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In The Media: Upstart Business Journal – Got a fashion emergency? Fashion Week-bound stylist makes house calls

September 6, 2014

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Got a fashion emergency? Fashion Week-bound stylist makes house calls

September 4, 2014, 12:30pm EDT by Teresa Novellino

Christie Maruka and the Fashion Fix VanThe UpTake: What to wear is a perennial question, and one fashion entrepreneur attending New York Fashion Week is solving it every day as a business.

For Christie Maruka, fashion emergencies are a lot like her shoe collection: sprawling and massive—she owns more than 200 pairs—and yet delightful and thoroughly satisfying when the sartorial puzzle is solved.

Maruka is the founder of Fashion Fix, a Wall, N.J.-based fashion-on-wheels enterprise that she started eight years ago with the profits she made from selling a retail store focused on young women’s apparel that she had run for almost 10 years on the Jersey Shore.

“I wanted to be mobile and take my show on the road, so to speak,” Maruka says. “I bought a Mercedes van and had it customized and turned into a fashion showroom…Everywhere I go, it creates a commotion.”

“Everywhere” includes up and down the East Coast from Connecticut to Virginia, where she pays visits to women and men who are having some sort of fashion emergency, be it dressing for a special event, revamping their entire wardrobes, or needing “mommy-daughter makeovers.” She gets about six to eight calls per day for appointments, and typically charges $125 per hour for her services (plus extra surcharges if travel or other services are involved.)

She’ll be attending New York Fashion Week, which just kicked off today and runs through Sept. 11, looking for the latest styles to show her private and sometimes public clients. She served as stylist to the the ladies of “Jerseylicious,” led “mommy makeovers” on “The Tyra Banks Show,” and helped underprivileged teens improve their wardrobes for work on “The Montel Williams Show.” She is also a contributing writer to Women’s Wear Daily and Lucky.

“Designers invite me to view their collections and I get a firsthand look of what’s going to be in for the next six months to a year, and I get to see all of the colors and styles,” she said. Later, she can order pieces that she might want for her makeovers.

Her clients are a mix of friends she has known for years, those who have seen her on media appearances, and those who hear about Fashion Fix through word of mouth. While she does have some help, Maruka can’t outsource much of the work, because she’s the stylist and her clients expect to see her and to text her when they are, for example, in a store trying to make a decision.

“I work a lot,” she says. “It seems like it never ends. I could get a call at 8 o’clock when I’m in my pajamas from someone who is getting ready to go out and needs me to put together an outfit for them. I just change and say I’ll be right over.”

She also gets texts all day long from clients, but says “I love it. They’re all like friends.”

Maruka got into the retail business at age 15, and left college before graduating to work full time, but with what is now 30 years of fashion retail experience behind her, the 44-year-old entrepreneur is hoping to make a bigger name for her brand.

She is currently working with a producer in Los Angeles on a show concept that would have her traveling state-to-state and helping people with fashion dilemmas. It’s similar in concept to the TLC show “What Not To Wear” which ended last year, except it would involve many different locations. So far, there are no network deals to speak of, but the entrepreneur says stay tuned.

On top of her stylist work, Maruka is also a designer for a collection of anti-aging slippers and gloves infused with natural botanical and essential oils made by PolyGel’s Geluxury.

For Maruka, breaking into being a stylist on television began with a chance encounter after some producers from “The Montel Williams Show” had come into her store and admired both the merchandise and the affable owner’s flair for styling.

“Then [the producers] leave one show and go to another show, and if you do a great job and you’re easy to work with, they call you,” Maruka says.

The fashionista takes special pride in the makeovers she has done with teenagers, and the charitable work with organizations that help sick women and children, and those with autism. She also serves as a mentor to aspiring young stylists, offering advice for free. Maruka herself fell in love with fashion herself when she was a girl but couldn’t dress in the clothes she loved after she was diagnosed with a severe case of scoliosis at age 12.

“It was very progressive, and I had to wear a body brace,” Maruka recalls. “I wasn’t able to wear fashionable things like everybody else. I knew what it was like to feel different.”

She underwent an operation at 19 that straightened her spine by fusing it from her neck to the base of her spine.

“Now, I work out five days a week, and I’m a fitness enthusiast. Most people don’t even know that I had anything wrong,” she says.

Maruka believes her tough teenage years made her compassionate, and helped instill the idea that she wanted to help others feel good too, and that it all can be done through fashion.

“I love what I do so much, and I know that my work makes a difference,” Maruka says.

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