In preparation for the complete makeover of the Flourish brand and website, I tasked myself with interviewing Audrey, the Founder and brains behind everything Flourish. Introducing a new online platform and consolidating enterprises is no easy feat. But Audrey has always managed to accomplish her goals with that stereotypical, never-fading Capricorn drive. While my initial interview was for my own purposes, I thought it was brilliant and worth sharing.
An Interview with Flourish Founder, Audrey.
Shelly: Let’s start with a little introduction. What should our audience know about you?
Audrey: Great idea! My name is Audrey Rockett-Collins. I have been a personal stylist for over 9 years and counting. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas but have lived in Pittsburgh for nearly 5 years now. Wow, has it really been that long? Time really flies when you love where you live! My husband and I are fortunate to be able to raise our daughter in such a wonderful place. Being a mom is a big part of my life, as I strive to instill in her the values and self-worth that make women a force to be reckoned with. I’m also a total animal lover – I was even vegetarian for seven years if you can believe it! We have three dogs, two guinea pigs, and one cat. I can assure you there is never a dull moment in our house!
All about the style
Shelly: Alright, so, what exactly is Flourish?
Audrey: Flourish is a feminist styling collective and now a branding agency as well, rooted in building authentic personal brands. Authenticity is a big word for me, because more and more we come across content that doesn’t seem authentic or real – just created to make a buck. But I’m interested in helping clients meet their full potential, find their light, and be themselves. That is the mark of a winning brand, or strategy, or persona – whatever the goal may be. And there are many ways to approach that. Each client I take on is completely different and I love the process of discovering who they are at their core.
Shelly: What prompted you to create Flourish? What is the mission?
Audrey: Flourish as it is now is relatively new. However, it is the same company I have owned for 9 years. Originally called Audrey Styles, Flourish was established in November of 2020 as a rebrand, to reflect the ways in which my business had evolved over time. It was no longer just me, I had employees and styling assistants. I also realized that the purpose of a personal stylist is to help you show up, or Flourish in other words. I was incredibly inspired by my clients and the work I was doing, and what I saw come up from the work we do together.
The mission of Flourish is to arm each and every woman I serve with the confidence and self-respect of loving the way you look. When you look and feel your best, you just move differently in the world. When your appearance reflects who you are on the inside, there is a kind of peace that takes over you. Things feel right, they just click. It is that feeling that drives me each and every day.
Working with ah-ma-zing women
Shelly: What are the main struggles you see in clients?
Audrey: It goes without saying that the so-called beauty industry profits off of making women feel like there is something wrong with us. Almost our entire lives we are fed lies that convince us we need to buy things to “fix” us or to help us “fit in”. Maybe you are too big, or too small, maybe your hair isn’t right, or your skin isn’t good enough. We are fed bullshit rules like “don’t wear white after Labor Day” or “stripes make you look fat” when in reality retailers and bloggers just need something new to write about to make you feel inadequate. It keeps the cycle of overconsumption and fast fashion going.
If a client I am assisting feels like they don’t have what they need, I like to step in and get to the bottom of why they feel this way. Is it due to marketing schemes, or is there something deeper going on? Honestly, it is usually a combination of both things – being told what they need by people who don’t know them, and life-altering events.
The bottom line is if you feel like you don’t have what you need because an influencer or company convinced you that your life is missing without it, you’re always going to be chasing the misconception that you’re inherently wrong, or lacking. We as women are never taught strategy, it’s always about buying what is on-trend and not about being authentic to you. Long story short, my mission, the mission of Flourish, is to help women navigate their own style journey, so that they can block out the slew of garbage out there and just listen to what feels right for them.
Shelly: Why do people hire you?
Audrey: Women hire me because they are ready to change their life. This could be because she hates getting dressed in the morning because nothing in her closet resonates. Maybe she recently had a baby and her body is completely different and has no clue how to begin building a wardrobe again. Maybe she is going through a business rebrand and needs guidance on building something that truly reflects her. Women hire me for big projects, small projects, and everything in between. Through working together, she has a best friend/cheerleader in her back pocket who just happens to be a style expert.
A common misconception is that you have to be rich and famous to hire a personal stylist. Or that you’re not special enough to justify having a personal stylist in your pocket. The fact is, everyone deserves to love the way they look. It is not our job to have it all figured out. We are built to share resources and share knowledge. There is no shame in delegating and building a community that can support you and your journey.
Shelly: I do remember hiring you randomly a couple years ago because I was going to Paris for the first time and had so much anxiety around it that I needed help building a packable vacation wardrobe. It was a really cool experience!
Audrey: Yes! That was a lot of fun and just goes to show that we all need help from time to time and there is nothing wrong with asking for support.
A lil’ background
Shelly: So, how did you become interested in personal styling in the first place?
Audrey: That’s a great question! There are actually two parts to this. First, both of my parents are small business owners and mental health professionals. I grew up watching them cultivate communities of people who valued their work and their missions. This resonated with me and I knew I wanted to do the same thing, something that would leave a lasting impact. I have a very distinct memory from when I was in the 4th grade. We were given an assignment to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I split my paper into four equal parts – a doctor, an artist, a mother, and the President of the United States. I feel like all of these came true in the opportunity to be a personal stylist. Although now I have a human baby, my clients remain one of the first groups of people I had the privilege to nurture and coach and support them on their journey forward.
