Busy, busy being creative..!

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Do What You Love - Interview no.4 - Karen Lowe

The fourth interview in a series of ten - meeting Bristol people who 'Do What They Love!' 

Karen LoweImage Consultant, Personal Stylist

There’s no escaping the fact that what we wear can say a lot about us. And after meeting and interviewing the lovely Karen Lowe, it certainly made me think more about the power of clothes, not just in a sense of following fashion, but the role they can play in boosting confidence and in turn enabling other changes. ;-)

Karen Lowe telling me how she got started - with a Do What You Love cushion  ©Lydia Samuel Photography  
Name: Karen Lowe
Age: 38
Business: Karen Lowe -  Image Consultant, Personal Stylist.
Location: Redland, Bristol
Website: www.karenl.co.uk

What do you do?

I help women to look and feel their very best by showing them how to dress to flatter their body shape so that they always feel good about themselves. Often during this process my clients rediscover who they are which in turn gives them a massive confidence boost.

What do you love about it?

In my experience a lot of women aren't happy with the way they look, through weight gain/loss, a traumatic experience or simply feel stuck in a rut and don't know how to get out of it.  This in turn can have a very negative effect on their overall confidence and in some cases will stop them from doing things they would really like to do.  

By showing them what styles and shapes suit them best, and how to use accessories to add a uniqueness to their look,  when they see themselves in the mirror, they start to like, appreciate and respect the person looking back.  

The effect this can have on the rest of their lives can be life changing. When you are confident in yourself, people react to you differently and you feel like you can achieve anything. It's witnessing this change and knowing that I'm partly responsible for it that gives me the most pleasure.  

It's not rocket science but I truly believe in the power that clothes have to transform both physically and emotionally!

"Once you realise you can achieve anything you put your mind to, it becomes a bit addictive!" ©Lydia Samuel Photography
How did you get there?

After years of working in a job that didn't fulfil or stimulate me mentally, I was lucky enough (didn't feel like that at the time but it was the best thing that ever happened to me) to be made redundant. I used it as an opportunity to take time out and think about what I really wanted to do.  

I studied textile design at University and initially thought about going back into that – but after doing a couple of short courses in textile design which I did really enjoy, I realised it was only ever going to remain a hobby rather than a new career. I needed to think of something else.

I've always wanted a job that was going to make a difference to peoples lives and that I was also passionate about. I have always loved clothes and how they make me feel and over the years have often been asked for fashion advice  I was obsessed with the TV make over shows - Trinny and Susanna, Gok Wan and Ten Years Younger, and in a flash of inspiration whilst sitting on our sofa thinking about life! it came to me – Image Consultancy. 

I retrained last year and can honestly say it's the best thing I've ever done.

How long have you been running your business for?

Just over a year – I retrained last September after moving to Bristol in April from London.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far becoming an Image Consultant?
 ©Lydia Samuel Photography
It was taking that first step.  Initially I had to overcome those negative thoughts that I couldn’t do it.  Over the years I've missed out on many great opportunities because of fear of failure but this was one thing I was really passionate about and wanted to succeed at and I realised that the only person stopping me, was me! So I thought – ok what have I got to lose? It took me a while to retrain my thought processes but once you realise you can achieve anything you put your mind to, it becomes a bit addictive!

So now I'm busy establishing myself and my business and building up my client base which is going really well.  Moving to Bristol from London - I didn’t know anyone, so I’ve had to overcome my fear of networking (walking into a room where you don't know anyone and having to introduce yourself took some getting used to!) - but now I really love it! I've found the people in Bristol extremely supportive and that has been a huge part in growing my business – but I’m still learning. It never stops!

What’s been the highlight so far in owning and running your own business?

Well – all of it! It’s all been brilliant! I love seeing the women I've helped grow in confidence but  at the moment, if I was to think of one thing – it's the project I’m currently involved in which is so unique in it's offering. I’m working with an amazing life coach, nutritionist and personal trainer and we’ve developed a six week self-development programme for women called ‘Inside Out’. 

The programme focuses on all aspects of what wellness is and has been designed to help women remove negative thought processes and achieve anything they want in life i.e. work/life balance, better relationships, weight loss etc.  

As far as we know nothing else exists like this in Bristol and I'm so excited for our launch event on the 27th September at The Pavillion.  We've all worked so hard for it, it's going to be an amazing evening! I feel extremely grateful to be doing something I really love.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Believe in yourself and do it, don't ever let fear stop you!

What have you learnt about yourself as a result of becoming self-employed?

That I’m actually a bit shyer than I thought I was but also that a I’m a lot stronger too.  I’ve discovered that if I put my mind to something – I really can achieve it! I wish I’d known that when I was younger!

