Take a stroll through Stanford Shopping Center, and you may come across a particular clothing store. You can spot it from a mile away—just look out for the line of mannequins, right behind the row of long-paneled windows, showcasing outfits of myriad configurations of fabrics and accessories that are available inside and the glass door inviting you in.
The storefront calls it Free People, but senior Katarina Hamady will always recognize it as her home away from home.
Since January, Hamady has worked as a sales associate and stylist and helped countless clients pick out the clothes of their dreams. Since the 1970s, the bohemian apparel company—which carries anything from shoes to swimwear to beauty products—has prided itself on catering to clients’ creativity and individuality apparent in the clothes they wear. As such, Hamady can commonly be found among the racks of clothing, conversing with clients to learn more about their individual styles and best help them decide on their next purchases. “I typically ask clients what they wear on an everyday basis,” Hamady said. “[Creating the perfect outfit] really depends on the age and style of the client, both of which I can usually tell by some of the clothes they pick out.”
For the past few months, Hamady has enjoyed communicating with clients and appreciated the variety of tastes and styles they each have. Some clients have styles that can be described as bobo chic, which is known for its flowy clothing and cool patterns. Others lean more toward an “everyday” style with a trendy, yet casual, flair. No matter the style, Hamady believes that her open-minded and social character allows her to perform her job successfully. “It helps that I’m bubbly and love conversations,” she said. “I’m also a people’s person, so, as an extrovert, speaking to clients comes super naturally.”
While Free People’s sheer diversity in the clothing it sells to all age groups contributed to Hammady’s interest in working there, the close friendships between co-workers are what sealed the deal for her. “My sister worked here, and I loved how close all the employees were with each other,” Hammdy said. “My best experience on the job has actually been meeting all my co-workers and making friendships with some really dope girls.”
Much to her expectations, Hamady soon created many special bonds with her co-workers that were similarly passionate about exploring their own tastes of fashion—but the benefits of working at Free People did not end there. Hamady has also found that the experiences she’s gained while working with fashion are invaluable and have even begun influencing her own style. “I’m really into fashion and all the current trends, so working in retail is the perfect way to explore these interests,” Hamady said. “And my style has really evolved [since January], which is super cool. I feel like it’s gotten more mature and less basic.”
Hamady works three days a week, with each shift being roughly six hours long, and has consequently encountered a few issues with balancing school, work and her social life. “I have such bad senioritis, and it has been hard managing my free time and hanging out with friends since I work a lot on the weekends,” she said.
From her time at Free People, though, Hamady has developed better organizational skills that have proved helpful in many different aspects of life. “Working in retail really made me grow in the organizational sense, whether I’m styling the store or taking inventory in the back,” Hamady said.
Ultimately, Hamady acknowledges that while working in retail has its ups and downs—like most jobs do—being a stylist has led to making irreplaceable memories with co-workers and clients, and gaining critical social and organizational skills. “Retail is hard, and you need to be able to deal with all different types of people and situations, but it’s so worth it,” she said. “Plus, there’s an employee discount.”
So, the next time you find yourself ambling through the mall, keep an eye out for the mannequin-lined windows of bohemian bliss. Whether you’d like to walk away with a new outfit crafted perfectly to your tastes, or you simply seek a dash of inspiration to enhance your style, waltz right into this fashion wonderland. Inside, you may find Hamady who’ll help you find your own type of freedom in the clothes you wear.