Connect to Your Personal Style with Pittsburgh Image Consultant Niki Whittle
By Liz Petoniak / Photographs by Michael Fornataro
Our photo shoot with Niki Whittle, stylist and image consultant hailing from Bristol, U.K., began with a proper cup of English tea and a train whirring by her South Side apartment. Décor collected from her time spent in India, which also inspired her soon-to-be-released collection of scarves, fills the contemporary space. Although her husband’s job only brought her to Pittsburgh one year ago, she’s already taken to our city, running her personal styling business and her blog, Style Studs and Lace. Recently, she’s launched a campaign called #stylishpittsburgh, pointed at challenging those who have bashed the ‘Burgh for its “lack of style.” Style, she says in her charming accent, is very different from fashion. “Fashion is easy to follow. It takes little imagination and, more often than not, a lot of money,” she explains. “Style is an expression of one’s personality. It’s about making the most of what you have already and then introducing a few pieces that fit you perfectly — that look great, that you love, that go with everything else, and enable you to wear what you have in so many different ways.” As a part of her services, Whittle offers closet consultation, personal shopping, “holiday” planning, and style parties, all aimed at helping clients discover their personal taste and increase their confidence. She says, “I love it when I take someone shopping who hasn’t understood what works for them or they haven’t found their style. And then at the end of the trip, they’re standing up straighter. Some people get really emotional, and it’s so rewarding. That’s what I love.”
How would you describe your personal style?
Niki Whittle: My style is constantly evolving. I was in my teens in the early ‘90s, so I was really into the whole grunge scene. And then, as I got older, I became more aware of my body shape and what suited me. I started to dress in a slightly more classic and much more flattering way. I’m influenced by lots of different looks, and I integrate that into my own style. At the moment, I’m really loving the whole bohemian ‘70s thing. It’s more of a look that you see over here than back across the pond. I’m excited to explore that this summer. I still love leather, studs, and leopard print. That’s probably the way I bring that grunge rocker out. But, if I had to label [my style], it would be feminine with an edge.
What inspires your fashion sense?
NW: My love of music is a strong influence on my style. Female lead singers, like Stevie Nicks, Courtney Love, and Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine. She’s so eccentric, and she just wears what she loves. I love that about somebody. And also, Gwen Stefani. These are all strong, confident women who really have nailed that look. It’s not particularly fashion-led, it’s just that they know their style. I also follow fashion bloggers. I find I can relate more easily to them than celebrities [laughs]. Some of my favorites are Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion, The Suburb Experiment, Vintage Obsession, J for Jen, Designlovefest, and Faiiint.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
NW: There’s Highway Robbery in the South Side that I really like. The stock in there is vintage, but it’s really wearable. I like Pavement, No. 14, and Wildcard as well. And then there’s The Shop — the jewelry in there is gorgeous. I love to buy pieces from local designers and support the local economy. But, my favorite U.K. stores would have to be Whistles, Top Shop, and Warehouse.