Q + A with Sola Adelowo

Stylist and founder of StylistModi and ImageCube, Sola Adelowo has a goal of creating a collaborative community of style professionals, so that they feel empowered as they gain the necessary tools to grow their business.

Lindsay Rosa: What inspires you?

Sola Adelowo: There’s a lot of things that inspire me. I read magazines, journals and blogs from Vogue, Harvard Business Review, Fashion Bomb Daily and many others. All of these mediums expose me to new concepts and ways of doing things. In addition, I listen to podcasts, where thought leaders share their own experiences from their journey and how they overcame challenges. Hearing their stories also inspires me. I enjoy meeting people who work in different industries outside the fashion, styling or talent development industries. I hear about the challenges they endure in their own work. By listening to them, I am inspired by how they overcame those challenges. I get inspired by walking and riding my bike just because I love being in nature. Taking walks at outdoor trails like the Monon Trail and being surrounded by the beauty of nature inspires me. I’m more active on Instagram than other social platforms because it’s more visual. On Instagram (@imgcube or @stylistmodi) I enjoy seeing the works of fashion designers, makeup artists and photographers. They definitely inspire me to create and try something different. Watching makeup artists’ tutorials and techniques is an inspiring experience! I practice some of their techniques on myself as well.

LR: Could you describe a typical work assignment?

SA: I really don’t have a typical work day. On any day I could be bringing a new client on board, working on the curriculum for StylistMōdi’s online school, creating video content for both brands, making sales calls, responding to emails, and other administrative tasks. The two types of clients we have at ImageCube are companies and individual executives. When working with companies, they call me because they need to develop their employees in terms of their style and overall presence. The need is often triggered by miscommunications or a series of unsuccessful engagements between customers and employees. The underlying issue is often that the employee’s credibility and competence are not meeting customer’s expectations. This is when the company hires us to teach and develop their employees to understand how to show-up and engage with customers and build relationships that support success. It’s usually the company’s CEO, CFO, human resource manager or marketing manager who initiates the request for an ImageCube seminar. The process from inquiring about a program, to assessing if a seminar or individual coaching makes senses and delivering the program can take a few weeks or months because there’s planning involved. For individual clients, most of our clients are executives. Usually we get involved to teach them the value of their personal style and presence to effective communication, appearing credible and being memorable. We provide clarity to understand their style and how to meet their audience’s visual expectations. Plus, we simplify the clothes, accessories, makeup, and grooming tools that fit their lifestyle so that how they need to show-up is very easy to execute. For StylistMōdi, our clients are new and seasoned personal style professionals. Newer style professionals usually have 0-2 years of experience so we provide the fashion education that allows them to provide style consultations to their own clients and the business education to operate their consultancy as a business. With our seasoned style professionals many of them have the fashion education, but they’re missing the business knowledge to operate more effectively. As each person’s situation is unique, these are often individual coaching relationships.

LR: What do you like most about styling?

SA: I really love the fact that I’m an educator and that I create a safe space for my clients to show their insecurities about their presence and appearance. I live for the moment when clients understand their own style and they own it and use it as an effective tool in terms of how they’re interacting with their customers or colleagues. It’s an incredibly gratifying experience to take an individual from not being aware to becoming savvy and confident.

LR: What is a challenge you face as a stylist?

SA: Whether you’re an image consultant, fashion consultant or personal stylist, I think our biggest challenge is that the average person doesn’t know that we exist for people outside of Hollywood! Oftentimes people think stylists are just for celebrities and not for your average person. And sometimes people want to believe that how we show up and how we behave shouldn’t be important when the reality of it is that it matters a lot. Regardless of whether or not we think appearance should matter, it does matter. When we have the ability and the tools to adapt, certainly we feel empowered if we use those tools! Then, there are people who think stylists provide a free service because some retailers call their sales associates ‘stylists’. Calling sales associates ‘stylists’ intentionally creates a false sense of security for consumers, which creates more confusion and misinformation about what professional stylists do and how we provide services. We are not sales associates that represent retailers, private labels or other entities. We are independent style entrepreneurs who offer recommendations that are truly in the best interest of our clients.

LR: What advice could you give someone interested in becoming a stylist?

SA: Because there is so much confusion and misinformation about what we do and how we do it, and the fact that we’re not free (we are independent style entrepreneurs) I highly encourage investing in developing a professional business brand to anyone coming into this field. Unfortunately we’re competing with big retailers who giveaway ‘stylist’ titles freely so our business game has to be on-point. Create a fun, engaging and learning experience to help your client. Make sure you have a transparent process that creates clear outcomes and deliverables for your client. Be able to provide guidance that allows your client to take what they learn and make it their own. If our industry is going to thrive we have to take our education and business development seriously.

LR: What is a quote that you like that relates to your work?

SA: “Figuring out what to wear is much easier if you first think about what effect you want to create.” -Designer, Tracy Reese

LR: Describe your personal style.

SA: My own personal style can be defined as colorful, sporty, warm, sophisticated and feminine.

LR: What are some wardrobe must haves for this upcoming fall season?

SA: The must have items include a moto jacket or duster vest, a silky long sleeve blouse or tunic and a shift dress or basic skirt in a muted color such as a teal, mustard or burgundy with tights to compliment the look. I’d also recommend dark wash jeans and comfortable wedge heels.

LR: Where or when did you become interested in styling?

SA: To me being stylish is part of being expressive. I’ve always been expressive because both of my parents are Nigerian and I was raised most of childhood in Nigeria. The culture is rich with brightly-colored & textured fabrics, expressive communication style and warm relationships. As I was growing up the images that I associated with being confident and feeling empowered were rooted in my Nigerian culture. Then fast forward to my career in corporate America where black, navy, grey, no texture and very little expression were the norms for professionalism. It created an identity crisis, which took me years to figure out how to be my colorful and expressive self without crossing the lines of professionalism. My desire to help other people to look and feel like their best self without compromising their professionalism is what led me to create and build ImageCube.

LR: What are some of your goals for this year?

SA: The plan for the next few years is to continue to grow ImageCube beyond Indiana as well as launch StylistMōdi’s online classes and business resources to a broader, more global audience.

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