Personal stylist and fashion editor Whitley Adkins started the Queen City Style 10 years ago. But it’s been decades in the making.
The Queen City Style started as a blog, and morphed into a full-service personal styling business. Adkins does personal shopping, closet edits, outfit coordination, event-specific styling, photoshoot styling and more for individuals and brands.
- Adkins is also the style editor at SouthPark Magazine.
- She started and coordinates The It List, an annual feature in SouthPark that celebrates the most stylish people in our city.
Adkins, the granddaughter of a South Carolina farmer, grew up in Asheville but was always drawn to the glitz and glamour of New York.
- Her love for fashion started with playing dress up at age three in her grandmother’s and great grandmother’s closets.
- Her great grandma reminded her of Coco Chanel, always dressed in beautiful suits. Her grandmother’s style was more experimental.
It’s the tension between her love for glam and her bone-deep Southern sensibilities that creates Whitley Adkins’s indescribable style, celebrated by our city’s glossiest magazines.
- It’s cowboy boots and a sequin skirt. It’s a Carolina blue fox fur coat one day, Nike shorts the next. Whatever you want to call that — is Adkins’s style.
Her path in the industry hasn’t been linear. It’s been a series of hard falls and a few big yeses that led to the next big thing.
- She’s got grit, the kind that’s earned by having to pull yourself up a time or two. Grit — and the grace of God — are what led her to Queen City Style, and all it’s become over the last 10 years, she told me.
Adkins got a two-year arts degree from St. Mary’s School, an all-girls school in Raleigh. She got her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the UNC-Chapel Hill.
- Adkins said leading up to graduation, she remembers crying on the steps of her house, just a couple doors down from the popular bar La Rez, without a plan.
She used her connections to land a job in New York as an assistant and errand-runner for top models and stylists. She nannied on the side to help pay the bills.
- “I was terrible at the job and had it for about seven months,” Adkins said.
- So, she took a job at Turner Broadcasting. That one lasted five months.
Then, she interviewed for an executive assistant position for a powerful, well-known fashion designer. She was hired on the spot, wearing her grandmothers suit — that she had tailored — and a brooch. It was her big break, she thought.
- “I had a very ‘Devil Wears Parada’ experience,” Adkins said. “One minute she was throwing cashmere sweaters at me, one minute she was throwing F-bombs. I was Anne Hathaway.”
- Adkins said she was paid four months severance to walk away quietly from the job.
After two years in New York, Adkins moved back home to Charlotte, where her mom and stepdad relocated. After running Relay for Life for a couple of years, she started working for a nanny placement company called Private Placements, Inc. She eventually took over the company.
- Adkins owned and Private Placements, Inc. for eight years before deciding to become a a stay-at-home mom to her two boys.
“I took my job very seriously, made the cakes with homemade icing and everything,” Adkins said of being a full-time stay-at-home mom with a toddler and a newborn.
- “That was my job: to be a wife and a mom, but something was missing,” Adkins said. “I wasn’t totally fulfilled.”
- She started sewing, painting and playing dress up again as a creative outlet.
At the time, she was still enamored with style and the editorial world, especially Lucky magazine. There was a section in the back that featured style icons from the CEO of Bobbi Brown to Diana Ross.
- Adkins, age 34 at the time, submitted a photo of her grandmothers and pitched a story about them for the style icon section.
- They said yes and ran the feature in November 2011.
“I had all of these knockdowns, operated a business I wasn’t passionate about but learned a lot from,” Adkins said. “And here I was submitting this story.
- “I tried to go to New York at age 21. I was an executive assistant. I loved editorial and loved that world. And there I was 13 years later.”
That feature sparked something in Adkins and she started a blog call the Queen City Style where she shared photos of herself wearing vintage clothing from her grandmother and great grandmother.
- She also brought calling cards to local boutiques in Charlotte.
- She wanted brands to pay her to wear their clothes and she would help model, style and sell them through her blog — an early form of influencer marketing. Some boutiques said yes, some didn’t.
Four years into the Queen City Style, she needed to take her growing business to the next level and start making an income.
- She was a stay-at-home mom with no income; she saved the money she made from Private Placements.
- So, she borrowed $5,000 from her dad to hire some PR help to organize TV appearances and start doing photoshoots.
- They worked together a few months, but Adkins has mostly pitched herself through the years and never had additional financial help. “All I have is these sleeves I can roll up,” she said.
- At that time, she pitched her first photoshoot to SouthPark magazine and started working with the magazine to help styling fashion shoots.
In 2019, she became the style editor at SouthPark Magazine where she conceptualizes spreads and directs and styled shoots.
- Now, Adkins spends about a third of her time working at the magazine; a third personal styling for countless clients; and a third styling for brands like Twine and Twig and Marie Oliver.
Her advice to someone who might want a career in fashion? “Go for it, don’t give up and help other people.”