Aligned and Thriving Podcast | Strategies for Work Life Balance

The Personal Touch: Kerry K Athanassiou on Building Trust and Confidence Through Style

March 25, 2024 Judith Bowtell | Career Development for Achieving Work-Life Balance Episode 13
Aligned and Thriving Podcast | Strategies for Work Life Balance
The Personal Touch: Kerry K Athanassiou on Building Trust and Confidence Through Style
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of the Aligned and Thriving podcast, host Judith Bowtell welcomes Kerry K Athanassiou, a personal stylist and the founder of Style Culture Styling. Kerry has over 25 years of experience in the fashion industry and has dedicated her career to empowering and supporting women and teenagers by helping them discover and elevate their unique style. Judith and Kerry discuss the importance of work-life balance, the values they learned from their upbringing, and how their perspectives have evolved over time. They also explore the challenges of body image, shopping, and the fashion industry, emphasizing the need for authenticity, trust, and ethical consumption.

Podcast Episode Summary

  • The importance of taking breaks, scheduling self-care, and finding a work-life balance as entrepreneurs
  • The values instilled from childhood, such as work ethic, customer service, and the appreciation for quality craftsmanship
  • The challenges of body image, self-acceptance, and the healing power of personal styling experiences
  • The value of trust and authenticity in the personal styling industry, avoiding sponsored promotions and conflicts of interest
  • The power of self-expression through personal style and the role it plays in building confidence
  • The moment when Kerry realized she wanted to start her own personal styling business, after exploring different roles in the fashion industry and finding her passion in connecting with people
  • The story behind Kerry's journey, including her time at Australian Laser Clinics, where she learned valuable business skills and the importance of personal connections
  • Kerry's vision for her new website and the "Stylist in Your Pocket" program, providing ongoing support and guidance for clients

Recommended resources:

All Fired Up hosted by Louise Adams, guest Holly Richards:

Flying on Planes & Buying Clothes Shouldn’t Be So Hard With Ample Folk

Why are vintage patterns so small?! A history of pattern sizing (Why the size numbers are a lie)

Kerry Athanassiou Website:  Style Culture Website


Connect with Judith Bowtell on Facebook:
To learn more about how we can work together:

Come say hi on:
Let’s be Instagram friends:
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Don't forget to rate, review, or drop your questions on:

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[00:00:00] Judith Bowtell: Hello, everybody. This is Judith Bowtell, the host of Aligned and Thriving, the place where you can come to learn how to develop your own work life balance strategies, by listening to other people who are like you, have the same challenges that you have, maybe have found some ways that will support you as well. So this is a chance for us to share those and learn from each other. And also just have a good time. Today I am so thrilled to welcome a great supporter of mine, somebody who's been incredibly helpful in my life, somebody who's helped my husband as well with his personal style. Today we have Kerry K Athanassiou, who's a personal stylist. So welcome Kerry!

[00:00:51] Kerry Athanassiou: Hello, Judith. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:54] Judith Bowtell: Oh, I'm so pleased to have you. We haven't seen each other for a while but I'm very pleased that we get a chance to have a chat today and reflect on work life balance and how it might have evolved over the years. 

[00:01:07] Let me just introduce Kerry to you. Kerry is a personal stylist and a founder of Style Culture Styling. She leverages her 25 plus years in the fashion industry and time spent in the medical cosmetics industry to help professional women across Australia and internationally discover and elevate their unique style to feel more confident in their professional career and personal life. And I can absolutely attest to that. We'll talk about that later, but that's how I met Kerry. I was looking for a style upgrade and it was just the most wonderful experience. She's a mother of two, plus she has a fur baby named Apollo. She's a marathon runner in her spare time, and she also works with women from all walks of life and has donated her time and skills to raising much needed funds for charities for women affected by domestic violence and initiatives like Dress for Success. the last 15 years, Kerry has successfully built a business founded on the mission of empowering and supporting women and teenagers, teaching generations of women that true beauty comes from within. Welcome again, Kerry.

[00:02:17] Kerry Athanassiou: Thank you, Judith.

[00:02:18] Judith Bowtell: What a wonderful mission you have there of empowering and supporting women and teenagers across generations. I think that's truly inspiring.

[00:02:28] Kerry Athanassiou: Thank you, teenagers. Yeah, I have a very special part in my work life, but also in my heart for teenagers.

[00:02:37] Judith Bowtell: Yeah, it's a tricky time, isn't it? Where you don't try to work things out and confidence can just be at an all time low. In those years. Yeah.

[00:02:48] Kerry Athanassiou: And boosting that confidence and letting them shine on their own, and not sticking in the shadow of other people.

[00:02:54] Judith Bowtell: Yeah. That would have been such a wonderful thing to have found. I know in my teenage years she's reflecting on that with somebody else yeah, I would have loved to have a service what you do. I also wish I'd taken up boxing as a teenager. I think that would have been really empowering for me.

