Written by Bonnie Brooks, Class of 2010
What could be better than arriving at a department store to find a dressing room filled with clothing and accessories by someone who understands your personal style, budget, and size? It may seem like wishful thinking, but this service is provided on a regular basis by Lee Kirkpatrick, a 2009 graduate of Newark High School. Kirkpatrick works as a personal stylist at Nordstrom department store’s Columbus location.
“When I was in school, I always joked that I was going to work at Nordstrom because it sounded like fun,” he said. “I always really loved the store and shopped there for myself.”
Personal styling is a complimentary, appointment-based service provided at Nordstrom. Kirkpatrick doesn’t have a “typical” workday: his schedule is tailored to each individual customer. He primarily works in women’s designer clothing, but also helps with menswear.
“It takes a specific type of person to (style) women’s designer clothing, to work with that higher price point, and to understand the person buying and wearing the product,” he said. “You have to keep up on product knowledge so that you’re the expert when someone questions you.”
Kirkpatrick began attending Newark City Schools in the second grade as a student at Miller Elementary. He remembers his second grade teacher, Christie Idleman, as one of his favorites because she made the transition to the new school district smooth. Kirkpatrick later attended West Main Intermediate and Wilson Middle School. At Newark High School, he was a part of the swim team, acting ensemble, and yearbook staff. He also gained support and friendships from A Call to College. During his junior and senior years in high school, Kirkpatrick participated in a C-TEC satellite program for art students. He applied to many art schools nationwide, but decided to remain in the area and attend Columbus College of Art and Design, or CCAD.
Kirkpatrick thrived in the learning environment at CCAD. Classes were small and project-based, with long hours spent in the studio. Although the students were tested on their skills, they were rarely required to sit through lectures or write research papers. At the time, all students spent their first year at CCAD learning the basics and exploring their options. After doing this, Kirkpatrick decided to major in interior design. He then took classes which covered the fundamentals of this profession, including drafting, hand lettering, drawing, and rendering.
“I think that many people just assume that we are picking out a paint color for the wall or choosing a certain fabric. Our skill set is actually very similar to that of an architect,” he said.
In college, Kirkpatrick enjoyed assignments that allowed him to design for an imaginary client.
“We would put the whole vision together, and pick the materials for flooring, walls, and furniture. You really have to be knowledgeable about the finishes you’re using and what is appropriate,” he said.
While attending CCAD, Kirkpatrick landed an internship with Martha Stewart’s merchandising division in New York City. The internship was fast-paced, and the small retail merchandising department demanded the work ethic and attention to detail that would be expected of a full-time employee. Projects typically consisted of creating an appealing visual display of Martha Stewart products for potential buyers and editors.
Immediately after graduation from CCAD, Kirkpatrick was hired by Nordstrom. Although he does not consider it to be a “forever job”, he is happy with his current career and could see himself branching out to other Nordstrom locations in the future. Kirkpatrick also takes on freelance assignments; he is currently working with Kevin Reiner Design on a garden and nursery project in New Albany. Kirkpatrick also travels to New York City several times a year; he enjoys the big-city atmosphere and sometimes volunteers to style and dress models backstage at fashion week.
Advice for Students
Kirkpatrick’s advice for students interested in art-related careers focuses on becoming well-rounded. He suggests building a portfolio that showcases many styles and mediums, even those that you may not consider to be the strongest. He also recommends taking art classes outside of high school; these will hone important skills and elicit feedback from experienced artists. Kirkpatrick admits that he still does not have it all figured out. Someday, he may want to leave the fashion world to work for a large interior design firm. He is still exploring career options and determining what he enjoys the most.
“Be open,” he said. “Sometimes, people are expecting you to know exactly what you want to do (after high school). You may try something and totally hate it. If it takes five tries, I think that’s fine.”