When it comes to fashion and style, Delia Folk and Alison Bruhn don’t want anyone to feel left out. This mother-daughter duo created their multi-media platform, The Style That Binds Us, to pull back the curtain on the fashion industry — a world they say can often be as mysterious as it is magical. For four years, Delia worked on the buying team at Barneys New York, where she discovered and nurtured emerging designers. Alison studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and is a highly sought-after image and style consultant with clients across the country.
Delia and Alison — who split their time between New York City and their hometown of Birmingham — want to make fashion accessible to all by sharing insider knowledge through their blog, podcast, YouTube channel, and events. Alison offers personal shopping and wardrobe consulting, fashion business consulting and more. Delia offers fashion business consulting to new brands and enjoys giving advice to those who want to work in the industry as she did.
We’re delighted to introduce our newest FACES of Birmingham: Delia Folk and Alison Bruhn of The Style That Binds Us.
How would you sum up the mission of The Style That Binds Us, and how do you carry out that mission?
Delia: The mission of The Style That Binds Us is to encourage others to live a stylish and fearless life. Everything we do goes back to that mission. Before I post on Instagram, before I create a blog post, before I create a video, I ask, “Is this going to encourage others to live a stylish and fearless life?” One of the things it’s never about is, “Look at me, I’m in Paris at Fashion Week,” or “Look at my fabulous outfit.” So, what we say is, we’re at Paris Fashion Week, and maybe you can’t be here, but we’re going to bring you along with us every step of the way and give you the lowdown and even a glossary. We try to make fashion accessible and approachable, not scary.
Alison: I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they’re invisible or left out because of the color of their skin, the size of their body, or the age that they are. I want them to know they are beautiful and fabulous. The Style That Binds Us seeks to be a community for women of all ages, colors and sizes. Though things are improving, historically, the fashion industry has not been very inclusive of older women, women of color, or women who aren’t skinny.
How does The Style That Binds Us challenge that?
Alison: At first, I didn’t want to talk about aging. But Delia said, “You need to address this,” so now I am. So, I hold people accountable. When we talk to chemists and beauty brands, I ask, “What are you doing for women 45 and up?” And for designers, I ask, “Why do you do so many sleeveless things? Why do you call this plus size? Why do you only make samples in size zero?”
Delia: As The Style That Binds Us grows, I want our team to be diverse in every way. I want every voice sitting at the table, and I want them to share their experiences and come up with ideas because we need the perspective. We want this to be a platform for all, so we have to think about how everyone can be seen in our content, and that can happen through interviews on the podcast, partnering with different brands that are minority-owned and more.
In what ways do you think fashion can help empower women?
Alison: As I started doing this work more and more, I realized what I was enjoying the most was the emotional reaction that the women were having. It was giving them back their power in the mirror. A woman will come in and she’s not feeling great about herself, and we put on one piece, and I see a look on her face that says, “I remember you,” and all of a sudden [her] confidence comes back.
That’s what I enjoy doing — bringing back their power and showing them what to wear for specific occasions and events. And I don’t mean what to wear to a wedding. I mean what to wear if you have to have a difficult conversation, what to wear if you’re a woman who works with mainly men, and what to wear if you’re trying to be approachable. For women who are therapists — especially for children — there’s a very specific way they should dress to create a calm, peaceful, trustworthy atmosphere.
Delia: We never want to hear again, “I just didn’t go because I couldn’t figure out what to wear.” We don’t want women to miss out on opportunities because they can’t figure out what to wear.
What advice would you give to a woman struggling to define her style and build her core wardrobe?
Alison: If you’re trying to figure out your core wardrobe, that is when you get a stylist. People may think it’s too expensive to get a stylist, but it saves you a lot of money in the long run. Many times, you need that bottom layer, those pieces that go under the fabulous jacket you’ve acquired but don’t know how to wear. A stylist can come in and pull it all together, and you’ll be surprised by how little you have to buy to get that to work.
When someone works with me, it’s specific to that person — their lifestyle, their body type, their budget, what’s happening in their life right now. What issues are you struggling with? We go through an extensive mood board process to zero in on who you really are when you might have forgotten yourself.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Delia: I love working out, reading, going on walks and experiencing the city. Going to a play or a new museum exhibit, going to a new restaurant or coffee shop — all of those things I adore.
Alison: I love to read books. I love to travel. I love art, and I love going to museums and other cultural events. I used to love to cook. Now I just like to eat.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Delia: “Slut your business card!” In the beginning of my career when I was an intern at Versace and was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, living in the city for the summer and could not believe it, I went to this networking event with fashion industry executives, and one of the women there told me that, and I have stood by that. I’ll set a goal when I go to an event of how many business cards I have to give out. How can someone from Alabama, knowing hardly anyone in New York, work in fashion and create this whole community? Slut your business card — that’s how.
Alison: The best advice I’ve received actually came from Delia. She would encourage me to reach out to a famous person in our industry, and I’d say I can’t do that, and she would say, “Why not?” So, I’d reach out, and they’d say, “We’d love to meet with you!” So, I have learned from Delia that whenever I have the feeling of “I can’t do this,” I ask myself, “Why not? Why can’t you do this? Of course, you can!”
Name three things you can’t live without.
Delia: Coffee, chocolate, and peanut butter.
Alison: Sweets, my Yves Saint Laurent baby Sac du Jour, and First by Van Cleef & Arpels perfume.
Thank you, Delia and Alison. All photography by Kassady Gibson, Focus Creative.
Meet more inspiring women in our archives.