Style Starts from Within: How this Global Girl Boss Empowers Women through Fashion
As the saying goes, beauty is only skin deep . . . but it’s never a bad thing to be put together and put our best selves forward, right? Yet how can we maintain that outer glow at all times, even when things seem to be less-than-perfect in our lives? It really starts from within—and that’s what Rosa Pelayo-Stadelhoffer of Karobi Collection/Lifestyle helps her clients with, using fashion as just one of the tools to help them feel empowered while reaching their goals. Through style, Rosa can transform any woman into a girl boss.
Rosa has been in Shanghai, China, for nine years now and says that coming here is what helped to shape her into the woman she is today. She even met her husband here and has their first baby on the way. After years of learning and figuring things out from ground zero, she makes things look so easy, but the journey has never been easy. However, Rosa is grateful for every challenge she’s faced along the way.
Shanghai’ed by Shanghai
Almost a decade ago, Rosa came from her home in Mexico to Shanghai on a holiday to visit a cousin and found that she liked it a lot during a month-long stay. In fact, she liked it so much, she decided to give living in Shanghai a try. So, she flew back to Mexico, stayed there three weeks, and then was on her way back to Shanghai because she knew that if she didn’t do it right then, she’d never do it.
Arriving to Shanghai with two suitcases and nothing else, Rosa says it definitely wasn’t easy in the beginning, but that’s what she loved—the little challenges and winning them, which is part of what she says made her who she is now. With a background in international business, she soon became involved in sourcing trading from Mexico and Latin America with a business partner, and that’s what paid the bills.
After two years with the company, she could see that it wasn’t for her—there was a lot of traveling which made her exhausted. And her business partner ended up going back to Mexico, so Rosa was faced with the choice to keep the company open or not. She decided to close it and then took six months to figure out what she really wanted to do.
Three Friends and a Sweater
This space and time she created to reflect is what led Rosa to starting Karobi. Initially, it all started with Rosa and two of her friends, who were psychologists. But they all shared a passion for fashion. Rosa had previously taken fashion and styling trainings as a personal interest and wanted to give styling a try, knowing there was going to be a learning curve from never having done this before as a job. But not shying away from challenges, she was ready to give it a go. To start building a client base, she did pro bono work for a time to gain some experience, while also taking more online trainings to refresh her previous training.
The business grew organically during the partnership of the three women, and got its start from people asking things like: “Where did you get that sweater? Can you make me one?” So, the ladies of Karobi took advantage of the famous Fabric Market in Shanghai—a magical place where you can basically get ANYTHING clothes-wise made for half the cost or less than the West—and began to get clothing made for clients. They essentially sold two products and expanded their offerings and were selling quite a lot, though Rosa was the one doing the styling. It then got to a point where the partners had to decide whether this was going to really be a serious business or to stop because it was growing exponentially.
Two partners decided to pull out of the business within the first six months (and one within three months), as they were still professional psychologists and already had a lot on their plate. Rosa was understanding and chose to continue, finding herself alone again to run a business. She asked herself questions we all ask ourselves in many different situations: Can I do it? Should I do it? But, she realized, she wasn’t actually alone this time because she had her caring and supportive husband, who offered to help. So, with his help during his free time, Rosa decided to move forward with the business.
Despite the support, it was a crazy time building a business from scratch. And, looking back, Rosa asks herself how she was able to do it, but that year, her winter collection came out in November and her designs sold well. Everything moved at the speed of light. She was designing and styling, and had to decide if doing both was sustainable. Her solution? By keeping things simple, she’s still able to do both today—and that’s one of the biggest lessons she’s learned along the way: sometimes, you just have to keep things simple in order to be successful and make a big impact.
Rosa is approached by clients for lots of reasons: from someone wanting a boyfriend, to someone having relationship problems, to wanting a more professional look for their career, or just to have a better wardrobe in general. But for her, she says, it’s deeper than just showing a woman how to dress and present herself.
