It was always clear that 34-year-old, Chicago wardrobe stylist Jen Ublasi had a love for clothing and an interest in luxury items, but it wasn’t until a professional hockey player approached her complimenting her style and asking if she could dress him, did she believe she could pursue her true passion of creating her own business.
If not at a client’s house or shopping at a luxury boutique, another place where she can be found is a custom suit shop, creating suits from scratch for her clients. This particular shop cannot be seen from the outside, yet the owner knows who she is as soon as she is buzzed in. Exposed brick covers the walls and dozens of shelves hold the leather bindings that make up fabric books. She immediately pulls out her favorite book, without even a second glance and flips to her go-to thread count.
She fiddles with the fabric to explain the difference in textures and fit. She proceeds to choose the design and is verbally deciding between buttons and linings, whether the colors would look best and what the structure of the jacket should be. She then takes 20 or so measurements and works to create a luxury custom suit, one of a kind to its owner.
Ublasi a stylist, wardrobe consultant, and entrepreneur has recently opened her own styling company based in Chicago and is currently working with mostly professional athletes, CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs like herself. What follows is a transcript of the conversation that transpired between the two of us.
Q: What first sparked your interest in fashion?
A: My father actually had really good taste in fashion and he was the one got me my first job at Nordstrom when I was 16. He came home and told me you have a job at Nordstrom tomorrow and I asked ‘What is Nordstrom?’ So I think just from working there and I always liked clothes. I have a pretty expensive taste level and I love working with people, that is where the styling came in I think.
Q: What experience made you want to become a stylist?
A: I was actually approached by a professional hockey player and he told me he liked my style and he wanted me to dress him and I said ‘Okay… I can do this.’ So I took it from there and built off of that.
Q: What is your current job description?
A: I am still developing my company, but my job is to work for my client. So I am an image assistant. If it is a new client, I start from square one where I am developing a style for them. It is a very personal service where I take them through the initial consultations and closet evaluation, to get to know who they are and what they kind of style they have, or what they want to portray. My clients are very successful people where they have some sort of image that they have to portray. To keep that in mind along with filling in gaps in their wardrobe, making sure that they have everything they need. Also making sure that they also are getting the right deals. Having a stylist is an investment, but creating the right wardrobe will save money in the end.
Q: Do you develop relationships with your clients?
A: I have very close relationships with my clients; most of whom I am working with right now, I have worked with for ten years, or over my entire career. I know their families, their kids, their birthdays, their everything.
Q: Why is it important to develop individual style for your clients?
A: As superficial as it might sound sometimes, people make a judgment within the first 10 seconds of meeting, no matter what, so first impressions are important. I know that what is inside is way deeper, but people are going to make a judgment and I think that it is super important to dress for your image. If you want a job, you dress like you want that job, if you want to be a CEO, start dressing like a CEO.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job right now?
A: Developing a style for someone, getting to know who they are and pulling out certain things that they didn’t even know about themselves. When they put a full look on and you can see them feel comfortable and confident, it is so rewarding.
Q: What is the experience of creating someone’s image like?
A: It is a very long personal process; I am in someone’s closet, which is often the most personal space for someone. I am seeing where they are uncomfortable wearing something and seeing what they love about themselves. Even when I bring someone through a consultation, they learn more about themselves than they knew before.
Q: What is it like dressing a CEO compared to an athlete?
A: I style based on their personal style and what they like and what they feel comfortable in, but it is also based off of their personality or who they might be standing in front of. I ask what are their teammates are wearing, do they want to look like them or do they want to look different? It is really about what they feel comfortable in and obviously I throw my own style in there. That is why it is such a process to develop these styles and get to know them. It is not like I could just take on someone and know what to dress him or her in, I would never know.
Q: Is there a lesson that you learned through experience in the industry?
A: I think that people think fashion is so pretty and luxurious and it is, but there is so much leg work and labor work that goes behind it.
Q: What are you plans for the future?
A: Slow and steady for me, I don’t see it growing to be a huge company and I want to stay the face of the company. I don’t want to it to develop into this big huge brand, it is about the right client; I would rather have 10 amazing clients that I can help all the time.
By: Marisa Sobotka, Reporter