Occasionally our passions run so deep that their roots reach back before we were even born. For personal stylist boutique owner, Caitlin Costello, her passion originated with her mother, Maura, who attended The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and introduced her daughter to the world of fashion at a very young age, perhaps even with her very first outfit.
“I haven’t changed much since I was kid—I have always been into fashion. The ultimate girly-girl, I was always dressing up all of my dolls and playing dress-up in my mother and grandmother’s closets. I realized I truly loved fashion when I would watch old movies with my family (especially Roman Holiday). The styling portion came later in college when my friends would ask me to shop for or style them—it clicked that this could be a career path.”
Following graduation from college at the University of Alabama, the Texas native followed her mother’s footsteps to New York City, where she immediately began a career in fashion, working in both design and sales for luxury and contemporary brands including Emilio Pucci, Tibi, and Lela Rose.
After years of styling her friends and family on the side, she saw an opportunity to fill a void in the market and began developing a business plan for a personal styling business. In 2017 she launched Affiner, a personal styling service designed to help men and women refine their wardrobes. Her first client was a friend of a friend, and from there her business began to grow.
“I started by envisioning our clientele as women aging from 25-65 but quickly realized there was an opportunity for men as well, and that age really didn’t need to play a major role.”
Starting off with just two employees, Caitlin was forced to confront the less attractive side of owning her own business.
“I think a lot of entrepreneurs don’t realize all of the roles they will take on when starting a business. Not only did I have to continue the development and growth of Affiner, but I suddenly had to become an accountant, a human resource specialist, and a legal expert. It was overwhelming to say the least, but at the same time, such a wonderful learning experience.”
While wearing many hats, Caitlin grew her business quickly as clientele expanded and now Affiner resides in a communal office space where Caitlin and her staff are able to bounce ideas off each other and work creatively side by side.
“As a growing start-up, every day is different, which I personally love. I would say I don’t have a day-to-schedule, but typically I go into the office, answer emails, meet with my team, and then tackle the never-ending to-do list!”
The name she chose for her business streamlines unpredictable days into a steady reminder of Caitlin’s personal beliefs about universal style.
“I chose Affiner—French for refine—because I believe everyone has their own style. Someone’s personal style doesn’t necessarily have to follow trends, but I believe there is a way to refine every style, as well as every wardrobe and closet.”
And in a place like New York City, style is overflowing in the streets, providing Caitlin and her team with infinite ideas, colors, and muses. But this surplus of fashion hasn’t overtaken Caitlin’s own personal style.
“When I get dressed, I want to look in my closet and see multiple outfit options available with the pieces I own. I have found that clean-cut, classic pieces work best for this method. I can mix and match items with ease, and because they are more minimalistic, these pieces tend to stand the test of time. New Yorkers wear a lot of black, so I think that has become a staple in my wardrobe. However, I dress for me, not for my location.”
Caitlin and her team try to incorporate this sense of genuine style when dressing their clients as well.
“I think everyone has a core personal style, but it can always change with current trends and time. What we aim to do is refine and define our client’s wardrobe, while staying true to their authentic style.”
The key to this process lies in forming a relationship with clients that allows the staff at Affiner to develop a wardrobe that speaks to their clients’ true self.
“Through our site, we have a questionnaire to help identify a person’s style without really knowing them, which helps our team tremendously. However, to truly understand a person’s style, you have to connect with them on a personal level. After a client completes our questionnaire, a stylist connects with them one on one to further explore what they are looking to obtain from this service.”
For Caitlin, this client-stylist relationship is the foundation on which her business was built.
“For stylists it’s all about the customer’s experience. Being able to use styling to make a client look and feel his or her best ultimately influenced my decision to become a stylist. My biggest reward is the instant gratification my team and I get to see from our clients. I love to see people confident, comfortable, and happy with what they are wearing—it makes me love what I do!”
Caitlin in Ten
- Hometown: Dallas, Texas
- Favorite Color: “I will always buy something if it is offered in blue, However I would say I wear the color black most frequently.”
- Favorite Season: Spring. “I love the lightweight materials and the pop of colors that can be introduced!”
- Favorite Occasion to Style: Everyday life. “Special occasion dressing is exciting, but seeing people in their day-to-day element is my favorite.”
- Favorite Brands: Proenza Schouler, Theory, Vince, L’Agence, and Brunello Cucinelli
- Style Icons: Grace Kelly, CZ.Guest, and James Dean
- Hobbies: Hip hop and zumba classes
- Currently Learning: Calligraphy
- When she’s creatively blocked: “I will call my best friends and say, ‘Let’s meet for a glass of wine!'”
- Define Style: “Style to me means expressing yourself without saying anything.”
For more on Affiner and Caitlin’s personal styling business, check out her website. To stay up to date, follow Affiner on Instagram and Facebook, or reach out to Caitlin via email to connect or collaborate.