Model and stylist Shay Blaché doesn't follow any fashion rules but one: every look should be unique. A social worker by day, this stylist is a fashionista around the clock. "I change my look all the time," said Shay, dressed in a chic, patterned sheath dress and four inch black heels. "My co-workers are never sure who to expect on Monday! Maybe blond, maybe dark; maybe straight, maybe curly hair. I change up my own look a lot. I don't ever want to go anywhere and have another woman wear something I am wearing, and I don't want that for my clients, either. That's why I call my business the Hidden Closet."
When it comes to styling clients, Shay's keyword is also change, and finds it her mission to push them out of their comfort zone--but not too far. "I don't want to dress clients the way I would dress--I want to bring out their personality in the clothes I choose for them," explained Shay, who sends clients a questionnaire before the first consultation. "I want to know if they have pierced ears, where they shop, and even clothing materials and colors--and I like to know why they like something, or why they don't; that way, I can introduce things to them in ways they [accept]."
Since moving to Houston from Phoenix, Shay has taken her personal passion for style and turned it into a second job. She was a contestant in the first annual Smashin' Fashion Stylist Competition last summer, which Shay found to be valuable experience.
"Stylists don't usually get the attention, so I thought that was a really different aspect of the show," said Shay. "The biggest lesson I learned was to always have a Plan B through Z! Two boutiques weren't available the day of the show--I went to pick up items and the doors were closed, the lights were off, and no one answered the phone! Luckily I had a lot of people on speed dial to help me out." Shay credits her modeling, and lots of networking, for the loyal base of vendors and designers at her disposal.
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Blaché's personal style inspirations include famous names like Mary J. Blige, LisaRay, Oprah, and J. Lo. "I always read African-American magazines growing up, I didn't really read Vogue. I was looking at Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, and Iman--even Janet Jackson," said Shay, recalling the days when she would watch her mom and aunt get dressed up to go out. "I have Throwback Thursday pictures on Facebook of me in heels and my grandma's wigs, and I always remember my mom and my aunt getting ready, dancing around the house with their leather pants and those clip-on things for the back of your heels? Some of that stuff still comes in handy sometimes for my photo shoots!"
Shay puts her skills to use in her day job as well. When she worked in drug court, she began taking clients to second-hand shops and giving them two hours to spend $20 on a new outfit. "I started to transform them, " said Shay, who knew the women would feel better about themselves--and do better in front of the judge--with a wardrobe change. "I wanted them to show the judge, who knew their history, that they had learned from their history and were moving forward."
For Shay, moving forward means expanding her client base and one day opening up her own boutique. In the meantime, she's helping the rest of us push our fashion boundaries, even when it makes us a little uncomfortable at first. "It doesn't have to be full-diva, all the time, but adding little touches--the right jeans, a good bag--makes a difference. I take an outfit and 'turn it up', and when clients put on the clothes [I choose] they see it and say, 'I can do this, too!'"