Dressing the Woman – Meet Nic and Deb, Hong Kong stylists with substance

Their ethos is that style goes beyond the surface, and fashion can influence not only the wearer but the world.

Welcome to the Spotlight series by TMS, where we highlight businesses and people around Hong Kong making waves. This week, we’re speaking with Dressing the Woman, a styling service in Hong Kong that digs deeper than the surface.

It was a bit of fate that brought Nicole Mott (Nic) and Debbie Wong (Deb), the founders of styling service Dressing the Woman (DTW), together. Nic had moved to Hong Kong with her husband, and at first, she found it a challenge not having any friends and family close by. But she felt an instant connection while watching Deb, a host on the Asian Food Network.

Fast forward about a year, and the pair first met at an event – it just so happened that their husbands were colleagues. As they tell it, it seemed “meant to be.”

Now you’ll find Nic and Deb sharing their love of all things fashion and style with others through DTW, which launched off the back of a creative project Nic started after leaving her corporate job. Their approach is unique – they aim to tap into someone’s “essence” to find out what styles really work for them using something called the Kibbe Framework.

Their ethos is that style goes beyond the surface, and fashion can influence not only the wearer but the world. TMS caught up with Nic and Deb to learn more about their unique approach to styling, their thoughts on fashion in general and how they launched DTW to share their passions with the world.

Dressing the Woman
Nicole Mott (Nic) and Debbie Wong (Deb) from Dressing the Woman. Source: Tim Sedo

Q: Can you tell us what Dressing The Woman is all about?

Deb: Dressing The Woman is about unlocking your Authentic Personal Style. We are a multi-service ‘ecosystem’ wherein all our offerings are rooted in this purpose. Our services include one-on-one styling, styling workshops where we teach our unique approach to personal style, co-branded styling events, as well as content production.

Q: First off, this is an endeavor that started from your friendship. How did you two meet and become friends?

Deb: Nic tells this story really well.

Nic: The universe brought us together! When I moved to Hong Kong with my husband eight years ago, I found myself with no friends, family or network and was struggling in those first few months. The one bright spot in my days was watching this lovely person – Debbie Wong – on the Asian Food Network. I remember my husband coming home from work every day, asking how my day was, and I’d tell him about what I learned from watching Deb on TV and that she felt like home for some reason!

Fast forward to a year or so later, and my husband and I go to the HK Wine and Dine event, and Deb happens to be MC-ing that night. My husband says there are people from his work there that he’d like me to meet, and that’s when he introduces me to a colleague who also happens to be Deb’s husband! From there, the rest is history – it was like meeting a soul friend that you’ve known forever. It was almost like, “Of course, we’re meeting – it was meant to be.”

Q: How did you come up with the idea for DTW and decide to work on this together?

Nic: I was working a corporate job for several years here and needed some sort of creative outlet to balance that, and fashion and style have always been my happy place. So, I started an IG account to share “outfit of the day” sort of content.

One night Deb and I were out for burgers and martinis at one of our favorite places, and after about three hours of talking about style, fashion and culture, we were like, “Why don’t we do this together?” Again – like our fated meeting – it was like, “Of course, it’s meant to be.”

A big part of my and Deb’s friendship has always been rooted in fashion and style – hours and hours spent talking about fashion. But not just about fashion trends but more about the power of aligned, authentic, personal style and how much that creates such beauty in the world. It’s not just superficial beauty but more so a beauty that resonates on all dimensions that not only illuminates the individual but influences the world the individual moves through. It’s all about aligning with your true self, and when you do that and express that, the world can’t help but notice and respond with the same love and beauty. It truly can be a tool to change the world!

Q: What’s the story behind the name?

Nic: Like I mentioned, this started as an “outfit of the day” sort of IG. I wanted to convey something that spoke to my years of experience in the world, and the word “Woman” has always felt empowered with a weight or experience. I wasn’t a young, trendy influencer model, so I wanted to convey that. And the word “Dressing” holds a notion of intention and strategy, which is also important in our approach.