[00:03:12] Kerry Athanassiou: Oh my god, that is so good.

[00:03:14] Judith Bowtell: Very unlikely in a Catholic girls school that they would have offered that. I think we had netball and tennis and netball could get a bit feisty, but we didn't actually ever have any combat sports or anything like

[00:03:26] Kerry Athanassiou: I can see that, I can see that. It was a different generation though, wasn't it?

[00:03:30] Judith Bowtell: It totally was. Apparently here we go. We're going off on tangents, but this might happen today. Women's wrestling or girls wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the U S at the moment. It's like four times as big or it's had four time growth over, I don't know how long, but so we're talking not professional wrestling with all the

[00:03:50] Kerry Athanassiou: that's fantastic.

[00:03:51] Judith Bowtell: But we're talking about the real amateur wrestling. So yeah, there's something about introducing with a young girls to combat sports that is really resonating with them. And I can understand that because you do have all this frustration as a teenager and to have some way that you can channel it in a safe way. Oh, that would have been amazing.

[00:04:14] Kerry Athanassiou: I agree. Frustration even knowing your strengths, your weaknesses, it would help with all of that. Insecurities, just because you know if you're frustrated, it's obviously for several reasons, but your insecurities come from your environment and from within putting that energy into a sport just helps you. And especially if you're around other people, I did do tennis and I did swimming and wonderful sports, but lonely, right? You're

[00:04:45] Judith Bowtell: Yeah, you're right.

[00:04:46] Kerry Athanassiou: Doing wrestling, you're with someone, you're in a group, likely. Yeah, wow, that's fantastic, I didn't know that. There you go.

[00:04:54] Judith Bowtell: There you go. Yes. So options for women's sport these days. So many more.

[00:04:59] Kerry Athanassiou: Very different.

[00:05:00] Judith Bowtell: Yeah. So while we're talking about sport, but not that has to be in your answer, but I'm just going to ask you the question I like to ask all my guests, what have you done lately to improve your work life balance?

[00:05:12] Kerry Athanassiou: Work life balance well because we were just talking about sport, I have got back into running. I press pause on any running for a very long time. You get into your head and when you don't do it continuously like anything else, the insecurities seep through. I can't do this anymore. Oh, my knee's hurt. Oh, I've got a niggle in my back or my hip. And you convince yourself that you can't do this. That's what I did. Even simple little things that I used to take for granted, like running the bay near where I live came impossible. And puppy walks every morning were my thing and they still are my thing. So I have started running again and I have done my third run on Saturday for the year, which was incredibly challenging and hard. And I had wonderful people that I run with that keep me accountable and keep reminding me of what I can do, which is wonderful. It's it goes back to the network of people around you and how resonating with like minded people, no matter what you do push you in the same direction. That's what I've done. And I have also in the last six months. Not recently, but in the last six months, I went back to giving myself a day off during the week, where possible, of course, no, no busy periods like school holidays, Christmas, Mother's Day, things do engine. I'm more than happy because I work for myself. I'm more than happy to adapt accordingly, but outside that peak period, spring carnival's another time where you don't really rest but I'm giving myself off a day during the week. It does change from week to week, but you burn out so fast six days a week. And even if you're not dealing with clients one on one, and you are in the office. I just find you're constantly working. And my teen said to me, Mom, you work for yourself. My boss tells me to go and have a break. This is my teen. My boss tells me to go and have a break. She's studying at uni when she's working casually, you don't tell yourself to go and have a break because you sit on the computer and the next thing five hours later, you forget to eat. You forget to take a lunch break. It's ridiculous. So they're the two things that I've gone back to doing for myself and it's made the world of difference. Yeah. 

[00:07:58] Judith Bowtell: I'm so glad you're doing those things. I have a no client day, which is Fridays and also try not to have meetings on that day either. And I do take the Friday afternoon. I try not to do any work. That's been my way of balancing working for myself. Sometimes I work on the weekend. Yes, that does happen. And then the other thing is I've just last year, I started to put a lunch break in my day. I can act in my calendar, like block out that time because it's so easily could get to three, four o'clock in the afternoon. You go, Oh, Yeah. I probably should eat something. Yeah. And then you eat there and then you go, Oh, I don't really feel like dinner. And then it's just thought.

[00:08:39] Kerry Athanassiou: You're famished and you reach out for all the wrong foods.

[00:08:43] Judith Bowtell: Yes.

[00:08:43] Kerry Athanassiou: We know what we need to do. But this takes over and the hunger takes over. We make wrong food choices. Yeah, I get it.

[00:08:51] Judith Bowtell: Yeah. And I also love what you said about running, about having a group around you to keep you accountable, but it's also a group who kind of gets. What it's like they get it. They've probably had breaks from running themselves. They've probably had injuries. They're probably, everyone who runs does or to place any sport. So starting that and if you've done it before that there's going to be pain things are going to hurt. You also know that you'll get past it but it's the getting past it that you feel like, do I really want to do this?

