Friday Interview | Helenlee Loves – the stylist with a difference
HLN spent a morning with Helenlee Whalley to find out about her trademarked Style Code™ that she's developed to help women discover their unique style and become their true self.
By Laura Kingston
You’re different from the traditional stylist or colour consultant – can you tell us why?
Absolutely! Style Code is a personal profile I created for women which tells them everything they need to know about themselves with regards to their wardrobe and personal style. After our session, women leave with the tools they need to create their own wardrobes, put their own outfits together and essentially look and feel their best.
Style Code was born after I had lost my own way with my style. I realised that I was going to one person for colour analysis, another for make-up and another to find which clothes suit me, another for coaching…I wondered why there wasn’t a service that pulled all of this together and decided to create one myself. When I started to develop Style Code, I realised that another huge element to consider was a woman’s lifestyle and personality. In our session, we spend a lot of time talking about the woman before the wardrobe. My niche is helping women who feel that their style no longer reflects who they are, or they don’t feel their best. The majority of women who come to see me have been or are going through some kind of transition in their lives – whether that’s having children, a new career, divorce or entering a new decade. We talk about their past and present situations and where they want to be in the future before we even start looking at colours and clothes.
I have 10 different colour codes, six different body codes and six style personalities which are based around cities, such as Laid Back LA or New York City Chic, for example. It all comes together to create a look for a woman that they feel represents them. By the time a lady leaves her session, she has a completely bespoke Style Code to which defines her personal style and wardrobe.
Following the initial session, women can also choose to move on to phase two, where I help with a wardrobe detox and phase three, where we go shopping together.
You mentioned that you went through a period of losing your own way with style – did that help you find your niche with Style Code?
Definitely. Obviously a stylist is not a new career. The difference is that a stylist curates pieces and accessories to create an outfit that looks fantastic, whereas my approach is much more centred around the woman I’m working with and how she wants to feel. I refer to myself as a style coach rather than a stylist because a large part of the job is getting to know the women that come to see my and helping them to evolve.
As I said, I went through this myself in my late 20s into early 30s. I owned a gym with my fiance Dave and worked as a personal trainer. At the time I was struggling with my mental health and went to counselling to deal with the grief I hadn’t dealt with from losing my mum to cancer at a young age. After 12-18 months of counselling, I came out of it feeling like a different person and my style didn’t reflect who I was anymore.
I went to get a colour consultation and that’s when the seed was planted. Dave continued to run the gym but I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in fashion, so I started working in Karen Millen part-time and studying. As I started to work on my own style, I felt that all of the information on colour analysis and body shape was quite dated and uninspiring. I was getting inspiration from Instagram influencers but always felt ‘that’s her style, not mine’. It took me two years to join the dots and build up the confidence to create something myself which was new and different. I continued to study all of the different elements, make-up, coaching etc – it evolved into a full-time blog and then became my business.
Some people might think that spending money on a stylist is self-indulgent or materialistic, something that’s just for celebrities – what’s your response to that?
You’re right, there’s a view that it’s materialistic or superficial to have a stylist or something that you can’t afford. The difference with me is that it’s about the long-term.
It’s accessible for ‘real’ women and they leave our session with the tools they need to be able to understand themselves, take control and build their wardrobe themselves.
The emotional and mental impact on not feeling comfortable with yourself is not to be underestimated. Because you live it every day, it can affect you massively if your wardrobe and personal style don’t reflect who you are, or if it is based around someone you are trying to be instead of who you really are.
I’d actually argue that the Style Code process liberates women. By learning what suits them, women stop chasing fashion trends and build a capsule wardrobe where anything they pull out will make them feel their best – giving women the capacity to think a lot less about clothes and get on with their day.
Having said that, I think styling, in general, is becoming a lot more mainstream and if it makes women feel better in themselves then why not! It used to be that you used to just get make-up done professionally for your wedding, but now a lot of women go to get their make-up done before a Saturday night out. Styling is going in the same direction and becoming a lot more accessible to women.
If you stop shopping for outfits and start shopping for your wardrobe, things will change.”
You sound like you have the perfect job – what are your challenges?
The biggest challenge for me is managing myself in a business that has so much freedom. I can make own schedule – work when I want, see friends when I want…I’ve had to work really hard at finding what is most effective for me, but it’s taken a lot of trial and error! I’m very organised and carve my week up into chunks of time where I’ll do marketing, bookings, personal shopping, seeing friends, relax etc. It sounds weird saying I plan when I will see friends or check my social media but it has really helped make me more productive and it works for me.
