Typically, I work on the posts for each week the week before. Being primarily outfit driven, these types of posts take time to create. Last week, while planning out blog posts for this week, I realized I had never curated a list of my go-to brands for clients.
One of the best things about being a seasoned personal stylist with 17 years of experience is I have a pretty established list of brands I know I can count on. Not every client is the same. Budgets, professions and workplace dress codes, body shapes and personal styles vary, so I have needed to become a master of which combination of brands is right for each client.
My Top 20 Go-To Fashion Brands for Professional Clients
I have put together my top 20 go-to fashion brands for professional clients and why I like them. Wanting to keep this list digestible, I couldn’t list every brand, so I kept the list geared towards business casual to professional workplaces. If this list is a success, perhaps I will make more in the future for different types of workplaces and lifestyles.
Before I share my list check out this week’s video.
#1 Akris Punto
Akris Punto rightly deserves the top spot for this list. It has been my go-to line for professional clients for years. I remember once remarking that if this line ceased to exist I’d be sunk. Akris Punto offers much-needed creativity to the often humdrum professional workwear out there, plus the workmanship is superior. Akris is a Swiss line, the same country known for precision watch-making so it should come as no surprise that Akris brings that same craftmanship to their clothing.
Investing in Akris Punto will cost you a pretty penny despite it being the lower-priced line to the more expensive Akris brand. But if you have the budget, it’s well worth it. And if you don’t, The RealReal has plenty of Akris and Akris Punto for sale. The RealReal prices their Akris pieces pretty affordably considering this line isn’t as known as some of the other brands that share its luxury space.
I love Akris Punto for their pants, particularly their techno-cotton Franca pant, their jackets and their dresses.
#2 Max Mara
Max Mara is an Italian brand with an impressive 35 different labels to its name with the Max Mara line being the most well known. Other labels include Marina Rinaldi, Sportmax, Weekend Max Mara, Marella, Pennyblack, iBlues, and more. I have mainly shopped Max Mara, Marina Rinaldi, and Weekend Max Mara most consistently.
Like Akris Punto, Max Mara is an investment brand of quality and beautiful precision. I turn to Marina Rinaldi often for my plus-size clients looking to invest, Weekend Max Mara is great for business casual and weekend wear and I love Max Mara for more professional dress codes. Max Mara also makes unbelievable coats.
#3 BOSS Hugo Boss
BOSS is a more accessible brand than Akris Punto or Max Mara. It tends to be a brand for clients of mine who are ready to invest but not to the point that they want to spend Akris/Max Mara money. However, clients with higher budgets do tend to buy BOSS along with these higher-investment brands as well. It’s a good, solid, workwear brand with some creative high points mixed in with the expected staples.
My feelings on BOSS vary by season. Over the years, the look has changed and morphed based on who was designing. In 2018, Jason Wu left his role as artistic director after a five-year stint and the womenswear line was taken over by their menswear designer Ingo Wilts who is now designing both. When changes in direction like this happen you will always notice slight changes to the aesthetic of a line. As much as I love Jason Wu, I wasn’t always in love what he did for BOSS.
BOSS can be great for classic suiting, fun yet conservative dresses and their mock button-down shirt that has side zipper closures.
#4 M.M. LaFleur
In many ways, M.M. Lafleur has been a godsend for women’s workwear. M.M. changed everything about the way women shop for work clothing with problem-solving being the driving force behind what they produce. It’s not the most creative clothing line on the planet, but the way it considers the needs of their customer and how she shops are what makes it a stand out. You can literally shop the line in an hour via a showroom appointment, much of the clothing is easy-care and machine washable and putting a cohesive group of clothing together has never been easier. If you are a size 16 and above looking for good workwear, M.M. has mastered their fit for plus sizes.
However, I caution most clients about buying too deep or singularly with M.M. for the simple reason that you can spot an M.M. outfit a mile away. My preference is to pepper in your wardrobe with pieces from the line with clothing from other brands so you don’t look like an M.M. LaFleur robot. My favorite evergreen pieces are their self-hemming Foster Pants, Didion top, Pippa pant, Morandi sweater, Estuko dress, and their well-known jardigans.