[00:09:18] Yeah.

[00:09:19] Kerry Athanassiou: I, yeah, I can relate. I did feel all those things on Saturday. I even gave up on myself and I said, I'm going to walk back. I can't do this. And there was a, it was a run group, 18 people. And my friend went we're to jog it in slowly, but we're not walking. And we did bumped it in really slowly. He stayed with me the whole time. He's a very competent runner. He could have gone off. But this is again it's that group win saying it's okay. You're doing something.

[00:09:52] Judith Bowtell: Yes. Yes. You're doing something. You're doing it. You're doing your best. And if you just push that little bit further that will be supporting you on your bigger goals and eventually you'll get to that place where it feels so good but you will or you'll just slowly jog for the rest of your life.

[00:10:08] And that might be fine.

[00:10:09] Kerry Athanassiou: There's nothing wrong with that either. Nothing at all.

[00:10:11] Nothing at all.

[00:10:11] with that. Yeah. I've prepared myself for that as well. We're not every stage of life is different.

[00:10:17] Judith Bowtell: Yes, exactly. And your body changes.

[00:10:20] Kerry Athanassiou: Absolutely.

[00:10:21] Judith Bowtell: Oh congratulations on making those changes in your life. I support them and encourage them. Let's get on to some of the thinking about your working life and how the values that you have had that you may have inherited. Or learnt as a child and how these might have shifted and changed as you've developed your business and how they support you. Let's start with where it all begins. What did you learn as a child about working and how work works, basically?

[00:10:50] Kerry Athanassiou: I suppose for me, it started at a very young age because my mom was a seamstress. When they left Greece and migrated to Australia, settled here. So she back home worked for her auntie that designed and made, handmade, everything was from scratch, no patterns, everything was sewn on the bottom, on your body I should say couture dress making for the wealthy Greeks and the Anassis family was one of those families that came through that couture house so she learnt from the best of the best. And when she came out here, obviously faced with barriers, no language where to start networking. So she started doing sewing as in alterations for people that were here already Italians companies that were established that had been here for quite a few years. And like the old fashioned sewing where they would give you 300, 400 parts of a pair of pants and all you would do is sew on the pockets or sew on the zipper.

[00:12:02] Judith Bowtell: Oh, yeah.

[00:12:04] Kerry Athanassiou: Would be doing 300 zippers or 500 zippers and the more you did, obviously, the more you got paid. So she started off like that. So alterations in a way, but more of a production line. I would sit there as, I've got memories being maybe five or six years old, sitting there, watching her on the sewing machine, just constantly one after another. And she worked really hard. Both parents were, their work ethic was there. Dad was in building from a young age. So I learned that basically to put food on the table, you had to work hard. That's how it was changed for mom, where she then started to do, alterations for herself went on to get back to her passion, which is dressmaking. So started off within her own community and then it just expanded. And I loved it. I would take it all in. I would have been. At that stage, maybe fifth class, eight, nine years old, and I'll actually sit there and help her cut off whatever she was overlocking, trim the edges, and been around, it's in my blood. I did try to fight it as a teenager thinking I would go off and do something else and I thought I'd be an English teacher to be honest with you. I nearly did go down that path. I got accepted and then mum said, oh don't do it, don't do it. A parent telling a child not to go to university to become a teacher. So she said go and study fashion design and yeah, that's what I did. So the aim was that I would design mum was doing right away at that stage.

[00:13:48] Judith Bowtell: Oh, wow.

[00:13:49] Kerry Athanassiou: Yeah, very, she built a very good business for herself and I would draw and design and she would patent make, and we would start a business, but that's not what life had installed for me because my father got sick and it's got very sick, was unable to work. So my mom ended up working three jobs to make sure that we were okay. And the business our business didn't go ahead. So I continued with my studies and then went off to do my own things. So from a very young age, all of my siblings, I have a brother and a sister older than me the work ethic was there. I was working at 14, not because we needed the money, but because mom felt it was important for me to do something. We grew up in Hillsdale, which is Eastern suburbs. A lot of people were hanging out at Maroondah Beach to not stray and to be doing something of value and then be getting a bit of pocket money as well. So probably 14, 14 and a half, I started casual work Thursday evenings and Saturdays.

[00:15:03] Judith Bowtell: Yes. Yes. Was it the local coffee shop? Was it a,

[00:15:07] Kerry Athanassiou: It was, are you ready for it? A store within one of the little shopping centres that sold like crystal vases crystal crystal ornaments and like a Swarovski style store, but you had all these gorgeous, something you would see in David Jones these days. But customer service was grained at a very young age, at a very young age. Gorgeous women, my mum would pull us in to play translator when her, just Gorgeous Australian women would come in and want a suit made or an evening gown and if there was a bit of a language barrier, she understood most things she would ask for me to help and translate and it's all customer service, isn't it?

