Fashion fans are using the platform to democratise a service formerly reserved for the Hollywood elite and their bulging bank accounts
In 2020, as the pandemic was in full swing, most of us coped by investing in a little retail therapy. As chaos raged around us, the sound of a package landing on the doormat offered a much-needed dopamine boost. But rather than giving their credit card a workout, many Gen Z fashion fans saw lockdown as a chance to launch a career as a personal stylist.
“I’ve always been the one my friends would go to if they needed help picking out an outfit for a date, a night out, or an event,” 21-year-old Sydnee Grill, from Montreal, Canada, explains over the phone. “Once the pandemic hit I had a lot of extra time and I had kind of like a light bulb moment where I realised that I could make a business out of styling.”
Takeout By Syd – the name of her business and TikTok account – gives anyone in the world access to personal styling and shopping services starting at $20. For about $16, Grill will personally put together four outfits based on items you already own. All you have to do is send photos of the items you want styled along with a Pinterest board of the look you want to achieve and within a week, Grill emails over digitally rendered flat lays of potential outfits, reminiscent of Polyvore.
The personal shopping package goes for around $28. After filling out a form with your sizes, favourite colours, budget, preferences, and Pinterest board, it takes Grill about a week to return with a text document full of links to pieces that suit your style for you to shop. If you don’t like something she linked, it’s as simple as not buying it.
Then there’s the ultimate package – ‘The Works’ – which is for anyone that doesn’t know what their style is and requires a little more guidance than your average shopper. Grill hops on a 45-minute Zoom call with these customers to discuss how to style clothes they already have as well as shop for clothes together for a more personalised experience.
On her Instagram profile, Grill also offers event styling and shopping services as well as lookbooks that represent popular styles inexperienced clients can select as inspiration. “We do the choosing, you do the buying,” is the motto plastered across the Takeout by Syd website.
“It made buying clothes stress-free and fun,” recent client Megan Mersino, 20, tells me. Mersino purchased the personal shopping package after seeing Takeout by Syd on TikTok. “I was in desperate need of some cute new clothes and I’d always liked the idea of personal styling but companies like that aren’t usually marketed towards young adults.”
Mersino asked for neutral toned streetwear with some flair, while referencing the “Lizz” and “Bri” lookbooks. Ten days after making her purchase, Mersino received an email with visual styling guides to accompany shopping links for a white cropped top and shorts set, Nike Blazers, Beverly Hills cap, light-washed denim, Tupac shirt and lashings of silver jewellery.
Since buying all the items, Mersino explains, “I’ve gotten so many compliments on my style recently, and I’ve felt so much more confident going out.”
In just over a year, Takeout by Syd has gained over 100,000 followers and 1.6 million likes – not to mention countless glowing reviews from customers. It’s safe to say that business is booming.
“I’ve always been the one my friends would go to if they needed help picking out an outfit for a date, a night out, or an event. Once the pandemic hit I had a lot of extra time and I had kind of like a light bulb moment where I realised that I could make a business out of styling” – Sydnee Grill
Grill is part of a burgeoning community known as ‘Fashion TikTok’. This subsection of the platform is dedicated to dissecting runway shows, diving into fashion history, and discussing fashion brands, with everyone from fashion editors to models dishing out advice on making it in the industry. There’s also a huge number of haul videos, ‘cheugy’ hit lists, and more to sift through. Not everyone who’s lured to fashion TikTok is an expert in the field, however, which means a lot of users – young and old – log on to ask for advice.
Hunter Torr is a 21-year-old actor who bounces between Los Angeles and Newburyport, Massachusetts. While his love for fashion began while working in costume shops for summer theatre, he admits he’s “always had a good eye for colour combos and fashionable silhouettes.”
It only takes a casual scroll through his TikTok to immediately understand that Hunter’s fluid style and lack of regard for gender norms makes his fashion choices all the more exciting for his 185,000 followers. Whether he’s showing off his glamorous thrifted dresses, holographic windbreakers, or popsicle-coloured overalls, Hunter’s theatrical entrances and attention-grabbing fits make for an entertaining watch. So, it wasn’t long before people started asking him for advice.