#5 Michael Kors Collection
I have been a fairweather friend when it comes to Michael Kors Collection. Note: this isn’t the less expensive MICHAEL Michael Kors line which has taken a serious hit in terms of quality, in my opinion. My love of Michael Kors dates all the way back to 1993 when I was a young fashion design student and he was my muse. He and I actually both attended FIT (not at the same time) and when he came to our school to speak, I made it a point to walk up to him and tell him he was my inspiration. Since then and up until a few seasons ago, I was his biggest fan. And I still love him but I don’t know what the heck he has been smoking lately. I’m not sure if it is because he has become so mainstream or if someone locked him away in a tower and his evil twin is now designing. His point of view has totally shifted to something much more outrageous, bordering on tacky, while his iconic classic American sportswear aesthetic disappears more and more with each passing year.
That said, I still do like Michael Kors Collection and when he sticks with what he is good at he knocks it out of the park. His sheath dresses are some of the most beautiful pieces many of my clients own, his ridiculously expensive shrug cardigan is a staple for many of my clients, and while they’re no longer one of the top pants my clients buy, they’re still good.
#6 Lafayette 148
I have a strange relationship with Lafayette 148. The clothes are pretty but I don’t beat my drum for them the same way I do for other brands. The line has always skewed older and with that often comes these odd pieces you would suspect grandma would wear on a cruise, but at the same time they will do some really beautiful workwear pieces that are perfect for someone who prefers a little more tszuj. However, they make excellent pants that could be staples in anyone’s closet, they have some fun tops and their novelty pieces, like gorgeous jackets and leathers are phenomenal. I also like them for clients who have more of an American shape with larger hips and a curvier body shape. Lafayette 148 cuts are fuller.
#7 Elie Tahari
I am only about a season or two even back to reconsidering Elie Tahari as a brand for professional women. Rumor in the fashion industry is that Elie Tahari is certifiably crazy, a rumor I have no direct evidence to back up. However, what I can say from experience is you never know what you will get from Elie Tahari season to season.
For years, likely a decade, Elie Tahari was the line I could count on for my clients who didn’t have a luxury budget but were ready to move past brands like Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. At one time, Elie Tahari did the best suits and pants for the price point, the most gorgeous printed work tops and really amazing professional dresses. There is/was (I’m not sure anymore) an Elie Tahari outlet store in NYC that I practically lived in with clients. Then it all changed.
About five or six years ago, instead of filling a much-needed part of the market, Elie Tahari decided to go the party dress route (as if we needed more of that) and left behind his core customers of women who counted on his work clothes. At that point, Elie Tahari was dead to me. I stopped going to the outlet and I never shopped it in the department in stores. I was basically like Elie Tahari who? Then last year I noticed that the old Tahari started coming back to what it once was and I actually pulled items for clients again. Given how mercurial the line is, however, I’m cautiously optimistic.
One last note about Elie Tahari and Tahari ASL are not one in the same. T Tahari, however, is the lower end version of Elie Tahari. I have selected T Tahari pieces for clients who didn’t want to spend for Elie Tahari, however, I don’t like the Tahari ASL brand and find it to be a bit too staid and frumpy.
#8 Piazza Sempione
There is one thing and one thing only that I choose from the line Piazza Sempione: their Audrey pants. That’s it but I still wanted to include it because it is the number one pants style my clients select. Named after Audrey Hepburn, these pants are basic, side zip ankle pants that comes in cotton for the summer and wool fabrics in the winter. They’re pretty perfect. The reasonPiazza’s Audrey pants are such a popular style is because of just how well it works well for work and the weekend. Clients who are retirees and clients who work in a business casual workplace swear by these pants.
One note about the sizing of Piazza’s cotton Audrey pants, they have poor recovery so I recommend sizing down. Whenever a client has argued against my advice they have regretted it.
Depending on who my client is, I either love or feel meh about Theory. And this is why you need to have an arsenal of different brands to choose from as a stylist. For some clients Theory just doesn’t work, but when it does, you can get some great basic clothes for work. Sometimes Theory’s clothing can be too short, too modern, too young or too weird, it all depends on the client which I guess would be true for all my go-to brands but for some reason I find this to be the case more often than not with Theory.
Theory has a lot of non-descript modern pieces that can create a good backbone of a professional wardrobe. I love a lot of their pants styles and their sweaters.
Vince could definitely fall into a casual clothing category but they also make some great work pieces. Much of Vince’s clothing is easier and more relaxed which isn’t perfect for a tailored look, but with workplaces getting more and more casual, their popover blouses and pants often become softer staples in the wardrobes of a many of my clients.
Vince can run huge. I have had clients size down two to three sizes in some of their pieces.
