gonna fit me anyway. I’ve got jeans in my closet that are better. And that takes some time and it takes some practice. But what it’s been able to do is like help me navigate: what do I value? I don’t value spending all my time looking on the new arrivals page, and I don’t value feeling miserable in my clothes.
And I value having things that I wear over and over. And so it really like I’m going to go to all this trouble to figure out exactly what that is exactly what clothes that I like, so that I don’t even want to go shopping anymore.
I had to go to the mall the other week for something I was like, it’s terrible here. I don’t want to be here anymore. I was the person who was like rushing to the mall, like after a bad day at work for some retail therapy, because I thought it would make me feel better. It’s an incredible shift in behavior and I think it really came from like unpacking those stories.
So this is I think the most important part of the work I do. And this is the reason that my program is six months. You know, I don’t think there’s a thing that you can do overnight. And it’s not even a thing that you can do by having better clothes in your closet. That’s a little bit of it. But it’s also like, what’s your self talk? What do you do in your free time? Do you just go straight to Instagram? Who are you following on Instagram?
It’s creating a strategy and understanding your behaviors. There’s a lot of self reflection. I talk a lot about critical thinking without self criticism, that’s really a value that I try to model and it’s a value in the values pledge that I have my clients take.
And that’s really, you know, how do we assess all the information we have? So our desires, our behaviors, our beliefs, our habits? And how do we look at all that information and use that information to guide our future behavior? Just like thinking really critically about what we’re doing.
Not self critically, not, you know, it’s not telling stories or lies about yourself. It’s not like, I’m so stupid or careless or I like you know, I’m terrible at shopping. I regret that or I wish I hadn’t made this purchase.
Why did I do it? What was driving me? How was I feeling? How do I not do it again? Like what is that? And it’s just it’s very, very small day to day actions. We really have to stop being like, it’s me. I’m bad. And that I think it’s one of the first places for a lot of people is because there’s so many stories around clothes.
Yeah, yeah, there was so much there, but I really feel like I resonated with that, not even being attracted to like the new arrivals page or the mall like it doesn’t even, I feel like once you separate yourself from that, and you fall in love with the clothes in your closet, and you kind of start to enjoy the beauty of slowing down. It’s like, not even appealing, like, to me the mall is stressful.
Yes, and nothing fits me anyway. And I hate I hate it. But you know, I remember when that was not the case. And I remember how hard it was to extricate myself and the clothes that I was wearing were just maybe that was like 10% of it.
And so there’s all this other stuff, right? Shakaila talks about habits. The way you do laundry is a habit, the way you take care of your clothes is a habit, the self-talk that you say to yourself is a habit.
I was just talking to one of my clients the other day about how clothes are our boundary setting when you work from home. It’s like, these are my pajamas, these are my lounge / morning clothes, these are my work clothes, these are my evening clothes. It’s all that kind of stuff, all those habits.
Like it’s not about being rigid and robotic and setting more rules. It’s about really looking with compassion at yourself and going why am I doing this? What am I doing here? And is this how I want to be? And this is why I think everybody can really, I called my training “Get Stylish on Your Own Terms”
And I really do think that everybody can get stylish on their own terms, it’s just that we have to figure out what those terms are for you personally, because you cannot be looking at anybody else and going I want to be like that. You have to start from where you are, and figure out how you want to be.
Yeah, that’s beautiful. So you run a very values-based business. On your website, you write, “We are transforming our relationship with clothes, breaking free of self criticism, and overconsumption and uncovering our singular style.”
So I wanted to quote that because I found it very powerful. So can you tell us more about your values and how that influences how you operate on a day to day basis? How does that influence your style coaching process?
Yeah, so I mean, thank you, first of all. And I’m I am trying. I am trying to have a values driven business. You know it’s a constant journey, though.
Jennifer Armbrust, she runs Sister Is and The Feminist Business School, and she says, you don’t have a feminist business. It’s a constant commitment.
