Geraldine Stutz, the late Henri Bendel president who transformed the New York retail scene in the 1960s, famously quipped, “Fashion says, ‘Me too,’ and style says, ‘Only me.’”
Whether you live and die for the latest shipment at Bergdorf’s or dread opening the closet door every morning, your personal style is your very foremost tool of communication—your visual calling card, and one you want to be unique.
Just as a personal trainer, nutritionist, or life coach can enrich your existence, having a dedicated stylist proves that the right clothes make the woman—and her well-being. Manhattan “Holistic personal stylist” Lisa von Weise knows this all too well and takes Stutz’s p.o.v. one step further. “Knowing yourself is the difference between fashion, what outside forces tell you to wear, and style, the way you express your unique self,” states von Weise, whose own mission is to drown out the sartorial noise and give her clients a highly-personalized bespoke process of helping them identify, not only what their must-haves are for any given season, but to dig much deeper to help them discover and hone what their own signature style truly is and how it fits into their life.
Today von Weise is perched over her laptop at a maple and garnet leather Deco desk in her Hudson Yards Manhattan apartment. Wearing a muted leopard-print Kate Moss for Equipment blouse, a flowing Persian blue Demylee skirt, and an edgy cluster of Wendy Nichol earrings—and with the intensity of a P.I. sifting through microfiche late night at the library—she’s scrolling through the seemingly endless and saturated online retail world. Her mission: finding an array of carefully curated dress options for a client who works for the U.N. and is having a portrait taken.
On a hunt for florals, pretty pale tones, and open necklines, with a finely-trained eye from decades of experience as an editorial stylist and fashion editor, von Weise scours high-end luxury sites like Moda Operandi, Matches, Far Fetch, and Net-a-Porter as well as leverages personal relationships with private showrooms, emerging designers, in-the-know salespeople and invite-only trunk shows. Just as a market editor would spend hours securing the perfect looks for a shoot, von Wiese's computer screen is now peppered with an array of hand-picked items from emerging designers Borgo de Nor, Laura Garcia, Sally La pointe, Alice McCall and veterans Alexander McQueen, and Alberta Ferretti. She zeroes in on a voluminous shift from London-based designer Emilia Wickstead, and a short-winded sigh evolves into an elated gasp. “It has the perfect balance of weightlessness and structure,” she announces as she takes a screen shot. After a quarter decade sharpening her styling skills for Barneys, major women’s magazines like Elle, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and celebrities (From Bruce Springsteen to Angelina Jolie, Zoe Saldano and Winona Ryder), von Weise is intent on putting the “personal” back into “personal styling.” Think of her as a chic friend who also happens to be a well-informed and connected fashion editor, giving her clients a deeply customized wardrobe overhaul.
The switch to a private client base happened by chance, when, in 2011, she offered her services for a charity silent auction. With a blend of empathy, intellect, and sharp curiosity, von Weise’s unflappable voice has the soothing effect of an NPR host—an antidote to the sometimes-grating and intimidating world of fashion. “There are all these fantasies that we see in movies, magazines, and red carpets. There is a huge gap between what you want to be and what you see yourself as and the reality of who you are on a daily basis,” she says. “I use the word holistic because I’m really taking every aspect of their life into consideration. It’s all about finding shapes, cuts, fabrications, moods that are customized to their unique lifestyle, goals, and values from head to toe and beyond. The first step is to look at their closet. That gives me a tremendous amount of super-fast information. I see what they are missing, discover what they’ve never worn and why, and hear stories of what they love and what they hate. When I see their apartment, their décor is hugely telling of who this woman is. That way, I can really curate where they want to go with a full picture.” she explains. (She also thoroughly reviews clients’ calendars to assess their everyday needs as well as upcoming events, trips, and milestones.)
From there, von Weise begins her extensive online research and scouts trunk shows, private showrooms, and boutiques, all in preparation for a vetted and organized shopping experience. “There are so many great salespeople that are willing to do backflips for you and make anything happen, but they aren’t equipped to know the client’s lifestyle or all those little idiosyncrasies.” Von Weise admits her clients often struggle more with looking effortless on a daily basis than with finding drop-dead special occasion garb. “In the evening there is great lighting, there are heels, hair and makeup, and all these great props,” she says as she opens her own closet doors, revealing a fine-tuned wardrobe full of Burberry and Celine basics and pristine vintage statement pieces. “If you’re dressed appropriately and dressed well, you are calm and collected and confident and that is an immediate result. People respond to you in a great way. People dress to reflect where they’re at in their professional and personal life,” says von Weise, who encourages her clients to be more creative, experimental, and have a braver attitude that takes them out of their comfort zone. “I have a client who is a lawyer and works and travels nonstop. She wants to start dating and didn’t have this kind of wardrobe whatsoever. My bespoke styling process for her means curating her downtime, addressing her fears around dating, and enlarging her vision of her future while using my knowledge and access to make the process expansive and luxurious. I have another client who was a model for a long time and is starting a new career in business, and I see huge gaps in her wardrobe because it was mostly pieces for going out. In her case, the personalized focus on her is gently nudging her to mature her wardrobe to match the new responsibility she is craving, while taking advantage of designer collaborations available to her as an influencer.”
Having a proper tailor also enables a woman to make pieces her own, von Weise adds. “I have a client that loves sleeves. So, if she wants a dress, she will buy two so there is enough fabric to make them from the other dress.”
By this point, afternoon light is bursting straight through the blinds, and von Weise has accumulated a dossier of dream dress options to email her U.N. client. “In the past, they would tend to purchase the same thing over and over again,” she says.
For von Weise, watching each client’s transformation is the most gratifying part of the entire process. “I spend the whole day studying reading and thinking about fashion, expression, communication and personal style, and they don’t have the bandwidth for that,” she says. “I help them make informed choices, similar to the way that an art advisor would be. Their shoes, jewelry, the bags—it’s their wearable art collection. Very few realize what power sincerity and individuality carries, it’s something to which everyone aspires.”