By Beth Lebwohl
Laurel Kinney serves as a personal stylist to hundreds of Austinites, and it’s easy to see why: she has consummate personal style. Kinney arrived for our appointment and my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. Was it her giant, ice-blue eyes that got me? Her British-mod cropped hair? Or was it her flannel, set against gold jewelry?
Alas, it was all of these things.
“This,” I thought, “This is the woman I want holding my hand as I cry inside my closet, uttering the words, “I have so many clothes, but nothing to wear. Can you help?”
Kinney elicits this emotional response often, perhaps because she holds a degree in social work from Columbia University. She told me, “I don’t think I ever ‘got a start’ in fashion, per se, but I started styling as a career in 2010. I have always loved playing with my own style, but never considered it as a professional path until I got burnt out on social work and wanted to find a way to help people that felt more creative and joyful. I feel grateful for my work every day, and it’s because I get to connect with awesome people and help them feel confident and attractive. How could that not be rewarding?”
In addition to working as a personal stylist, Kinney also outfits entire restaurant teams. Her most recent collaborations have been with the staff of TRIO and Barlata. Kinney is undoubtedly a good fit for the restaurant industry: the woman has pep, and a firecracker sense of humor. Even her body language is jocular, in the manner of a classic comedienne (think: dramatic arm flourishes and facial expressions).
Curious about what it might be like to work with her, I asked Kinney if she could lead me through her styling process. She explained that she tends to do her job over the course of three sessions. “The first step is to identify what [look] you tend to gravitate towards and examine whether it’s still working for you,” she said. After that initial session, she takes clients shopping. Then, she has clients mix and match their new pieces with ones they’ve got at home. She said this process can be therapeutic, as it can shake loose anxieties clients may be holding onto about their bodies, or their personal identity.
“I love watching style change and grow over the years,” she added. “There’s one client I’ve had for a long time who has been a real joy to work with. She used to be all about color and her preppy wardrobe reflected her fun, youthful personality. Over time, as she’s grown in her profession, she’s felt more comfortable adding neutrals and a few more edgier pieces, but her overall style has remained truly her own. We always have sessions where we say, ‘What’s next? What can we add to take what we’ve got to the next level?’ I love that strong voice showing through in a wardrobe, and helping people get clear on that.“
“Leandra Medine (of the blog Man Repeller). She proves that it’s all about swagger and confidence and she can wear anything well. I love how she styles herself in a super distinct and modern way, though I don’t think I could ever pull off half of what she does. I admire her strong humor-driven point of view.
For more accessible trends with less irony, I really like Olivia Palermo’s style. She seems to have an endless supply of perfect ‘street style’ outfits that make me cringe with envy (in a good way).”
Get the Look:
1. Go for the flair
“I’m always on board to try a new denim trend, and they are easy to find in stores like Zara and Madewell – try a pair of flares this summer and give your skinnies a rest.”
2.Open things up
“I’m pretty crazy about the open-toed ankle boot too, and love the camel-colored varieties paired with everything from dresses to cutoff shorts. Nordstrom carries a great selection of shoes at all price-points.”
3. Play the long game
“I’m also always on the lookout for unique pieces of jewelry, particularly long necklaces that can be worn every day. I love shop owner Lucy’s jewelry collection at Sunroom.”
Written by Beth Lebwohl
Images Courtesy of Laurel Kinney, ManRepeller.com, OliviaPalermo.com
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Beth Lebwohl earned her writing chops here in Texas, where, for several years, she produced stories for EarthSky, a globally syndicated science radio program. In addition to her passion for the written (and spoken) word, Beth loves the graphic and decorative arts, tea, goat farms and the warm-hearted folks of Austin. She is a proud native of Queens, New York.
Writing: Beth Lebwohl
Photography: Chris Perez – @citygrammag
Images of Eden East Courtesy of Nom Nom PR
Written by Beth Lebwohl
Images Courtesy of Stephen MacMillan Moser, Frances Mac Laughlin, LIFE