[00:15:54] Judith Bowtell: So that work ethic, the work you get rewarded and you need to be committed and reliable, those sort of things. I think that's quite a relatable one and the other one the customer service is really interesting. The availability to understand what the customer wants, the ability to listen, the ability to moderation, navigate what they want with what you can do. And yeah, and that is such a valuable skill. Yeah. Yeah...... 

[00:16:21] Kerry Athanassiou: You carry it through out your whole life. I always say this to both my kids, simple thank you and please. It's called so many problems in the world, kindness and good customer service because with customer service, people will always remember a bad experience. They will tell the statistics big percentage of people will always, I think it was eight out of ten people, will always tell you a bad experience before they tell you a good experience. No one's going to say to you, oh, I had this fantastic sales assistant, she helped me so much. But they will be the first to tell you. Don't go into that store. She was rude. They're horrible. They won't accept returns and exchanges. A personal stylist she didn't listen to me. In my industry, I paid for free service, but ended up spending more with things that they forced me to buy. Just things like that. People always remember a bad experience. Customer service for me is a big thing and you apply it to everything and every industry. So I did learn that early in the piece at a very young age. 

[00:17:28] Judith Bowtell: And I can attest to Kerry's very high levels of customer service. I engaged Kerry. I found her website. She sounds great. Talked to her on the phone, went, yeah, this sounds like a fun thing. I'd just gone through a whole lot of changes in my own body shape. I was very unsure of what size I was, what suited me. I was getting around in baggy jumpers and things and I was just about to go into a new corporate job. And I had no clothes. I went and saw Kerry and I described the experience as you've got to be really prepared to be in a change room for a lot longer. I didn't have the patience to stay there and try on multiple pieces of clothing. But Kerry makes you try on the multiple pieces of clothing until you find the jacket that actually works. And the dress that actually works actually compliments your body shape. It works for the purpose that you're buying it for. And I also remember that she stops you spending things that if you can't match it with so many pieces or whatever, you can't put an outfit together, you don't get it. . And I still, some of the clothes, most of the clothes don't fit anymore, but I still kept a lot of the principles of what you showed me as well. And so the experience is so affirming and also confidence building because what can be very challenging, especially if you're in a fluctuating body shape and you find things just don't fit anymore. And it can be quite overwhelming, but if you've got somebody there with you by the end you become much more objective about clothes and much more kind to your own body. And that is such a healing process for so many people to get to a point where they can look at their body without hurtful judgments. And so I feel a little bit emotional.

[00:19:11] Kerry Athanassiou: You warm heart, you warm my heart. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? Yeah. Feel nice. Yes and we have to say to ourselves, it's okay for us to have changing bodies from year to year. It's a piece of work. It's a factory. It's moving. It's working every single day, taking my hand. Something is happening for me to do that. And we're gonna change and it's okay for our men to have the same body. We're engineered differently to men and the minute we can accept that and accept ourselves and that like the seasons change our body will change. I personally have struggled with this one. We're okay if we can just work through that knowing it's all right. It's okay. Sometimes it's not us. It's the sizing and the clothes. 

[00:20:07] Judith Bowtell: Oh my god. Sizing of clothes. I don't have any clothes sizes you have in your wardrobe, but I have at least eight. Like this from this to this they're all just depending on cut. And where it's coming from unfortunately in, yes. 

[00:20:21] Kerry Athanassiou: In country, that it's not regulated sizing is no longer regulated. It hasn't been for a very long time. Judith, you could look at me and you could say, I'm going to make you a size 14. Someone next to you could look at me and say, Nah, I'm going to make her a 10 to 12. Not regulated. You have not interpretation. But that doesn't help, right?

[00:20:46] Judith Bowtell: Oh, so it doesn't help. This is a whole other topic and there are some fantastic resources about the sizing industry and the clothing and actually I'll put the resource in the notes, but there's a great interview podcast about how sizing is actually we're still using templates from the 1920s and things that haven't been updated. So it is quite interesting. There isn't.

[00:21:13] Kerry Athanassiou: No one person is built the same.

[00:21:15] Judith Bowtell: Yeah. Yeah. My work on my own body shape, it's been interesting when people say we underestimate Louise Adams, who's an expert in eating disorders and such. And she talks about how we underestimate the mental health and the physical health benefits of having a calm relationship with food. Not really labeling things as good or bad or what have you, but being very calm about it and not having food anxiety but and the same, I think she would say about having that sort of same calm relationship with your body. That ability to accept it and relate to its kindness and care without the sort of fat phobic weight stigma, thinking around it. Oh, yeah.

[00:21:55] Kerry Athanassiou: Just one last thing to actually look at your body.

[00:22:00] Judith Bowtell: Yes.

[00:22:00] Kerry Athanassiou: Do you know how many people don't look in the mirror? Do you know how many people don't have a mirror? They don't want a mirror in their dressing room or in their bedroom just look at yourself. And that is something that I work with teens. When I put them in front of a mirror and I say look, they don't want to look at the reflection themselves. But I see that beauty. We've got tears, we've got hugs, we've got happiness and then more tears, but it's always such an enlightening experience. Look at the beauty of what you're blessed with. That's gorgeous freckles. Look at your gorgeous curly hair, your beautiful lips, your beautiful hips. People don't look, they forget about what they look like. 

