As a scout for all things fashion, I always love to look at Instagram to see hot stylish chicks express themselves. Even though I adore the app for being a great platform to express individuality, the sad truth is that there are many trend chasers who copy whatever Rihanna, the Kardash-Jenners and other models/singers/celebrities are wearing. Although I, myself, adore celebrity style, I can tear a page out of their book, draw inspiration from it and not literally copy it from head to toe. No matter how influential a celebrity’s style is, it’s a sad epidemic when influencers dress like twins to the point where it’s harder to tell apart Mary-Kate or Ashley.
With my inner Andy Warhol in sight, my radar’s been on the pulse for Jacuqeline Pak. As Lulu’s Director of Footwear and Accessories, her chameleonic style feels radically fresh without being extremely in-your-face. As a fellow Gemini, it’s rather an adaptable trait we have in our astrological DNA. But most importantly, she’s mastered that art from her previous stint at Nasty Gal, where she graduated from CEO’s assistant to buyer.
We chat about why footwear feels so underrated, the biggest lesson she’s learned from Sophia Amoruso, what we should anticipate if we wanna work in retail, how we can try out many trends without being too basic and the one (or two) thing(s) that LA girls don’t wear.
You started out your career as one of the OG buyers at Nasty Gal. How did the opportunity to work at Nasty Gal happen? What was the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
JP: After I graduated college, I realized I wanted to work in fashion and struck a deal with my mother. Give me until 26 to make it in fashion and if I don’t, I’ll go to medical school. As you can imagine, that became a huge motivation as I had zero passion for medicine. I was flipping through a magazine at the doctor’s office and one of the editors revealed her best kept secret was Nasty Gal Vintage. I looked it up and was immediately emotionally invested and I furiously searched for Sophia’s contact and cold-emailed her.
She told me she had a customer service job available, but after my interview, she said actually, if I would prefer to be her executive assistant, where I could shadow her and learn all aspects of the business. I learned how to care about everything. Sophia complimented me once on how I took photos of clothing at tradeshows. I made it a point to frame the photo evenly and at a straight angle to best capture what it looked like in real life and took the time to find the best lighting in the room we were in. I still take that same care in everything I do today. It takes longer, but in the end, the results make a difference.
As a buyer, what made you focus on accessories and footwear?
JP: I’m not sure that I was given much of a choice, but it was clear that I was overly obsessed with footwear. I’m petite, so I always had 4 inch heels or higher and that’s hard to ignore. I like to call footwear and accessories the ugly stepchild of retail. It seems to be the afterthought to apparel, but I like that underdog status. In high end, footwear and accessories are the moneymakers for the brands. Shoes and jewelry, for example, are so personal and intimate. Shoes are probably the most practical item in a wardrobe. They protect you from the elements and you can essentially, wear the same pair over and over. To motivate a customer to purchase a pair of shoes, they have to be special. Accessories are maybe the least practical. You can walk out without any accessories on, so interestingly, you have to do the same thing as with shoes, they have to be precious.
Currently, you work at Lulu’s as a director of shoes and accessories. Can you tell us what a day to day life as a buyer is like?
JP: The further you go in your career, the more removed you are from the product and can easily fall into a managerial capacity. It was important for me to be very tactile with the product, so Lulus was a great situation because we primarily focus on developing product exclusive to Lulus. I also stepped into a unique situation where the buyer for accessories was on maternity leave, so I could roll up my sleeves and get deep into dealing with product and learning about the customer on a granular level. Everyday is different, but buying really isn’t as glamorous as people think. You have to balance the creative and the analytical. Research on the zeitgeist of real life fashion (versus the fantasy of runway shows), understanding pricing architecture, analyzing sales and giving the customer what they want, but also showing her new things is a delicate balance. Finding product and buying it are small parts of the role.
Working in a store is such a dream for any fashion girl, but what are some things that we should anticipate (alongside some dos and don’ts) before working in retail?
JP: Early in your career, it’s important to try to get your foot in the door through networking, persistence and branding yourself via social media and/or personal projects. Try for companies that you align with your personal aesthetic, but that gets less important the longer you’re in the business. I got lucky working at Nasty Gal where it felt new, exciting and disruptive. I feel even luckier working at Lulu’s where the motto of affordable luxury is sincerely practiced to the customer and with its employees.
What are some footwear and accessory trends we should try out this summer?
JP: Trends are cyclical, so while it’s important to know what’s relevant, I always try and pick quality and style over trendiness. For summer, naked heels, tie dye, cowrie shells, puff sleeves, suiting are all exciting, but don’t feel like you need to try every trend. Pick the ones that you feel align with your personal style and they’ll last longer than the season.
I love how you experiment with trends without being too basic! How can we experiment with wearing more than one trend in an outfit without looking ensemble-y challenged?
JP: I’m a Gemini sun and a Libra rising, so I definitely can get distracted and want to try out everything like a Gemini, but it’s important to be balanced like a Libra. Proportion and fit will make or break your outfit. If you are going for an oversized tie dye tee, anchor it with clean simple black biker shorts and chunky sneakers or light denim and sandals. Know your body and try to identify which articles of clothing you constantly gravitate towards and build off of the proportions of that item. For example, I love midi dresses, but I hate that certain lengths hit me at the widest part of my calf, so I prefer ankle grazing lengths.
Who are your style icons and why do you admire their style?
JP: There is such a wide variety of people that I admire, but it’s less about copying their style and them knowing what works for them and sticking to it. I love Brigitte Bardot’s unapologetic sensuality, Jane Birkin’s glamorous effortlessness, Carrie Bradshaw’s risk-taking, Pepamack‘s elevated clean color palette and fit and Kendall Jenner’s off-duty style. Mostly, I love my friends in the business because they are my immediate real life inspirations.
I feel like the LA girl look is really taking over the world right now. As someone who’s been living in LA, what are some essentials in your closet that you wear everyday?
JP: The hunt for perfect denim is a religion in LA. I have the perfect wide leg crops that cost $5 at the Flea Market and am eyeing the perfect blue high waisted pair from The Row. Other important wardrobe essentials include, tissue thin vintage tees, easy day to night mini or ankle grazing dresses, tons of gold jewelry, mid heel mules and sandals and signature sunglasses.
For anyone who wants to travel to LA, what are some things that people in LA don’t wear?
JP: Coats and super high stiletto heels. Anything super formal seems a bit out of place. I love all those things, but never wear them in LA.
Lastly, what do you love most about being a Gemini?
JP: I’m always willing to try something new and love to share where I got it.
P.S. If you love her style as much as I do, feel free to shop at her closet on Poshmark!