And I think that that’s true of any, we were just talking about habits, like, I think that’s true of any habit, right? Like anything that you do, like values in the way that you shop. It’s a constant commitment to be like, this is how I’m going to show up in my life.
I think for me, this started when I was starting my business, and I was going, how do I really help people? I wrote for myself some values that could be like my guiding question, like, is this decision going to help me do that mission? Is this decision going to help me live in accordance with this thing that I value? We’ve talked about some of this a little bit, this idea that articulating our stories about fashion can be a catalyst for a journey of like critical thinking, and, you know, feminist thought, and practice and like ethics.
I won’t lie, I came to understand a lot of my ethics through clothes. I was shopping at the mall, and I was going, I don’t like any of this, like, how do I find other better things? And that led me to an entire journey of ethics and the fashion industry and capitalism and how clothes are made and like all kinds of things. And I know, that’s not everybody’s personal journey but I think for a lot of people, that’s true.
And in business, it was the same way. Like, how do I help other people go through this journey? And so having a value driven businesses really like in day to day actions.
So two that I’ll kind of touch on briefly, for me are being receptive. So as a business owner, and entrepreneur, well, just as a person too, like, how do I stay open to new ideas and feedback?
There’s a lot of talk about giving back in your business and like all of this. It’s not just like, oh, I, I donated X dollars, therefore, I’m like, doing value driven business. Sure, that’s great and I have giving built into my business too. But for me, that’s also like, Well, how do I stay receptive to learning new things?
So if I learned that I am saying something, you know, I’m using a factor of study or I’m talking about something in a particular way, and I get some feedback, or I learned that that’s not a good way to talk about it, or there’s a better way… How do I stay open to that? And that is a constant, constant practice all the time.
And then, you know, inside my coaching business in particular, there’s a values pledge. It’s on my website, but this is a values pledge that I have my clients literally commit to when they join. They sign a little thing that’s like, I will try to uphold these values and these behaviors.
And they’re really about thinking critically without self criticism which we talked about a minute ago, but they’re about speaking positively. And I think my favorite is: we model the world that we want to live in.
So I have my clients, like, literally sign this because I’m like, it’s not a thing that you just say, I’m going to be a good person now, or I’m going to be a value-driven person now. It’s like, how do I start acting this way?
You know, whether that’s inside my coaching program, or for me personally or for you know, any my clients like, it’s just knowing what those are helps you ask the question, is this action that I’m about to take in alignment with my values? Because if you don’t know what your values are, you cannot answer that question.
Mhm. Oh, man, that reminds me of a quote, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
It’s so true. Because we want to be good, or we want to be sustainable, or we want to put like, what does that actually look like in your everyday life? And again, it cannot be, well, this is what Elyse does, or this is what so and so does. What do you do?
And I mean, I’m not trying to make it sound like it’s incredibly easy, because it’s actually very, very hard. But I think it’s so much more important than just like, well, I shop at this sustainable brand.
Yeah, it’s, I know, in my personal journey, it’s evolved and changed and grown and reversed. And, you know, and I try to not ever say, like, this is how it should be, exactly and…
..you’re wrong, and this is bad…
Yeah, I mean, I think like, at this point, it’s like, fast fashion, overproduction, you know, not from like, an individual who shops fast fashion level, but from like a company level like I am, very comfortable and saying like, this is not a sustainable approach.
But I think there’s a lot of other nuances that I’ve changed drastically. And I like to stay open to learning and, you know, being comfortable changing my opinion, when presented with new information.
I think that’s really a sign of I recall a quote that we’ve heard I, I’ve heard something along the lines of, you know, we think about, we think an intelligent person or a values driven person is a person who knows themself and knows what they stand for, and is like, this is the truth.
But a real intelligent person, a real value driven person, is somebody who’s like, there’s just so much that I don’t know. Here’s what I believe right now. You know, strong opinions loosely held. And that it takes a lot of intentional effort to say, hmm, I was wrong about that, I’m going to change my tune.
