Karina Leacock from North Sheffield has always had a love for fashion and has always dared to be different! She is now celebrating being one of the leading personal stylists in the UK, with a thriving business built around the needs of her family.
“As a little girl, I loved the thrill of going shopping and eagerly observing people's reactions when trying on clothes they liked and didn't. When I was old enough to make my own fashion choices, I felt most confident in bold prints and colour. I did some modelling in my late teens, but I was a strong athletic build, not skinny, and always had that feeling that physically I wasn't good enough and that I should be something other than what I was.
“I've never been one to follow a path, I much prefer the idea defining my own, so my husband and I took a gamble and moved to Yorkshire. I continued to work in the IT industry, which I had fallen into in my thirties but the corporate industry just didn't seem 'me' anymore. As life got more serious in my IT career, I could feel that being emulated in my outfits. Everything was a little more bland, a little more dull. This was the first time in my life where I felt a bit lost. I knew I wanted to get out of it, I just wasn't sure when or how.”
Karina's husband bought her a voucher to get her colours analysed by her local colour consultant. “I remember that 'wow' moment and the instant confidence I felt. I hadn't seen that girl in the mirror for so long," she says. "I then went on to refer so many people to my stylist, which made me think, why not actually make this into a business for myself? If I felt this good after a colour and style session, then surely other men and women would too? A seed was planted. I realised I could fuse my love of fashion with my skills as a trainer and become a personal stylist. I just needed to wait for the right time.”
The right time came when Karina's son Hugo was born in 2007 after 2.5 years and two rounds of IVF. Her baby boy changed the way she viewed the world. “I had no parents in Yorkshire, so no childcare backup. I also wasn't prepared to put Hugo into nursery from 7.30am to 6pm, even if it was just three days a week. I was scared walking away from a full-time job but I did it anyway, taking voluntary redundancy from BT and using the money to buy the House of Colour North Sheffield franchise in 2008. Having waited years for Hugo to arrive, 18 months later Jemima arrived without any assisted fertility.
"I was the only trainee House of Colour consultant with a bump on board, but I knew it was now or never and having two babies under two was only temporary," she says. "My business grew with my babies. In the early days I could only run sessions at weekends, but I built up my business and I am now in my 11th year and one of the leading stylists in the UK, with a thriving business built around the needs of my family."
Being naturally creative and bold, Karina sees fashion as an escapism from what is otherwise quite a serious world. “I love the diversity of my clients and how it gives us the opportunity to express creativity in different ways. Clothes are a necessity, we can't be without them, but that doesn't mean that what we wear must be dull and conservative. A pop of colour can make such a difference.”
Client Lisa Walker, of White Apple Thinking says: "Prior to having my colours and style analysis I lived in black! I fell for the myth that it would make me look slimmer and that it was the perfect business colour. How wrong was I? Since my colour analysis I haven't worn black at all. I have loved experimenting with the new colours in my Spring palette. As someone that presents to groups of people I no longer want to blend into the background, I'm happy to stand out for all the right reasons!”
We asked Karina for her top tips to looking and feeling your best every day, as well as important occasions like weddings:
Dress your shape – It's so easy to get swallowed by clothes. People often feel the solution to dealing with 'problem areas' is to cover them with baggy drapes of fabric. This doesn't do justice to anyone's figure. Find the right cuts that suit you and your body type and watch the compliments fly your way!
Know your style – Your own personal style, or taste in clothes gives your authenticity. Read how you 'feel' in your clothes. Is that feeling congruous with how you want to show up in the world.
Wear your wow colours – Wear colours that best compliment your skin tone and eye colour. The colours we wear not only affect the way we look but also our confidence and mood.
Think of yourself as a triangle – with architecture, style and colour all each representing one side. They all need each other to create balance in personal style. Remember to factor all three when choosing your outfits.
Treat your image as a 'whole' – If you focus on just one thing for example your hair, but then ignore your makeup, clothes and general grooming, it's like decorating only one wall in a room. It won't take long for the other three walls to look under par.
Karina Leacock is one of a network of consultants with House of Colour, offering colour analysis, personal styling and image consultancy across the UK.
Visit www.houseofcolour.co.uk or email email@example.com
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