[00:22:53] Judith Bowtell: That is so true. Yeah. Yeah. Oh gosh. It's such a healing process. It takes time. And I was so surprised. A process like going and buying clothes could become such a healing process. So I think this is a good chance because I think this is where we can start to understand the values that Kerry works with that support her in her own work, but also support her clients. So what do you think you would say would be the values that are most important to you and your work besides work ethic and customer service? What else do you think's there? For you personally, let's start there. 

[00:23:37] Kerry Athanassiou: Values for me staying true to who I am. That's number one. And sometimes they can be very tricky because. I'll give you an example. If you're not, I had to fight this one, if you're not seen to in my industry go with the flow or have sponsored posts promoting fashion, you're seen as traditional or backward or not keeping up with the times, but I made it my mission. I will only talk about clothes, accessories, or anything that I've either tried or my client has tried, a friend has used, and I know works and it works well. You will not find me wearing a blazer telling anyone, whether it's on social media, and that's where most of it happens these days, or telling a client to go, and buy something that I know won't work because I'm making a commission. 15 years of not affiliating myself with any shopping centre, with any brand. I was recently approached in fact it was October of last year, I was approached by a very well established Australian brand to promote they're doing a stylist system. They've approached many stylists. I belong to a network of stylists and they are giving 30 percent off to the stylist as in 30 percent off clothes that I might buy and a commission in their program, if everyone that I take into that store. Now, or their stores. Judith, I thought about it, and you know what? In the weeks that it might not be as busy that commission, that weekly monthly commission because we're always out there. We're always selling. It helps pay the bills, but that's not me and that's not staying true to what I believe in and my values. I had a discussion with the CEO, also known as my husband, joke, CEO, my marketing manager, my PR head of IT, head of accounts, problem solver. He's not the CEO. I make the decisions, but we've just got this ongoing joke, life of a person that works for themselves. This is the reality. I don't sugarcoat. And he said, you do what you think, and I have piles of receipts that I ask my client, can I get a reprint? When we go into department stores and they spend X amount of dollars, it could be 500, it could be 1500, two and a half thousand, because when people come to me and they offer something. You take these receipts and you show them the money you make for them. It allows you to have a bit more to play with. But again, if it doesn't align with my values, it's not even worth discussing. Stylists that work for themselves and don't work in house make department stores and boutiques a lot of money. I took you into that boutique and I forced you to buy a 500 dollar piece. Number one, what if you can't afford it and I'm just forcing it down your throat and I'm promoting after pay or the rest of it. Am I adding to your problems? I am adding to your problems. solve your problems, Judith. I'm not there to add to your problems. What if the style really, or the cut really doesn't, suit you or the style doesn't suit you. But again, because I know I have that commission, I'm driven to take you into that store. And that's how it works. That's the reality of every post, every Facebook image or blurb that you see that stylists say, I can get you discounts. Now, here's the fine line. I can get you discounts because I've signed up to 20, 000 retailers and I get their promotional emails in my separate email account that tells me. We've got 20 percent off, girl. We've got 30 percent off. We've got buy one, get 30 percent off the next. I've signed up to Saba. I'm a VIP member. I can get you my discount of 10 percent off anything you want at any time of the year. They're the little things. I belong to the Veronica Main program where I personally get a discount. I will give you my discount. I won't make commission on you. So they're my values. That's something that I've held on to. And it's hard. It is so hard, Judith. I've remained loyal and I want my clients to know and even my subscribers because I have subscribers that I help that are not clients. I want them to know that when I send something their way, it's because I genuinely think. It's going to suit them. Or if I create a little shoppable video, it's to help people in the plus size industry because they struggle to find different styles and they've got their standard two retailers that sell the same thing or you're out. I won't name them, but it's to help people, that's one value. And the second value is I will never compare. One person to the next. I won't. Every client is different. Every situation is different. Your best friend might come my way because you've introduced her. What you and I say is completely different to what she says. It's very personal. Very personal. But what you and I, talk about is always very personal. It stays with us. I'm involved. And traditionally people in the fashion industry, it's almost like they get this impression that because there is a lot of airhead moments with magazines in the past and whatnot, and young ones, they think that she just has this little thing where she loves to go shopping. It's so much more. There's so many different layers. Look, at least with me, one of the times you even feel like there's a little bit of counseling involved as well and feel good. So just sticking to my values, I've tried very hard just to be as authentic as possible and fighting the norm. Sometimes you feel like you're going to, you want to dabble they wave a little carrot at you I haven't. So fine. I don't think I'll go. 