And, you know, it takes a lot of work. But we’re talking about things being controversial, we were just talking about individuals versus, you know, like changing individual habits versus like the big systemic stuff.
And part of why I think some of these things are controversial is because we always really want there to be like one simple answer. Everybody should do x. The world is just way too complex for that. And you can’t fit all that complexity inside an Instagram post.
And so then we get people trying to smush down a very complex topic into like one statement on an Instagram post, and then everybody in the comments is like, you’re wrong, That’s not how it works. Like, that’s not like, how dare you tell somebody in my situation to do that.
And there’s I think just an acceptance that there’s just a lot of nuance, and that what works for one person or one brand, like we were just talking about isn’t going to work for anybody else. Or may not, right? Like you have to come to it and learn what you’re going to learn and come from all these different, unique starting places. And that’s, that can be really challenging.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. And speaking of trying to operate with like, you know, being a values driven business and the complexities and challenges with that, can you speak to, you know, what sort of challenges or obstacles that you faced when founding and trying to grow your style coaching business?
Oh, can I ever? I mean, first of all, just, there’s all kinds of challenges of growing a business and having a business. I’m sure that you know, and we have very different shapes, different kinds of businesses. And so the challenges are really, really different.
But we’re trying to do a business inside capitalism. How do you do it? How do you even grow a business? How do you like, it’s just so complicated. And so there’s just so many challenges that are just first of all around like doing a business.
And for me, I have said over and over, I don’t want to do this if I can’t do it with my values intact. I don’t want it to turn into a shopping platform. I’m just not interested in doing that, and if I have to do that for my business to succeed, I don’t want to.
And we’re talking about changing our tune like, that’s how I feel right now. That is how I have felt to date. It’s possible I may change my mind, but right now that’s just like, I don’t want to do it the way that it’s always been done, just because that’s the way we do it.
So we don’t value clothes and style. We don’t value women’s work. We don’t value these soft skills. And so like, how do I navigate those? How do I work in style without selling clothes, right? I’m not dissing influencers, or brand collabs or anything like that. It’s just like, I didn’t want it to be like, I didn’t want to do that.
And so that, first of all, is a balance, because that’s one of the easiest things to do. It’s expected. And so building a business that’s in style and fashion that doesn’t involve selling any clothes, is like, that’s just like a whole thing to navigate.
Because what am I selling instead? And is it worth it? And do people think it’s worth it? And that’s just like, I mean, that there’s a business aspect to it as well. But for me, that was a value thing, too.
Yeah. Yeah, no, that’s really interesting. And I think that this season of the podcast, I wanted to focus a lot on careers and kind of, you know, lifting the veil on some of these careers in conscious fashion. And some of these may be alternative careers, alternative jobs. And you know, what that looks like.
Because that question, you know, how do I build a business not focused on shopping? Like that’s tough. I can’t say that I’ve figured that out. I definitely earn income through affiliate and partnerships. And these are brands, I’m like, very, very strict about who I collaborate with.
And I don’t think that that will ever go away but I do think about how to sort of diversify that income. You know, it is very difficult to find ways to make money in fashion that don’t push consumption. It’s very difficult. And so I love I think it’s really interesting to hear about what you do, because that is, you know, is what you’re what you’re doing.
Yeah, you were thinking about how do I diversify my income streams and how do we make money? Like, how do we make a sustainable business, right, and so when I say, sustainable here, I don’t necessarily mean like, oh, I shipped things and recycled cardboard, or whatever.
But like, sustainable in the sense of, this is my livelihood now. This is my whole, like, or this is my whole, like, this is all my income. This is like my full time thing. How do we price our services? How do we price our products? If you’re a product based business?
And there’s a lot of conversation, especially in fashion, around price accessibility, you know, like, How can all these sustainable brands make $300 pairs of pants? I can never afford a pair of $300 pants.