When Deb and I decided to do this together, we briefly discussed if we should change the name. But ultimately, we kept it because it really does speak to the foundations of what we do. We are experienced people (life, career and otherwise) bringing a strategy and intention to how to dress for your life. People often ask if we only dress women, and we do not! We are available to everyone. Our approach is based on a spectrum model, with yin and yang balance consideration – so it really can work for everyone on the planet.

Q: What kinds of clientele do you work with, and can you tell us about your approach?

Deb: We’ve had clients from different backgrounds and from around the world (our one-on-one services are available remotely). Usually, they are career women who are experiencing a transition in their lives and are looking to elevate their presentation both in work and life; but more than that, we find we are attracting clients who are open to an internal transformation and who see the power of truly harmonizing their inner and outer selves.

Our approach is a mix of science, art and psychology. We start with what we call an “Essence Assessment” utilizing the Kibbe Framework, which is an established system of classification based on five “essence types” that fall on a spectrum. We really connect with this method because essence is independent of clothing size, age, gender or race. Upon determining a client’s essence, we then get to know their style goals, lifestyle, and aesthetic inspiration; these serve as “puzzle pieces” to help us craft a wardrobe aesthetic that is an authentic representation of each client.

Q: Would you say working with clients in Hong Kong is unique from other places like the US, Europe, or say, Australia? How so?

Nic: The biggest difference for our Hong Kong clients is the constraints of space! Many of our clients are looking for an efficient wardrobe. So it’s really important for those clients to have a fluid wardrobe where pieces can be restyled for different life occasions. In general, we design wardrobes for fluidity and longevity, but it’s even more vital in Hong Kong due to teeny tiny spaces. Hong Kongers are also always traveling, so travel-friendly looks that are also heat- and humidity-appropriate are super important.


Source: Dressing the Woman/Leopard Yuk

Q: How would you describe or define personal style? Is it different from fashion? Where do you think the two intersect?

Deb: For me, personal style is the ability to storytell with your clothing. It’s true harmony between your “self” and your aesthetic; it’s unforced and ultimately inspiring because it’s an authentic extension of you. Fashion is a tool to express. In clothing, there is color, silhouette, softness, angles – and these qualities evoke real emotion.

Think of a plunging neckline, an oversized leather jacket, a casually rolled sleeve, a ruffled gown in silk, a leopard print shirt – they are clothing, but they’re also a feeling. Our approach at DTW is about teaching the symbiotic relationship between the “person” and the “style.”

Nic: For me, personal style is all about how you move through the world. When you see someone who is wearing something they feel great and themselves in, just watch – you see them move differently. You see a new sparkle in the eye; maybe they’ll do a little twirl, or their stride changes to be more intentional. So personal style is really about finding the things that unlock that. That’s where style principles come in; different aspects of clothing evoke different vibes. A peak lapel versus a shawl lapel generate different feelings. A dropped seam on a shoulder versus a perfect fit seam. It all communicates something that the wearer and the observer feel. So yes, for me, fashion is the medium, and personal style is the unique expression using that medium.

Q: You’ve mentioned before that one of your goals is to help people understand themselves on an “essence level.” What do you mean by that?

Deb: I like to think of “Essence” as your first emotional impression of a person. Are they otherworldly and ethereal; are they “solid” and athletic-feeling; are they childlike despite their age; are they lush and sensual? We really believe that personal style is rooted in understanding how you take up space in the world, both physically and figuratively.

Q: Some people think you have to have a certain body type or look or be a certain size for clothing to look good. What do you say to that?

Nic: That’s the opposite of what we believe! We really see the person’s essence first and foremost. And when you dress for your essence, it will never look “wrong.” We’ve had clients who say they could never wear a certain thing, but when we find a way to approach that thing with their essence in alignment, it’s like magic. We love unlocking that for people!

We find that many people we talk to have a lot of limiting beliefs when it comes to how they dress. It sounds like, “Oh, my mom told me I could never wear that because of X, so I’ve never tried it,” or “In my line of work, only this kind of outfit is acceptable.” We love helping to unblock those. There still exists somewhat of an old-school way of thinking about fashion, in which it’s very based in “can’t” and “not-for-me” kind of thinking, but we believe style enables you to be limitless. We want to flip that narrative for people.

