You might just do a double take when you hear what Lisa Lombardi does for a living. She dresses men. Lots of them.
As a stylist for J.Hilburn, a custom luxury menswear company, Lisa works with clients to create the best look and fit for their wardrobe. Often, she is helping them mark an important point in their life or career as well.
“There is a lot more to it than picking out the right shirt and tie combination,” she says. “I dress men after they’ve lost a lot of weight, after they’ve gotten their promotion, or when they’ve started a new job. It’s rewarding that I get to be a part of that with them.”
Sometimes, she is invited into the most important events in their lives.
“I’ve been in a client’s garden with my swatch book, looking for just the right blue for his shirt to match the flowers his daughter was going to carry down the aisle,” she recalls happily. “We found it, and the pictures from the wedding were fantastic!”
It all comes naturally for Lisa, whose sense of style is matched only by her ability to genuinely connect with just about anyone she meets. Which is why, after a successful career in the fashion industry and ten years as a stay at home mom, Lisa says she jumped at the opportunity to join the J.Hilburn team three years ago.
“I initially stopped working so that I could focus on what I see as an essential role, being a mom. I wanted to be here for my kids when they got off the bus in the afternoon, to be the one to take them to activities,” she says. “At the same time, I was looking for work I could call my own, separate from the needs of my family. The more I learned about J.Hilburn, the more I liked. It truly fit the bill.”
The company’s mission also resonated with Lisa, who says J.Hilburn’s founders considered every detail when launching their company seven years ago.
“Two finance guys, Hil Davis and Veeral Rathod, saw the need for a high end product but knew that, especially at that time, not everyone had the means for it. By eliminating brick and mortar overhead and enlisting stylists all over the country, they were able to invest in using the finest fabrics and craftsmanship while still offering an affordable price,” she explains. “They also wanted to speak to the way men shop. It’s not the social activity it is for women; it’s a necessity and they have to get it done. The J.Hilburn model allows for all of that, with customized service that enables them to save time and money.”
To spot fashion trends – and potential clients – Lisa says she is a habitual people watcher.
“I’m constantly noticing what guys are wearing. I will absolutely approach someone at Starbucks and compliment him if I think he looks particularly good,” she says. “I love a guy with a sense of style. I love a guy who could use some guidance in it, too.”
When working with a client, Lisa says it starts with a conversation. She spends a lot of time listening to get to know his current style and preferences. They will also discuss which wardrobe he is shopping for – personal, professional, social or formal. When it comes to work clothes, his industry comes into play. A man in finance, for example, will most likely not get the same recommendations as one who works in advertising. Depending on her client’s comfort level, she will guide them to what is appropriate and what could allow them to expand on their current wardrobe choices. For the more hesitant, she says, even a contrast stitch or a pocket square can change his overall look without sacrificing his sense of authenticity.
“What my clients wear should speak to who they are as a person. It goes so far beyond ‘I’m selling you a shirt’; it goes to what their lifestyle is,” she says. “Each one of these gentlemen deserves to have personalized attention. I’m not sure that all men realize that going into having a personal stylist, but it’s hopefully what they come away with.”
Lisa also welcomes input from the women who stand next to her clients.
“I will tell those that have wives or significant others is that if she’s not happy, I haven’t done a good job. I appreciate feedback from the other people in their lives.”
Building a Team
As a newly single mom, Lisa says focus on work has taken on additional meaning, and J.Hilburn has energized her every step of the way as she grows her client base and her team of partners.
“It’s fantastic that I’m with a company that allows for flexibility and growth. I am certainly financially motivated because of the change in my home situation, so to be rewarded both financially and emotionally from the same job just exceeds my expectations.”
J.Hilburn also provides their people with vital tools for success.
“Education is a big focus. We attend ‘school of style’ trainings, which are about the actual product and how to help our clients stay current, plus other topical sessions online or via conference call. As I reach certain levels, there are additional trainings available on how to best sponsor my stylists and support my team,” she says. “It’s all about helping us to sharpen our tools to be better communicators, better mentors, better stylists. I am truly getting a business school education from this company.”
Lisa is actively growing her team throughout the United States, and is looking for like-minded professionals. The potential for growth is great for J.Hilburn stylists who bring new people on board; team leaders can enjoy cash bonuses and earn trips, as well as other perks. For Lisa, those goals are as important as guiding team members toward fulfilling their own objectives.
“Everyone has a different ‘Why’ when it comes to what motivates them,” she says. “Because I sell a product and an opportunity I believe in fully, I’m naturally excited about it and inclined to help my team members achieve success and reach their ‘Why.’ It is equally rewarding for me to see them succeed.”
Whether helping clients dress for success or mentoring her team, Lisa thrives on her dual responsibility as well as the support she receives from her company.
“It’s all about relationships; with my clients, with my stylists, or with my own mentors,” she says. “I’m in business for myself, but I’m not in business by myself. And that’s a really big definitive difference.”
To reach Lisa about J.Hilburn custom menswear services, visit her website or contact her via email.
Karen Sackowitz is a freelance writer, personal historian and founder of Your Stories Ink, a personal history writing service which helps people and families capture and preserve their stories for future generations within professionally produced keepsake books. For more information, visit facebook.com/YourStoriesInk.