And I think that’s true in the non-product side of this business as well, right, like, how do you charge for your services? I have to feel really genuinely good about what I’m asking you to part with your hard earned money for, I have to know that my coaching delivers, I have to know that my program is like really valuable and I have to believe in that.
You know, this, this is my full time job. And so I have to balance like, is it inaccessible of me to charge a high price? I have a six month program, you know, I have a lot of expertise, I have all my regular business expenses, I have tech tools. We’re doing a podcast here, so we’re like, you pay for the podcast, certainly, you know, the transcription and all the tech tools you pay for.
We get our own coaching, or we pay for assistance and help because I’m a solo entrepreneur, it has a lot to do as one person. So I need to pay for support and help. You probably have an assistant or something too, you have a team, you know, I gotta pay taxes.
And like, let’s be honest, we want to pay ourselves too, right? Like, we don’t want to work for free. And I think as women and you know, even in an industry that maybe isn’t considered serious, we deserve to get paid for our work. Like maybe it’s not valued. But we we still deserve to get paid for our work.
And so there’s a lot of again, complexities here. So like, how do I make affordable, accessible things for people? How do I serve people? How do I charge enough to serve people really well, inside my program, which is six months and a lot of really high touch support — like I can’t charge $47 for it, you know.
And so there’s the way that I really think about this is like, as my business stabilizes as I’m able to make money that allows me to create more things that are more affordable.
And so I think this is one of the most interesting avenues in the service side is like how do we be more transparent about pricing, about the value of what we do about how we work so that you can make a really educated decision.
Because the value of style coaching and of working with me, it’s like it’s super, like it’s intangible. Like what is the value to you if you’ve never really had a stressed out morning trying to make an outfit ever again. I cannot put a dollar amount on that. I cannot put a dollar amount on, you go look at the new arrivals page and you don’t even want anything. What is that worth? It’s not straightforward.
Yeah, pricing is a big challenge. I feel like I struggled with that when I was like freelancing, I struggle with that now with pricing partnership packages. And yeah, it’s a challenge.
There aren’t really like set rates and it’s also quite opaque. I mean, it’s probably different with coaching, I don’t know if they publish prices, but with creators nobody really publishes prices, either, so that makes it even more difficult to navigate.
Yeah, and that’s actually that’s price transparency, like having your price available up front. I think that style, like a lot of other like kind of feminine coated areas, like it’s not really considered high value. We expect it to be cheap, because we devalue how important it is to your life.
And this is just one of the many, many causes of the gender pay gap, right? Like, as an entrepreneur, I don’t want to be one of the millions of female business owners who’s like not making enough money to survive. That has a bigger impact. And I don’t want to devalue style. So I can, I can put my work out there for really cheap but I think the trickle impact of that is really, really damaging.
And I think from a consumer buying standpoint, we’re not really good at thinking about these, like longer term things. So you know, like cost per wear is like a whole thing. And so it’s like, okay, well a $30 cardigan or a $300 cardigan… am I actually going to get the value out of that?
And so the more intangible that becomes, which is something like coaching services, it’s very, very hard for us to understand what is the value I’m going to get out of this thing?
And so there’s a big discussion in the coaching services industry about like, do you put your prices available upfront? And a lot of people say, now, from an ethics standpoint, you should, because that helps people who just truly cannot afford it, it helps them know. It gives a benchmark.
You know, you’re talking about making it not opaque, right, like understanding what other people charge and that’s going to help kind of like equalize prices and all of that.
Sometimes in a sales conversation or in a training or a conversation, you can understand and start to understand what the value is, whereas if you just read a number on a website, it’s completely out of context.
And you may be like, you know what, that’s not worth it because it’s intangible. And so the other argument, right is like, how do you get to have a conversation with somebody to help them understand?
How do I have a conversation where everybody has all the information, and you can make a decision for yourself whether or not you think this is valuable? It’s just again, because it’s really intangible.
And I think that’s true for influencers and brand collaborations and stuff too. There may be some ROI, like you have this many views, this many clicks, like we have all these metrics. But really, a lot of the value is intangible.
