I read a Forbes article, Can Dressing Well Increase Your Income in 2013?, and it featured Sam Russell, a celebrity stylist who started an interesting charity. Sam started The Giving Closet in 2011, using his industry connections to help women in need get wardrobes to help them with their job search. I had to bring Sam to TheFrugalista.com because I wanted to share his fashion wisdom, charming wit and giving nature with all of you! Of course, he gives the insider scoop on how to shop on the frugal and fabulous side of life! I hope you enjoy the interview with Sam as much as I enjoyed doing it! xo!
Q&A with Sam Russell, creator of The Giving Closet and Fashion Expert
What prompted you to start The Giving Closet?
It started with a celeb client’s girlfriend hounding me for a free designer handbag. While doing a free photoshoot for her in her million-dollar home, she pointed to a pair of shoes that I brought and stated that she wanted them. She did not ask, but just stated it. After all the free “PR” swag I had hooked her up with in the past, I realized this once professional relationship was going nowhere. She was out for herself and nothing else mattered. I had a total Oprah Winfrey light-bulb moment. I would rather acquire designer goods (set aside for famous people and the media) and reroute the goods to people in need. Once that idea washed over me, it was all I could think about. Nothing else mattered to me at the point.
How exactly does The Giving Closet charity work?
I have developed strong relationships with brand managers and public relations professionals. I ask the media to tell a human interest story on someone who gives back to the community – or better yet, someone who does for others and never asks for anything in return – truly selfless. I find these unique stories of everyday women through non-profits and social workers. No one knows who I am and the stories of everyday people doing amazing things are plentiful. If the media can give a thank you credit to the designers that donate to these surprise giveaways; then everyone is happy. Its a delicate dance, but The Giving Closet is here to prove that fashion does have a heart.
You come from a styling background. Do you style the women differently who are in need than you do your celeb clients? How so?
A single mom of five in Long Island cannot benefit from designer gowns and over-priced jewelry. I focus on her lifestyle and personalize each garment selected. I no longer want to use my time and resources to make celebrities look their best for press junkets; I want to help real women who need a hand up, not a hand out.
Frugalistas are smart, ambitious women who are serious about their personal finance. Do you have any advice for where young professional women AND men should invest and save on their wardrobes?
Never pay retail. Buy what you need for winter off season. That designer jacket looks alluring all new on the shelf. It’s still a great find four months later and at 70 percent off. Research sample sales in the biggest city near you. The back room at Loehmanns is everything. If you find yourself in Los Angeles, I cannot say enough good things about Crossroads Trading Co., 7409 Melrose Ave. in Hollywood, Ca. All wardrobe stylists dump products there after large productions. This means a client paid for it, did not want it and in most cases, it still has the tag on it. This re-sale shop will sell it for a (small) fraction of what it retailed for a week ago when it was purchased.
The best accessory is happiness – a must in our world. Sure, I can suggest a good dark blazer ( and yes, everyone does notice your shoes, so choose well), but good energy brings about good experiences. I have been in million-dollar homes looking at some of the saddest faces.
What does every outfit need in order to be fabulous? Any tips?
I think a splash of color can wake up any outfit and your mood. Even if you’re more comfortable in all black all the time, find a pop of color in there somewhere.
Also, try researching local designers in your area. A cool one-of-a-kind tie or a handmade ring purchased from a local mom-and-pop shop can be just the look to separate you from the pack. (It can be) a beautiful conversational piece when on a job interview!
Does The Giving Closet need help or volunteers? What should people do if they want to help The Giving Closet?
I just wrapped my fifth Giving Closet and I have several more in the pipeline. Anyone can donate clothes, but it’s more important that you -the reader-start your own passion project. If every person in the United States stopped and did one nice thing for a stranger or even stopped and picked up a piece of trash from the ground, this would unite us all again and make the U.S. strong.
The Giving Closet always needs media support. If our media could take a break from Honey Boo Boo or the Kardashians and cover more human interest stories, we could influence more lives and heal.
What’s on trend for this winter? I know I need a puffer coat to stay warm. Is that tacky?
I never pay attention to trends. It’s all dreamt up to make us consume more. Avoid anything that washes you out, robs you of your savings and if puffy comes to mind; avoid it. Unless you are lifting weights on muscle beach, no one wants to look “puffier.”
If someone wants to become a stylist, what do you suggest they do?
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles is an amazing fashion school and a strong place to start. I never advise show business or fashion as a career choice for anyone. Its a cutthroat business with a slew of people who will back stab you to get a bit higher than you on that social ladder. But if it’s in your heart and your true calling – nothing will stop you.
What’s your favorite frugal and fab buy?
I found the most luxurious Gucci shirt at Crossroads for$25 . On the not so frugal side of things, I plan on being buried in my Alexander McQueen dinner coat from Nieman Marcus. Don’t ask how much.
Where are you headed next on your giving tour?
Knoxville, Tennessee. I have never been there and I’m excited to meet the locals and add another great name to my next $10,000 surprise giveaway.
Why is image important?
Knowing your image and worth is everything. No one will give it to you, so find it and own it.
Follow Sam Russell on Twitter @givingsam
Images are courtesy of Sam Russell