Suzanne Kopulos Pic

Every day stylist, TV personality, and shopping expert Suzanne Kopulos wonders how she got where she is. As the co-founder of Garmental, the top fashion website for Chicago women, Kopulos knows both how to lead and function as a team player. Several years ago, the one-time lawyer realized her calling after a runway show made her cry. Kopulos ditched bar exams for a business that made her heart beat faster. With zero connections in the game, she pounded the pavement gathering as much insider’s knowledge as she could. The apparel rolodex would have sold all her stilettos to make a career in fashion work. Most recently, the gal with a gift for gab launched her own brand, SLK, as a house for fashion, media and making. Happiest telling stories on television, the celebrity stylist aspires to be the Anthony Bourdain of the fashion world. By defining her desires to a T, Kopulos had managed to overcome her own limitations.  

What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the fashion industry?

Fashion is a really tough nut to crack—one that sometimes feels like a love fest and other times, a secret society. You have to develop thick skin, develop a variety of skill sets and not let yourself be easily discouraged.

What’s some of the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Ask yourself, what do I suck at? It takes humility to ask for help and not waste time doing things outside of your wheelhouse.

Constructive criticism—so hard yet so important!

(Laughs) I lost a client once and called her office to find out why. I’ll never get better if I don’t welcome negative feedback.

How did you get into fashion initially?

After graduating with a degree in marketing and business I moved to Miami for law school. There, we dressed up a lot, which made me think about how much I loved fashion. After literally breaking down in tears at a fashion show I realized that I needed to be a part of the industry. I flew to New York and walked the Garment District day and night. I’d ask any and everyone what steps I should take next.

What was the most difficult part about diving in headfirst?

People did not want to share their resources. Thankfully, as a self-starter, I told myself, “Fake it until you make it.”

How did your popular fashion website Garmental come about?

When I first began making my own handbags, the Chicago boutique scene was becoming scarce. Buyers were concerned about going out of business. I began to think, “what would this world be without small businesses and makers?” So my business partner {former Chicago Social editor-in-chief} Korey Huyler and I launched a website where I styled a look from a local boutique for every day of the month. While all of my time was donated, the brand launched my career.

Did you have another job at the time?

I was working for a global insurance company until one day, they laid everyone off. I took the money in my 401K and severance and decided, if it’s meant to be the money will follow. Now I can live on nothing like nobody’s business. (Laughs)

It’s amazing how you can game the system by living like a pauper. 

Even when I have money I hold onto it because, in this industry, you never know where your next paycheck is coming from. While I am financially responsible, my best friend and I used to joke, “How much did you overdraft this month?”

On a different note, how do you help someone develop their personal style?

It’s always about the individual, and boosting their confidence so they step outside of their comfort zone. My first questions are, “who is this person, what are their function, and what do they like?”

I’m sure therapy plays into your role as well. 

Yes! Everyone has their issues and women, in particular, are so hard on themselves. I encourage my clients to enhance and celebrate the things they love about their bodies. It’s completely unrealistic to hold yourself to supermodel standards. In a world where women tend to knock one another down I love being able to tell others, “You look beautiful.”

What is most rewarding about what you do?

Not being chained to a desk. I am a Good Time Charlie and love having the freedom to explore, collaborate, and work on new campaigns. I couldn’t ask for a cooler job.

Learn more about Suzanne at SLKStyle.com & Garmental.com

Follow her on social media @SLK Style & @Garmental

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Lily C Hansen

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