[00:30:23] Judith Bowtell: I think that's that really speaks to the value of trust as well. You are literally getting naked in front of Kerry. Not if you don't want to, I didn't care really. But you get, by the end you don't really care. But, you are stripping down to your undies and you're doing something which can be quite vulnerable. You can be quite vulnerable because of all those body issue things. And the trauma of shopping, when you're not a standard size, when you are plus size or you're petite or you're anything at all, that you're challenged with. And so the value of trust, I think is really important in this very personal service, and that was what distinguishes Kerry's services. And keep that authenticity, because then the trust is there, the trust is in your newsletter is not being influenced by a sponsorship, or your posts are not being influenced in that way, your choice of clothing for yourself is based on your knowledge of what works and what doesn't work, and we can believe that. You don't want to buy things that don't work because buying something is such a different experience when you're aware of the impact of clothing manufacture and you're aware of what, is going on.

[00:31:33] Kerry Athanassiou: Yeah.

[00:31:33] Judith Bowtell: Yeah. Yeah. So the brands that we buy, the amount we consume, the non consumption elements, the wanting clothes to last beyond two weeks. 

[00:31:46] Kerry Athanassiou: Quality over quantity. It pays in the end. I've been spruiking that a lot lately. And where it's made is important too. It's become more and more. I jumped off the wagon for X amount of years. I was brought up in a family that strongly believed in supporting local. My mum is she's now 83. She came out here. I think she was 23, 24. So she's lived a long life in Australia. My father adapted. He was an Australian. He said, we respect the country that we live in full stop. Supporting like was very important to me, but I lost my way. For when the kids were very little finding clothes, with my changing body and I did get into a little bit of that fast fashion going into Zara and whatnot. But for me, I've brought it back home and I think even before COVID, but COVID just accelerated that, putting money back into our country, supporting, we can quite easily bring it back to Australia, bring production back to Australia. And there are companies out there that will claim that they're doing the right thing. 50%. It's now gone 60 percent where we're bringing it more and more. And you will unfortunately pay a little bit more because labour costs more. I don't care. Okay, a little bit more annoying, but I'm feeding an Australian family and I am doing good for our economy as well. And I'm a true believer in pay a little bit more, according to your budget, of course, but pay a little bit more and it will go the distance.

[00:33:29] Judith Bowtell: Oh, yeah you do end up buying less. That's what I do. You just, I did an exercise. Last year I went through my wardrobe and did a good clean out haven't worn it don't like it anymore doesn't suit me not really relevant for the life I live, not everything went, but a good chunk went to Dress for Success and off it went and I felt really good about that. And then I went through and made a list of all the things that I we're missing in the wardrobe. So I made a list and I was allowed to buy those things over the year. And I really thought about each purchase. Purchasing things. It's instead of just buying a few things online, when you're feeling a bit down, it was like, I'd researched, I'd worked out what I needed. And yeah, make a list. 

[00:34:13] Kerry Athanassiou: That's success in itself, isn't it? Picking off a list. Most valuable piece of information I can give anyone, make a list before go because you won't be off that list and you won't drift the stores aimlessly, buying things that are not on your list.

[00:34:30] Judith Bowtell: Oh, yeah . Let us move on to what was the moment when you knew you wanted to set up your own business?

[00:34:38] Kerry Athanassiou: So after my studies, I did work in fashion houses in the work room. I dabbled at that stage. I helped mum as much as possible, but she was just doing her own thing, sewing, making wedding dresses, and then a day job as well, basically. Survival mode. We were in our early twenties. I knew early on in the piece, two things. I did not want to go into magazines. Because the little exposure that I had showed me a very pretentious world. These days, when you're learning, also known as an intern, you get paid. Back then the era where Paula Joy, Lisa Wilkinson, were all young starting out they had already gotten their positions and what not, but all the interns, worked from 4am, you could be sent to Palm Beach for a shoot, freezing cold, and you could finish when the sun went down and you didn't get paid for it. Now, always about money, and I'm a true believer you have to do the hard work. I get the hard work done. But there was very little reward. And then we'd get all these interns in and use them. Coffee runs and carry my dry cleaning, do this, do that. And a very small percentage of them we'd get through to do. Assistant of the assistant's fashion editor or assistant of the assistant's secretaries of some sort. You weren't even, there was no title of personal stylist. It did not exist. So you're either assisting someone with makeup, assisting someone carrying, the setting up the set. So I knew early on in the piece that, I love magazines. It was a pleasure to have one in my hand and indulge in that fantasy world, but I did not want to work with the people that could be very aggressive, behind scenes, dog eat dog situation and it wasn't real. It was not real. It was not me doing it. I love fashion but I need connection with real people. I don't want to watch over my back. Is my job going to be taken from me? So I knew very early in the piece. I was probably what cause I studied fashion design in women's. Then I went on to do men's cause I wanted to know how the men's suits are reconstructed and whatnot. Then I did children's where all up four and a half years studies come out. I would have been what 23 years old. And dabbled in that, knew it wasn't for me, still had hopes of working with mum and doing these gorgeous gowns and couture dresses and whatnot right away. That didn't work out. I worked in retail as far as design. Then I also worked in the showroom and back of house and I thought, you know what, I'm a great grader and pattern maker. I am pretty good at drawing. Let's see what I can do. But again, here's where the restriction is. First of all, someone had to die to get a designer position. The grading room, you got paid very well, but it was mundane. You were on your own. I'm a people person. I give you the patents, the designer's done her bit, you've worked it out, and you have to grade the sizes, all the rest of it, very important position. Salary would be great, but it wasn't me again. In a design room, doing that for the rest of my life, it just wasn't me. 

