His relationship with the Paris Haute Couture is legendary, taste impeccable and sense of humor wicked. Meet Timothy L. Pope, founder of TLP Consulting, the firm which advises clients and designers on creating extraordinary wardrobe and jewelry collections. His cultivated approach, inherited from his mother, was honed at Chanel, Geoffrey Beene and Saks Fifth Avenue, where he held senior positions in his early career. Since founding his firm twenty years ago, Timothy has worked for select clientele on a retainer basis, facilitating their lives by advising on wardrobe investments, style decisions and oftentimes, more. His what to wear and where to wear it expertise stretches from day to evening and everything in between. Charmingly discrete about his devotees, Timothy did reveal that they range from Wall Streeters looking to delegate wardrobe decisions to fashion enthusiasts seeking to build their collections. While the fictional Olivia made Pope a household name, the bona fide Timothy brings it elegance, passion and panache. You may have caught a glimpse of him in the Dior and I documentary, meet Mr. Pope…
What was the career path that led your launching TLP Consulting?
At twenty-two, I was the first man to be hired by Saks to work in their designer salon in San Francisco. From there, I was poached to work as Director of Ready-to-Wear for the Chanel boutique in Beverly Hills. After Chanel, I moved to New York to run J. Mendel’s fur salon and expand his sales nationally. Ultimately, I returned to Saks as Sales Director for Carolyn Roehm where I was reacquainted with Geoffrey Beene. Mr. Beene invited me to become his National Sales Director, and I ran the business until 1995 when I started my own company.
How did the idea for TLP Consulting come to you?
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to develop relationships with clients who followed me from designer to designer. Eventually, I began to see a glimmer of a viable business, which was corroborated by my clients encouraging me to branch out on my own. Since I was advising my clients on everything from what to wear as well as where to wear it, it seemed so much easier to work directly with them.
Your business is so unique, how did you cement its image?
From the beginning, I billed TLP Consulting as an image consultancy, as I felt the personal shopper title was deleterious to setting up a business, which was respected for its ethical practices. It was very important to avoid the impression of “I can get it for you wholesale” as that is so not what I do! I take a curatorial approach to facilitating my client’s wardrobes and jewelry collections.
My partner, Robin Berg, has been key in building the business and I am so fortunate to have his support. He astutely suggested we set up the TLP Consulting using the model of an interior design business coupled with that of a personal trainer. Knowing that if one hires a trainer, one goes to the gym. Why, because they’ve paid for it. Therefore, we set up a business model where the clients hire TLP on a retainer basis. Thus, attaining the clients’ commitment for at least one year. In the twenty years that I have been in business I have had only one client that did not sign again after the first year. That is because: I fired them!
Who are your clients?
When I started, my clientele was made up of primarily women. Today, 50% of my clients are women and 50% are men. In fact, over the last 2 years, more often than not I’ve started with husbands and then later get to work with their wives. I’ve found that men and women in the financial services embrace my role as part of the professional landscape. They understand the concept of delegating to accomplish more and often do that through hiring consultants in multiple aspects of their professional and personal lives.
How do you approach a client?
I dress my clients to facilitate their lives and invest smartly in their wardrobes. My approach stretches from day to evening and everything in between. That said, I am more concerned about what my clients wear on a day-to-day-basis as that is a much bigger part of their life. An occasion dress serves one purpose. In today’s anything goes world, I find that a client will receive increased value for their investment when they apply their resources to their day-to-day wardrobe.
Please tell us about the romance between TLP Consulting and Paris haute couture?
I am the only consultant in the United States who has consistently had a relationship with haute couture houses in Paris. Some of those include DIOR, Gaultier, Lacroix, Sherer, and Chanel. It’s a relationship I’ve nurtured and one of mutual respect and education. I’ve attended the Paris shows regularly for the past twenty years. My view has been if the client has the resources (time and budget) why would they not want haute couture?
What are some of your favorite haute couture moments?
My third visit to Paris for the shows was especially memorable. The shows were intimate affairs; unlike they are today. At Lacroix, one often felt that they were in a dreamscape of the most unimaginable beauty. He would show organza poet sleeves with garlands of fresh flowers encircling the models arms. I still get chills today thinking of it.
As was the custom then, the clients were seated strategically at the end of the runway. Thus, you had a full view of the model coming and going. That season, I took my partner Robin Berg with me. He was enthusiastic about attending and experiencing the show. However, he is not a fashionista. The first exit came and went, the second exit came and went and by the third exit, he sat up involuntarily, and murmured “Oh, my.” He repeated it again and again and again. For me, that moment captured the absolute enthralling experience of haute couture.
What make haute couture so haute?
There are no better craftspeople in the world than those that inhabit the ateliers of the haute couture. Each client’s garment is made to their most miniscule measurement, and, therefore is unique to the wearer. My dear friend Marie Seznec Martinez who was Directrice of Lacroix Haute Couture once said to me when I inquired if it would be possible to have a blouse made in a satin of the same color of the client’s suit, “But, Tim, this is haute couture everything is possible!”
How has haute couture changed since you started?
The landscape has changed enormously. What was once an intimate gathering for a few fortunate people has become a fashion and media circus. The elegance of the presentations has been completely lost to their brands need for creating outrageously extravagant shows as media vehicles. So much so that few, if any, real clients attend. Let’s just say that discretion is a key element of elegance. In today’s version of haute couture, that element seems to be a thing of the past.
Do you think haute couture has staying power?
As long as there are giant brands, that want to establish their prestige based on the fact that they maintain a couture department of their business, then, yes. There will always be people who will do custom designs, but custom at the level of haute couture is an art form. I am sadly skeptical that it will continue survive without big brand support.
How do you define perfect clothes?
When approached correctly, perfect clothes always “frame the wearer” they never precede the wearer.
How do you know if a dress or suit is right?
At the risk of being immodest, let me answer your question with a question. Ask my clients.