Don’t expect to ever catch Erica Hanks looking unfashionable. The Florida native-turned-North Carolinian always dresses to impress. Sure, these days the stylist’s favorite outfit is ripped jeans and a casual t-shirt, but she adds a chic pair of heels to finish the effortlessly stylish look. Chances are, you’ve seen Hanks’ style somewhere. In addition to creating magazine features, the Charlotte mom of three is a stylist for famed names from professional athletes to politicians. And while she keeps mum on her client list, she chatted with us about her love of fashion, how she rose in a competitive industry and why she likes to play in the dirt.
What was the move like from Florida to North Carolina?
It initially took a little bit of getting used to. Charlotte is definitely a different type of culture after living in Boca Raton and Palm Beach. But Charlotte has grown so much since we’ve been here. And I’ve loved how everyone here is so embracing of everyone else. People are always willing to help you and want to share with you about a place they love or something they think you should know about.
Where did you get your interest in fashion?
My mom is from Colombia, and so growing up it was instilled in me to always be the best-dressed person in the room. That’s her culture, and that’s the culture in Florida — we always kind of dress out. When I was in elementary school, my mom would sew dresses for me that were ones I’d seen on models in magazines. When I was in fourth grade, I took my mom’s shoulder-length earrings when she wasn’t looking and then put them in before my yearbook picture. My parents were completely mortified, but I’ve just always had the confidence to wear anything.
So how did you turn that love of fashion into a job?
I started writing for a local magazine, and they needed someone to style a shoot. There were a lot of important people involved in that shoot, and it became a huge success. I kept working on shoots and began getting calls from an agency interested in providing commercial and editorial representation. That led to commercial deals, billboard ads and then eventually personal styling.
What kind of people are you styling?
A lot of athletes — people in the NFL and in the sports industry. But we also have politicians and CEOs in our clientele. Our clients are male and female. We’re really happy with all of them.
How do you decide how to dress each individual client?
The first thing is always their body type. It’s about making sure you have the right cuts and fits; determining what’s going to make them look proportional and feel their best. It really depends on their needs. I have a lot of clients who are in Under Armour and Nike the entire day and then have to be dressed for a black tie affair at night. Each client has their own style — it’s definitely not just me saying what they need to wear. We chat back and forth about what they love and why they love it.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I tricked out the space above my garage to turn that into my office and styling studio. We have dressing rooms and everything we need. I’m in there six or seven days a week, meeting with clients and meeting with my team. I’m always working on different projects. I style so many different genres. I’m working on editorial, personal, production, consults. Every day is different. It’s always something new and fresh.
Do you have any favorite parts of the job?
I love really helping my clients be the best they can be when they walk out the door — helping people with that kind of confidence. When they’re excited and happy and telling me that everyone loved how they looked, that validates what I do.
What are your musts for any closet?
Women need a great blazer, a great heel and a dress that makes them feel beautiful. For men, it’s a really great suit and a nice street sneaker.
Any chance you’ll reveal a name or two on your client roster?
My clients love the fact that I’m not trying to climb up the ladder with their names. I keep them private. It’s been great, and all my work with personal clients is word of mouth. It’s the best compliment that I’ve ever gotten.
Is your job as glamorous as it sounds?
There are days when I think that I can’t believe a certain design house is sending me a gift. Or I’m shocked that I’ve been invited to some amazing event in New York. I’m such a fashion nerd. It still amazes me to have these incredibly talented connections see me as a peer and someone they respect. I’m so grateful for this opportunity. I can’t believe I’m here, but I do think that hard work pays off.
What do you do to unwind?
I love to garden. I love to really get in the dirt. I plant my own flowers and my own vegetables in my garden. The other night I was walking around in the dark at nine o’clock at night checking on them to see how they were growing. I think ultimately I just love to create prettiness.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received, and who was it from?
My mother’s advice was, “Ask. The worst they can say is no.”
What are three things you can’t live without, besides faith, family and friends?
My Bobbi Brown bronzer, flesh colored flip-flops from the Gap, and Nivea tinted lip balm. Wow, you can take the girl out of Florida …
Thank you, Erica, for giving us a look inside your world today. And thank you to Justin Driscoll for today’s beautiful photos. See more of his work here.
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