August 1, 2013

Curating and Realizing a Trunk of Style: Trunk Club Stylist Danielle Darah

Connecting with Danielle Darah reminded me of designer Coco Chanel’s belief: “Fashion changes, but style endures.” Here she elaborates on the Trunk Club, which is the first company I’ve heard of that demonstrates a different approach to selecting and buying clothes, in addition to her take on enabling guys to look and feel fabulous:

What makes The Trunk Club different from what is described
as the “traditional shopping experience”?
Trunk Club is unique compared to traditional shopping because we are a service focused on your personal wants and needs. You can relax in our well designed 35,000 square foot loft located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, enjoy drinks on us, while your stylist rolls out pants, shirts, shoes, sports jackets and accessories on a shiny cart. We focus in on your style by asking specific questions regarding: size, colors, brands you like, budget, fit preference, patterns, and what you wear for casual weekends or during the work week.

My view is that The Trunk Club is not mainstream,
based on general observation, for I don’t encounter people 
who use such a service. What do you think?
I think you would be surprised by how mainstream Trunk Club actually is. Chicago is saturated with men who already use and love the service. We are a great fit for a couple types of men.
  1. Men who already dress well, love to shop and are open to a different way of shopping than usual
  2. Men who don’t know what to wear with what, don’t have time to shop but want to look put together 
In both instances, men who love Trunk Club are those who are willing to spend a little more for a shirt that will last or jeans that make their butt look awesome!

What do you do as a “Stylist”?
I play multiple roles as a stylist, such as emailing, cold calling, and using social media to contact men who have never used us before to build my list of clients. Furthermore, I have men to follow up with on a daily basis, whom I met out and about or at a networking event, and want to use our service. I schedule fitting appointments with clients, when they walk into Trunk Club. I ask them questions of what they are looking for and give my honest opinion if something looks fabulous or not so good. This part comes very natural to me, since I want my client walking out of the door happy as a clam, whether or not they bought one pair of jeans or a wardrobe for the season.

What are some ways that you practice to make the 
shopping experience a highly personal and effective one?
I get to know who my client is on a professional yet friendly level. Understanding their personal and work life allows me to put myself in their shoes and know what to take off the shelves for them. If they are local or live in California, I make sure to have a great conversation, asking the right questions to know their style to the best I can.

How would you complete this statement: One item 
that a man's fashion collection must have is? 
This question depends on the type of guy they are and what they think is a ‘must have’. However, I will answer this question in general for a guy who isn’t sure where to start when shopping. A great pair of dark jeans is a ‘must have’ in my opinion for any guy. You can wear a pair of jeans with a t-shirt, button-down shirt or sports coat to have three different looks!

What makes a Stylist successful? 
Being personable, paying attention to detail, listening to the client, knowing the product, following up and being patient. Being a stylist can be challenging to reach our goals, so it is also important to be driven and never stop telling the world what you do. You never know who will call you up the next day!

What drew you to this kind of work? 
I was an entrepreneurship minor at Miami University, which compliments my passion for building my own business within Trunk Club. The opportunity presented itself to me after working for another start up company, so I was ready for the challenge. I have always been a part of fashion and design every chance I’ve had in life, not to mention I love to shop. I feel Trunk Club was meant to be!

What is your definition of well-dressed?

How does time factor into your work?
It takes time to build relationships with clients to schedule the first appointment with them. It takes time to talk on the phone and ask the appropriate questions prior to packing a trunk. It takes time for most guys to step it up a level with style. Patience is key!

How do you handle disagreements while you're working?
Disagreements with clients—I never pressure my guy into anything they don’t feel good in, whether in a fitting or trunk.

Was there a part of your work that was particularly trying,
and how did you deal with it? 
Cancellations two times in a row by the same person. I simply explained to them on the phone I set aside this time particularly for you on a Saturday and Sunday to come into Trunk Club. I asked next time to please let me know ahead of time rather than not showing up. This can sometimes happen because they don’t realize we have an appointment-based schedule. I always make a point to mention this while putting something in the books.

What tools do you use and recommend to work on ideas 
and make them grow, to collaborate and get things done?
Google Calendar to set appointments and reminders, Excel to track monthly sales on my own and Stickies for notes on my Mac computer.

How do you stay creative? What are some of your sources
of motivation/inspiration? 
I follow men’s fashion on Instagram, ‘people watch’ on the streets and, of course, Pinterest. I work on being creative with my own style, based on what I have in my closet. I read magazines in fashion and interior design to see why the designer put this with that. I stay creative while cooking healthy meals, so I don’t get tired of eating the same menu. Recently, I discovered planting flowers can boost my creativity levels by planting whatever it is you’re in the mood for, just like painting your nails!
What is your advice to people who aspire
to be a creative practitioner?
Change your way of thinking to be more open-minded to the world around you. Pay attention to design and how things work together with everything you do such as gardening, decorating, fashion and cooking. Go out and meet new people and learn from whom you surround yourself with.

How does Chicago contribute to your work? And what makes 
it special for startups/business/creativity-at-large? 
Chicago is a one-of-a-kind city where it isn’t difficult to strike a conversation with a perfect stranger. We are also a city thriving in the fashion industry where men are willing to pay to look impeccable using Trunk Club’s custom service. We also have the Merchandise Mart, known for its role as the leading innovator in business, art, fashion, culture and more!

I asked this at the Chicago CreativeMornings held
at your workspace last January, is Trunk Club
for women arriving, and if so, when?
What did Brian Spaly [CEO] say? [Nate] At the Chicago CreativeMornings held at the Trunk Club, an employee answered with something like, “It’s on the list. We want to keep focusing on what we’re doing now.”

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All photos courtesy of Danielle Darah.

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Related: Chicago CreativeMornings #14, with animator and photographer Nick Campbell, gathered at the Trunk Club’s workspace.

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Read previous Interview:
Design Writer Caroline Tiger: Passion for Design, Prose, and Philadelphia

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Read more Design Feast Interviews.