Erica Hanks has made a name for herself as the go-to stylist in the sports world. She gives us the scoop on why Charlotte, North Carolina, should be on your fashion radar.
How did you get into styling?
I’ve always been interested in fashion. Growing up as a kid in Florida, I was always making over my mom; I worked retail jobs in high school and college. It wasn’t until after I got married and had kids that I said, “I need to figure out how to monetize this, because I’m really good at it.” I started writing for little blogs and magazines here and there, and then one day, somebody needed an editorial to be styled, and I was like, “I’ll do it!” It was really effortless. That was about eight years ago. A year later, I was picked up by an agency to be represented for commercial and editorial styling. I started doing that for companies like Nike, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse. Then a client reached out about personal styling. Charlotte is a huge sports hub — we have the NBA, the NFL, Olympians, NASCAR drivers — and yet no one was really servicing the sports industry. I dove in and started making connections. One thing led to another, and now we have a really good roster of about 25 personal clients in the sports industry. I still do occasional editorial and commercial shoots, but the majority of it is sports — special events, game-day style, that sort of thing.
Who were some of the first people you styled?
I’ve been working with Kevin Harvick, who’s a NASCAR champion; Thomas Davis from the Carolina Panthers; Trai Turner from the Panthers; Gerald Henderson from the Portland Trail Blazers; Captain Munnerlyn from the Panthers; Graham Gano from the Panthers; Jimmie Johnson, a race car driver. I’m starting to work with Fox Sports, handling all of the NFL and NASCAR analysts out of their Charlotte office. I’m also going to be working with Jeff Gordon, a retired race car driver.
A lot of your clients aren’t sample size. How do you find clothes that fit?
My clients don’t wear loans, and their sizes range from XS all the way up to XXXL. A lot of their looks are made-to-measure and custom. I work really closely with a lot of brands to do special pieces. We work really closely with Gucci and Thom Browne.
Would you say that a lot of your clients are getting more interested in high-fashion brands?
Yes, especially my NFL clients. We pull Fendi, Balenciaga…they love the big design houses. I have clients who are ambassadors for Nike, and they really love to look sharp. And we do special things with those brands, whether it’s doing a private collection preview, having them be able to order pieces before anybody else, to give them that “in.”
How do you encourage clients to discover new areas of fashion they might not have otherwise tried?
It’s just seeing how far they want to push the envelope, how far they want to really stretch their style, but keeping within their personal brand. I start with baby steps. I can’t overwhelm somebody. I’ll introduce a couple things that are in their wheelhouse, but then maybe bring in some wild cards. Some clients started out in Banana Republic, and now they’re wearing Thom Browne, Zegna, and Brunello Cucinelli.
What brands do you find most exciting right now, both for your clients and yourself?
I love finding new, up-and-coming, contemporary designers. One of my favorites right now is Rejina Pyo. I really love her architectural lines and her modern silhouettes. I love Monse, and I’m still really loving Gucci. Prada is doing some great stuff in menswear right now. Common Projects sneakers are a great way to get clients into a sneaker that’s a bit more sleek and sophisticated.
How would you describe your personal aesthetic?
Very tailored and classic, with a funky spin. I’ll wear a really classic coat with an out-of-this-world shoe.
What was the Charlotte fashion scene like when you first moved there?
I moved to Charlotte 12 years ago, when a Neiman Marcus had just opened. It’s funny to see how Charlotte has evolved. Twelve years ago, people were wearing pearl necklaces, Vera Bradley, Lilly Pulitzer — super conservative and Southern. Now, people want to take risks! I style the wives and girlfriends [of existing clients] as well, so it’s fun to see someone do a really killer stiletto with a ripped jean.
What sort of direction do your female clients give?
They say, “We don’t want to look like everybody else in town,” so that’s why I make connections with stores outside of the city. I’ve worked closely with Bergdorf, Barneys, and Saks in New York. I’m constantly in local boutiques to see if we can pair their things with pieces from New York.
Are there any designers or local boutiques we should know about?
Capitol, which carries everything from Zimmermann and Sally LaPointe to Marc Jacobs and Jonathan Cohen, my favorite contemporary designer. They also have a brother store named Tabor that carries Saint Laurent for men, RRL, and Common Projects.
What’s your best advice for emerging stylists?
Have really good credit! [Laughs] As a stylist, I cover all costs upfront. Secondly, you need to be able to hustle. Make connections, call around, and try to work with anybody who would work for your clients. Also, be direct. If a client tries a look, and it’s not a great look for them, don’t be afraid to say, “This doesn’t work. Let’s try something else.” You work for the client, you don’t work for the stores. You really need to know what works for each body shape. Don’t be afraid to edit!
What are some of your hobbies outside of fashion?
I love spending time with my family and cooking. I love to head to the mountains and literally just veg out. I get off my phone and invest my time in people.