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 email@example.com 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 TheMagic 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
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Every couple of months, Mercury, the planet of communication, transportation, ideas, and possibilities, goes retrograde. This year, Mercury will be making its summer debut on August 23rd. What makes this Mercury retrograde a unique one is that it's occurring in Virgo, whose ruling planet is Mercury. This is good news, as you’ll be able to move through this Mercury retrograde more effectively and can more easily gain the wisdom needed.
This Mercury Retrograde also begins on the first day of Virgo Season, solidifying a theme of healing the mind, getting organized, and allowing things to come together. As summer comes to an end and the leaves begin to change, Mercury retrograde asks, “Where can you let go and accept, and where has your faith led you to create a better future for yourself?”
Virgo is an earth sign that teaches us that our mind is our gift and our compassion is what serves. Virgo is a helpful hand in the storm, yet, this maiden’s approach can sometimes have a harsh delivery under challenging circumstances. Mercury in Virgo is especially meticulous, and with this Mercury retrograde occurring here, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or turn to over-criticism towards self or others.
Communication should be handled with some extra patience and grace, plans should be looked over thoroughly before execution, and it’s best to handle anything of permanence for another time. As you move through this Mercury retro amid Virgo Season, do as the Virgos do: your best. Mercury goes direct on September 15th, and through the inner awakening this transit has brought, by the end of it, the growth is clear.
What Mercury Retrograde Has In Store For Each Zodiac Sign
Aries, Mercury retrograde for you will be all about approaching your health and daily routines in a new way. Mercury will be retrograde in an area of your chart having to do with work, well-being, habits, daily life, and attention to detail. This is a good time to learn a new skill, develop your talents, and work passionately on something that inspires you. Your everyday routine, working environment, or schedule may be experiencing some challenges or delays, and being flexible is key to making it through this time.
Once Mercury goes direct on September 15th, you are going to start seeing more improvements at work, forward movement with projects, and overall more balance with your peers and within your everyday life. This Mercury retrograde is here to help you find new ways to de-stress, refocus your intentions, and create a better strategy.
This Mercury retrograde for you, Taurus, is a journey of the heart. Mercury will be going retrograde in your 5th house of romance, creativity, passion, self-expression, and happiness over the next few weeks, and you are finding your voice. Any limitations you have been feeling creatively and romantically come up at this time to be reviewed, healed, and addressed. You may be feeling less optimistic than usual during this transit, and your guidance at this time is to start with doing the small things that make you happy and then go from there.
During this time, you are reviewing where the happiness is in your life and if you’ve been prioritizing this enough for yourself. Once Mercury goes direct, you will have a better understanding of what lights you up inside and how you want to show up in the world, making it easier to be in those spaces.
mapodile/ Getty Images
This Mercury retrograde is a good time to get back to the basics, Gemini. You are taking a look at your foundations and taking note of where you want to continue to grow your roots in life. Your emotional well-being and stability are the priority right now as you redevelop your safe spaces and focus on your inner world.
Some misunderstandings with family or close loved ones may arise, but you are getting a clear view of how you’ve been feeling when it comes to the past, your roots, emotional patternings, and what’s going on internally. This is a good time to declutter, create space, finish a home project, or bring peace into the home. This Mercury retrograde for you is about regrouping and gaining stronger foundations.
This Mercury retrograde for you is about overcoming previous communication challenges, getting the answers you have been looking for, and seeing what has been blocking you from feeling heard, Cancer. Miscommunications with others are likely, but they will be creating a breakthrough for honesty and transparency overall and, in turn, build your connections.
This Mercury retrograde transit is requiring more patience than most, and short travels, contracts, transportation, and emails should all be looked over a few times. You could feel like your natural flow in the day is hindered more than usual during this time, and you are reworking your daily systems and prioritizing what is really worth your energy right now. Prioritize what matters, and follow the sparks of inspiration right now.
Mercury retrograde is here, and for you, it’s affecting an area of your life, having to do with income, finances, value systems, and self-confidence, Leo. This is a good time to plan financially for your future and to avoid making any unnecessary or extravagant purchases if possible, as you may change your mind about them later.
