Nichola English arrives with a bubbly persona and explains about her problematic Topshop bag that she is in the midst of returning. What else would you expect from a fashion stylist? She orders herself a coffee and a lime and soda and then exclaims: “Don’t look at my nails! They’re a mess (they aren’t), I’ve got an appointment to have them done after this.”
Wearing a glamorous pink, snake-print chiffon top and skinny liquorice black jeans, Nichola is passionate about her successful Newcastle-based style coaching company, The Wardrobe Provocateur.
Having previously worked in managerial retail for most of her life, the 43-year-old has always had a love of fashion. Yet it wasn’t until she was forced to change her career in her 30s, due to an accident that left her in a wheelchair and learning to walk again, that she ventured into style coaching.
Although she’s hesitant to reveal details of her accident, she says: “It doesn’t define me as a person, it has just made me who I am today.”
Still using a walking stick now, Nichola reveals: “I’m not meant to wear heels, that’s why I’ve always got flats on.” However, her inner stylist then comes out: “But I’ve got some AMAZING heels that I do wear when I go out for dinner, I just always make sure I change into them when I arrive at the restaurant,” she says excitedly.
Nichola goes on to describe her fashionable, patterned walking stick. She starts chuckling and reminisces about one of the first times she began walking again: “One of my favourite stories is when I went to Betty’s in York and Linda Barker was sat near me. My partner at the time told me she wouldn’t stop looking me up and down so I smiled at her and she smiled back, almost like a nod of approval.”
Nichola’s style coaching consultancy provides many different services, which include: wardrobe edits, style analysis, personal shopping, colour consultation and confidence coaching. She defines herself as having: “techniques of a personal image consultant but also a life coach” which gets mixed together to create the recipe for a style coach.
However, Nichola, who is often compared to look like TV presenter and celebrity stylist, Nicky Hambleton-Jones, states: “Fashion isn’t just about how we look, it’s about how we feel in an item, you want to be able to look in the mirror and think wow!”
She also adds: “I feel so privileged for people to allow me into their wardrobes as it’s a very personal secret space.”
Nichola’s typical routine for a wardrobe edit begins by getting the client to fill in a personality analysis form, which explains: what they’re lacking, their inspiration and what purpose they want their wardrobe to serve. She says: “I then delve into the wardrobe and get the client to create a memory box, perhaps of a past persona like maternity wear, that can be put away to look at every now and then but it allows space for something fresh.”
Although Nichola loves her job, she says how hands-on it can be and the state she ends up in after rifling through clothes for hours. She laughs: “I go in looking fresh and demure and come out looking like I’ve been in a boxing match with Mike Tyson!”