And so how do you start to have a conversation about that, so that both sides, both parties, whether that’s me and a client, or you know an influencer in a brand or like you and a media partnership, like how do we know it’s going to be worth it? How do we know if we’re a good fit? How do we know if we vibe with each other?
And that a lot of it is just a conversation that you can’t just have by looking at a webpage or somebody’s Instagram or a number. And so I think that’s one of the hardest parts is like, how do you really get into a conversation with somebody?
It’s a relationship where I’m like, how do you build a relationship and especially as a coach, like that’s what I want to do is I want to build a relationship with anybody who comes to talk to me and be like, can I actually help you? Like, am I the right person?
Yeah, absolutely. So for others who want to start their own service-based conscious fashion business, whether that’s coaching, styling, consulting, maybe mending and tailoring, whatever it is, what advice do you have for them?
Ooh, oh, there’s so many things that I could talk about. So I think first of all, like it or not, you’re starting a business. I mentioned Jennifer Armbrust and Sister Is and The Feminist Business School and she talks about feminist or feminine-ish business as an experiment.
Like how do we embody our values inside capitalism? How can a business be sustainable? Is this a hobby? Is it a business that can sustain itself outside of you?
And so you know, you are going to… when you start a business when you try to figure out what your business is, you’re going to confront your money stories, you are going to confront your fear of selling and marketing. Like how do we do that with our values intact?
You’ve probably heard entrepreneurship is a personal growth exercise — and it is. Because when you are trying to sell something, when you are trying to serve other people, you are, you’re gonna come up with all like come against all of this stuff. Like what do I think about money? Are my ideas good enough? How do I talk about them? How do I market?
What is your, I’m gonna say unique because I don’t like original, I don’t think there’s really much that’s original out there, certainly I didn’t like make up all the neuroscience techniques that I use, like the habits building techniques, right? But like what is my unique take? What is your unique service like what makes yours necessary and maybe a little bit different.
That’s again, it’s like classic business advice. But start developing your own message, your own structured thinking and that will really help you develop your ethical marketing and your offer and like what you do.
People care about style more than just outfits. I think that that’s really clear now. And so like, how are you actually going to help and serve them? Like, what is their need and how can you do that, and what’s your like, your particular unique space?
And I think coaching and personal growth is still growing. Like it’s becoming a lot more normal to invest in yourself as an individual. And to recognize that I need support, I need coaching. And so I know quite a few people who are starting styling or style coaching services, and I think there’s just room for like, there’s room for more people because we all have a niche.
I want to do a special callout for Lindsay Goldsmith. She’s a new style coach and she focuses specifically on plus size women and like a healing their particular style and clothing and like restriction and body stories.
And I think that’s just so incredible, because she has a very particular person that she’s willing to serve, because she’s experienced it. And so she can just really, really serve them way, way better, because she’s got this niche and I think that’s amazing and I think there’s so much room for that kind of stuff.
So I want to see so many more of these businesses come up so that we can really like, think about working in style in a different way, like we talked about earlier, that doesn’t just involve shopping.
Yeah, and I love that you talked about that like there’s room for more, because I think that one of the biggest misconceptions is people will see other content creators, other style coaches, other consultants, whatever it is other apps, and think that like, oh, well that that’s already filled. Like there’s no room for me.
I struggled with that so much.
Yeah. Like these, there’s already The Curated Closet, why do I need to be here?
But you know, it’s, there’s just so much, there’s so much more room, there’s so much more interest, there’s so many people in the world, and somebody’s gonna resonate with like your particular take or work. And I think that that compare and despair is so, so painful and so damaging.
So we really have to get out of that and just be like, you know what, I’m here to do a cool thing and somebody is going to be into it. Because you don’t, it doesn’t have to be everybody, right? You don’t have to have every reader or every podcast listener, you just have to have enough for you.