I'm also thankful that I now have the skills and knowledge to be able to help those less fortunate than myself.  I’ve always wanted to volunteer for a charity but before becoming an Image Consultant – didn’t know what I could ‘give’ that would add value.  

Since moving to Bristol I've been volunteering with my local St.Peter’s hospice shop dressing their window displays and helping customers with any clothing advice they might need which is so much fun.  I was also involved with their 6 week social media trial in the Gloucester Road branch, where using the current trends as inspiration I dressed their mannequins and then blogged about them to see if it would boost their sales – which it did!

Looking good isn't just about spending loads of money, and buying from charity shops is a great way of finding unique items and supporting a really worthwhile cause at the same time. I’ve found some amazing things rummaging around charity shops and I never leave empty handed!

Karen showing me how using scarfs can completely change and outfit. Laughing as discovered I'm a cross between a Pear and an Apple shape - so that makes me a Pearple. ©Lydia Samuel Photography

Can you tell me about any success stories with a client?

Yes – one lady in particular sticks in my mind.  She now has three children but before having a family she used to really enjoy taking care of herself and took pride in the way she looked.  After having children she put on weight and a change in lifestyle meant that she no longer had the time she used to, to spend on herself.  

As a result her confidence nose dived, and she started to feel bland and invisible.  She'd reached a point where she knew she had to do something about it and so asked me for help. I started off with a wardrobe consultation, assessing her wardrobe, clearing out the items that didn't do anything for her and then with the pieces that did, mixed and matched new outfits in a way that she would never have thought of doing. 

I’m keen to help people use what they already have and make slight alterations rather than saying we must go shopping!  Often, women have loads of great clothes in their wardrobe but lack the confidence in knowing how to wear and style them.  Accessories are a big part of what I do and demonstrating how a necklace or scarf can transform an outfit is a real eye opener!

So, after reviewing my clients wardrobe and making some changes and suggestions, I took her shopping to fill those gaps that would enhance what she already owned rather than replace it.  

A few weeks later she was like a new woman! I know it sounds amazing to say but it had such an impact – I could truly see what a difference it had made to her, she was glowing and re-energized. She told me she was much happier and as a result had loads more patience and energy, which in turn meant her husband and kids were happier too. I’ve recently heard that she has got a new job and that it’s been down to that fact she’d felt confident enough to apply for it in the first place! Its so great to have helped her in this way. 

After all what’s more important than liking yourself?

If others want to do this I’d say...

Always believe that what you are doing is important. Accept who you are and be the best you can be.

What’s next?

Well as I mentioned – the ‘Inside Out’ programme which I’m very excited about – and I’d also like to do more work supporting charities, especially – Penny Brohn Cancer Care.  And of course, helping more and more women learn to love how they look.

Karen’s top tips are:
  • Focus on the parts of your body you like;
    Don't dress to hide the bits you don't – all you'll do is accentuate them and draw attention to the area you're trying to hide.
  • Use accessories to update your wardrobe and keep your look modern;You don’t need lots of money to do this – a belt of scarf can completely change an outfit
  • Celebrate who you are and embrace your uniquenss!

For more information on the Inside Out programme visit http://www.holsamlifecoaching.com/inside-out.html

Or to book a one to one to see how Karen can help you – visit her website:
www.karenl.co.uk or call  0771 875 0019.

Karen and I with 'Do What You Love' limited edition bags. The perfect accessory!! ;-) ©Lydia Samuel Photography
 What is The 'Do What You Love' Project..?

After printing this message on my bags I thought - ooh I'd love to find ten local Bristol business people who do what they love, interview them about what they do, why they love it and how they've got there and also 'model' one of my bags / cushions.  

I really wanted to work with a local photographer - so approached Lydia Samuel via Outset to see if she would be interested in collaborating with me. She was! Perfect!

So a call-out was created, posted on facebook and twitter and people started applying! Over thirty people applied, and it was really difficult to choose ten. I spent my time going through each application and selected the ten as I felt their passion really shone through. 

Everyone who applied will be featured though in some way as I think it's important to celebrate everyone who is doing something they love!

These interviews and photographs are the results.

I hope you enjoy reading this series of interviews, and that it will inspire you in some way to pursue your dreams and ‘Do what you Love!’  (that is if you aren’t doing that already! - if you are - do let me know by leaving a comment about what you do and why you love it!). 

Want your own 'Do What You Love' bag and cushion? 
They are currently on sale at the Pop-up Shop FABRIC in The Galleries, Bristol until the end of October, or email me directly bagsofloveforbristol@gmail.com. And why not come and say hello on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bags-of-Love-for-Bristol/444261982265482

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