Curating Closets Of Icons: Personal Shopper and Stylist Whitney Olschwanger Chronicles A Life In Fashion
Photography by Dimanche Creative
We greet the new year through revitalizing discussion with our premiere dāl muse of 2024, Whitney Olschwanger. An LA-based personal shopper and stylist, Whitney boasts a diverse career catalog within the fashion world, also advising as a respected brand strategy consultant. With a client network as expansive as her decade-long resume, we’re honored to share her story, insights and experiences in modern fashion.
What’s a wardrobe piece you will treasure forever?
I have 3 (sorry)I have a scuba trench coat from The Row and it has become the ultimate packing staple. I can wear it to a fancy event or with sweats and it is just perfect. I also have a loop wheel black sweatshirt from my friend’s brand called LEEN that I probably wear 2-3x a week and have for the last year. Lastly, I have this reversible printed silk trench coat with a matching trouser from Le Prestic Ouiston that I have worn on every vacation for the last 5 years and I still absolutely love it.
When did you know you were destined for a creative path?
I think for me it happened in a less organic way as I was always the one wearing the really colorful printed pieces when I was at family functions growing up in Texas and I started flipping through fashion magazines before I could read. I think the best way for me to describe this is including a picture of me as a kid:)
You have a client portfolio featuring the likes of Helmut Lang, Net-A-Porter and Forty Five Ten - can you share the steps that led you to these career milestones?
Funny enough my degree is in advertising, yet I always worked in retail in high school, college, etc so when I moved to LA I got a job in retail working for Nordstrom at the Grove as their first personal shopper in 2009. I always figured I would switch to advertising but I loved personal shopping/the fashion industry so much that I stayed in it. I have done a mix of personal shopping, merchandising, buying and consulting for brands over the course of my career which is how I ended up at Net-a-Porter/MR PORTER and Forty Five Ten, but when the pandemic started I launched my own personal shopping company in addition to brand consulting and I guess the rest is history:)
As a personal shopper and stylist to celebrities across both coasts, who has been your favorite to style, and why?
Years ago I worked on an album with the singer/songwriter KT Tunstall. She was amazing to work with, very collaborative and we used some really fun pieces at the time. I was able to source vintage and used items from the Isabel Marant runway collection, which at that time was all of this amazing embroidery, metallic and we also used products from brands like Stella McCartney, Dries Van Noten, etc. One of my favorite currnet clients that I work with doing personal shopping/styling for is based in New Orleans and she has allowed me to source my dream pieces for her wardrobe. We are both petite and love brands like Loewe, Prada, Dries Van Noten, Shu Shu Tong, Sacai, Chanel, The Row, etc and I do a lot of sourcing for her while I am traveling. I love that she is open to my ideas and isn’t scared to branch out of her comfort zone. I bought her a vintage Fendi Trench coat with green embroidery at one of my favorite vintage shops in London and it is still one of my most favorite pieces I’ve ever sourced.
What does a day in your life look like, creatively?
My day must start with a cup of coffee (or lately 2) and then I work with different stores and websites to source products for upcoming client appointments. I am deep in the awards season circuit at the moment so I’m sourcing a lot of fun evening wear and working with some amazing jewelry brands. Two that I recently pulled from are Monbouquette and Lizzie Mandler. I try to spend my mornings sourcing from stores online and my afternoons pulling from local shops and then late afternoons I will take a yoga class and brainstorm for brand collaborations and upcoming styling projects.
Could you share 3 tips from a personal dresser that will help our readers curate a timeless wardrobe?
Before buying something new, think of 3-5 ways to wear it. When packing, I live by packing cubes and I will either pack by category or by outfit and they have changed my life when it comes to traveling efficiently. When deciding what to keep versus purging each season, it is helpful to start out all of your hangers in one direction and each time you wear the item flip it to the opposite direction. Then, you know what you are wearing and what you can get rid of/sell and replace with something you will love and wear.
How do you interweave sustainable choices and practices into your work?
When I buy items nowadays I always think of items that can translate from Spring to Summer to Fall to Winter. Clearly in LA the weather does not change THAT much but it can for the different places I travel to. Each season I will buy a few new trousers and skirts and dresses that I can wear as is or with layers underneath. I also buy a lot of pieces from brands that I have met the founders and know they are paying their workers fair wages. I am also constantly learning from my dear friend Aja Barber about sustainable practices and am constantly trying to better evaluate my purchases and process. There are also certain brands (such as Prada) that I know if I make a purchase I will be wearing that item for at least the next 10 years.
You’re no stranger to travel, in which part of the world do you enjoy dressing in the most?
I love styling looks for summer the most and find it the easiest and lightest for traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I love amazing coats and great sweaters, but they just take up SO much space! I have found different stores in different parts of the world that I make it a point to stop into and grab special pieces each season. I’d say Italy is my favorite country to dress in because my favorite place in the world is in Italy at a small bed and breakfast in Cernobbio (Lake Como). I feel the most carefree and my body always seems to carry the least amount of stress when I’m there. I also started designing pareos and matching scrunchies last summer and I’m excited to branch out and do more holiday pieces each summer.
Your approach to fashion seems eclectic and chameleon-like - if you had to define your style at this moment, what would it be?
O gosh, that’s tough. I think it depends on the day, my mood, where I am, what the weather is, etc. But I would say modern, sporty and effortless with a touch of fem. Brands like Sacai, Shu Shu Tong, Prada, Dries Van Noten, Toteme, Jil Sander, Bottega Veneta, and Simone Rocha are really speaking to me at the moment.
What does 2024 have in store for Whitney Olschwanger?
I will be spending a lot more time in London this year as I have quite a lot of fun styling and consulting projects in the works there. I will be in Paris for a few of the fashion weeks and probably in Milan in June. I think I’ll end up being in Europe about ⅓ of the 2024 year if all goes to plan! I would also love to be working in some capacity in Paris during the Olympics this summer but stay tuned for that!
You’re our latest muse, but who is yours?
Thank you:) Mine has always been Kym Ellery. To me, Kym has this perfect mix of being a cool girl, a boss, has this very clean but effortless feel to her and has impeccable taste when it comes to fashion as well as interior design. She is from Australia but now lives in Paris where she designs for her label Ellery. I met her at Cafe Charlot in Paris a few years ago as we share some mutual friends and she was just as beautiful on the inside as on the outside and it totally justified my girl crush/why she’s my muse:)