5 Things You Need to Succeed in the Fashion Industry
Written by: Kristin Marquet
Original Publication: Authority Magazine
As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Stolch. Jordan is an Image Strategy expert, who is passionate about helping people transform the way they show up in the world.
She is the founder of MiKADO, a concierge personal styling firm, that focuses on eliminating the confusion and insecurities associated with determining how to dress. She’s spent the last decade studying the connection between confidence, self-perception, and impression, after recognizing the power of implementing actionable wardrobe techniques and strategic mindset shifts.
Her company has taught hundreds of men and women how to leverage a confident, put-together image, in order to open up abundant opportunities in both their personal and professional lives.
MiKADO trains entrepreneurs, business leaders and corporate executives in the foundations of “power dressing”, from some of the country’s preeminent companies, with the likes of Morgan Stanley, Deloitte, Berkshire Hathaway, E! Entertainment, Starbucks and Disney.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in a relatively small city outside of Toronto, Canada — a place where a career in fashion was entirely unheard of. I’ve had a love of style and clothing for as long as I can remember, but in early life, it was only viewed as a hobby.
After university, I moved directly into sales, on a similar trajectory to most of the people I knew. In my early twenties, I visited Los Angeles for a business trip and was immediately enamored by the city and its world of endless possibilities.
Returning home, I couldn’t ignore the unsettled feelings I was experiencing, and my newfound desire to create more for my life. Looking to LA and the way people lived there, I determined that a career in fashion was not only what I was meant to pursue but also something that now felt attainable. Within a year I had packed up my life in Canada and moved to a new country to begin my next chapter.
I’ve had so many opportunities since then that I never would have dreamt possible earlier, and I often step back and look at my life with immense gratitude as I realize I’ve been able to turn my love of style into a career.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
Since starting my career in fashion, what’s interesting is that I’ve become less and less engaged in trends and what’s hot right now, and almost entirely immersed in what makes people tick. I’m so fascinated by mindset and personal narrative that I consider myself less of a stylist and more of a behavior analyst.
There are so many times that I feel very different from other people who work in my industry, but lately, I’ve come to lean into it. I know it’s what sets me apart and has provided me the space to grow my business into what it is.
After working with hundreds of men and women on their image and personal style, I’ve become obsessed with understanding the way people think and using clothing as a medium that helps them express their deepest traits and desires.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Yes of course! And there’s one that comes to mind immediately because it is so deeply ingrained in my memory.
Years ago, when I was first starting out, I had a client who was walking the red carpet at the Grammy’s. We had chosen his suit a few days in advance and sent it to the tailor for alterations. I had my assistant pick it up and deliver to the client at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills on the day of. And low and behold, the tailor accidentally put someone else’s suit in the bag by accident.
It was a mad rush through traffic, between myself and two other people on my team, to correct the mistake and get the proper suit to the hotel in time for him to get dressed and make it to the carpet before the show began. Luckily we were able to pull it off, but it created an atmosphere of stress for the client and everyone on his team for upwards of two hours. My worst nightmare come true.
What I learned through that experience, and what I instill in my team to this day, is to check every single touchpoint of the process and to never assume something is done correctly. Human error happens, it’s inevitable. But there is always an opportunity for us to intercept those mistakes if we’re paying attention and have the right systems in place.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe we stand out as a company because we have such a strong conviction to provide unparalleled hospitality and life-changing experiences.
When building our services, we start by standing in the shoes of our clients — we envision their lives and forecast what it is that they’ll require to alleviate stress and meet their needs. Before being a fashion-company we are a service and experience company, so we ask ourselves, what would shopping and style look like if it were easy? What kind of experience would make this exciting and rewarding? How can we make the lives of the people we work with better and more fulfilling? We create audacious goals and then work backward, trying to find ways to implement them.
A great example of this is a recent client who happens to be a state senator. To say his schedule is hectic and crazy is an understatement, and we knew that creating a winning experience for him would require the process to be as seamless and simplified as possible.
We teamed up with his assistant to create a really personalized mini shopping boutique in his office, late on a Friday evening once all his meetings wrapped up. We brought in our tailor and three fantastic Stylists who kept things running smoothly and efficiently. We had all his favorite brands there, in his size, for him to shop from. We were able to completely overhaul his wardrobe in under two hours, prep the clothing and have it delivered to his home, all without him having to lift a finger. He felt phenomenal with his elevated style direction, but even more enthusiastic about the fact that we listened to his needs and catered our services to meet his lifestyle.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The fashion industry is nowhere near as glamorous as people imagine it to be, so burnout and exhaustion can become very problematic if you don’t have the right systems in place.
