As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share, but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.
This is Claire Sulmers' story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
The fashion industry is such a humbling place. Which is why I've always positioned myself to learn, no matter the environment. I think back to the time I saw celebrity stylist, Phillip Bloch, at an industry party. I was first starting out and Fashion Bomb Daily hadn't yet reached the level of success that it has now.
I was the new, insignificant girl on the block.
I had already met Phillip before, so I felt somewhat comfortable in approaching him; almost as if we had known each other longer than we had. And honestly, I was just excited to see a familiar face. Before I knew it, I had walked up to him, eager to pick up where we left off. "Do you remember me?" I asked.
He looked at me. I realized that he probably didn't. "Don't lead with that," he responded. Yikes. "It makes people feel bad. Just say, 'I met you at…It's so good to see you again.'"
I will never forget that day. It always lingers in the back of my mind. Now, I despise that question.
I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Atlanta to two extremely Caribbean parents who were each very big on education. I went to private schools all my life—Westminster Schools of Atlanta, and eventually, Harvard.
In addition to education, I was always into fashion—from as early as junior high school. Like most girls my age, I had such an obsession with Clueless, which had a major influence on most teens during that time. I became that girl that never wore sweatpants or dressed down. My friends and I were always in stilettos, even while navigating campus cobblestones.
Oddly, I never thought fashion would be a career for me until one day I was offered an internship at Upscale Magazine. Here, I discovered that I really loved and had a knack for fashion; I truly understood it. My passions redirected and ultimately, this is how I broke into the industry.
Courtesy of Claire Sulmers
I have been in love with fashion and beauty ever since.
My first year at Fashion Bomb Daily was wonderful, but wild too; harsh even. I started during a time when major publications such as Honey and Suede were folding. Women and men like me still needed an outlet or point-of-reference for their pop culture fix, and the lane was open. I decided that creating a community where everyone is valued and respected, and a safe space where our fashionable needs are attended to, would be how I would enter the space. So, I opened my little black Macbook, reached out from my small studio apartment, and as it turns out, millions would respond.
Since, I've been fortunate enough to rub elbows with the giants, or be in rooms with people I've idolized. These environments, to this day, have always peaked my curiosity, making me a firm believer in having the courage to seek advice, remaining a student of the game, and sharing what I've learned.
And so you know it's real, here are a few gems:
Individuality is your best outfit.
Fashion is how you express yourself and your personality to the world. For some, their fashion underscores who they want to be. If you want to be rich, a boss, or a supermodel, dress the part until you become that. Or dress according to what you do, how you feel, or what your priorities are. Fashion is intensely personal, but it is also important. Most people judge others based on first impressions, so be careful with how you present yourself to the world. But however you present yourself, be sure that it encompasses who you are. Also, Individuality applies to more than just what you wear. It's also how you maneuver.
Step out on Faith. GOD will catch you.
I grew up being afraid of public speaking, but I've been asked many times to moderate discussions or keynote conferences. I had to remove my fear and live in these moments. I hired a speaking coach, began attending Toastmasters, practiced, and became more. Now, I am booked to speak all the time. Had I rested in that fear, so many new doors would have never opened for me. Whatever is on your heart, is an assignment from God. If you have an idea, try it. Don't be afraid of failure. Everything I do, even if I stumble at first, even if I'm scared, I get better at it. And eventually, it becomes a new opportunity. God puts notions and inclinations in our minds that are unique to you and it's up to you to answer that call.
The only color that matters is green, and social media has leveled the playing field.
Barneys has gone out of business and Fashion Nova is booming. Take notes, ladies.
Take a course in business.
OK, so here's the thing about entrepreneurs: we are all scared. We're scared of failure, scared of not making a true impact. Even to this day, I wonder if maybe I am getting too carried away—like, who am I to dream this big?
I became a woman building a successful brand, and trailblazing a path for little black girls who were voiceless, but interested in mainstream fashion too—all from my studio apartment. But I understood business.
So many young women have great ideas and products, and can sell products and get the creative part of business down. But actually operating a business: understanding how to budget, how to be a leader, how to plan, and how to diversify your offerings, etc., requires skill. If you can find a mentor or get moments of time with someone you admire, do it. Take the time to invest in yourself. You'll learn a lot about yourself if you do. I always seek a good learning curve. Growth lies within them.
Today, Claire is a laidback, forever go-getting woman about her business. I love my Rayar Jeans, my celeb style crush is Jennifer Lopez, and I admire Bethann Hardison. I'm always on the go and I thrive in environments that require high-performance. I also like to curl up with a good book, one of my favorites being The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz.
Read that one if you haven't.
To decompress, I take 1-2 days off when necessary. I travel often and have a busy schedule, so my world can be chaotic. And on top of that, I struggle with the nagging feeling or need to always be 'on'—which creates stress and pressure. A major part of self-care is learning to say 'no' and not feel guilty about doing so—which I'm working on. Sleep is also a very important part of my self-care routine as well. I make it a point to get my rest, especially on weekends. Weekends are sacred.
Ladies, I say all of this to say, throughout my career, I've remained true to who Claire is, which makes my journey unique to me. All of my interests, all of my qualities, and all of my success, is what makes up my individuality. And I am most fulfilled in any opportunity to provide a blueprint. I'll continue to highlight and diversify fashion. With Convos with Claire, I'll offer mentorship and accessibility. I plan to hire more staff and even begin consulting businesses. And I'll be working tirelessly to build the Faby's brand.
Actually, I'll be working to elevate my entire brand.
Working so hard, that I'll never have to ask anyone if they remember me again.
To keep up with Claire, follow her on Instagram or catch her at this year's Flourish Media Conference (Feb. 21-22). Also, shop FashionBombDailyShop.com to purchase pieces from some of her favorite designers.
Featured image by DeMorris Marable