After feeling that she’d lost everything, Aelita Lori started over and has used new technology to reinvent her business. “If you’ve done it once, you can do it again, only better,” says the Personal Stylist.
When I tell people what I do for a living, I usually get two reactions – interest and confusion. “Oh, I know – you dress celebrities, right?” or “You do shopping , right?” Very few actually understand my business. The reality is that I do it all.
I always had an interest in fashion. I started working on fashion projects at high school. My mother is an artist but before she had me, she used to manage one of the Soviet Union’s largest and most successful fabric production factories. My grandmother used to sew for everyone in her small Russian home town. So fashion and fabric kind of runs in the family. But it never occurred to me before 2005 – when I started my business – that you could make a living as a self-employed fashion professional. I was convinced that you could only succeed by working for a large company. Life is full of the unexpected.
After completing a fashion design course at Central Saint Martins college in London – the alma mater of such designers as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney – I had to return to my home country. There, I found my first job, it was in printing. But after less than a year, a life-changing opportunity came knocking on my door. I scored a position as an assistant buyer for a multibrand boutique, working with brands like Valentino, Armani, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent, Celine, Lanvin, Chloe, Brioni, Kiton, Jimmy Choo… and many more. After 5 months I was promoted to fashion buyer and soon after I moved to become a manager at another company’s store in Riga. The experience and connections were invaluable.
Heaven and abyss
In 2005 I took a new path when I decided to open my own personal styling agency. It was an opportunity to put my knowledge into practice. It meant working 12-hour days that did not really leave any room for anything else. For two years I slept for around 4 hours each night (or, more like, each early morning) – catering to my personal clients and managing the launch of my new store. The hard work paid off. Sales tripled in the second year. But the work load was unsustainable. Then I experienced a complete change of life once more.
In 2007 I got married and was planning on a baby. Unfortunately, I lost my first child at 16 weeks. I had to undergo an induced labour, but my baby was born in such a severe condition that he didn’t have any chance of surviving. I was crushed. The pain of loss was too much to cope with and I had to close my business down and quit. Yet, just 3 months after losing my first child, I was pregnant again – despite doctor’s orders. Without any hopes, I just let go and accepted what came. My son was born in 2008, healthy and happy. I was planning to be a stay-at-home mum, never going back to working for someone else. During the baby’s first year I suffered from post-natal depression. And I had to deal with it without the support of my husband. He just thought that itwasn’t a big deal.
When my son was just over a year old, I started dreaming of getting back into business. The financial crisis, however, had hit the economy hard, especially in my home country. I felt everything was lost – my career, my family, my self-esteem. I started writing articles on fashion and personal style for a large community, directed at women and mothers. It was to distract myself from all the problems as much as anything else. But people loved them! Women just like me, facing their own issues, wanted to read about something beautiful. Soon after, one of my readers wrote to me asking for a private consultation. I delivered the work. She referred two of her friends to me. Within a year I was dealing with 150 regular clients worldwide, not to mention the ones that just needed a quick wardrobe fix. In 3 years I have doubled the number of happy regular customers and I now operate across Europe, although my clients come from all over the world thanks to online technology.
I do personal styling for any occasion. I go through clients’ wardrobes, assess their body shapes and colour types to offer the best palette and styles. I do personal shopping both with the client and for the client, and I work closely with corporate customers, offering staff training. I have also undertaken fashion consultancy for newspapers and magazines, written articles, delivered lectures and offered seminars on personal style and corporate image. I also host fashion events and lead shopping tours across European cities including Milan, Paris, London, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
In 2014 I relocated to Glasgow with my son and a baby girl born in 2013, and I moved my business to the UK. Thankfully, my parents live here and give me strength and support. I’ve lost some clients because of the move but I’ve gained so much more. I see new opportunities opening up and have great plans for the next year. And I am only 31.
So what has my story taught me so far?
- Believe in what you do. You may not believe in yourself but don’t be afraid to go for the thing you really like. Confidence comes with success and even little steps forward make you feel great.
- Discipline and control are essential but don’t be afraid to let go when everything seems to crumble. Maybe it’s time for a change or just some rest.
- Talk to people wherever possible. Don’t be afraid to write articles on your area of expertise. You don’t have to be a professional journalist or writer to do so. If writing is not your best skill, think about being a public speaker or create videos on various subjects – the only things you will need are a good high definition webcam (that doesn’t cost a fortune), a laptop and a quiet place in your home or office.
- Develop your relationships. I work closely with photographers, store managers, makeup artists, hair dressers, journalists, beauticians, plastic surgeons, nutritionists, travel agents, charities and many other people to deliver the best service possible. Collaborate and incorporate – great ideas need a nurturing environment.
- Be prepared to start over. When you need a fresh start, analyze your previous experience, change what needs to be changed and get to work. You may lose your business, your marriage and even your clients but your vital assets – knowledge and experience – will always be with you. If you’ve done it once, you can do it again, only better.
- People don’t judge you by your losses. They judge you by your success. There is nothing humiliating in doing something wrong. Try to fix what is fixable and drop anything that is completely broken.