Our latest blog about friends of Jill Milan features Ginger Burr, president of Total Image Consultants. For 29 years she has helped women around the world create a wardrobe they love by connecting with their inner essence. She has been interviewed by Worth Magazine, Forbes Magazine and Bloomberg Business Week and was chosen as one of VegNews Magazine’s “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians” for her innovative and groundbreaking work as a vegan image consultant. Ginger is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and is also author of the book “That’s So You! Create a Look You Love with Beauty, Style and Grace.” She also created the online course “Dress to Impress–Yourself! A DIY guide to a wardrobe YOU love!” available online at www.dress2impressyourself.com.
Could you tell us a little bit about where you live and what you do?
I have lived in Massachusetts all my life. I spent my childhood in a little town called Feeding Hills (on the Connecticut border), attended Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley and then moved to Cambridge. I immediately fell in love with eastern Massachusetts and have lived here for more than half my life. I currently live in Lynn on the north shore one block from the ocean — it’s beautiful here with easy access to Boston.
For the past 29 years I have been an image consultant with my own business, Total Image Consultants. All through my teens and twenties I struggled with how to dress in way that made me look and feel great. Somehow whatever I put on looked awkward on me, even though I had copied it from someone who wore it with flair. It was so frustrating!
When I was just about to turn 30 I met a woman who was offering a 3-day workshop on “Fashion, Color & Image.” I signed up immediately and the rest is history. She opened up a whole new world of style and introduced me to fashion guidelines that changed my life. I also discovered I had an affinity for fashion and she became my mentor. I knew that I couldn’t possibly be the only woman who struggled with how to dress herself! And, I was right.
Too many times I hear from women that they are passing up opportunities — whether it’s to attend an event or even go for a job interview — because they do not feel confident in how they look or what to wear. I see being an image consultant as a way to empower women so they can shine and spend their energy on things that are really important to them rather than worrying about what clothes they are going to put on.
Are you vegan?
Yes, absolutely! I have been vegan for 11 years and I would have been vegan much earlier if I had known about it. Somehow it never entered my awareness even though I haven’t eaten red meat for over 35 years. Once I did become aware I went vegan overnight. I was horrified that I had not known about veganism before and could not imagine spending one more minute causing any more harm than I already had.
For me, what was really huge was that I realized it would not only impact my personal life but also my business. I could not, in good conscience, wear my leather shoes or wool coats and I had a moment where I panicked that I would not be able to maintain my style esthetic without those materials. But, that didn’t stop me. I was committed and decided I would make the experience of creating a vegan wardrobe an adventure rather than an exercise in deprivation.
The best part was that once I calmed down and really took stock of what I had in my wardrobe, it was obvious that I was already well on my way to proving my point that being vegan and stylish are not mutually exclusive. I replaced my leather shoes and wool coats and whatever else needed to go. It was much, much easier than I had anticipated, although I would have done it no matter what.
Since I had already had my business for many years not all of my clients were vegan. Nor are they now. While this is still a challenge for me, I have found that more and more vegan women are finding me and I am able to raise awareness with those who are not currently vegan. The feedback I get is very positive and heartening and gives me hope that one day my business will serve vegans exclusively.
Do you have any favorite restaurants in the Boston area?
At least once a week my partner, Marion, and I go to the Organic Garden in Beverly, Mass. It started as a completely raw vegan restaurant and has added some cooked food over the past few years. You can’t leave without having one of their desserts — they are absolutely incredible! Another big favorite is a small, mostly takeout, restaurant in West Medford, Mass., called Fruition Vegan Kitchen. I have known the owners for many years and through other restaurants they have owned and I am a true follower — stopping by to pick up food as often as I can. And recently I attended a vegan friend’s birthday party. She ordered a gluten-free vegan peanut butter and chocolate cake from Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge. Wow! Very decadent and super yummy so I have added it to my list of favorites.
Could you tell us about the charity work you do?
I donate regularly to Primarily Primates in Texas, Sunny Meadow Sanctuary in Massachusetts and several other animal sanctuaries. I also periodically offer image seminars at Dress for Success Boston and regularly contribute to the good work they do. Dress for Success is a national organization with a chapter in Boston. Their mission is to empower women to achieve economic independence and one of the ways they do this is preparing women for interviews by providing them with professional attire.