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Dive into Fashion Tips with Austin Stylist Kaki Gaines

Learn about this local personal stylist who empowers women of all body types

Kaki Gaines (photo by Caroline Behrens)

We sat down with Austin stylist Kaki Gaines to learn about her journey to become a personal stylist who empowers women of all body types. She shared the story of her unique career beginnings with Kendra Scott and gives us a few tips for transforming our own wardrobes. 

Wardrobe stylist, Kaki Gaines (photo by Caroline Behrens)

How did you begin your fashion career? 

I studied creative advertising at the University of Texas at Austin. I thought about doing a fashion program, but I’m not very technical. I decided I was better at creative concepts, so I did that and loved it. In 2010, during my senior year of college, I heard Kendra Scott — who I thought was inspiring — was hosting a jewelry contest where you could submit your design. 

I had taken a fashion design class at Parsons School of Design over the summer in New York, so I learned some stuff there. I was reworking vintage jewelry. I would wire-wrap it and rework it with different things, so I submitted a design that ended up winning the contest. 

I went with Kendra to the People’s Choice Awards. We went on the red carpet, and Queen Latifah wore my necklace. It was unbelievable. 

Kendra and I became friends through that experience. We hit it off, and I ended up interning for her, leading to a full-time job after college. I got to learn so much there. I was mainly in the design department and would help concept designs and wire wraps. I would also do a lot of trend forecasting and help with marketing concepts. After the first year I was there, the business started exploding — and that’s where I really got into styling. 

My favorite part was understanding what the customer wanted — why they would buy one necklace versus another, and on what occasions they were wearing the jewelry. I’ve always had a love of psychology, so I was sort of combining the design and psychology elements together. After helping with designs and forecasting for a while, Kendra asked me to help style the models for a photoshoot. I kept at it, learned along the way, and, working with Kendra one-on-one, realized that personal styling was my favorite. Finding the perfect outfit for a specific occasion like a “Today Show” appearance was always an exhilarating challenge, so I did a lot of styling in the second half of my career with Kendra Scott. 

Kaki Gaines
(photo by Caroline Behrens)

How did you transition from Kendra Scott to starting your own business? 

I dreamed of making my own jewelry line in college and had always wanted to go out on my own right. Kendra was super supportive of me doing so, and I still did some styling for her after I left the company as a full-time employee. I was really thankful for that transition. 

Starting in 2016, I also did contract work for The RealReal, where I saw many people’s closets. My brain was exploding because I realized so many people think they shouldn’t have a stylist just because they’re not a public figure. I started thinking about ways to make my services available at a price point a lot more people could afford. I learned a lot through public figure styling about how to make outfits photo-ready and perfect for someone’s body type and coloring. But The RealReal made me realize that many women needed wardrobe refreshes and help to style day-to-day outfits, so in 2020, I dove into one-on-one styling for women who need help creating recipes for everyday dressing. 

How do you typically work with clients? 

I have a lot of tiers with different price points. My clients send me photos of themselves beforehand and measurements and answers to questions about their style preferences. Then, I guide them to find their personal style based on their preferences, daily life, body type, proportions, and more. I want to help people celebrate their bodies instead of fighting them. After the sessions, I send them a huge deck with all their information and my recommendations. I also do a lot of color analysis, so I’ll look at their complexion and features — hair color, eye color, skin tone — and give them the best colors to wear for them. 

Clients can also layer on a service where I create a customized Pinterest board to find specific images of people with similar body types, features and style recommendations. It’s fun to break it down to a science and bring it all to life. 

After the consultation, many people want to keep working together through closet revamps and personal shopping. I can come to your house to help clean closets and show how to put outfits together. One tip I give people often is to put away their clothes that aren’t for the current season, so there’s more breathing room in their closet. Paring it down to the best of the best for them helps prevent overwhelm and decision fatigue. 

Kaki Gaines (photo by Caroline Behrens)

What’s your biggest style tip

Understand your unique features and use those to work with you. Trends are great, and I can help people apply them, but it should be in a way that is for specific features like complexion, body type, and height. 

Are there any staple pieces for spring you recommend everyone has in their closets? 

For the hotter months, finding your ideal pair of shorts, a skirt that works for your body type, and a cute summer blouse is critical. Then, make sure you have a daytime dress, nighttime dress, and a nude sandal. A big thing I’ve helped people find is some prints in their accessories like bags and jewelry and multicolored earrings.

Kaki Gaines (photo by Caroline Behrens)

What’s your take on accessories? 

Accessories are a great way to reflect funky fashion and personal style. They are an easy way to add more character to an outfit. I like to educate people on using accessories to shine their personalities. Typically, I start clients with earrings or a structured bag with a cool print. I even look at facial features sometimes to determine what necklines to wear, and then what earrings and necklaces and everything to sort of harmonize with your face. 

What’s the most fulfilling part of your job? 

The self-love part is massive. The most rewarding thing is making people realize that their unique features are incredible — and no one else has them. Once people are empowered with the knowledge around their features, they can dive into them instead of working against them. 

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