Style mavens for hire

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Monday May 16, 2005
Style mavens for hire

Special to The Gazette

Workplace and family Marie-Claude Pelletier founded a co-operative of stylists after realizing how many professionals -men and women- need tips on how to dress.

It’s easy to imagine yourself on the set of What Not to Wear when you hang out in the office with Jeff Golf and Marie-Claude Pelletier.

To begin with there’s the fitting room with its mirrors, dressmaker’s mannequins and rack of clothes. Then there’s Golf and Pelletier themselves, kinder and gentler versions of the blunt-talking duo in the makeover television program that shows people how to use the right clothes to make the most of their imperfect bodies. Golf and Pelletier are stylists in Les Effrontés, a group of seven stylists who teach people how to dress right for their careers.

They’re riding a wave started by the plethora of television shows like Not To Wear; which are devoted to self-improvement.

« People are starting to appreciate personalized services more, » Golf said.  » They haven’t always regarded clothing as a second skin, and a large part client evoke the sense of themselves that they want to evoke »

Most of Les Effrontés’ clients are professionals who want to dress right for the job, but are either too busy to find the perfect suits and cocktail dresses or aren’t sure of how to pull the look together.

You won’t see any of those clients quoted in this story. They tend to consult the service discreetly, hoping that the world will credit them with their newfound sartorial savvy.

Les Effrontés is one of those companies that grew out of genuine need Marie-Claude Pelletier; 35, founded it in 1999 after realizing that the clothing advice she was dishing out to her friend could also serve a wider public.

 » I was an assistant fashion designer at Turbulence, working in men’s wear » Pelletier said.  » I really wanted my own business, designing clothing for tall men, but I quickly realized it would cost a fortune to set up a design firm.

 » At the same time, I also found I was shopping for friends, and these friends would receive compliments on the clothes that t bought for them. So there I was drafting a business plan for a design firm, and as a sideline I was dressing businessmen who didn’t have time to shop for themselves »

Friends of friends began calling Pelletier until she decided to quit her day job as an assistant designer and become a full-time stylist for men.

She operates the business from her home until it got so big, she had to move it into an office.

She teamed up with Michèle Marin, a women’s stylists, and they founded a co-operative in an upper duplex on trendy Laurier Ave.

 » We had a year of nightmares between 2001 and 2002 because we had three stylists who didn’t work out. They didn’t understand people’s needs. They didn’t understand that it’s not about the clothing. It’s about the people. »

The group now compromises seven stylists, who share Pelletier vision.

Golf, a former CEGEP teacher whose grandfather, Max Auerbach, was a designer of women’s clothes, joined the co-op last year and specialized in dressing women.

« One of our jobs is to educate our clients about their lifestyles and work to determine how to dress them.

« Men rarely tell that because they travel a lot they need a suit made of high-twist wool with a little lycra in it. They just say: ‘I travel a lot for business.' »

One of the most common mistake men make when buying business suits, she says, is  » they buy jackets that are too big and they end up looking like kids wearing Daddy’s jacket. »

One service Les effrontés offers is personal shopping.  » We meet with clients at our agency to talk about who they are, » Pelletier said.  » We ask them to show us their two favorite outfits and any clothes they’ve bought but never worn. Then we set up a purchase plan. If you say you’re never in the office and are always on the run, we can see what your needs are. » The service costs $225 and the stylists suggest their client’s budget get a minimum of $1000 for a wardrobe.

Another service they offer is « wardrobe therapy, » a process in which the stylists spend between two and three hours vetting a client’s clothes, analyzing what’s good and what isn’t. A third service is called a shopping rally.

 » We meet with the client to get a sense of their needs and we go out to identify items we’d like to show them. » Pelletier said. « It’s a customized circuit. We show them how to combine stuff, teach them about the color, cut and fabrics of garments. We’ve found that most people take the wardrobe therapy and then come shopping with us.

The stylists believe that the right wardrobe can help their clients in their careers.  » I had one client come to me because he wanted to advance in his career,  » Pelletier said.  » I dressed him and he did get a better job. Then he came back to me because he wanted to meet the right woman. So I dressed him for his dates. I always say the second date is the most important, so a man should wear something soft, such as a sweater with viscose in it because that’s the date in which she’s going to touch you. »

Golf says many of his clients are successful professionals and businesswoman. « They’ve reached a certain point in their careers and are confident about their abilities, » he said.  » They’ve had to dress in a certain way to get where they are and they want to revive their femininity while still looking professional. I also have a lot of young female clients who have had to look older at work for fear of not being taken seriously. They come to me because they want their clothing to reflect their real age. People often don’t know that their clothing can convey elements of their personality. »

 » This is a service for people who want to be empowered through their image, » Pelletier said, adding that the empowerment extend to the shopping experience, which can be intimidating for many people. You’ve got the salesperson telling you you look great when you don’t. So we’ve found that a lot of people will simply grab the garment, wear it and be done with it even if it’s all wrong for them. »

The goal of their work, Golf said, is to get clients to translate their personalities though their clothes, that second skin.  » It’s about helping people feel authentic. »