Perception is something Shawna Solomon feels strongly about.
“Everyone judges. You have to dress and be prepared for opportunity. Be your brand,” Solomon often says and during her Dress Like a Boss workshops.
Solomon, an entrepreneur, celebrity and fashion wardrobe stylist and professional speaker throughout her career, has observed women of all professions and stages in their career that don’t see the significance of dressing for success. As a result, she started an online boutique catered to empowering women to have confidence in themselves. Eight years later she continues to assist women in finding their style, operating two retail shops and in the midst of establishing the Shawna Solomon Collection.
This past weekend, she participated in Model Week Pittsburgh “ModelCon,” working with local models, photographers, videographers, hair stylists, make-up artists, designers, boutiques, bloggers, artists and agencies as they prepared for fashion shows, workshops, demonstrations, tutorials, shoots and a vendor lounge.
A Pittsburgh native and graduate of Oliver High School, Solomon began following her passion while living in Maryland. “I learned a lot from people involved in the industry. I had a good friend that worked as a stylist for a lot of celebrities, he took me under his wing for a while. I listened and did what he told me for about two years as he encouraged me, took me on sets and taught me the ends and outs of styling,” Solomon told the New Pittsburgh Courier.
After taking online courses from people in the industry and combining what she learned from her friend, Solomon said she took things to the next level by planning for her own business. Dealing with a lot of businesswomen, Solomon said that’s when she realized that they did not see the importance of dressing the part, and why it’s important to dress the part; the way you dress can keep you stagnate or help you achieve.
Solomon’s services include style consultations, one-on-one virtual styling sessions, personal style consultations assisting in securing brand goals, a personal shopper, style makeovers, closet refashioning and closet styling. Pricing ranges from $77 to $149 depending on the package.
Five years ago, Solomon opened her first brick-and-mortar retail, Exotic Hush, at 1849 Montier St. in Wilkinsburg, an extension of the online lingerie boutique she started in 2010 to make extra income. The store, she says, provides unique, fashion and trendy women’s apparel and accessories that enhances her customers’ style and confidence.
She recently opened a second location in Shadyside at 5510 Centre Ave. on the second floor of A Hair Boutique Shadyside owned by LaToya Johnson Rainey. “This location, the studio, offers my clients a more intimate space that provides my styling services and gives them a different type of experience,” explained Solomon. Open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, she said a lot of her styling services are done by appointment only.
As a single mom that raised two daughters, Diamond and Chyna, Solomon says one of her goals is to leave a legacy for them. With the growth of the styling side of the business, it’s her daughters that operate the retail shop. “With the girls learning the business and adding their touch, our goal is to open Exotic Hush Boutiques in other areas of Pittsburgh as well as franchises in other cities such as Atlanta.”
In her efforts to stay innovative and finding unique ways to grow, Solomon says Hush Style Consultants have been added, selling Exotic Hush products at parties in the homes of potential customers. In 2015 she launched Hush Fashion Boxes, a monthly subscription service that offers style on a budget at your doorstep. She explained that boxes are delivered directly to the customer’s home anywhere in the U.S., with customers “as far away as Texas,” Solomon said.
In 2015, Solomon applied for a $5,000 Kiva Loan under trustee Vernard Alexander, seeking to purchase a fashion truck to deliver products directly to clients, to have customers shop and be styled on the spot, and to more easily participate in events in different locations.
Solomon received the loan.
These days, the truck can be found in use for sales parties and popup locations where customers can purchase products directly.
Keeping things fun and interesting for her clients (whom she defines as working women looking for sophisticated apparel with statement pieces that can take them from a business attire look during the day to a classy yet edgy look at night), Solomon has plans to host a Boutique Tour, Aug. 11. Kicking off in Pittsburgh, she said it is a girls’ day out where the women travel in a luxury van to different boutiques in the area. She has plans to also do the tour in other cities including Baltimore and Philadelphia.
In October, Solomon will launch the Shawna Solomon Collection that will provide luxury style apparel and accessories. “It will provide a more professional and executive look for businesswomen and women who are looking for styling advice,” she said.
Enjoying her work and following her passion, Solomon leads by example. Everything she recommends for her clients and women that attend her Dress Like a Boss workshops, she says, she does herself. Her suggestions are to know your dress style. Do a detox of your closet, to know your style personality. And shop smart.
“The most important thing,” Solomon told the Courier, “is to have fun with fashion.”
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