As the co-founder of Visual Therapy, Joe Lupo dishes out advice on fashion and style. He’s been on Oprah, quoted in all the major fashion and lifestyle publications, and Out Traveler dubbed him the gay shopping guru! Since clothes and accessories cost money, I asked Joe to get personal about shopping, consumerism, his famous “cost per wear” formula and how we can all maximize our wardrobe dollars.
1. You’ve been quoted saying, “It’s not a matter of having a big wardrobe. It’s about having less and loving it more.” This sounds like a good theory (less = more) but how does it play out in a society fueled by consumerism?
Have less, love more is my philosophy. Too often we are pressured into buying more or feeling like we have to have so many choices in our closet. We are afraid to let go of things because we paid a lot of money for them or we think they might come back “in”. The reality – in most cases, if and when it does come back, it has a slight variance or we have already “been there and done that”. Or, it will no longer be age appropriate. It is better to let things go back out into the universe for the next person to enjoy. It is actually wasteful to hoard if something is not being used and by letting go, you give yourself room for new things to enter your life.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
My most significant memory about money was the concept of “allowance” that began for me at the age of five. I remember that my parents gave me money and said that I could use it for whatever I want now but there would be no more until the next week, so Ishould use it wisely. I also remember as a young teenager or maybe slightly before, I convinced them to pay me $20 per week to mow the lawn and while they were away, I hired the kid down the street to do it for 10. I thought that was pretty clever.
3. What is your worst habit around finances?
I think my worst habit around finances is that I love eating and rarely cook. Also buying drinks for friends to avoid the awkward fumbling for money routine can get quite expensive.
4. Do you need to be rich to have style?
Wasn’t it the Beatles that said “Money can’t buy me love”? Well it can’t buy you great style either — but it can buy you a stylist that can make you look your best! Seriously, we believe that everybody has their own unique style and that sometimes we just need to update or fine-tune it. Often, when we go through transitions in life like turning 30, 40, 50, 60 or changing careers or becoming single or a parent, we suffer from style disconnect. This means that what we are putting out there may not match who we really are inside or it may not match what we want to say to the world with our style.
5. If you could buy one thing right now what would it be?
A three bedroom condo in Flatiron, Chelsea or the West Village.
6. Which is more important: how much money you make or how you spend it?
I think that how much you make and how you spend it are equally important. I know a lot of people who make a lot of money and have very few assets or worse yet, a negative net worth. And, I know artists who have significant savings and still live in NYC — now that’s admirable.
7. I understand that your first career was in banking and you were often approached by colleagues for shopping and style advice. Today, how do you encourage clients to find a healthy balance between fiscal responsibility and personal expression?
I encourage friends and clients to try to add up what they spent on clothing over the past year collectively (even the emergency party shirt or the sneaker collection) and divide by two (two seasons) and use that as a starting point for a clothing allowance. Edit your wardrobe as we say in our book Nothing to Wear?
At the beginning of each season (Spring and Fall), and shop twice a year after you have made a list of what you need. Of course, this is an incredibly disciplined approach, but it really works. People are surprised when they see that they have spent $5,000 — $30,000 in the past year. If you can’t afford to do the twice per year method, still make a list to keep you on track and to avoid overspending or being swayed by an overly ambitious salesperson. Establish a relationship with one salesperson at your favorite dept store and be loyal — they will watch out for you if they are real professionals and may even call you when that jacket you were admiring goes on sale because you worked with them at the beginning of the season.
A little tip that my business partner Jesse Garza and I came up with – The Value Equation: Cost per wear can be calculated by the cost/number of wearings. For example, if you buy a $1,000 jacket and you wear it all the time – 100 times because its a basic black it is $10 per wearing. If you buy an interesting jacket with a cool detail that you are wearing to a party and wouldn’t wear many times more – lets say you wear it five times and it was only $500, it ends up being $100 per wearing – buy the $1000 jacket. It’s fun when you can say “that jacket owes me nothing.”
8. What did your parents teach you about money?
I think my parents taught me that if you do what you are passionate about, the money will follow — let’s hope they’re right!
9. When you suggest a wardrobe item, what is most important to you: price, quality, trend, or status? What is typically most important to your clients?
There are three questions that we talk about in Nothing to Wear?:
1. Do I love it?
2. Is it flattering? (For real, not what the ambitious salesperson says — look in a mirror from all angles.)
3. Does it represent the image I want to portray? (Think about this BEFORE you go shopping, i.e. approachable, intelligent and tastefully sexy maybe?)
If the answer is “no” to ANY of these questions then NO. The same questions apply to cleaning out your closet.
10. Money can buy a lot of clothes and accessories, but can it buy happiness?
Money definitely can’t buy happiness, but I suppose it can make being miserable a bit more fun! Or at least more comfortable.
More about Joe Lupo
Joe Lupo, co-founder of Visual Therapy, is sought by public figures, media and some of the largest luxury brands for help creating a more authentic and reflective public image. He has been seen on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” VH1, The Fine Living Network on “The Manual” and “World Class with Frederique,” as well as been quoted in major fashion and lifestyle publications for his expert advice on fashion and style. In addition to his media consulting, he works with professional and prominent men to maintain their wardrobe and augment their look.
From an early age, Lupo was always interested in fashion and style, but he focused his attentions on a career in business at Chicago’s DePaul University, College of Commerce. He began a business profession at Citicorp, where he quickly climbed the ranks to become the youngest VP at the age of 25. While continuing his career in banking, Joe was regularly approached by clients and colleagues for shopping and style advice. After seven years in Chicago, he moved to New York, which inspired a return to his original interest in fashion and prompted a change in career.
In 1995, he co-founded Visual Therapy with Jesse Garza. Bringing his expertise in corporate culture, he manages VT’s corporate consulting services, which range from public relations to styling to event production, as well as works with male private clients. VT’s list of corporate clients have included: Audi, Volkswagen, Bentley Motors, Vera Wang, Oxxford Clothes, Julie Baker Designs, J. Mendel, and Legend Mink.
In addition to corporate consulting services, Lupo with Jesse Garza wrote, Nothing to Wear? A Five-Step Cure for the Common Closet. It recently became available in paperback and can be ordered at this link from Amazon.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.