“A lot of my viewers were always commenting on how much they loved my style and how they wished they could dress like me,” Hunter explains. “So I saw an opportunity to help people understand what their fashion style was and I ran with it.”
It all started with a video posted in January offering free styling advice. The response was overwhelming, with people messaging him directly for advice, dueting the video, and wanting help with styling looks. And while he doesn’t have any plans to become a stylist in the future, Hunter recently posted another video encouraging people to contact him again: “I always say ‘wear what makes you feel good, that’s where you have to start.’”
While advice is good enough for some, other users want an experience that’s usually reserved for the rich and famous. Savannah Marie, 19 is an influencer who started selling curated packages of clothes for clients on TikTok. With over 3 million followers, her services are unsurprisingly coveted on the app, selling over 300 “baddie boxes” the night she launched.
Now she sells a range of packages, some named after goddesses – like the Aphrodite box – that go all the way up to $500. Each box includes its worth in products, which includes everything from make-up and books to lingerie and loungewear. Of course, all of this is determined by a scheduled consultation with Savannah.
On TikTok she shares videos of her packing boxes, all of which are professionally printed and adorned with branded stickers and rosy pink tissue paper. Her plan is to eventually become a stylist to the stars, but in the meantime she’s booked and busy.
Last year, Internet Girl fka Bella McFadden also made bank selling her popular iGirl bundles on Depop. The Canadian social media personality is essentially e-girl royalty thanks to her irreverent Y2K aesthetic and her bewitching brand of cool. The iGirl bundles sold for around $150 and inspired many Depop sellers to carry the torch, but it’s clear that she laid down the blueprint for the new generation of burgeoning TikTok cyber stylists too.
Packing another ##baddiebeautybox make sure to follow the Instagram @ thebaddiebeautybox
TikTok has democratised many impenetrable institutions: from Lil Nas X changing how popstars break into the music industry, to amateur vegan cook, Tabitha Brown, who has taken the food world by storm thanks to her accessible, passionate videos. As a platform, TikTok has given people access to one another in a way that’s revolutionary – especially when compared to its social media counterparts; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
When it comes to fashion, people on TikTok are similarly finding ways to reform an industry that is built on archaic constructs that exclude people based on class, wealth, and race.
“When I thought of the idea of being a personal shopper I felt like I couldn’t do it because I don’t live in Beverly Hills with a bunch of wealthy friends and neighbours,” Savannah tells me. “But I wanted to make it so that people just like me can still have an outfit or a couple outfits styled for them and be able to enjoy a luxury experience at an affordable price.”
“I always say ‘wear what makes you feel good’ – that’s where you have to start” – Hunter Torr
For this new gen of TikTokers, it’s important to make personal stylists and shoppers accessible and affordable. Short term, it means that people get to feel more satisfied with the way they present themselves to the world, but it’s the long term goal of sustainability that really makes this an agenda worth sinking your teeth into.
Sustainably-focused personal shopping service, Snitchez n’ Stitchez is run by Jenna Boatman, 20 who lives in Washington DC. “Let’s be honest: there is no ethical consumption under fast fashion, and by extension, capitalism,” reads the About Us section of the website. “The best alternative is to shop secondhand, so that’s what we do here.”
Boatman has amassed a loyal following of over 50,000 followers since first posting on the app in May. “The initial response was incredibly overwhelming in a good way,” she tells me. “Ever since, we’ve sold out each time we restock our bundles on our website.”
If you manage to score one of her sought after restocks, you’ll be happy to know that all three bundles, each with a different number of items included, are priced under $100.
Sneha Rachamadugu, 19, from Charlottesville, Virginia was one of the lucky few to recently score one of these coveted thrifted bundles. After filling out the form, she chose a medium-sized bundle, which got her five to seven items. She also asked for pieces with a dark academia aesthetic that has “a bit more edge… sort of an elevated 2016 Tumblr look.”
