Who to Know in RVA : Chic Stripes

I first came across Chic Stripes when starting my commitment to responsible style at the beginning of this year. I loved her sustainable and consignment style focus, beautiful design aesthetic, and involvement in the Richmond community! Now, because of those factors, I knew that Sydney needed to be featured as someone to know in the RVA responsible fashion scene. She has a unique history and viewpoint on personal style as well as how we should mindfully look at our closets + wardrobes. 

Check out The Good Wear's interview with Chic Stripes for the first September feature of Who to Know in RVA! Enjoy!

How did Chic Stripes start?

Chic Stripes started in 2009 as a fashion blog. It was right on the cusp of when blogging was about to take off and I remember being drawn in by Fashion Toast - this super cool girl who wore the weirdest things that I would never wear, but was so intrigued by the fact that she was putting this stuff out there on the internet. The blog went through a lot of iterations (reviewing runway shows, profiling models, outfits, etc.) before I settled on my niche of shopping second hand first. I carried that on for quite a few years and now I’m transitioning again into an overall sustainable style (second hand and retail).

Chic Stripes as a business started off in 2014 as just a hobby, testing things out on friends and family after attending classes at The School of Style and realizing that this fashion thing I was loving could actually be a business. My background is in nonprofits and mental health, I have a Master of Social Work and Master of Christian Education and had been working full time in that field up until April 2016, when my full-time job was eliminated. That was a now or never moment as I knew I didn’t want to go back to working for another company and I decided to start working for myself. I had Chic Stripes clients as well as my own nonprofit clients where I was doing freelance grant writing. There have been a lot of up and downs since last April - including the part where I was paying myself out of our savings (even after cutting our budget down to bare bones) because I wasn’t bringing in enough income and actually started and was hired as a grant writer with a local nonprofit - which I promptly quit after 4 weeks because I had finally (finally!) realized what I wanted to do and it was not grant writing. It took that experience to really hit it home for me and from there I started to make moves, refine my services, get help from mentors and business coaches (huge shout out to Larkin and Shannon of Lemon Umbrella), and work to make Chic Stripes sustainable and profitable for me and our family. As of September 1, 2017 - I’ve quit the last of my freelance grant writing gig and have officially made the jump to full time with Chic Stripes.

What does sustainable style mean to you?

Sustainable style simply means shopping with intention or purpose. I always advise that my clients shop with a list of pieces they know they want / their closet needs. This cuts down tremendously on all of those impulse things that we buy because they are on sale, or they look good on the mannequin or our friends say are super cute on us (without knowing our wardrobes and lifestyle needs!). Sustainable style means that you make purchases, no matter where the purchase comes from, that are thoughtful and that the piece you intend to buy has a place in your existing wardrobe. I have pieces I’ve purchased at H&M that I wear daily and have had for 7+ years. I also have pieces from retailers like Nordstrom that I’ve spent a lot of money on but it filled a very specific hole in my wardrobe. Both were sustainable choices for me because they fit the bill of what I needed and I still have them and plan to have them for 7+ more years. Sustainable style is not making throw away purchases on things you only plan to wear for one season.

What was your first consignment experience?

I have always been a secondhand shopper - I remember my mom taking us to yard sales and then discovering thrift stores in high school. But I would say my first actual consignment experience came when I did my year of shopping second hand and discovered Baggio Consignment, a luxury designer consignment store in the West End of Richmond (another heartfelt thanks here to Norma who let me intern with her (and taught me how to pronounce designer names!) and later work as a sales associate as recently as this past January when I needed hours and income). I remember being blown away by the fact that I could purchase a pair of Jimmy Choos for $90. From there it just opened up a whole new world of being able to find (and afford) quality, designer items. For me, shopping second hand isn’t always about the price (although that’s a nice plus!) - it’s more about the treasure hunt of never knowing what you’ll find, waiting for that perfect piece to find you, the idea that what you are wearing will not be a clone of everyone else, and knowing that I’m supporting local businesses while also giving clothing a second life - side note! Looking through some of the photos, I still have quite a number of the pieces featured!

What is one of the most helpful tips you share with clients?