[00:38:25] Judith Bowtell: Yeah.

[00:38:25] Kerry Athanassiou: I knew I wanted to work with people. So I worked for quite a few years. I worked for Lisa High Colors and Paddy covers design. Then we did our little brands. I did I worked for Maya, worked for Portman's getting a feel of what I wanted and where I was headed. And I got an opportunity to work with a cosmetic doctor and he wanted to bring the whole beauty side of it to the medical cosmetic industry. Back then there were very few medical cosmetic industries, it was just cosmetic surgeons and their rooms and it was quite sterile, not very nice. They were starting a little business the business partner and the doctor called Australian Laser Clinics.

[00:39:10] Judith Bowtell: Oh, wow. Okay.

[00:39:12] Kerry Athanassiou: A little, that's why I said little

[00:39:14] Yeah. 

[00:39:15] I was the first founding member and I saw their vision. They told me what they wanted to do. I went from the fashion world into the medical cosmetic world. With my hand on the heart, say we successfully grew the business. Within the first two years, we had 35 clinics. And by the time I left nearly seven years later, when I was pregnant to my second child, I had hired 129 staff members being doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and we had grown the business throughout New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and New Zealand.

[00:39:57] Wow. Wow.

[00:39:59] That was a career highlight for me. I went from answering phones all of a sudden I needed to know what Excel spreadsheets worked. I was that person hiding under the table. Oh my God, what do I do? What do? I do. You learn and you learn fast. I learned about marketing. I learned all that and I did the meetings and the deals and all the rest of it. So when people talk to me now about, oh, I did this and I do that. I say, good on you, but I can resonate. I've been there. I've done that. I've managed. So I did that for nearly seven and a half years. And I burnt out several times over. Not, I wasn't there when my son took his first steps, which broke my heart completely. I knew something had to change. I climbed the ladder, so to speak. Very beautiful, rewarding as far as salary. I don't believe my fashion retail salary would ever come close. All of a sudden it's tripled the amount you would earn. You have your car, you have all your expenses, your phone's paid for. It's just a real, and then you get bonuses and all the rest of it. From what it was fantastic, but I didn't have time with my family with my new young family. I was in South of France with a laptop at the beach sorting out problem. I was on a holiday and I was working. Where's that life balance? So the experience was awesome and I still talk about it. It was a stage in my life. And through that, I thought I need to go back to fashion somehow, but I do not want to work in a retail store. I do not want to work for a designer back of house. I didn't want to be a national manager within whatever it was, whether it was Camilla or Mark Victorian Woods, there was all these positions going. I wanted to connect with people on a different level. 

[00:42:04] At that time, Trini and Susanna had come to Newcastle. Yeah, good old they had that, yeah, they had that reality show and they were really the founders of that whole personal stylist term. Before then, it wasn't it was either a fashion sales assistant in a department store or a boutique you were magazine work. yeah, so I did a bit of consulting work on my own initially when I did leave the laser clinic and I went on to see if I wanted to go back into the fashion industry. I worked for a few shopping centers. I was their stylist. We did a few photo shoots. I knew again. That's not where I want to be. I don't want to do photo shoots. I don't want to deal with models organizing any of that PR people. It's just not my thing. And style coach was born. there it goes. Yeah. Yeah, there was a lovely lady back then that was doing like a three day refresher. Course I approached her and I said, I'm actually fully qualified fashion designer. I've done the marketing, the business side of it. And she said, I don't think this will be good for you. I said, what do you teach? And she said, I basically show women how to dress women. I said, I've been doing that all my life. And she said, but we refine it. I show techniques and wardrobe edits and she said, come on, have a look, see if it's something for you. I ended up doing it. I'm not embarrassed to say it. You learn, right? yeah. You're advancing your learning skill in your studies. And I walked away and I said to her, yeah, but, can you make this a full time business? And she said, most people don't even ask me. Most people just treat this as a little hobby. Yeah, but you want to treat it like a hobby, Judith. You'll get paid like a hobby, right? Yeah. Business like a business, you need to pay yourself a full time salary and that's where it all stands. But working with people, it really it sounds so corny and might even to people listening to me might even come across as a little cliche. They all say that I thrive when I talk to people when I help people. I come across as an extrovert, but I'm actually an introvert with I have become an introvert with extrovert tendencies. Most of my life I was an extrovert but I have confidently become introverted but with extrovert tendencies. And I know there's a term for that. I think of it, it makes my day when I receive texts that people put about themselves. It floods my heart with excitement and joy to hear someone is feeling fantastic because they've woken up and they've gotten dressed and someone has noticed what they've wore. Working with people, it was my calling, either that or working with animals. It had to be one or the other. And for now, but now it's people. I'm not going to dismiss the second one, but working with people, filtering through the fluff, because there's a lot of fluff. There's a lot of noise. There's a lot of good stylists out there. And I always say, if you don't connect with me and I'm not your person. I can put you on to someone else that will help you. And I do shop in designer boutiques with clients, but I also shop in, if we need to go to Target with some clients, we'll go to Target. We'll do what your budget allows us to do. But generally working with people, that's what fuels my soul.

