We initially heard about her back in September when she made a memorable appearance on Girls Next Door spin-off Kendra, when she was brought in to style the athletic wear-favoring reality TV star. During the episode, we learned that Pennie previously styled the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton herself, with whom Kendra couldn’t have less in common. Our interest piqued, we jumped at the chance to learn more about the stylist, who happened to have just launched her own YouTube Channel. The channel is cleverly named “Princess for Pennies” and aims to teach viewers how to get high fashion looks at an affordable price point using high street brands like Zara, Topshop, etc.
We checked out a few of her videos and while the production could be better, the concept is strong. Pennie hails from London, but she currently lives in Los Angeles, where she’s styled celebrities like Shenae Grimes, Cat Deeley and Julie Bowen. She’s also done royal wedding fashion correspondence for CNN, so her on-screen experience is not limited to YouTube and Kendra. Click through to find out more about how she got involved with Middleton, ended up a Hollywood stylist and what it was like doing fashion correspondence at the royal wedding.
Fashionista: What is your background? How did you end up in fashion?
Nikki Pennie: I went to London College of Fashion and I got a degree in the business side of fashion because I knew from the early days that rather than actually be a designer, I wanted to do more on the business side. Then I went to work in PR for Luella Bartley who was a big British designer at the time in London and then I went to work at a big PR company in London. I got introduced through a friend to Daniella from Issa, who was designing from her apartment at the time and I worked for her doing all the PR and communications.
How did you end up styling celebrities?
It was part of my job getting the dresses on the right girls and that’s how it grew. I started with all the London girls and then moved up to bigger celebrities and then Daniella started sending me out to L.A. about five years ago. I would come out with suitcases of dresses from Issa and would dress people in all the clothes. I had so many good friends here and I just decided I was young and needed a change so I decided two years ago to move here. Then, I kind of fell into styling because I got some different styling jobs with different celebrities and one of them was Madonna, because I knew [her] right hand woman. It was Oscar week and she said, ‘Can you come in and help get all of Madonna’s Oscar party outfits together’ and so I went in and worked from Madonna’s house for like a month doing that. After that, I started styling different people and got a styling agent.
How did you end up working with Kate Middleton?
She was one of the people who I would put her outfits together from Issa. She’s amazing; she’s wonderful.
Can you tell us a bit about the other work you’ve done, like with CNN and your YouTube channel?
Over the past year, I’ve been doing a lot of big fashion corresponding and reporting with CNN and different networks and now I’m focusing a lot on my YouTube channel and also online because basically I think the future of fashion is online. I started the YouTube channel Princess for Pennies because I wanted to basically [highlight] the fact that you can look great, but using high street clothing. Coming from London, the high street is such a big part of our culture. I love the high street; the majority of things I wear are from Zara and Topshop.
Do you think the Middletons are furthering the popularity of high street?
This trend is here to stay. The Middletons–they’re in the same age group as me and it was very much our culture growing up that we shop at the high street stores. You can see a dress that Kate Middleton or Pippa wears and you can go the next day to Warehouse or to Topshop and buy that dress and it’s probably under $200. It’s all about accessible clothing and things that people can actually go and buy and it doesn’t matter how much a dress costs as long as you look good and you feel great. It used to not be cool for a celebrity to wear Topshop on the red carpet and now it’s the thing to do.
Given your television gigs, are you angling to do more television correspondence or have your own reality show in the future?
Maybe eventually. I covered all the royal wedding for CNN and did all the fashion reporting in London for that which was really fun and I’m a fashion contributor for them, but I think right now I really want to focus on online and reaching out to people all over the world.
What was it like doing the royal wedding coverage?
It was actually amazing; I had just come back from Japan, where I was unfortunately caught in the earthquake with one of my best friends, the actress Shenae Grimes. We went there to watch a fashion show and we got caught in the earthquake and it was the most terrifying 48 hours of my life and then I came back to L.A. and I got told by my manager, ‘You’ve been asked by CNN to go to London and do all the fashion reporting up until the royal wedding and obviously on the wedding day be live at Buckingham Palace with Anderson Cooper, Piers Morgan and Cat Deeley’, which was pretty overwhelming. So I felt like I was being a part of two of the biggest events of the century. I was so proud to be British and it was the most amazing day ever.