Rachel Penca: Pioneering Personal Style with Passion

Posted by TFOCB Studios on May 1, 2024 8:00:00 AM

In the latest episode of the Style Interpreted Podcast, Rachel Penca, a trailblazing personal stylist and the force behind Rachel J Styling, shares her inspiring journey from traditional corporate beginnings to the vibrant world of fashion styling. Rachel’s story is not just about clothes; it’s about finding one's true calling and bravely pursuing it against the odds.

Style Interpreted [guest] Rachel Penca [hz]

Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs to Filipino parents, Rachel's early life was steeped in the values of hard work and traditional career paths. Her father, a mechanical engineer, and her mother, a nurse, represented the quintessential immigrant narrative of stability and conventional success. However, Rachel’s aspirations lay elsewhere. "I'm the firstborn. They immigrated to this country, of course, they wanted me to be stable and have a good career," Rachel recalls. Despite the familial pressure, she knew a different path awaited her.

Rachel's creative spark first ignited during her high school years. Transitioning from a Catholic school, where uniforms stifled her sartorial expressions, to a public high school presented her with the first opportunity to explore fashion. “I became that really overly trendy girl,” she laughs. Yet, it wasn't until after securing a degree in advertising and spending years in corporate America that Rachel fully embraced her passion for fashion.

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Her professional pivot came in January 2007, a moment Rachel describes as one of the most liberating of her career. She walked away from a lucrative advertising job to pursue fashion styling, initially managing a boutique before fully stepping into the role of a personal stylist. “If I don’t do this now, when am I ever going to do it?” Rachel questioned herself at the time.

In our conversation, Rachel emphasizes the importance of personal styling, not just as a luxury for the few but as an accessible service that can profoundly impact an individual's confidence and self-expression. She passionately advocates for personal styling to be recognized as a craft that anyone can adopt, reflecting a shift from fashion being seen as exclusive to being universally embraceable. "Personal styling is going in that direction. It's becoming more common," she notes, likening the rise of personal stylists to the boom in coaching professions.

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But Rachel's influence extends beyond client consultations. She is deeply committed to mentoring the next generation of stylists, sharing the wisdom gleaned from her experiences. “I feel like I’m really at that point where I want to bring people forward with me,” she states, highlighting her role in educating budding stylists about both the artistic and business aspects of the profession.

As a professor at Columbia College Chicago, Rachel is pioneering the educational track for aspiring fashion stylists, underscoring the creative and entrepreneurial skills necessary for success in the industry. “Fashion styling has become the largest concentration within the fashion studies department,” she shares proudly.


Her story is a compelling reminder that career fulfillment often requires a leap of faith and the courage to pursue one's passion. Rachel’s journey illustrates the transformative power of aligning one’s career with their passions and the impact of educating and empowering others to follow suit.

For anyone standing at the crossroads of career and passion, Rachel offers this advice: "Bet on yourself. We've got one chance at this life." Her story is not just inspiring; it’s a blueprint for anyone looking to make a meaningful pivot in their professional life, proving that with determination and heart, it’s possible to carve out a fulfilling path that also serves others.