I have loved the British line Hobbs since I was a designer and I got to know the brand when I was in London for work. Hobbs definitely has that tailored British aesthetic and the line has only gained popularity in America more recently. I have been pulling more of it lately for clients who prefer a modern twist on more classic, tailored pieces.
I don’t know much about the fit of their pants, but clients have been really drawn to their dresses, coats, tops, and sweaters.
Joie is a great brand for tops that do work casually as well as professionally. Often, clients just need good work tops and Joie often comes through. For what they are, Joie sits a bit on the pricier side for some, plus few are easy care which can make them fussy.
I don’t pull much of Joie except for their tops though they do have a complete line, albeit much of it being more in the casual sphere.
#14 Kobi Halperin
So interesting back story on Kobi Halperin. He was the executive creative director of Elie Tahari for 13 years before he left to start his own label in 2015. This is likely one of the reasons why the aesthetic of Elie Tahari changed so much around that time and why Kobi Halperin has filled the wardrobe needs that Elie Tahari once had.
I can’t say that I love everything Kobi Halperin does. For me personally some of it can be a little too cha-cha. However, as a stylist, it’s not about what I prefer, it’s about a client’s style, so Kobi Halperin is a brand I look at. And given the departure of Kobi Halperin from Elie Tahari, the exceptional pants that were from Elie Tahari can now be found at Kobi. I have had clients buy every style and every shape from Kobi Halperin in multiple colors. That is how good they are.
From a look perspective, I love Reiss, from a fit perspective I get easily frustrated. Reiss runs so small and they stop at a size 12. I have had size 4 clients need to wear a size 8 in some things. However, on the flip side, for clients of mine who are exceptionally petite, Reiss can be a really great resource.
Sometimes I look at Reiss’ clothing and wonder who is buying it. On the one hand, the clothes aren’t cheap. However, their dresses are skirts can run very short which would appeal to a younger client but their price points tend to appeal more to an older customer who has the money to spend. So I’m not entirely sure who the perfect Reiss customer is.
#16 Nic + Zoe
Not all my clients have a need for super professional workplace clothing. They can get away with a nice top and pants and the extent of their layering is with a cardigan. Nic + Zoe falls into the perfect category for business casual, particularly for women over 40 as the fit tends to be cut for an older (not old) customer.
I find I pull Nic + Zoe’s pants and pieces for clients who tend to like a little more novelty in their pieces. However, a lot of clients who wear some Nic + Zoe will also buy some Theory too, for example, despite the two brands being very different in look.
I really like their four-way cardigan, perfect tank, and their Wonderstretch pants.
#17 Rag & Bone
With the continued casualization of the workplace, I rely on Rag & Bone for a lot of their pieces and I really like their jackets and some tops for workwear. Rag & Bone is a New York brand founded in 2002. They are known for combining British heritage with directional, modern design. The brand has become synonymous with innately wearable clothing that innovatively melds classic tailoring with an edgy yet understated New York aesthetic.
# 18 Everlane
Everlane is a brand I go to strictly for clients requiring more of a casual workplace look. Some pieces can be translated to a more professional environment but for the most part, Everlane is a casual look.
Radical transparency is at the core of their work, they link to the factory where each item is made and I also like their recycled recashmere. Their choose what you pay option on sale items is also cool. Shopping in the store is smart. While they don’t stock everything in-store, they make it super easier to shop via a kiosk for things that aren’t available.
Having only one store in west London, Boden is a brand I typically only select from when shopping for clients virtually. I find clients who like Boden are not afraid of color, like British design and have a preppier style aesthetic. There is a mature playfulness to Boden and I really like their shoes, love their colored pants options as well as their dresses.
Boden is a longstanding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, and their clothes are ethically- and sustainably-produced with recyclable and eco-friendly packaging when possible.
#20 Eileen Fisher
For years, I avoided Eileen Fisher with clients. It just always looked so boxy and unappealing. Now I love Eileen Fisher. Clients entering retirement love Eileen Fisher as do clients who work in a more casual work environment. I put everyone in her sleeveless tunic for layering no matter where they look.
Eileen Fisher also boasts an impressive work culture and a social responsibility model. Initiatives include water and energy conservation programs, fair and ethical workshops with frequent audits, and efforts to support women. They also have a Renew program that supports circular fashion where you can trade-in your gently used clothes to be resold and your worn out clothes to be upcycled into something else like pillows, wall hangings and artwork.
I hope this list has given you some shopping ideas. Are you now considering brands you haven’t thought of before? Do you have a workplace brand you love that you think I should know about? I’d love to hear your thoughts.