[00:45:53] Judith Bowtell: That's so fantastic. Isn't it interesting how at the end of the day that's the connector, there's the skills that the family heritage, there's the love of the process and the etc. But when you were missing working with people. It was never going to be where your heart's at. And I think that's probably why Australia Laser Clinic probably succeeded was on the back of it's a people based service. Very much a people based service and building teams and doing all of that. It's the same passion for you as your own business as well.

[00:46:29] Right now, I'm just going to ask, what's next for you? What's your next big thing?

[00:46:35] Kerry Athanassiou: 

[00:46:39] At the moment I am in the process of a new website coming up and am shamefully going to tell you it's three years overdue. But I went through a really slump stage where I did not feel creative and motivated and my website, word for word, is what I put to it. People are building it for me, but the words are mine. So when you read and look at my website, it's me. It's not someone else writing for me. So that's hopefully going to launch. It was meant to launch in February, but there's been a few delays. And with it, there is a program called A stylist in your pocket. I have talked about this for so many years. No, actually my clients have talked about, can I have you in my pocket? Can you please just pop in my bag? So I can have you when we go shopping and, oh gosh, for at least the last 11, 12 years, clients are forever saying it, Kerry, can I have you in my pocket? Can't you just be with me when I'm out there on my own? And this is a service, it's going to sound like, oh no, not another monthly subscription. There's a million of them post COVID, but it's a small fee. And I want to keep it as small as possible, first layer, for you to be able to have a connection with me when you need to. So a monthly subscription. For me to answer by text maybe by email, but text is a lot faster if you're out there and you have a question. That's what we want sometimes, right? What do you think? Is it the tan or is it the nude, more of the nude shoe? Is this V too deep for me? Just quick little things like that. So to be able to support, ongoing support that's one thing that's pretty exciting. And the second. Yeah, it is very exciting. And the second is just restructuring my packages to offer an ongoing service in the sense of you and I meet, we've been in your wardrobe, we've detoxed, we've gone for a shot, but then there's a little bit of support in the sense of an email or a text here and there. But what happens three weeks later when you're stuck with new clothes integrating with your current clothes. So it's a third process I've added on where I will come to your home after the shop two weeks later and we will integrate all your new outfits so that you have streamlined wardrobe and outfits created for you. Everything is happily married together and you have a fully functional fab wardrobe that you feel a million dollars in.

[00:49:23] Judith Bowtell: Wow.

[00:49:24] Kerry Athanassiou: That's another thing that I'm adding.

[00:49:26] Judith Bowtell: Wonderful. Oh, they sound all very exciting and great ways to start the year or keep the year going. By the time this goes up we hope that Kerry's website is also up so you'll be able to check it out. And maybe consider one of those packages as well. Okay. We're going to have to say farewell for now. If you want to check out we'll have a website on the show details. And I encourage you to do so, please sign up for a monthly online magazine. Okay, so thank you so much for being part of this, Kerry. Any final words for our listeners?

[00:50:03] Kerry Athanassiou: Thank you. Thank you so much Judith.

[00:50:05] Judith Bowtell: You're more than welcome. We look forward to seeing you again and take care from all of us here at Aligned and Thriving.

[00:50:12] Kerry Athanassiou: Anytime Judith. It's always a pleasure talking to you.

[00:50:15] Judith Bowtell: Thank you. And to everyone out there as well, please be kind to yourself. Please be kind to your bodies. It's the best thing you can do. And we look forward to you hearing me next week. All right. Take care, everyone. Bye. Bye. 

Kerry discusses getting back into running and taking a day off during the week as strategies for improving her work-life balance
Kerry talks about learning a strong work ethic, customer service, and supporting local from her family and upbringing
Kerry and Judith discuss how working with a stylist can be a healing, confidence-building experience, especially around body image
Kerry emphasizes staying true to her values, being authentic, and building trust with clients by not promoting brands/clothes she doesn't believe in
Kerry describes her journey working in various fashion roles before realizing her calling was working directly with people as a personal stylist
Kerry discusses upcoming plans like a new website, an "A Stylist in Your Pocket" service, and restructured packages with more ongoing support