StyleKouncil: new "closet curation" consultancy in SF


photos by Peter Samuels

Since I was 14, I've dressed like, well, I'm 14. My uniform has been t-shirt, hoodie, jeans, and sneakers or boots. Thing is, I actually like to dress up. But I don't really know how. Until a month ago, I had a (small) closet packed with nice clothes -- or what I thought were nice clothes -- that I had acquired over the years but basically never wore. And had mostly forgotten. Then my wife Kelly Sparks and her friend Kat Yeh had their way with my wardrobe. I didn't mind because they're professionals. For decades, Kelly has been a fashion designer working for the likes of Levi's, Bebe, and Esprit. Kat spent years at Levi's as a global merchandiser and styled a great cast of assorted celebs and rock stars, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Thurston Moore to Josh Homme and Erykah Badu. When Kelly and Kat emerged from the bowels of my closet, 85 percent of my tired duds were boxed up for donation (1990s shiny suit... buhbye) and they had put together a bunch of cool outfits based on timeless clothes I already had, most of which I hadn't seen in years. They also gave me a list of the key essentials I was missing. Now they're helping me shop (which I generally hate almost as much as a trip to the DMV) for clothes at prices even a cheapskate like me won't complain about. (Target! Vintage! Flea markets! Outlets!)

Whitesuitttt-2 Veroni-2
Why did they do all this for me? I was actually serving as a beta tester for Kat and Kelly's new "closet curation" and personal styling consultancy in San Francisco, StyleKouncil. Unlike most personal stylists, Kelly and Kat won't try to give you a "fashion makeover" or drag you to Barney's, unless of course that's what you want. (Believe me, they know their Prada and Marc Jacobs too.) No matter your budget, the aim is to "explore your style and turn it up a notch," says Kelly. Something about their taste and appreciation for classic and vintage looks mixed with their fashion-forward mindset, total lack of fashion snobbery, and ability to help you buy less but be way happier with what you do buy, has struck a chord. Word of mouth has brought them a bunch of clients and a few weeks ago Jesse "Sound of Young America" Thorn said nice things at his "Put This On" blog and even complimented me on my new look. (That's a first!) And now this month, 7x7 magazine has a four-page spread on StyleKouncil written by Leilani Labong. For the article, Kelly and Kat were asked to interpret fresh (and spendy) runway looks using affordable clothing. Their models included coffee geek Benjamin Kruer (above left), emo rocker Gina Macaraeg, and Tekzilla web video star Veronica Belmont (above right).

I'm proud of Kelly and Kat, even as I get impatient while they scour thrift stores in search of the perfect Steve McQueen Baracuta jacket for me.

"Fashion to the People: StyleKouncil Balances the Budget With the Newest Runway Trends" (7x7)

Jesse Thorn on StyleKouncil (Put This On)

Leilani Labong on StyleKouncil (A Ruffled Feather)


  1. A clever idea -but let them know their website is impossible to read. The background is too dark.

  2. I have to agree with Captain Haddock on everything he said. Clever. Website impossible to red. Too dark and over the lined notebook paper it is too busy.

  3. Problem with finding a Baracuta jacket in a thrift shop is… you’ll never find one. If you have one, you’ll likely find it stolen some day if you don’t keep a close watch on it. They’re *that* coveted.

    I had wanted one for a couple years, and finally broke down and bought one new. There’s a mens’ shop in Buffalo, NY that carries them, so I was able to try them on (they come in suit jacket sizes, e.g. 42 or 44, for a perfect fit so you want to make sure you can try it on) and check out the different colors and so on. I really shouldn’t have spent that much on a jacket – I never normally buy anything that isn’t hugely discounted, although I only buy nice-ish stuff – but I wear it whenever I can and like it a lot. I now have trouble zipping up other jackets – you use the left hand to zip it up (as most English things) rather than the right hand (as most American things).

    A lot of “old guys” wear that style jacket these days… but it still looks damn cool (if you’re not an old and fat guy), while not being ostentatious. It depends on how you wear it and what you wear it with.

    1. Yeah, the Baracuta at a thrift store (in my big guy size, no less) is mostly wishful thinking. : )

  4. So great! Can they please add a Gift Certificate option? I have loads of people I’d like to see looking better & giving a intro gift to them would be a nice way to get them started.

    Oh, and as for Baracuta, their online shop has an enormous yearly sale the first week of January. They have reasonable shipping rates to the US, deduct the VAT, and are good with returns if the goods don’t fit. This year I got a G27 Harewood $360 coat for $99 including shipping.

  5. Well, I think they’re great, if you’re looking to dress like a hipster. To be a little more honest after writing the second paragraph, I think some of the looks they do are classic, some are trendy (nothing inherently bad there), but some are also hipster-and you just need to know if/that/when you’re doing that.
    I think the before and after of David was a lot better than the ‘runway trends’ spread. However, tacky and pretentious doesn’t even start to describe the popped collar(this seems to be a stylekouncil thing, since all men they profile on the site have it).

    1. The runway trends thing was more of 7×7’s hook for a good magazine feature than what StyleKouncil actually does when working with a client. And yes, the aim is to help you figure out how you want to look, not try to make you into something/someone you aren’t. They have a long questionnaire for clients to fill out and spend a ton of time just talking and trying to understand how people see themselves, and how they want others to see them. I’ve been with Kelly for twenty years and I still had to fill out the questionnaire and have those conversations. Usually, that’s the kind of thing that I roll my eyes at, but I honestly found it very helpful. : )

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