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Whitley Adkins Hamlin has an eye for fashion like no other

Updated: Mar 27, 2019

Stylist to the Hard Working, Smart and Well-Mannered, Tastemaker, Personal Shopper

Where are you from?

I was born in Spartanburg, SC. When I was one, we moved to Wilmington, NC for three years, and then moved to Asheville, NC when I was four. I couldn't imagine growing up in a more amazing town than Asheville. If you've been there, you know why. So imagine the Asheville it is today, just on a much smaller scale. I now live in Charlotte.

What was your upbringing like?

I am an only child. My parents separated and divorced when I was ten. My dad relocated for work, but as a young girl I don't recall the distance having a negative impact. My mom was a female baller in the corporate world and community, which I feel set an early tone for my independence and “get after it” spirit. My recollection is that my life was completely normal. I grew up with tennis courts and a pool literally in my backyard, so there were children of all ages around always. I was involved in extracurricular activities, played several sports, and had and still have the very best and closest group of childhood friends imaginable. When I was in high school, my mom was reacquainted with an old high school classmate. They married my sophomore year of college. My dad is my best buddy and my only dad, but I couldn't have picked a better second dad.

Tell us about your Carolinian roots:

My dad lives on our five generation family farm in Fort Mill, SC which is now just a bunch of land. He lives in a little cabin on a pond, has a John Deere Gator and has built trails all over the property. There is a lot of space to just run and go, so my family spends a lot of time there where boys can be boys. All of the trails have been given a name for family members and various friends: Hank’s Highway, Worth's Way, Big Daddy Dip, Whitley's Bluff… perhaps the funniest of all is Pee Pee Hill. When my oldest son was a toddler, he always wanted to get out there and take care of business out in nature. So now there is a place on the farm where we TRY to enforce it as the one place acceptable for them to go outdoors if they really can't wait (they insist on going in the great outdoors).

What is your occupation?

I am a Charlotte-based wardrobe stylist. I maintain a balance of personal clients, commercial projects and contribute styling and writing content to several local and regional publications.

What is unique about your occupation?

I, myself, think it all is pretty fascinating. I get paid to do the one thing I've loved longer than anything else. People pay me to dress them for gosh sakes! But really it is much deeper than me for that. I am definitely a feeler vs. a thinker. My cup is filled when people around me are happy and depleted when they are not. The fact that I get to play a part in people feeling better about themselves, and I mean deeply more confident in themselves in a way that affects so many other areas of their life- all I can say is I feel lucky. I worked very hard and have shed a lot of tears through the process of getting to where I am, but I think it is good, because there is more depth to my story.

How did you get into your line of work?

I have no (formal) training, except for the fact that I started playing dress up in my grandmother's and great-grandmother's closets as far back as my memory will take me. Both ladies were style-setters ahead of their time, and both worked as buyers at the big department store of that time in Eastern, NC. I guess you can say I was exposed early, and my passion is intricately laced throughout my DNA.

Any "pinch me moments" in your life?

Several but we won't go too deep for this interview. With regard to this career, the catalyst or "permission slip" for me pursuing my passion on a formal level was when I submitted a story about my grandmother and great-grandmother to Lucky Magazine for their back page, and they replied to tell me they loved the story and wanted to ask a few more questions and run it. That was November 2011. I guess you could say this was my "breakout" moment. It gave me the confidence to say, “Okay, someone likes what I have to say. I'm not exactly sure what that is, but it is something!”

Another big moment was when I put together a photoshoot with all these amazing team members who wanted to give me their time for really nothing in return: a photographer, hair and makeup artist, two set assistants who wanted to learn, a homeowner who let me use her house, a handful of stores and boutiques, and an amazing designer who lent me their clothes. I had a few marketing and PR friends giving me advice and always wanting to help me.

I went to Marcia Merrill and said, "Marcia, I cannot do any better than this on my own. All of these people have said yes to me and are doing this simply because I asked, with no personal gain in return other than experience, someone has to take this story!” Marcia called Sarah Crosland, Editor at Southpark Magazine. Sarah said she knew my work and agreed to run four pages- images unseen! They were so impressed, they ran six pages and every image we sent. That was a huge win for me in this community.

Styling two covers for Our State Magazine.

A personal client making it on the Today Show earlier this month as a member of their parenting team, and she looked like a million bucks.

There are too many to mention. The stumbles and setbacks (and there have been plenty) have all made the wins so much sweeter.

What are your hobbies? Are your hobbies a side business?

