Entrepreneur en Vogue
Written by Cameron Walker | Cover photo by Adrian Octavius Walker
“I never imagined that my life would be like this, but here I am in Los Angeles,” said Wilson College of Textiles alumna Germanee Gerald, owner of GG+Co. Styling Firm. A 2013 graduate of the Fashion and Textile Management program (Brand Marketing and Management concentration), she recently left a successful corporate career to focus full time on her styling business.
GG+Co. is a style trifecta, offering personal styling, Sip N’ Style events and theDressCode, an upcoming online style course. Gerald’s clientele is comprised of movers and shakers in both entertainment and tech, so her workweek takes her up and down the West Coast, from Hollywood to the Bay Area and back. She styled clients for this year’s Emmys and has worked with celebrities including Jay Ellis, who played Lawrence on the television show “Insecure”; Jussie Smollett, who plays Jamal on “Empire”; and Jon Huertas, who plays Miguel on “This Is Us.” She styles Bozoma Saint John, chief marketing officer at entertainment industry giant Endeavor, and Valeisha Butterfield Jones, the global head of women and Black community engagement at Google, among other executives and young professionals.
I wanted to channel my energy into building and growing my brand, so I set my mind and I set my focus to it. I said, ‘I can do it,’ and now I’m doing it.
“My goal is to make sure my clients look and feel their best selves and that they are most confident in whatever they’re wearing,” she said. “I try to make sure that I am reflecting their personal brand — analyzing and curating outfits that truly represent their personality. I also have to be thoughtful about the event or the engagement they are going to…there’s an art and a science to it all.”
She is inspired by celebrities like Tracee Ellis Ross, influencers like Blair Eadie and the idiosyncrasies of street style.
“My personal style is very eclectic and ever-changing,” she said. “I think the fluidity of my style helps me relate to my clients when it comes to connecting and building their own styles. (However), I try not to project my style onto my clients. We collaborate and journey on to creating their own look.”
Gerald worked for Gap, Inc. for a decade, starting with a retail position at a Gap store near Charlotte, North Carolina when she was in high school. She is a graduate of the company’s highly regarded Rotational Management Program (RMP), also known as “the Harvard of retail.” The interdisciplinary leadership training program rotates recent college graduates through the company’s inventory management (buying), production and merchandising functions within one of its subsidiaries: Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy or Athleta. After completing the nine-month program, participants earn a position with the company. The RMP is highly selective — out of a field of 3,000 applicants, Gerald was one of only eight chosen for the San Francisco, California-based program.
“It was like the Hunger Games,” she said. After graduating the program, she accepted a position as an assistant merchandiser for Old Navy’s newborn girl division, then lead the women’s sweaters category at Banana Republic before capping off her tenure with Gap as merchandiser for the Banana Republic Factory Store in their second largest product category, women’s woven tops.
While at Gap, she expressed herself creatively through her style blog and social media.
“I had a style blog — I hated it,” she laughed. “I was getting dressed in my car, going around and trying to find locations. But I realized that after all the madness it took me to get the shot, what I was passionate about was that once I posted, people would ask, ‘How can I recreate this for myself?’ and ‘What will look better for my own body type?’ So I really tried to delve down deeper into body types and what works best for different people.”
While shopping together, a close friend suggested she go into business as a stylist.
“My track was to be a VP at Gap Corporate in Merchandising — it was never to be a personal stylist,” said Gerald.
But she was intrigued by the idea of helping others find and refine their personal style, so she started her styling firm on the side while continuing to work full time in the corporate world. She styled some friends to build her portfolio, and as news spread through Instagram posts and word of mouth, her business blossomed. As GG+Co. grew, Gerald gathered her courage and leapt into entrepreneurship.
“I have a lot of gumption,” she said. “What gave me that courage was that everything in my past that I had set out to do, I had done…so I said I was going to be an entrepreneur and I saved up for two years. I was making pretty good money working for myself and I wanted to channel my energy into building and growing my brand, so I set my mind and I set my focus to it. I said, ‘I can do it,’ and now I’m doing it. Every day I think I’m crazy and at the end of every day, I think, ‘I’m proud of you!’ It takes you on a roller coaster ride — daily.”
She spends her busy days (which start at 6 a.m. with a trip to the gym) consulting with clients; sourcing clothes from retailers like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, boutiques and individual brands; pulling clothes from showrooms for celebrity clients; building partnerships with vendors; putting together pitch decks to woo new clients; planning for upcoming events and building out her style course.
“It takes a ton of discipline and a lot of tenacity, dedication and confidence,” she said. “There’s a lot of self-doubt that comes into it, but you have to talk yourself out of that self-doubt; you have to have that discipline to get up in the morning and get what you need done. You have to create your own schedule, because everything is dependent on you…Every day is not a bed of roses, (but) you have to realize that there is a greater goal and you are trying to get there. There are really high highs and really low lows and you have to push past the fear, push past the doubt and make it happen.”
Gerald credits the Wilson College of Textiles for helping prepare her for success. She has used a concept she learned in her classes — looking for “white space opportunities,” or gaps in existing product lines or markets — to her advantage in both the corporate world and her own business.
“That gave me a leg up, especially when I interviewed at the Gap for the RMP,” she said. “One of our projects was to create a brand that they don’t have in their current portfolio. I was like, ‘Oh, this is easy. We’ve done exactly this in class.’’
She also believes the team work required for her FTM courses helped her immensely at Gap, and now, as her business grows, she is building her own team and drawing on the knowledge she gained at the College. While in school, she was on the Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management Student Advisory Board and was president of the African American Textile Society.
“That taught me how to be a leader and to collaborate, and really start to build that business acumen that would set me up for success in the corporate world — and even more so as an entrepreneur,” she said.
Gerald may soon take another leap into entrepreneurship, as she is seriously considering launching her own line of plus-size clothing.
“I’m very passionate about plus-size,” she said. “It’s a market that is not tapped into — they don’t have a ton of options. I work with a lot of clients who are beautifully curvy, but it’s hard for me to pull things for them that are both quality and style-focused.”
In the next few years, Gerald plans to add more layers to GG+Co. by growing her clientele, adding more Sip N’ Style events and locations, rolling out her style course and expanding her styling team.
“I want to make an impact and educate,” she said. “There are a lot of things I see for myself and the team in the next five to ten years. It won’t just be Germanee the stylist — it’s going to be an empire.”