“Working Women Wednesday” is a series in which we profile leaders in their field, shedding light on who they are and how they’ve achieved success.
When it comes to what to wear, Alessandra Kertzer Sze knows what to do. Since becoming a personal stylist three years ago, she’s cultivated a business with a loyal client base by way of a three-pronged approach. Offering closet cleanses, personal shopping trips, and digital look books containing outfit “collages” for every occasion, she’s taken her experience working for contemporary and luxury brands and channeled it into something that’s all her own. From her office in Los Angeles she spoke to us about how she runs her solo show, citing her father, trust, and her Brazilian roots as the fuel she needs to feed her professional fire.
On lessons from childhood:
I’d always hoped that one day I would be my own boss, and that’s something I carry with me from my father, who has always been a strong supporter and believer in me starting my own business. He taught me to be myself, always, and to be fearless in both high tides and low. Whenever times get hard or I’m second-guessing myself, I’ll lean into these things my father taught me. It’s a belief system that’s enabled me to do what I do.
Whenever I need advice I’ll call my sister, who has her own business as an interior designer, and she always helps me bring things back into focus. If I’m going through a dry spell, let’s say, where I may not have as many clients as I would like, I’ll ring her up, and she’ll tell me, “Ale, you know one day you could be dealing with a silent phone and an empty inbox and the next day you won’t have a second for yourself. And that’s totally normal, especially for a freelancer… just go with it.” It’s so simple, but it’s advice like this that helps me stay positive and keep it moving.
On meeting new clients:
People seek me out more than I try to find them, which is something I’m working on trying to change. I’m fortunate to be operating on recommendations, but I recognize that I need to get better at pitching myself, at networking. It’s important that I’m able to rely on myself at all times.
Some may think that fashion and styling and shopping are superficial and unnecessary, but I think it’s to the contrary. It will shape how you feel, how people see you, and to an extent, your professional success.
On doing her own thing:
I knew it was time when I realized that I do my best work and feel happiest when I’m working solo and in charge of my own routine. I’d had corporate jobs before, so I had an understanding of what working at a contemporary brand was like, what a luxury brand was like, and I understood what buying and merchandising entail. In my previous jobs, I spent a lot of time in stores learning about customer behaviors and shopping trends—how women shop, really. But after learning these things I felt that I really needed more of a connection with people instead of just product. The idea of starting a business that would allow me to work with a variety of different women with different needs, personalities, and daily routines excited me.
I’m very hard on myself, so nothing ever feels like it’s good enough, perfect enough, or that it’s reached its ultimate potential. I see [success] as a combination of how financially successful you are but also what your track record is like with clients and how sustainable your business is. When you can align your financial goals with a healthy lifestyle, then you’ve made it. I say that because working hard and having an active schedule is important, but it’s just as important not to burn yourself out. And that’s something I’m conscious of. I’m in an industry that requires a lot of face time with people, so I have to look and feel my best; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to deliver what I need to my clients.
On work-wardrobe staples:
You need a tailored black blazer, a cotton poplin shirt, and straight or wide-leg pants—whichever you feel most comfortable in. Those three things will take you anywhere.
On roots and the fashion “illusion”:
Having grown up in Brazil, which is an extremely image-conscious country, I think I’ve always been drawn to the idea of how you can manipulate your appearance to influence the way people perceive you. Some may think that fashion and styling and shopping are superficial and unnecessary, but I think it’s to the contrary. It will shape how you feel, how people see you, and to an extent, your professional success. I’ve always been drawn to the idea of how much of fashion is about “the illusion” and you can create that illusion for better or worse. You can’t choose everything in life, but you can choose what you wear, what your personal style is, and what message you’re sending off to the world. I’ve always been curious about the magic of dressing up, and that’s really what it’s always been about.