Q: Are there any go-to tips you have for someone who’s insecure about their appearance and doesn’t think being fashionable is within their reach?

Nic: Great style is accessible to everyone if they are interested! It all starts from inside. So know yourself first. Pay attention to your vibe, what you naturally emanate. And then see what things in your wardrobe make you feel that even more. That’s a good clue that you’re on the right track.

Also, pay attention to details. If you see someone whose style you feel drawn to, investigate what it is about their look. Is it the way they’ve rolled the sleeve; is it the tailoring; is it the way they’ve accessorized? Tap into your awareness. Your intuition can be a big help.

Q: You’ve mentioned a concept before that you call “everyday dressing ... elevated.” Can you tell us more about that?

Nic: We’re all about making your everyday look feel like you are ready for anything! So it’s not only about looking great for the red carpet events. It’s about empowering you to feel your most high-vibing version of yourself every time you walk out the door, for every occasion in your life. Even if you’re just going for coffee, we want people to feel like, “Damn, I look and feel great!”

Q: A lot of stylists will say that getting your clothing tailored can make all the difference in the world. Do you agree, and if so, what would you say to someone who just buys off the rack and keeps it moving?

Nic: Yes, details matter, so tailoring – as needed – is important. Where a cuff, hem or seam hits can make all the difference. Buying off the rack and wearing it straight away is fine, too – we do it all the time! It’s more about noticing those details and assessing where you might need to refine them with some tailoring.

Q: Nic, you’re a former banker, which can require a pretty buttoned-up, professional appearance. Would you say it’s possible to fashionably express yourself in a career like that while maintaining those professional standards? How so?

Nic: Ha, it’s funny to identify as a “former banker.” I was actually in the digital team, so not formally trained to be a banker, but yes – the bank I worked in could be quite traditional. And yes, absolutely, it is possible to express yourself in a traditional and hyper-professional environment like that! I love styling clients in this world. Actually, having some constraints is the best way to be creative.

We teach style principles aligned with your unique essence – so it's just about understanding the constraints of the workplace and then applying the style principles on top of that. In a professional environment like that, it’s important to stand out – but for the right reasons – and we make sure to strike that balance.

Q: Deb, you’ve worked as a TV presenter. What are some things you have to keep in mind when dressing for the camera, or is it pretty similar to how you’d dress every day?

Deb: There are certain “rules” for dressing for the camera, such as not wearing small prints or stripes (which fight with the camera’s focus). It also helps to wear clothing that has some structure, so you don’t appear shapeless. However, having spent my career on stage and on camera, the thing that trumps all those rules is whether or not you feel like yourself in the clothing. It’s so important to feel confident and grounded when you're on camera (or in any public speaking scenario, for that matter). I’d say avoid any clothing that restricts you from being and giving your best!

Q: What are three things anyone can do to instantly improve their everyday style?

Deb: Know your Essence Type by calling Dressing The Woman, invest in quality pieces that are aligned with the style principles of your essence and let your creativity and personality come through in your accessories.

Q: Who are some of your style icons?

Deb: JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Ralph Lauren (the designer himself), Jane Birken, Jennifer Aniston, Alexa Chung, Kate Moss, Jay Z in the last few years.

Nic: My mom, Victoria Beckham, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Kate Moss, Amal Clooney, Zendaya, Gemma Chan, Harry Styles.

Q: Is it ever too late to reinvent yourself?

Deb: It’s cliche to say ‘It’s never too late’ – but it’s true. Life is about constant evolution and reinvention; otherwise, you’re not really living.

Nic: Nope, never too late. I think that life is about constant discovery about yourself, and if you unlock something new about yourself mid or late in life, go with it!

Q: Are there any new projects you have in the pipeline that you’d like our readers to know about?

Deb: We’re excited about working with TMS, and we also have some events in the works for the upcoming holiday season!