Interview with Elim Chu, Fashion & Life Stylist

“I am excited to empower people to feel confident in their clothing, to choose well, and to feel really good. Clothes are such an intimate piece of our daily lives. What we put on our bodies can effect how we navigate our entire day.”

Elim Chu’s interest in fashion was sparked when she was 7 years old and eagerly watched Jeanne Beker’s Fashion Television for the first time.

“I didn’t know what I was watching,” Elim said, laughing. “I just knew that I wanted to be a part of that world.”

In her late teens and early twenties, Elim immersed herself in the inner workings of a local fashion label and soon started fashion design school. Although she began her program with the intention of graduating as a Fashion Designer, she soon discovered that her skillset and talents were excellently suited for the role of a Fashion Stylist.

“As a Stylist, I could work in collaboration with fashion designers or brands. I could still be part of the evolution of how clothes are made,” Elim explained.

During her studies, Elim started working with Lululemon. This marked the beginning of a nine-year career with the company, where she took on innovative projects, such as growing an online community, collaborating on style at the Lululemon Lab, and working as a Photo Studio Coordinator. Her expertise and ambition led her to become the first-ever Athletic Stylist for Lululemon. The following year, Elim took on the role of Brand Stylist.

“As a Brand Stylist, I was there to work on a visual language for Ecommerce photography, develop the Stylist role, and help grow the team. Alongside this, I also helped build the foundations of style at Lululemon.”

In 2015, when Elim recognized that her vision for styling was changing, she transitioned from her role at Lululemon to a new journey of freelancing as a Lifestyle and Fashion Stylist.

“It started with a friend who reached out to me. She was returning to the workforce after being on maternity leave for two years, and she didn’t know what to wear. I told her that, of course, I would help, and one wardrobe edit turned into two, and three, and so on. It’s been amazing how the word-of-mouth caught fire. A lot of client relationships surfaced along the way, and I developed my personal philosophy for styling as well,” she elaborated.

Elim aspires to use her knowledge and unique skills to “shift the way we shop.” She believes it is important that we are “mindful in our choices” of what we choose to buy, to wear, and to keep.

“How we spend our money is a vote. It’s a vote that’s very powerful. I believe that if we become more mindful of where we spend our money, it’s going to shift companies to re-evaluate the quality and quantity of what they are putting out there.  We are starting to become more aware. We care about where our clothing comes from, we care about how our clothes make us feel, and we care about how long our clothes last.”

Quick Questions with Elim

What connections do you see between fashion choices, health, and wellness?

There is a really clear connection. When I was 28, I started to become a lot more conscious of what I ate, what I chose to do with my time, and what I was doing with my mind. I became a lot more open to meditation, quiet moments, and alone time. I started reconnecting with my hobbies, like reading and sketching, which helped me relax and find a calm that I was craving. I think this shift towards mindfulness translated to an awareness of my clothes. My shopping patterns changed. I would still window shop, but I wouldn’t necessarily go into the store. Shopping became very intentional. I would actually need to buy something. It wasn’t about wanting things anymore. It just felt wasteful.

At the same time, I moved in with my husband. With both of us moving from detached homes to a 500 sq. ft apartment, I transitioned from four huge closets into half of one closet. I downsized majorly, and it opened my eyes to how much I was consuming without thought and how much stuff I owned that I didn’t even wear. I had over 100 pairs of shoes. Everything was scattered. That move opened my eyes to how much I had and how little I needed. And, that was the tipping point for where my style philosophy started moving. It was not about whether something was trendy. I started looking at clothes differently, asking myself, “How does this make me feel? Do I feel really good in this?” It was incredible how much I let go of when I used that filter. This process led to a lot of reflections and observations. I would question, “Why does this deserve a place in my daily life?”

What process do you follow when you need to go shopping?

  1. Always have a plan. If you want to buy shoes, for instance, do some research online first. Narrow it down to 2-3 stores and styles that you want to check out so that you don’t have to travel to 10 different shoe stores.

    Give yourself time, but no more than two hours. Any more than that is too much. You start to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and tired. There should not be pressure or stress to shop. It can be really fun. It really can. When you’re out there searching for something and you can’t find it, then don’t buy it. Don’t feel pressured to settle for something that you don’t want or don’t love. Come back to it another time.

  2. Always try it on first. I know it that it can be difficult with internet shopping, but it’s important to try something on and see how you feel in it. Even a simple, white button down shirt comes in so many different fits and makes; you really have to put it on to feel confident that it’s what you’re looking for.

  3. Visualize. Just because you feel really good in a piece of clothing, can you then see how it fits into your wardrobe? I’m not of the mindset that when you buy something, the only way you can wear it is by buying 10 other things. I feel like our closets are actually full of options, and we just need some inspiration. I look to Pinterest for this. There is a lot in our wardrobes already, and we just need to look at things with fresher eyes.

    What clothing lines are currently catching your attention?
    Two brands I’m really interested in right now are:
  • Friends Made:  the Founders of this company, Alexa and David, are incredible. They have this amazing vision to bring made-to-measure into our lives at an accessible price point. The collection is limited, carrying classic and versatile pieces: t-shirts, tank tops, sweaters, and pants. The ability to make something made-to-measure is an incredible luxury, and the fact that they are doing it in Canada at an accessible price point is unbelievable. I’m excited about made-to-measure options because we are all different sizes and we need to embrace that.
  • Elizabeth Suzann: they’re creating beautiful, one size fits all garments. Most of them are silk, linen, and cotton. They have a similar idea for everything to be made and manufactured locally while serving locally. A line that she released earlier this year, called The White Collection, intended to serve brides with the vision that, when you buy for your wedding day, you should be able to wear that piece for the rest of your life. I thought that was amazing. Why not make that special piece something that you can wear again?

What advice would you offer to someone with changing needs for their clothes due to their symptoms or medication side effects?

It’s okay to dress for right now. Dedicate a part of your closet to it. Make sure it’s an accessible area, and make sure that all the clothes in that area are pieces that you feel really good in. Separate, box up, and move the stuff that isn’t working for you currently so that you don’t feel inundated with options that you can’t use at the moment. Then, make a plan for those pieces you store away. For instance, you can reassess those options in 3 months. This way, you have a lighter selection to go through. If you need to shop, shop for the size you are right now and with versatility in mind. Don’t worry about the number. Find what you feel comfortable in, what fits you properly, and what you feel good in right now.

How would you describe your own style?

My style is always changing, but if I had to choose two words, I would say minimalist classic. I’ve noticed that I opt for simple lines with no frills. I love black, white, grey, and textures. Layers of textures feels really good to me. I’m also very interested in gender fluid dressing and learning about what makes people feel confident in what they wear. Bright colours sometimes bring me anxiety personally because I don’t feel confident wearing them.

What tips would you offer for increasing the longevity of our clothing pieces?

Learn how to take care of your clothes. Learn to wash things properly and find dry cleaners in your area that you trust. You can stretch the longevity of your clothes just by cold water washing and hang them to dry. Also, storing items properly is important. Dry clean items before you store them in a compartment bag or store them in containers. The internet has a wealth of knowledge on this. When you plan for it, taking care of your clothes does not have to be a chore.

We are so thankful to have connected with Elim, and we can’t wait to keep following along her adventures in Life Styling and beyond. If you’re looking for some daily inspiration from her (fashion or otherwise), you can follow Elim on Instagram, and you can learn more about her services through her website.