Another big challenge was managing WhatsApp – at one point I became overwhelmed with the fact that every time I checked my phone I would have more than 30 messages from clients, friends, family or other things I was organising. I’ve now included that into my self-management and have explained to friends and family that even though I look like I’ve been online a lot during the day, I’m working and will reply to their messages in my downtime.
A Style Coach could be considered as a new, untraditional, career. What is your advice to women who might be stuck in a job they don’t like and want to pursue something new?
100% – work on yourself. Lot’s of people will say: “I don’t like my job, I need to think about what I want to do.” I actually disagree. To find something you are really happy doing, I think you need to work on yourself first. The thing that brought out my next career was counselling, which is the deepest level you can work on yourself, figuring out who you are now and where you want to go in life. It’s the biggest and best investment that women can make in themselves.
Look at your mindset and see value in yourself. Look at your childhood and remember what you loved doing – what do you do in your spare time and are really passionate about, can you make a career out of that?
It’s scary. How I wanted to work didn’t exist and I had to create it. It wasn’t easy, I worked part-time and studied, I was worried that people wouldn’t want what I was offering, but I believed in myself and kept going – consistency and confidence are key – it always pays off. Always look at improving, analyse what’s worked and do more of that.
HLN reader questions:
Who or what inspires you? Victoria Beckham. I love how she found her true self after a career that gave her skills and a platform, but she found what she really loved and went out there and did it. I also love that she’s a wife and a mum, really hard-working, down to earth and normal. I also obviously love her style – simple and classic but modern. She’s a huge inspiration for me on every level.
Do you ever have off days? Yes, every week! I try to be authentic on social media and post in joggers and t-shirts too to show my realistic life. Last year I started suffering from some health issues. Some days I would have loads to do but my body just said no. It’s important to give yourself permission to do that.
Do you have an example of a great client? I recently worked with a woman who ended up staying two hours longer than a session usually lasts. She was my ideal client as in, when I first set up by business she was exactly who I had set out to help – basically me when I was her age. She was just about to turn 30, on the cusp of a career change and wanted to mature her style. She had been through a lot, ran her own business but wanted to change her route. She got so much out of the session – I helped her to see she is craving more creativity in her style which means she is craving more creativity in her life. She went home, pulled a great outfit together and took her husband out for drinks – it was great. I think 30 is the first moment in life when women start thinking about their own personal style rather than following trends and buying whatever is in Zara. It was great to help someone at that first point of style discover and I loved helping her style transition from a young woman to a woman.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m getting married in April and I feel like everything at the minute is ‘after the wedding’! I’ve learned from having my own business that can only really focus on a few things at once. I want to enjoy and give my time and attention to the wedding then afterwards I’m going to be working on taking my business more online to make it accessible for more women. I’d also like to create a Style Code bible in the future, putting it all in one book for women to use themselves.
And finally, North East favourites?!
Coffee Shop – Kaffeehaus Amadeus in Lanchester Village – the best coffee! I also love Flat White in Durham.
Takeaway – Lanchester Fish Bar – I have a chippy once a week, we’re on first-name terms!
Restaurant – Marco Polo in Newcastle and Fat Hippo – they do a great vegan burger and fries. I tend to seek out clean-eating places and love Durham Food Cafe, Naked Deli and Clean Bean in Seaham.
Shopping – Newcastle City Centre – I love Fenwicks and Reiss. I also think the H&M in Durham is great, it’s laid out really well.
Things to do – We love to walk down the quayside, wander around Durham and Lanchester is lovely for walks that are right on our doorstep.
Style Code prices:
High Life North Readers can enjoy 10% off a Style Code discovery service (£175 instead of £195) by quoting ‘High Life North’ when contacting Helenlee.
Stage 1: Style Code discovery service – £195
Stages 2 and 3 are only available after Stage 1 has been completed.
Stage 2: Wardrobe de-code – starts from £195 depending on size and number of wardrobes
Stage 3: Style Code Capsule personal shopping – from £245
Look Lesson for hair and makeup: £95
Additional coaching is available at an hourly rate or monthly fee.
Full Style Code Journey package: Stages 1-3 with unlimited coaching and styling sessions – £995 (completed over a 3 month period)https://helenleeloves.com