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Secrets of Mary Gonsalves Kinney

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

She’s a stylist on a mission with a winning aesthetic, and now that her long list of high-profile clients includes some of the country’s top executives, athletes and Hollywood elite, Kinney is taking on Silicon Valley, one techie at a time. “My goal with my tech clients is to tighten up, streamline and always give a subtle—usually hardly recognizable—nod to high fashion,” she says. “That might mean a cool blazer with some sort of subtle texture, or a Gucci cotton pant that dons a bumble bee at the belt loop.”

While styling comes second nature to the mom of three, it wasn’t her first calling. “I was a lobbyist for several years, went to UC Berkeley, and studied political science—so random, I know,” she explains. “But then decided after my children were born to pursue a career in the fashion industry. I wanted to utilize the creative side of my brain and work with similar types of people whom I had already been exposed to in politics. It all sort of organically came together—my clients are literally changing the world. I get them, and they get me, so it works.”

Kinney’s passion for personal styling goes beyond aesthetics; she’s a big believer in projecting confidence through clothes, but says there’s nothing frivolous about fashion. “It isn’t superficial; it’s reality,” she says. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with caring about how you look. You should have enough self-respect to want to dress on the outside how you feel on the inside.”

And for the fashion averse? “Be true to who you are and let your clothes express your personality,” she advises. “Style is subjective, so if it makes you happy, you’re on the right track. Fashion is meant to be explored; you won’t die if something doesn’t quite work out. It’s just clothing—consider it all part of the process.”

Kick off your own process with her expert tips:

Shop local, shop global. Kinney regularly commutes among SF, Los Angeles and New York, so she picks up pieces anywhere she can. “I like to shop when I travel because I see so much in my daily travails for clients,” she says. “But I’d say my favorite local boutiques are Pia the Store, Hero Shop, and McMullen—and I’m a sucker for Celine, Dior and Margiela.”

Mastering minimalism. One of Kinney’s biggest pet peeves? “Overstyling,” she laments. In lieu of head-to-toe coordination, she recommends forgoing trends to channel your inner Brigitte Bardot. “French women are the chicest, most effortless I’ve ever seen—and I’ve been to a lot of countries,” she says. “To me, having an effortless, almost disheveled style gives you a certain je ne sais quois.” Great in theory, but the question for many is how to project a casual vibe without looking sloppy. Kinney’s answer: strategic layers for a cool SF summer. For instance: a black, belted silk Margiela jersey dress, a killer Celine gladiator sandal; and a crossbody bag for essentials. Add an effortless chignon, oversized sunglasses and a bevy of necklaces for the ultimate minimalist moment.

Mix it up. When it comes to accessories, Kinney’s all about blending pieces at every price point. “I like a mix of high and low—Jennifer Fisher choker, Monica Vinader delicate gold chain and lots of rings by Svelte Metals or Delfina Delettrez.”

Jet-set it and forget it. As a frequent flyer, Kinney has priceless advice for pain-free packing (hint: lots of black and lots of layers). “I only travel for work with my carry-on, so I make sure every piece in my bag is transitional,” she says. “I work in flats or sneakers and usually have a pair of heels for evening.” But even a style pro faces occasional snafus. “I’ve had moments where I forget a key component to a look, like a top or pair of pants,” she says, adding that these memory blips often lend themselves to fun improvisation and experimentation. “I like to be a little ‘off’ with my look—I’m never totally polished and I certainly never match,” she says. “So actually, my style lends itself to forgetting a piece or two along the way!”

Must-have closet staples. “For women: white leather bag, moto jacket and a killer choker,” Kinney says. “For men: Rick Owens lace-up combat boots, Margiela white T-shirts and black skinny A.P.C. jeans.”

Chef Curry chic

As if we needed more reasons to fangirl over Ayesha Curry, Kinney can’t help but gush about her client. “Ayesha has the best energy and is truly one of the kindest women on the planet,” she says. When it comes to constructing her look, Curry requires a practical ensemble that’s still edgy and fun. “If she’s in LA, we might shift gears and do a short Isabel Marant dress or a Stella McCartney jumpsuit with a sexy heel or a cute bootie and layer a bunch of jewelry. In the Bay, depending on weather, she might throw on some high-waisted jeans, a bodysuit and a faux fur jacket with a crossbody bag. Her look is chic, transitional and real—just like her life.”

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