Q&A with Jalyn Tani Lang
Ahead of our collaboration with Bay Area style consultant Jalyn Tani Lang (read all about that here), we sat down (virtually) with Jalyn to find out more about her back story, styling philosophy and tricks of the trade.
Silver Lining: First a little background on your career as a stylist. What initially attracted you to this line of work?
Jalyn: I’ve always loved fashion even as a child growing up in Hawaii. While everyone was in shorts and flip flops, I wanted gaucho pants and a white frilly shirt in grade school! I helped friends and family with shopping, while pursuing other careers. I am an accomplished seamstress and made prom dresses for me as well as my daughters. After moving to California, I wanted a change from an environmental law career. I realized I could use my interest in fashion and skills in tailoring, along with my problem solving and analytical skills from law to become a personal style consultant, which I have been doing since 2000.
SL: Your job includes directing clients to clothing that suits their style and body type but there is SO MUCH content out there! How do you manage to stay abreast of designers and trends without becoming an Internet fashion zombie?
J: I love keeping up to date with fashion and subscribe to all the fashion magazines, peruse various fashion websites, and use social media to augment print. I make it a point to keep up to date with what’s in the stores. But I also believe it’s important to educate your eye and refine your taste, so I love going to museums and looking at art in all shapes and forms. I also look to nature for inspiration.
SL: Of the main services you offer clients (Personal Style Consultation, Closet Audit, Special Event Shopping and Travel Shopping and Packing) do you have a favorite and why (or why not)?
J: I love it all. But I think it’s important to start in the closet to gain a baseline before augmenting with new pieces. Special event shopping and travel packing/shopping are also fun because clients are excited about the upcoming trip or event. The pre-shopping, picking out items prior to the personal shopping, is gratifying because it’s a complete joy to have clients try on something that lights up their faces! My services are so individualized and personal, which makes the rewards of working with clients that much more meaningful.
SL: Tell us about the Closet Audit process. How do you handle editing a space that can be an emotional (and material) land mine?
J: We look at everything in the closet with a critical eye and ask judicious questions. Is it dated, doesn’t fit, and doesn’t flatter? Does it go with anything else? Is it too trendy and lost its luster? What are the missing pieces that will pull a wardrobe together? What are the client’s goals? Does the wardrobe fit a client’s lifestyle? Is it versatile? If a client wants to keep something for emotional or personal reasons, I don’t insist it go. If there is a disagreement over an item, I suggest the client keep track and note if it the item is worn within the next year. If I want to steer a client toward purging something that is dated, I will sometimes ask, what is it you like about this particular piece? And then I suggest we look for a more current version. I listen carefully and try to be as tactful and gently directive as I can because I realize that it takes a lot of trust to let someone into ones closet.
SL: What do you look for when shopping outer wear?
J: Look for solid construction, good fabric both for exterior and for the lining, a flattering solid neutral color, quality zippers, buttons and hardware, and a classic style. The Silver Lining trench and Field Jacket are perfect examples. But I also look for something that makes the coat modern or special—the leather detailing, the slim cut and the bespoke lining make the Silver Lining trench coat stand out from the pack. I think the Burberry coat is too ubiquitous, and I try to avoid pieces that have logos that advertise the designer. If you have many coats, then by all means look for something trendier in style or in a fun color, pattern, or texture.
SL: Officially, it’s fall, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate. Any tips on how to navigate this transition?
J: Some of the fall trends can be worn now in this transitional period, like the flared jeans, cropped wide legged pants, and bohemian peasant blouses. Introduce texture like a suede coat, jacket or skirt. You can layer turtlenecks under tops or jumpers. Long vests are another great layering option. Transition into wearing darker colors; merlot and grey are big colors for the fall. Pick up a fall trend in a lighter weight fabric, like a sweater in a silk and cotton blend instead of heavy wool. Wear ankle boots or peep toe booties with flowy summery dresses and maxi skirts. Cardigans are a fashion work horse and always a sensible layer. For San Francisco’s cool evenings, leather jackets, trench coats and field jackets are year round staples that help to finish an outfit.
SL: What’s the most underrated accessory and how can we use it?
J: Scarves are a versatile accessory that people tend to shy away from because they are flummoxed about how to tie them. A trend for fall makes tying easy--skinny scarves tied into a bow. But I suggest mastering just a few ways to tie any scarf. Scarves can be a stand in for jewelry. They draw attention to the face. They accent an outfit by adding color or pattern. Scarves can also be a relatively inexpensive update to a new season, as well as a way to introduce a trend in small doses, i.e. animal prints. Some scarves are large enough to double as a shawl for cooler temperatures as well as a layer for chilly restaurants or work places.
SL: One piece every woman needs in her wardrobe?
J: I can’t identify one single piece but I would say that everyone needs a good, solid foundation of building blocks: great fitting slacks, jeans, basic tops, jacket, coat, and accessories that are current and not worn out.
SL: One piece that should be purged immediately?
J: Anything that you haven’t worn in years, that is frayed, discolored, misshapen, worn out, that is not age appropriate, that is too tight, too short, or ill fitting, and anything that doesn’t enhance your style or make you feel beautiful.
SL: Best thing about your job?
J: I love looking at a closet and a client and seeing the potential. I love the creative exercise of putting together outfits from pieces that are already in the closet. I love helping clients figure out styles that work in silhouettes and colors that flatter. I love guiding clients toward dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, polished, and current. I love that fashion is a language that expresses individuality. I love the protean world of fashion, along with the personal connections with clients. In short, I love my job!