Right, exactly. You don’t need a million followers or a million customers to be successful. You need less way less than you might think to build a career if you’re pricing it right. But yeah, I think I think that’s so good to keep in mind.
Like I was very hesitant to start this podcast, because I was like there’s other sustainable fashion podcasts out there. So like, you know, everyone listening, you wouldn’t be listening to this right now, if I decided to not start it because I was scared that there were other podcasts that were similar, or I had a fear they’re similar.
But you know, if you made it to this point in the show, I you know, hopefully you’re getting something out of it. And…
I’m glad you did. I’m glad we’re here.
Yes, I am too. Such amazing conversations. And this, like over an hour here has flown by but it is time to round out the interview. I want to be respectful of your time.
But Elyse thank you so much for joining me today and sharing all of your wisdom and advice and insights. If anybody wants to learn more about working with you, where should they go? What’s the best place?
Yeah, so definitely the best place is my Instagram. That’s @elyseholladay. I’d love to have a conversation with you. I’m a total extrovert. I love to chat. So send me a DM. I would love to know your thoughts on this conversation.
What’s going on with style for you? We were just talking about pricing and coaching and relationships – this is something that you’re struggling with, I’d love to have a really genuine conversation with you. So hit me up on Instagram. Again that’s @eliseholladay. You can also find out more about my program at unfolding.style.
Okay, great. And all those links will be in the episode description, show notes, all that good stuff.
So Elyse, my final question for you, just the question that I ask each guest that comes on the show. And that question is, what does a better future for fashion look like to you?
I love this question so much. I love listening to everybody’s different answers. And I think your listeners know really well that a better fashion industry requires a lot of really systemic change, right? Like political change, business change. I agree.
And I really, you know, love, support, and admire and follow there’s a lot of activists who are doing that kind of work and that’s something that I try to work towards as well, like in the way that I vote and like other stuff.
But personally, we were talking about this a lot in this episode, I’m really interested in individuals and individual habit change. And we need to reduce our consumption. That’s obvious. I think we would all agree with that.
And you know, so many of my clients come to me with that as a goal. They’re like, I’m overbuying, and I don’t like it and I want to be more mindful of my consumption.
And so, for me, a better future for fashion looks like yes, the better systems and policies, you know, it looks like brands who are doing really interesting work, especially around like, circularity, I want to see more of that.
But I think it also looks like brands, offering clothes that actually fit more bodies, more shapes, more needs. So that what we buy actually works better for us. I think things not fitting and feeling right is a huge reason that we keep shopping.
And so there’s all of that, but I’m just so interested in helping individuals know ourselves better, so that we can navigate this. We think we need all the right perfect things but what we’re really looking for is satisfaction. This idea of feeling like ourselves in our clothes and showing up authentically in our life. And so for me, my personal interest in a better future for fashion is how do we get to the point where we feel like we’re showing up authentically and not needing to shop and how do we get there.
And that’s a wrap for this episode with Elyse! Thank you for tuning in — if you liked this episode, hit subscribe so that you don’t miss any future interviews like this one. And if you have any thoughts or want to start a conversation about anything we talked about here you can find Elyse and I on Instagram. I’m at @consciousstyle and Elyse can be found over at the handle @elyseholladay.
I love hearing from you, what’s resonating with you, and what you would like to hear about next on the podcast.
Another way to connect with me is by joining The Conscious Edit community. This is my weekly newsletter about all things conscious fashion. I share articles, podcasts, videos, brands, campaigns, and more. You can sign up for that on consciouslifeandstyle.com/edit or through the link in the episode description.
Thanks so much for spending this past hour or so with Elyse and me. I will meet you here same time same place next week for another episode of the Conscious Style Podcast.
About Elyse Holladay:
Elyse Holladay is a personal style coach and entrepreneur, on a mission to help self-determined women step into the next version of themselves through their personal style. She believes that style is far more than aesthetic—it’s a powerful way for us to be fully present, wear our values, and model the world we want to live in.