At BHAV, we believe in empowering women to find unique ways to embrace their cultural heritage. We started 'The Culture Connection' to explore the impact (both good and bad) of heritage on a variety of incredible women, and understand how it continues to play an influential role in their lives. We invite you to join us on this journey, with the hope that you find value in these conversations.
Rachel is the proud owner of Rachel J Styling (@racheljstyling), a wardrobe styling, personal shopping and consulting business in Chicago. In addition to her company, she's taken on numerous roles within the fashion industry since 2007. Outside of work, Rachel loves journaling and discovering new cafes to sample coffee creations. She's also a die-hard Chicago sports fan, and passionate about supporting small businesses of all industries, especially local fashion designers and boutiques. Read on to learn about Rachel's Filipino heritage, fashion inspiration, and her favorite item in her personal closet.
On Her Filipino Heritage & Multicultural Marriage:
What's your background?
I am Filipino-American. My mom is from Bauang, La Union (in the northern part of the Philippines), while my dad is from Zamboanga City in the south. They met in Chicago on November 1, 1970 - the day my dad arrived here!
How has, or currently does your Filipino heritage play a role in your life?
I think every aspect of my life has been shaped by my heritage and Filipino roots - from my professional and personal life, to my faith and friendships. I have a pretty traditional Filipino family, and come from a family of doers and risk-takers who work extremely hard. My mom is a nurse, and my dad is a mechanical engineer. Given that their careers were their tickets to America, they value education immensely, and instilled a relentless work ethic within myself and my younger brothers that we're forever grateful for! Filipinos also never waste a thing - my parents taught me that everything has value and purpose, so I think twice before I throw anything away.
I’ve always been very proud of who I am and where my family came from. It was easy for me to embrace this, especially as I grew older and found some of my closest friends through the Philippine Student Association in college (at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
Can you speak on your experience being in a multicultural marriage? What have been some of the challenges, and what have you been pleasantly surprised with?
My husband is half-Slovenian, then Irish, English and “South Side Chicago” as his Uncle Pat would say. I have been incredibly lucky to marry into a family that has been nothing but welcoming, loving, encouraging and supportive since I met them back in 2015. They don’t see me as Michael’s Filipino or Asian wife. I’m just his wife and my family loves and accepts him just the same, so our different ethnicities have not been an issue. It’s been fun to show him how we celebrate holidays and Filipino traditions. He was a Manny Pacquaio fan before we met, so that was a good sign :) He also loves lechon (a full roasted pig) and my mom’s eggrolls. My husband became Catholic before we got married too, and that was something that was very important to me. Race and religion can break couples apart, but I’m grateful this wasn’t the case for us.
What was your transition like from a career in Advertising to ultimately building your own fashion styling business?
Given my parents' career paths, they were a bit apprehensive when I decided to major in Advertising and Communications. They were even more confused when I left my advertising job in 2007 for a career in fashion (and ultimately started my own fashion styling business in 2013), since they weren't very familiar with the industry. After all, it wasn't medicine, law, engineering, etc. which were more common to them. Regardless, I'm fortunate that they always trusted my decisions and had great faith that I would find and make a way for myself. I’ve always felt supported and encouraged by them even though they had their doubts.
Has your Filipino heritage influenced your design taste as a personal stylist? What are your biggest influences on your design style?
I don’t think being Filipino has directly influenced my taste, but being raised by immigrant parents in the 70’s and 80’s definitely has. My mom had beautiful furs and jackets, and an array of gold jewelry that I would play with. I loved wearing her bell bottoms when I was old enough to fit in them. Many of her tops had funky prints and flared collars. I also went to Catholic school from K-8 and had to wear a uniform. When I got to a public high school and had the freedom to dress myself, that’s when the trendiness and creativity was really unleashed!
Over the years, I’ve grown to love the designs of Diane von Furstenberg, rag & bone, Phillip Lim, Helmut Lang, and Andrea Lieberman to name a few. I enjoy high-low styling, which is incorporating high-end designer pieces with less expensive items. I like to find classic pieces with unexpected and edgy or on-trend details.
What has been your greatest joy from building your personal styling business? Anything unexpected?
I get so much joy from watching my clients transform and feel really good about themselves in their clothing. Getting dressed is a basic task that each of us has to do daily. It shouldn’t, however, feel like a chore and distract you from tackling the really important goals of your day. Whether it's saving clients' time, introducing them to a new designer, finding them the perfect pair of jeans, or dressing them in a look they love that they never would have put together for themselves, I feel accomplished!
I didn’t realize when I started my business that I would meet and collaborate with so many talented creatives and artists. Being a solopreneur can be a lonely place, so it’s important to find your tribe of fellow dreamers and doers. Chicago has some of the greatest talent in the world, and I feel fortunate to have met them through my business.
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now?
My Ellie blazer by Rag & Bone makes me feel like a boss.
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
Lately, it’s just plain water. My goal is to drink at least 64 oz/day. Stay hydrated, friends! Beyond that, I’m a coffee with Bailey's or mimosa with freshly squeezed OJ kinda girl.
What are you currently watching?
'The Last Dance’ on ESPN - every Sunday night from 8-10 pm CST til Sunday, May 17th!
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz.
Morning person or night owl?
I have a t-shirt from The Denim Lounge in Roscoe Village that says “My Day Starts at Noon.” #nightowl
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
My iPhone. Keepin’ it real :)