Always have a list! Know what your wardrobe needs (we do this in our closet audit) and then write down those specific things on your list (I keep my personal list in my notes on my phone). That way, when you are shopping, you won’t be distracted by all the pretty things that catch your eye, but you will develop a keen sense of knowing when the right piece comes along and how much value that piece will add to your wardrobe. No impulse piece ever lasts long in my clients’ closets. They find that when they have their list and wait to find the piece that checks the box on the list, those pieces become wardrobe staples, lasting them for many, many years. It is a good investment - no matter if it’s a thrift store find or a more expensive retail/designer piece.

Do you have any brands or individuals that inspire you to shop sustainably?

You [The Good Wear Blog]! I love catching up on your blog because you are in the sustainable world a bit more than I am and I love learning from others. I also really like:

  • Rupa, Love This - a sustainable and ethically sourced mobile boutique based in Richmond. Rupa has an architectural background, so I appreciate her eye for design and style, which can often be missing in the “ethical” fashion world. 
  • April, AllAWear - her take on sustainable fashion is really unique because she has SUCH a feminine personal style that you don’t usually see with sustainable/ethical fashion brands - it’s usually very minimal and sleek and I like that she’s reaching a whole different audience.
  • Victoria, Our Wander Life / Bijou Hill - she’s a thrifter after my own heart and I love how much she loves old things and the stories behind them
  • Marie Kondo - she wrote The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and while that’s a little more minimalism based, I think the same basic principles apply - your clothing should spark joy and have useful purpose in your life (note: this doesn’t mean you have to throw out that sequined vintage vest or wool cape you found but rarely wear), but it does mean you need to think carefully about your purchases and if they will bring joy and usefulness to your life. I actually rarely go thrifting now because I literally do not need anything and if I go, I know I’ll find something that’s a one of a kind that I have to get, so I just choose not to thrift as much as a means of making sure I’m not purchasing pieces on impulse and keeping my own closet full of pieces I truly love and will wear.

What is one thing you’d like people to know about Chic Stripes?

I wasn’t a fashion girl growing up. I was (and still am) a total tomboy. I love camping, hiking, and rock climbing and I’m totally not afraid of getting dirty. I can do a lot of pushups with really good form. I also love an amazing pair of heels, am a sucker for vintage belts and clutches and believe how you dress can impact the rest of your life. I want people to know that who they are and having style is not counter-intuitive. You can be whoever you are, like what you like, and dress well and true to yourself. Personal style CAN be learned - I help my clients do this every single day.

What do you love about the RVA community?

It is truly, incredibly, supportive. There was a time when my husband and I wanted to move to Denver (okay, so it’s on my manifestation list to still have a home there one day!), but our lives and things we have built are here in Richmond. Richmond is unique because of it’s size - it’s easy to “know” everyone and make connections - and that’s something I think we take for granted living here. I couldn’t do what I’m doing now as easily in New York, LA, or even Denver. In Richmond, people do really care not only about your business, but about you. And we have so many business owners just killing it - it’s so fun to see that growth. Even in this one piece, I’ve mentioned a ton of Richmond women who have helped me with my business. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for every single one of them investing in me and my vision and my goals.

Where can we find you next?

You can always find me in my monthly newsletter - I share lots of fashion tips, business advice, blog posts, and all the events I’ll be hosting / planning for the month.

  • Sept. 20 - I’ll be helping to facilitate one of the breakout groups at the next TEDxRVA Salon event. I’m really excited for this because the topic is the freelance/gig economy. I love talking income streams and business, and really honored they invited me! Keep an eye on their social media for official event details. 
  • Sept. 28 - I’m hosting a [free!] style workshop at Clementine, a local consignment boutique that is one of my favorites here in Richmond. RSVP here!

Non Fashion related, BUT!

  • Sept. 23 - Breakaway RVA ride - with a few friends and my husband, we plan monthly social bike rides to help get people out and about in Richmond on their bikes. With the launch of the new bike share, this should be a fun Saturday morning ride. It’s totally casual and we have people from ages 2 (in bike strollers!) right on up to 60+ and of all skills and abilities. Sign up for the newsletter to know when routes are open for registration!

Follow along with Sydney + Chic Stripes on Instagram here.
Photographs provided by Sydney of Chic Stripes.