The second part of this story occurred when I was 11 or 12 years old. My parents FINALLY got cable tv. I stumbled upon a show called What Not To Wear, which, as you probably know, involved Stacy London and Clinton Kelly performing wardrobe and style makeovers. In that moment it was like the lights came on in both my heart and in my brain. I knew exactly what I wanted to do! Watching the way in which they were able to break down the barriers that their clients had built around themselves, those walls we put up for self-preservation, through the power of their wardrobe, was incredibly inspiring.
Shelly: Now that you knew what you wanted to do, what path did you take to get there?
Audrey: The path to becoming a personal stylist and even understanding that it could be a job for an average person was not easy. The industry has come a long way even since I first started. The way to break into the industry has changed a lot. Back then, it seemed like you could only become a stylist if you wanted to work with celebrities or on movie sets. I had the opportunity to intern at the Fashion Institute of Technology in November of 2011 and it was like all of the puzzle pieces were coming together. Being immersed in this experience and understanding that my peers were making this a reality for themselves as well only heightened my drive to figure out what my own path would look like.
I had already immersed myself in the world of retail. I made a point to work for all different types of retailers, from small boutiques, lingerie, menswear, and department stores, to really round out my expertise. While I was at Nordstrom in Austin, I began building a loyal clientele. Women began to shop with me repeatedly because they trusted me with their image. They knew I was committed to their personal growth rather than the commission I earned. That is the connectivity and client relationship that inspired me to enroll in the image consulting program through the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). That’s when my whole life changed. I was already doing the styling part, I was creating those lasting relationships, but going through that professional training and academic development allowed me to understand the scientific and technical side of dressing people and cultivating a wardrobe that works.
I graduated from FIT in 2015 and at that point I already had three years of business experience under my belt. Over the years since, my business has grown from being what you would think of as classic image consulting services to really becoming a safe place of self-discovery.
Shelly: What was your experience gaining an education through FIT?
Audrey: My experience was so empowering because for the first time in a very long time in my educational path I finally had the opportunity to study something I was passionate about. For the most part, every professional I learned from is a certified Image Consultant. They have years of hands-on experience working with clients and running their own business. I’ve been able to maintain relationships with these industry founders, these icons in the field of image consulting including Dominique Isbecque and Carol Davidson, through the connections gained at FIT. It’s an amazing community to be part of, we all feed off one another in positive ways. I value the lasting connections just as much as the education I received.
Expanding with a brick and mortar & clothing subscriptions
Shelly: Tell me about Found – how did that come to be?
Audrey: If there is one thing you need to know about me is that I am passionate about sustainable shopping. There is no reason to pay full price for anything you own if you don’t want to. Fast fashion is also a huge problem in the fashion industry, and only now are we realizing that we need to do something about it. When I would perform a closet edit and remove any amount of clothing from a client’s wardrobe, I didn’t want to just throw the clothes away. A lot of the items were in great condition or even still had tags on! This prompted me to take the items that were in good condition and consign them for my clients to sell them on Poshmark. My clients would receive some money for things that were just sitting in their closets that they could put towards purchasing items that actually worked for them!
It was a great system that grew over time into something that I could no longer manage on my own. I hired an assistant to help me manage that facet of my business, and eventually we had so much merchandise that I decided to turn my Poshmark store into an actual boutique consignment store. The original store was named Shift, but as Flourish has rebranded, so has Shift! It is now Found by Flourish, in order to best consolidate all parts of my businesses.
Shift opened in November of 2020 – right as the pandemic started. What luck, right?! Fortunately we have a strong community of women in Pittsburgh who were eager to support us and we also incorporated new services, like style boxes, into our offerings so that we could continue to support our clients and even gain new ones.
Shelly: Tell me more about style boxes!
Audrey: Style boxes were created as a way to assist clients no matter where they are located and no matter what their schedule entailed. At the start of the pandemic, it was mostly women fairly local to Pittsburgh, but now I have style box clients from all over the US! It’s truly amazing. I was really inspired by the existing subscription services, but saw that needs weren’t being met as far as budget, style, and size were concerned. I learned that stylists associated with Stitch Fix, for example, are only granted 15 minutes per client start to finish, from reading the client request form to making selections for their subscription. They’re generally not equipped with the expertise to make that happen in such a short time period.
Style boxes through Found offer a much more personalized experience. You choose your price range and the types of items you are looking for. Not to mention it is fully sustainable. Style box clients also receive a quick video of how to style your items in different ways. It really is the best way to test drive working with a personal stylist without a styling fee! I love that it normalizes having a professional help you get dressed. It’s worth nothing that 90% of our style box customers are repeat shoppers.
Shelly: Well I think we should probably wrap this thing up! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. It has been really helpful as I compose new copy for your brand-spanking new website! I think the world needs to hear more about your mission as you grow your business.
Audrey: Thank you so much for your support in this! I couldn’t do it without you.
There’s no business like personal styling
As an aside, I wanted to mention that I had the great pleasure of working at Shift (now Found) for the better part of this year and it was a really cool experience. Audrey’s store is like a curated consignment store where anyone can come shop and get advice from actual personal stylists. It’s such a unique place! I feel fortunate in that I get to continue working with her all the way from Texas. It inspired me to learn more about personal styling and assist Audrey with some really cool projects.
I am super excited to be at the helm of the Flourish blog moving forward! I will take all of the knowledge that Audrey has accumulated over the years (and will continue to accumulate, honestly, she never stops) and parse it out into easy to digest articles. We will cover all sorts of topics relating to personal styling, personal development, and more!