She was given the option of previewing the items before Boatman packaged and mailed them to her. This is the only point where clients are able to swap out one item, though Snitchez has a strict no refunds policy. That wasn’t a problem for Rachamadugu who declined the preview and opted for the thrill of a surprise.
“(Snitchez) got me a dark preppy skirt, a white oversized shirt – which is really comfortable – a black slip dress, and I also got this oversized sweater which is really cute and comfortable.” Rachamadugu also got a note with some styling suggestions and added a pair of fishnet tights for the skirt. She shared her experience on TikTok, excitedly trying on each item with a smile plastered across her face.
“When I thought of the idea of being a personal shopper I felt like I couldn’t do it because I don’t live in Beverly Hills with a bunch of wealthy friends and neighbours. But I wanted to make it so that people just like me can still have an outfit or a couple of outfits styled for them and be able to enjoy a luxury experience at an affordable price” – Savannah Marie
“When I hear about personal styling I definitely think of Hollywood elite first,” Rachamadugu admits when I ask if she’s ever considered personal shopping or styling for herself before. “It wasn’t really something I had thought a lot about before coming across Snitchez’ TikTok. But the next time I need to buy things, it’s pretty likely that I will use her services again.” Rachamadugu’s friends are now also keen to get their hands on a package, having signed up to the stylist’s summer drop to try it out for themselves.
Snitchez is unique in its approach because unlike the infamous habits of Depop sellers, Boatman doesn’t charge clients more than the original price of any thrifted item. Instead, the fee is for her time and expertise. She’s not only there to style clients of all gender identities and sizes, but is also educating a generation about sustainability by showing her followers how to achieve popular looks on a budget and with secondhand items.
Lately, fashion TikTok has been in the news for all the wrong reasons: haul videos. Haul videos aren’t a new invention by any means but lately, TikTok’s viral fashion iteration has become wildly popular.
The #haul hashtag currently has over 9.8 billion views and serves as a gateway to a part of TikTok designed to satisfy voyeurs of overconsumption and fast fashion fanatics alike. Most videos see people flaunt hundreds – sometimes thousands – of dollars worth of clothing from retailers like Zara, H&M, Shein, and Amazon.
In the comments of these videos, some people drool over the mini skirts, mesh dresses, and Y2K fashion that spills onto the screen, while others leave biting notes about inhumane factory conditions and the use of child labour. In a try-on haul video, one user in the comments even publicly grapples with the moral implications of buying fast fashion, asking if anyone knows about the brand’s use of child labor but ultimately admits that “I wanna get shein sooo bad (sic).”
Sustainability makes up a substantial part of the conversation on fashion TikTok, whether that’s brands touting their own practices or users promoting designers that use recycled materials.
“Knowing what you like and what you need to wear will help you not be swayed by a fashion haul. Hauls breed envy and overconsumption, especially when you don’t know what your preferred style or clothing needs are” – Thalia Castro-Vega
Thalia Castro-Vega, a professional stylist based in California, is hopeful that increasing the accessibility of personal styling with affordable price points, as well as encouraging personal style, can lead to the end of overconsumption.
“Knowing what you like and what you need to wear will help you not be swayed by a fashion haul,” she explains over the phone. “Hauls breed envy and overconsumption, especially when you don’t know what your preferred style or clothing needs are.” This is why she never posts hauls on her own TikTok.
Working with everyday people, Thalia is aware of the constraints of budgets, the power that influencers have over consumers and all the factors that lead to people binging on fast fashion – though the feeling is often fleeting if not completely disappointing. Her hope is to “uplift, inform, and educate” people so that they not only look good and feel amazing, but so they also have the information they need to be ethical shoppers.
Learning to be an ethical shopper can be difficult, especially when the temptation of a $15 Shein bikini is so hard to turn down. But you no longer have to be Kim Kardashian to hire a personal stylist – all you really need is $20 and an internet connection.