It’s important to pay attention to what you don’t like doing, and to delegate those tasks to someone else on your team or to hire a VA to take care of them for you. The things you don’t like doing take far longer than the things you really enjoy and end up adding unnecessary time to your already very busy day. You’ll notice that your mind resists doing these things and before you know it, half of the day is gone and you’re now stressed about how to get everything done.
It is always worth the investment to pay someone else to handle these tasks so that you can focus on where you provide the most value, and not become overrun by things that don’t require your unique skillset.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My hope is that the work we’re doing is bringing good into the lives of each and every person we work with. While we focus on clothing and creating phenomenal service experiences, my underlying goal in everything we do is to make reality more beautiful and liberating for our clients.
So many people carry stories around with them that they’ve developed throughout the course of their lives. Stories that say they’re not good enough, not young enough, not thin enough, not desirable enough. I’ve heard every story you can imagine, and I watch as they shape people’s lives.
Before we begin developing a client’s sense of style, we work with them to see past these stories and understand that there are freedom and abundance on the other side. As we continue to expand our business, I am more committed than ever to bring new possibilities and a better quality of life to every single person we work with.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
Yes, and it’s actually a passage from one of my favorite books.
“Startup CEOs should not play the odds. When you are building a company, you must believe there is an answer and you cannot pay attention to your odds of finding it. You just have to find it. It matters not whether your chances are 9 in 10 or 1 in 1000; your task is the same,” — Ben Horowitz from “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”
Ben’s ideas throughout this book, and specifically as they pertain to this passage, have been so relevant to the development of our business.
It’s easy to get caught up in the odds of succeeding, especially when you feel like you’re behind the other people around you. I’ve learned to let go of knowing how something is going to happen and just trusting with full conviction that it will. When you set your mind to something, it always has a way of working itself out. But when you doubt and question the possibility of it coming true, you limit yourself and begin to self-sabotage.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
Yes, I’m seeing very exciting developments happening in fashion right now — especially in the retail space. Brands are paying attention to the way customers want to shop and are really catering their services to their unique needs. It’s not enough to just sell nice clothes anymore, you need to make the shopping experience as seamless and easy as possible.
I’m so excited to see the creative ways that retailers will make shopping even easier than we can imagine in the future. Amazon is undoubtedly paving the way for this shift, and clothing brands are paying attention. Even small offerings like a reserve in store or home delivery from a brick and mortar location can make all the difference to a busy customer. In the future, we’re going to see a lot more of this as retailers compete to stay on top.
What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t Pay Attention to What Other People are Doing
The fashion industry is extremely saturated with designers, clothing brands, retailers and stylists. Like any saturated market, in order to succeed you need to focus on your niche — what it is you bring to the table that’s unique and different.
When we were first building MiKADO, everyone said that our business model wouldn’t work. Box-subscriptions and membership services were really starting to become profitable at that time and the advice we regularly received was that we should follow suit.
I knew that wasn’t what our customers wanted or needed — most of the time they had already tried those other services and they didn’t provide the attention to detail or the personalized experience that they were after.
We’ve never looked at what other people are doing in our industry. There’s lots of other businesses that work in the space of personal styling — many in our home town of Los Angeles, but there is nobody else doing what we’re doing, at the level we’re doing it at, because we’re so committed to our unique offering and creating an experienced that cannot be replicated.
Because we’ve been so intentional about focusing on our niche, we’ve been able to grow rapidly — first throughout the US and now offering virtual services across the world. This would not have been possible if we tried to recreate other business models in our industry.
2. Commit Above All Else to Knowing Your Customer
To truly stand out and create a product or service that people will be loyal to, you have to understand the people you’re servicing. It matters much more what your customer wants than what you want, even if you think you know what’s right for them.
When a new client begins working with us, we get to know them on a deep and intimate level before we ever start shopping for them or looking at what’s in their closet. 9 times out of 10 they will make a statement about feeling like they’re in therapy, releasing all of their inner fears and narratives. It means we’re doing our jobs right if our customers feel like we know them this well.
It’s our goal to understand what makes our clients tick. What they want out of life, how they wish to be perceived, when they feel their best, and what makes them experience insecurity and self-doubt. Human beings are special and unique, which means a one-size-fits-one approach to service will never work. Especially when you’re dealing with something as personal as someone’s body and clothing.
Only when we truly get to know our clients can we effectively shop on their behalf.