Being a stylist is almost like being like a therapist. She must analyze who the woman is, what her goals are, self-acceptance and self-esteem, and then moving on to other things. If a woman cannot accept herself first, then Rosa says that the clothes and styling don’t matter. That’s why she starts with empowering her clients first and foremost before moving to the outer appearance.
Perhaps because of this core value of her company, Karobi continues to grow and evolve and launch into success. After all, what’s more powerful for a woman than truly owning who she is?
The Evolution of Success
Rosa also attributes the success of the line getting into other markets because of her contacts—after all, it’s all about who you know, right? She believes the brand and products are of high quality but should still be accessible, which is part of her mission to empower women everywhere.
The Karobi brand sells in New York, Paris, and in Mexico. This too began really organically. Rosa took clothing samples with her in suitcases while traveling because she didn’t know if her designs would sell outside of China, but to her delight, people loved the clothing and it grew from there. Currently, she also works with lots of corporations, and the business continues to grow.
Relationships Matter Most
As a small company, she says that relationships are the most important—with clients, vendors, employees, and others who help you. And especially with your business partner—Rosa says that her husband really helps her with the business structure and gives sound input that enables her to continue being successful.
It’s through her relationship with the cashmere market that allows Rosa to set apart her clothing line by offering lots of pieces that are made of 100% cashmere of high quality. So, even though the pieces are simple, they are still luxurious and offer her clients and other customers the best of the best.
Girl Power Comes from Within
But perhaps the most important relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. Having lived in Shanghai for nearly a decade has really empowered Rosa to be herself and who she always wanted to be—and she uses her story to empower other people. She teaches others how to embrace who they are inside and how to attract what they really want. Using fashion is simply an extra tool to enhance what’s already inside.
She says: “When you see from another perspective, it really helps to open your eyes.”
Her best advice is to be true to yourself by focusing on who you are and who you want to be. That’s when the magic happens, Rosa says. “What you want will come to you.” Be authentic and you’ll attract the right people and the right opportunities. Rosa encourages her clients to embrace their inner girl boss.
First Comes Brand, then Comes Baby
With a baby on the way, things will definitely change for Rosa. But she says she will continue with what she’s been doing and will go back to being simple, just like at the beginning. Throughout the learning process, one of the best lessons she’s learned is that simplicity is extremely effective.
For example, thirty to forty percent of her line is and will continue to be cashmere because it lasts long. Instead of buying a new sweater every winter, why not buy one that’s classic, never goes out of style, and is made of the best material? And other things will stay simple too. She doesn’t want to complicate the brand and wants to make sure that it’s all about her clients and their needs.
Rosa seems well equipped for the big changes on the horizon. She’s got a solid plan in place, lots of support—which we all need in order to be successful—and is ready to focus on being a new mom. And she’ll definitely be a stylish mom!
No matter what life brings us, it’s important to remember to be true to ourselves and take the time for self-care, whether it’s dressing well, eating healthy food, going for a walk, or talking to a close friend when we have a rough day. Rosa has certainly learned that true beauty comes from within, and once we can harness that power of authenticity, the world can be our oyster.
All Photos Courtesy of Rosa Pelayo-Stadelhoffer!
To learn more about Rosa and Karobi, visit the website at: https://www.karobicollection.com/
About Tamar Hela:
Tamar Hela is a California girl but currently lives in Shanghai, China, planning world domination one day at a time. She’s the Queen of How-To for STICKY STEPS, a digital education company that teaches young professionals essential skills for the workplace. Her latest project is HELAhealth, where she aspires to connect travelers and expats to natural and alternative health options in Asia. And as if that’s not enough, she also moonlights as a freelance editor and writer (with 40 edited novels under her belt and 3 published works of her own), loves traveling and reading, and runs natural health and creative workshops in Shanghai. Find her at WWW.TAMARHELA.COM.