I’d only seen her in passing on the streets of New York City, but got the opportunity earlier this month to meet Mikki Taylor – former beauty & cover director for Essence Magazine at her book launch/cocktail event. After our brief, but really sweet exchange I was so taken aback by Mikki’s awesome energy and great style that I instantly knew she had a hit on her hands with this timeless book.
Mikki’s inspiring new book – Commander in Chic: Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Her Style Like a First Lady (Atria Books; $26.99) comes at a time when women – black, white and everything in between are looking to define their personal style which many of us struggle with. Mikki is considered a lifestyle & beauty expert (among other well-earned titles) so she is more than qualified to give us her take on how to become the chicest lady in the room while having a style that’s all your own. Book was officially released on November 29th.
Simply put, I want every woman to be the “Commander in Chic” of her life. I want to see us all own our lives and master style with distinction. I used Mrs. Obama as a muse to empower women everywhere to do so – from mastering great style from within to establishing a wardrobe of bankable pieces and a signature look. It is my goal to see women utilize the book like a personal style diary – one where they’ll find the kind of guidance that takes the guess work out of what works on a multiplicity of subjects, among them:
* Where and when to shop and what to buy.
* Must-have accessories with timeless appeal.
* Great makeup finds and savvy application how-to’s.
* Targeted hair care, performance-driven tools and styling aids.
* Prime hand and nail care.
* Physical wellness and core fitness practices at every age.
* Mental and spiritual empowerment.
What advice would you give a woman who struggles to define her personal style?
Know that it’s about coining a look that works for you based on who you are and how you live your life. Remember style is a form of self-expression and so it really comes down to what you want to communicate. To understand your personal style code, ask yourself, what predominant style sensibility am I comfortable with? How would you define it? Classic? Elegant? Boho? Edgy? Once you establish your style-persona, shop accordingly and above all, remain true to yourself.
How do you define your own personal style?
I define my style as “classic with a twist.” I’m clear about what works for me and what doesn’t. My look is based on a modern, chic and effortless sensibility that keeps pace with my busy, always-on-the-go lifestyle. 90% of my wardrobe consists of great dresses, which make getting dressed an effortless affair. The balance is composed of smart separates that allow me to work them to new perfection just by a change of accessories.
What are some key items a woman should have in her closet?
Every woman’s closet should consist of investment essentials —those pieces with undeniable quality and mileage-making capabilities. Key items include:
* A multi-tasking cashmere cardigan: a great adaptor that’s always smart and chic.
* Several clean cut dresses –with great necklines in the most womanly fabrics that “move” or “shape.”
* The perfect pencil skirt — a great support piece that when paired with sweaters, blouses and more and can be styled to suit all of one’s needs – day-to-night.
* Great shirts and blouses.
* Flared pants – in an array of season-less fabrics.
* The little black dress – a wardrobe powerhouse and an eternally chic piece that goes the distance; look for the most versatile silhouettes.
* A well-cut pantsuit.
Great accessories: diamond or crystal studs, a clean, bold cuff, cocktail rings, a classic timepiece, a transitional clutch, a smart satchel, a pump with a purpose, a classy flat or skimmer, a black peau de soie pump, a metallic evening sandal
What is your view on trends…should we follow them, set them, etc?
At the end of the day, style in the broad stroke is about being on purpose. An essential element of doing so is the ability to be comfortable in your skin by defining what works for you and what doesn’t. Thus it’s not about following trends, which I believe we shouldn’t take too seriously – after all, we are more than a season of style whims! When you know who you are, you don’t follow trends, more often than not you set them!
Are you a fan of a current trend?
No. I am inspired by new pieces however that add mileage to my wardrobe and allow me to express my style with fabulous satisfaction!
What are some do’s and don’ts in the world of beauty & fashion?
Do make a shopping list at the beginning of each season, filling in what you need first and foremost and shop accordingly so you’re not all over the place buying clothing and yet never having anything to wear. Don’t make impulse buys- this will turn your closet into a museum quicker than anything I know. There’ll be much to admire, but getting dressed won’t be worth the cost of admission!
Do identify a great tailor or seamstress – having one will take your wardrobe from good to amazing!
Do make sure every piece you buy will serve you on multiple occasions. Don’t buy a look for a single event unless it’s your wedding – then you’re allowed!
Do mix the best accessories, but please avoid what I call the “Xmas tree” syndrome. Choose your cluster wisely and know when enough is enough. Don’t work a look that says “all ashore that’s going ashore!”
Do leave your “sneaks” for the gym. Work a pair of elegant flats instead when lowering your heels on the commute to and from work.
Do keep your makeup fresh by using blotters for touch-ups instead of re-applying pressed powder – it’s so over and done!
Don’t ever match your makeup to your clothes. Makeup should complement, not match.
Do keep makeup fresh and modern by mixing up textures on eyes, lips and cheeks
Do partner with a professional stylist to establish your signature look and maintain healthy hair
Don’t even think about skipping exercise to preserve your hair. Establish a regime and a coterie of looks that empower you to live your best life!
What other projects are on the horizon for you?
In my goal to inform, inspire and simplify women’s lives, my next course of action is a coterie of nail lacquers for “discerning women with directional taste.” The collection, billed as ”The Forever Nude Collection by Mikki Taylor” which debuts in February 2012, is a select group of go-with-everything nudes for various skin tones and undertones. In truth, color trends come and go, but a strong style sensibility remains and nude hues make a definitive statement all their own – one that’s timeless, chic and effortless.
What’s your secret to looking fabulous?
Hue Knew It? In this case, Mikki did.