Thank God For The Talented Professional

Growing up quite poor, life was a never ending search for a way to do it yourself or do without.  The next step was where it could be acquired as cheaply as possible.  I also was the receiver of hand me down clothes. Some were much nicer than we could ever afford so I was delighted, but the day my mum showed me the used underwear I totally flipped.

On of my favourite images of Shannon.
Leaving home at 17, several years later quitting my job to immigrate to Canada and then choosing to stay at home with the kids meant the trend continued.  Costco, Zellers, Payless Shoes and Value Village were my best friends. My husband reluctantly cut my hair while I cut his and the kid's. When I was younger and more fit, I could make it work.  I wasn't a fashion plate, but could find an acceptable balance. Then with age came body changes that made it difficult to figure out what looked good on me. A depressing time. I would walk into the change room with 30 items and if I was lucky walk out with one. I also began writing and found it terribly embarrassing to enter a local designer's space full of beautiful garments while dressed in the sad pieces found in my closet. Still money was too tight to buy all new clothing.

When my mother died in 2007, I was desperate.  The memorial service at the Los Angeles university where she worked promised to be a daunting crowd all focused on the family. I finally bit the bullet and put my worries in the hands of a stylist - Shannon Belsito at Jacqueline Conoir.  Her job was to help me find just one outfit that I felt good in.  My stress level was high which made her job difficult and as we hadn't worked together before she was just learning my likes and dislikes, but it all came together.  The final look was timeless, versatile and over the years I have received many compliments on it. Since then we have continued to put our heads together each season to build a lasting wardrobe that coordinates.  It's coming along nicely. I learned a valuable lesson that day. We all need professionals we trust to help us. No one can be an expert in everything.So remember, if you feel I look well put together at at an event, it was because I took the step of asking for help and learning from someone with a lot more experience.

Master stylist Salim on right - posing with clients at the
Hennessey Salon annual Hair "Do" Fundraiser
Hair has been another crazy journey.  I love long, full hair, but am not blessed with it.  In my 20's I didn't care and was young enough to pull it off.  Perms and french braiding were used as much as possible to create style.  But with young kids underfoot it got a lot harder. The kind of haircuts I received from my husband were VERY basic.  When I ended up in a salon, it was one of the budget places where they couldn't give any real guidance. Then I bit the bullet and walked into a proper establishment with a highly trained staff and everything changed for the better. When my first stylist moved away, I ended up with the head honcho - Salim at Hennessy Salon in Richmond Centre.  No two short haircuts can ever be exactly the same, but I am confident the outcome will be to my liking because he brings over 25 years of knowledge to the table and has taken the time to talk extensively with me about what I want. He is also a master colorist and was able to transition my hair as I aged without the constant need to touch up roots. We try different approaches at times to see where it leads - some work better than others - and then adjust at our next session. I don't want to TELL him what to do. I enjoy the freedom of just sitting back, relaxing and letting him work his magic.

CAR REPAIRS! Such a huge and upsetting topic.  Paying for expensive service at a dealership does not insure good work, but neither does finding the cheapest place possible.  In the end, my husband and I take our cars to a private establishment where we know the owner and he has a vested interest in keeping our business - Travis Halliday at Red Line Automotive in Richmond. With over 20 years of experience, he lists suggested repairs in order - urgent for safety, needs to be done soon and something to plan for in the future.  The age of the car is factored into his suggestions as some are not worth doing if it's due for the scrap yard soon. It's advice we can trust and it guides our expenditures. Turns out our instincts were spot on as his business was awarded 2011 Garage of the Year by  SSGM Magazine!

Photographers are next on the list. Everyone gains experience by doing, so we do need to support rising talent.  BUT - when it's really important, experience and a vision that matches your own is not to be negotiated. The cheapest price will not give you what you need. The images you put out there - whether product photos, editorial images or head shots - will be available through Social Media forever.  It is your calling card to future clients.  If you can't come up with the resources to do it right - don't do it as all as the impact could well be negative.  For me - I was delighted to work with Eydis Einarsdottir on my head shot. While she spent time making sure I was happy with the outcome - I know she nailed the perfect image probably in the first 10 minutes. I also chose this photographer because she takes a light-handed approach to adjustments in processing which means in the end - the image really look like the person you are now, but is still flattering. This is only one small area of her expertise. For more you can check out her portfolio at THEY  Representation.

I was going to use an image of Einarsdottir working on set,
but feel this image shot on a trip home to Iceland better
captures her wonderful spirit. 
My most recent foray into letting a professional handle it was with eye glass frames.  I have worn and hated glasses since I was in grade 3. At 16 I purchased my first contacts and never looked back until at 40 when my eyes became dryer. Suddenly I was wearing glasses most of the time - Yuck!. With a complicated prescription, I was always encouraged to pick small frames and that was about all the guidance I received. It was a stressful process and in the end I owned a pair that sometimes turned out to be not all that flattering. This last week I found myself sitting across from, Sue Randhawa of The Optical Boutique  - a woman of incredible style I had met at a few recent events. I walked in to find a small grouping of frames pre-selected by Sue that would suit my silhouette and colouring. Suddenly I found myself enjoying the journey as it was no longer about trying to find that illusive pair that might look good on me. I instead started with several great choices and the process was about what I felt best represented me and suited my needs.  What a totally different experience! Now instead of looking at glasses as a burden, I have a vision of them as a part of my wardrobe accessories. For the first time in my life I want to own several pairs instead of tolerating just one.

Sue is the stylish lady 2nd from right.
Money is a tough subject for so many in these tight financial times, but it's important to remember no matter what professional you need - event planner, accountant, fashion professional, editor, etc. - finding the right match is of the utmost importance. They need to have solid expertise, good listening skills and be someone you can trust to understand what is best for your needs. Finances will usually have an impact on your final choice, but shouldn't influence you to make a decision that will lead to a negative outcome. In the end, working with the right person creates a better initial experience, the expert guidance reduces stress as you let them shoulder some of the burden and the results can have a positive impact on every area of one's life.