Some unexpected occurrences may be happening within your financial world at this time. However, you are getting the opportunity to create a new beneficial system for yourself here in the long term. You are overall focusing more on the giving and receiving in your life during this time and finding your balance here, Leo.
The Good Brigade/ Getty Images
This Mercury retrograde cycle will be in your sign and in your 1st house of self. Over the next few weeks, you will be reflecting on the personal changes you have gone through over the last year, both mentally and physically, and how you see yourself now. This transit for you is a time to honor your growth and development and focus on seeing yourself in a new, more favorable, and accepting light.
A lot of different aspects of your life will be influenced during this Mercury retrograde since it’s occurring in your 1st house at the very top of your chart, but it’s overall about being consistent with your personal growth journey and about getting your ducks in a row. You will be leaving this retrograde feeling an overall greater self-confidence and like your path ahead is clearer with fewer obstacles, Virgo.
Over the next few weeks, Mercury retrograde will be transiting your house of endings, culminations, the subconscious mind, and healing. While Mercury moves through this area of your chart, your past may be coming up for you a lot now. However, this is not a pass to entertain it. The past seems to come up more for you now than it has been, so you can re-examine some lessons you may have missed there and give yourself another opportunity to heal, forgive, and let go.
For you, self-care, rest, and emotional rejuvenation should be the priority, and you are overall getting the space to regroup. Remember that you don’t necessarily need to isolate yourself to find yourself and maintain your balance in life, Libra.
Scorpio, Mercury retrograde will be moving through your 11th house of friendship, community, hopes, and dreams. This Mercury retrograde is allowing you to re-think some of your long-term goals to see if they still resonate for you now. You are finding your place in the world during this time and are aligning with your happiness and aspirations.
There could be some miscommunication within friendships and social networks, however, as you redefine how you want to use your voice and who you want to connect with in the process. Past goals, future goals, and the progress of them all come up for review, and you are opening yourself up to the possibilities of your life and what intentions you want to manifest.
Morsa Images/ Getty Images
Mercury retrograde is here, and for you, Sagittarius it is influencing your career, professional life, and reputation. How you are feeling about your goals, your achievements, and where you are in regards to your career take focus during this time, and you are re-examining your path here. Know the support will come, as it always does, but there is something to understand about showing up for yourself regardless of who is standing behind you.
Your guidance for this transit is to honor your skills and talents, be willing to learn more and continue to believe you are worthy of blessings and recognition. Feelings of not being understood or appreciated for the work you are doing can come up for you during this time, and you are seeking some stability and assurance in your career right now.
Capricorn, this Mercury retrograde will be occurring in your 9th house of adventure, travel, education, and spirituality, and there is a sense of needing some more downtime to reflect and understand what your inner world has been telling you during this time. Plans change, paths detour, and you are reviewing your belief systems with a closer eye right now.
Overall, over the next few weeks, you will be searching for a new way forward and gaining the bigger picture. Through the experiences you’ve encountered so far this year, a new perspective has been born, and you are looking at your truths right now. This Mercury retrograde is showing you how important it is to have faith in yourself and your life.
Over the next few weeks, Aquarius, Mercury retrograde will be moving through your 8th house of intimacy, shared finances, rebirth, and all things taboo. Mercury will be bringing the focus on where your energy- especially financial energy, has been spent. and if it’s benefiting you and your self-empowerment in life. You are going through a time of transformation and transition, and you are addressing where this change has been needed. It’s about asking for what you need within your close partnerships, commitments, and within your financial world; and knowing that you deserve just that.
Once Mercury goes direct on September 15th, you are going to feel more clarity and empowerment in your life, and like you have overall cleared the way for more blessings to enter, both financially and emotionally.
Mercury retrograde will be moving through your 7th house of love, partnership, beauty, and finances, and there could be some miscommunication within your partnerships at times during this transit, Pisces. Your relationships are a mirror to you right now, and it can be difficult to see some emotional patterning or habits that are straining your one-on-one connections rather than strengthening them.
It’s time to let the past go in love and redefine what your heart wants now. Overall, the relationships that are meant for you will only grow further into a deeper commitment and understanding through this transit; and those that aren’t will make it clearer to you that this is the case. Choose your battles wisely, and focus on love.
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Feature image by LaylaBird/ Getty Images