3. Put Experience Ahead of Profit
Selling great products and services isn’t enough to succeed. Not in this day and age where customers drive the narrative, have a voice in your brand’s story, and can access all of your competitors with the click of a button. To truly stand out and be successful, you absolutely must focus on the experience. How can you create an impact on someone’s life that they will not forget? How do we demonstrate to our customers that their well-being is our utmost priority? Where can we tie in the human element that connects the service-provider with the end-user in a meaningful way? By focusing on the experience, profitability will always be exponentially higher and more sustainable, and our customers will be satisfied and forever our biggest fans.
At MiKADO we focus on the user experience at every possible touchpoint. This is most notable during our initial consultation process — the first time a client gets to interact with a human on our team.
In this preliminary introduction to our brand, we give our customers the space to talk about their challenges and express their goals. We focus the consultation entirely on them, where many other service providers would go straight in for a sale.
There’s no time limit and no cost involved for the session. We also don’t ask that anyone sign up for service during their meeting, because we want to create an environment that feels relaxed and comfortable. One where the entire focus is on finding hope and solutions.
In 2020 thus far, 98% of initial consultations have moved on to book their services and become on-going customers. If our primary focus was on selling and closing deals, I’m certain this success rate would be much lower. It is our ability to create a winning first experience that gives people the confidence to invest their money in our brand and put their trust in our team — they know what to expect from us moving forward!
4. Be Open to Change and Pivoting
In order to succeed in fashion, agility is essential in order to adjust to what’s happening in the industry. The way people shop for clothes, spend their money, find designers, and follow trends is constantly changing — much of which is driven by technology. It’s essential that you continuously keep your eye on what’s happening and learn to meet your customers where they’re at. Not where they used to be or where you wish they were.
This has never been more true for our business than in the 2020 reality of the coronavirus. Like many people in our industry, we were hit hard by the pandemic and government-enforced stay at home orders. Overnight we went from a three-month waitlist to an entirely new landscape where almost every one of our clients was working from home and living in sweat pants. With the blink of an eye, nobody needed clothing anymore and they most certainly didn’t want a Stylist in their home.
7 months into the pandemic and we can now see that 2020 has been the greatest blessing we’ve ever been given for our business. We were quickly able to pivot, recognizing that people all over the world were quite rapidly becoming comfortable working with service-providers online. This immediately opened up our client demographic — now we’re able to work with people outside of our state and even outside of our country.
In order to do so, we focused our attention on changing the narrative. We began educating people on the importance of dressing in regular clothing for work, its impact on productivity, and the integral role it plays in maintaining a routine. And after several months of living in sweats, people started seeing that there was a need for personal style even while working from home.
Being quick to pivot has kept us running during this time, and we now have a new virtual arm of our business — something I never would have imagined succeeding just a year ago.
5. Love What You Do
As I mentioned before, fashion is not the glamorous industry that many people make it out to be. It’s not playing with clothes all day and dressing up. If this is the path you’ve chosen for yourself then you absolutely must eat, sleep and breathe it — you must love it to your core.
There have been so many times throughout my career I felt tested. Pushed by my reality to see if this was truly the path for me. 16-hour days, 10 consecutive months without a day off, sacrificing my personal life in order to build my professional success. The thing that has always kept me going, even when I had no idea if my goals would ever come to fruition, is my passion and conviction for what I do. My ability to change peoples’ lives. It fills my soul, there’s nothing else like it in the world for me, and because of that, I’ve been fortunate enough to build my business into what it’s become today.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
The fashion industry can and is improving itself by recognizing its economic footprint and its contribution to environmental waste.
Covid has really shown us what we need and doesn’t need; what we can live without. And that spotlight is shining brightly on the fashion industry.
I have always worked with my clients on investing money into things they actually love and use, not building an abundance of stuff just for the sake of shopping. I think that this kind of perspective-shift is happening right now in this industry and will continue to take shape even in a post-Covid era.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d love to start a movement that let go of our attachment towards age. Especially for women. I’d remind everyone that we all age, that none of us are immune, and that we should celebrate life to its fullest, no matter the decade we happen to be in.
So many of the women I work with are carrying around self-destructive narratives that say they’re no longer allowed to be beautiful or desirable because they’re past a certain cut-off. I hate that that’s a reality people feel they have to live with. What a waste of our precious time on this earth.
One of the first things we work on letting go of with our new clients is these types of limiting beliefs, and I’d love nothing more than to start a movement that helped other people change their thinking as well.
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