I guess you could say my hobby has become my business! I started running again after my second son was born. I ran my first marathon kind of on a whim and qualified for Boston and ran in 2014. I am qualified to run again next month, but I just don't have the time right now. I grew up shag-dancing with my Dad. He is one of the best in Charlotte of his age- if not the best! Heck, one of the best anywhere for that matter. So, I enjoy dancing with him. I am a closet decorator; I am constantly moving stuff around and changing things. I love to cook and entertain when there is an opportunity. Anything and everything creative pretty much is my drug of choice. I wish sleeping were more of a hobby, but I am working on that too!

Alma Mater?

I went to a small Episcopal girls school, St. Mary’s, in Raleigh, NC for my first two years of college. My Grandmother (my style icon) also went there, so there was an instant spiritual connection. I never imagined myself going to an all girls school, but the school was generous in attracting me to play tennis, which I recall made me feel wanted. I played the best two years of my career and obtained a National Junior Collegiate #20 Ranking. The year I finished St. Mary's was the last year they would operate a women's junior college. The school reverted back to their original purpose of their 1842 establishment- that of a boarding and day prep school. I transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill and then thought about playing tennis and majoring in Nutrition. I was in over my head with both, so I changed my major to Communication Studies with a minor in Exercise Sport Science, ran club track for a little while, partied with the best of them, and made it out with a GPA that would allow me to look back and feel proud.

What are you passionate about?

What am I not passionate about? I'm a pretty passionate person. At times, I wish I could be less passionate! A girlfriend and I were talking about this just this morning on our run. We talked about not waiting to do things, living everyday to the fullest and pursuing things that either help others (which positive or negative will always yield a return on investment) or will allow for personal improvement.

Family stats:

Husband Jon, son Hank (8), son Worth (5), and our Labrador Retriever, Macy (14 1/2)!

What inspires you?

A desire to learn, help others and improve myself. Parenting provides a huge opportunity for all three!

What causes/charities are you involved with and why?

I have young children, so right now they are my number one cause. I try to spend as much time as possible with them, which includes volunteering at their schools and extra-curricular activities. I teach Sunday School at our church, Christ Episcopal Church, and volunteer there in other ways.

With my business, the Queen City Style, I am a partner and a spokesperson for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. Their mission of helping individuals overcome difficult personal circumstances in order to get back into the workplace and on their feet, while self-sustaining, is really incredible. The money that Goodwill makes through the purchase of donated clothes at their retail stores all goes back into training and aiding these individuals to succeed. Since a big part of my work with personal clients involves purging clothes from closets, the partnership is a no brainer! The Goodwill Opportunity Campus, opening this year on Wilkinson Boulevard, is going to be out of this world. It will include a state-of-the-art facility that will provide the area's most comprehensive collection of resources and opportunities for individuals facing multiple barriers to employment. There will be onsite client services related to health and wellness, finance, education, legal services, a childcare facility, Goodwill boutique and more!

What do you love about the Carolinas?

What's not to love?

Where do you vacation?

Pawleys Island (AKA Heaven on Earth), the Outer Banks to visit family, and I try to get home to Asheville as much as possible. My in-laws have retired to their lake house on Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. We all water ski. It is probably the prettiest lake I have ever visited.

What struggles have you faced in your life?

I come from a southern Christian family, which I think a lot of times many expect to be “perfect”- but what is perfect? Is there such a thing? To be completely honest, the notion of trying to emulate or conform to this perception, or at least the one I have in my head, makes me completely uneasy. Life throws curveballs. We all have brokenness and failures, and as painful as those things can be for anyone, I try to think this is part of my authenticity. I have a lot of empathy and compassion for others, which I think is because of the hard stuff. I try my best everyday, in everything I do. I make mistakes without even knowing it, and I am 5-10 minutes late, 8 out of 10 times. It drives me crazy. It is not that I don't have respect for the other person. It is just my artistic brain always seems to derail my best laid plans. My biggest personal challenge has been learning how to give myself grace. Grace for the big things, as well as grace for the little things… like I didn't hand-make the children's cup cakes and icing this year and write their individual names on them. I mean seriously. I'm working really hard on learning how to get out of my own way, and when I am unable to do so and things fall apart or don't fall into place, I'm working on giving myself some grace.


I try to live my life in moderation and then indulge as reward.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

For people who don't know me: I drive a Ford with 150,000+ miles on it, I don't like to spend money, I am ten times more of a tomboy than a girly- girl. My everyday beauty routine is washing but not drying my hair, using an eyelash curler and pinching my cheeks. I love to sweat and get vitamin D. If I can't achieve a natural glow, I put a dab of bronzer in my moisturizer for color. Of course, if I'm seeing a client or on business, I do the part. The Queen City Style is a stage for my alter ego, so when you see my picture in a blog post, it's usually an act. I'm playing some role. I always send my couture down the runway; I save my ready-to-wear (jean shorts, cowgirl boots and a tank top) for real life with my kids.



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