I met Ada Polla by chance in 2007 after we both attended "How to Build Your Beauty Brand," an aptly titled workshop during an industry trade show in Las Vegas. She approached me after the session, intrigued to meet the mouthy DC-based brand manager who monopolized the entire conversation. Ada introduced herself and I was immediately taken by her poise. We chatted and as fate would have it, we realized that we lived within a mile of each other in Arlington, Va.
That chance meeting evolved into one of my most rewarding relationships. Ada is a brilliant business woman, with laser focus and a tireless work ethic. She is generous with her network and relishes the oppurtunity to connect like minded people that she also happens to like. Ada is elegant and kind and an amazing listener. Truly, if you've been lucky enough to fall into her circle - you are lucky enough.
Ada's role as CEO of her family's Swiss-based skincare company Alchimie Forever, combined with living between NOLA and DC, places her on the road and in the air often.
Her Georgetown residence is high on style (a quintessentially European mix of ornate antiques and sleek modern accents) and cozy on closet space. All of this adds up to a personal style strategy I was eager to flush out.
Up, Close & Personal Questions
JMB: Describe your personal style in three or four sentences.
AP: One of my life mottos is: “Always be overdressed” - I have notecards printed with this saying. In a few words, I would say classic, elegant, minimal, and black. About 60% of my closet overall is black, the rest is white, grey, blue, purple and fuchsia (I don’t do prints at all).
I love dresses because I don’t have to think about mixing and matching items. Yet I also love pants - for so many years I was a boot cut pant girl given my small waist and voluptuous hips and backside, but I have actually embraced capris in the last few years, and find that they suit my hour-glass shape more than expected.
A great blazer (and in this category I include a great jean jacket) will up the elegance of any outfit, so I have a few that I love and wear regularly. I love the black and white look - super elegant.
Heels, always. Red lips, always.
JMB: How does your lifestyle influence your wardrobe?
AP: I run a skin care company and always need to look professional and put together. I don’t have kids so I don’t have toddlers to run after. I travel a ton. These are the highlights of my lifestyle that impact my wardrobe: not a lot of “casuals” other than jeans (mostly black!), no workout clothes other than when running or heading to Soulcycle, 4 inch heels, clothes that will work in a variety of climates (layers and blazers).
JMB: How has your style evolved from your 20s to your 30s and beyond?
AP: Truthfully - not a lot. I would say the biggest shifts have been capri pants (noted above) and one impactful closet-cleaning experience. In my late 20s, one of my younger sisters made me clean out my closet - as in try everything I owned on, and if it was thumbs down, the item went to Goodwill. Result: I don’t own any clothes that make me look frumpy. Even on bad days when I feel fat I still only have great-looking clothes to wear. That experiment forever changed how I buy and keep clothes.
I do a closet-cleaning twice a year and always keep that same philosophy in mind. My buying philosophy has remained consistent: quality over quantity, classics over trends. I also have to admit that I still wear some clothes that I had in college, and I even have one top and one dress from high school I still wear.
JMB: Do you have a signature look or piece?
AP: Red lips. Again, like a blazer, I find that red lips just up the elegance / classical look of any outfit, even jeans and a white t-shirt. Unless I am exercising or at the beach -- 4 inch heels, always. They make my legs look longer, make me feel like I can take on the world and anything that the day is going to throw at me.
JMB: Do you have a closet organizational system?
AP: Yes! I am all about organization. First, I don’t switch out summer / winter clothing items. Everything I own is in two closets year-round (part of the benefit of not owning too much). I organize by item type (all dresses together, all pants together, etc).
Next, I organize by color (lots of black, as mentioned above), then I organize by season. For example: black winter dresses all together, next to black summer dresses, next to blue winter dresses, next to black winter pants - and so on.
Also, I am very particular about hangers. Having only one type of hanger really changes the look and organizational feel of my closet and I love it. I live by Huggable Hangers.
JMB: What are you wearing when you feel most like you?
AP: I couldn’t decide between two outfits, so here they are, both summer looks since the weather has finally turned:
1. Black Theory knit dress, boat neck, sleeveless; white cropped vintage Balenciaga blazer; black patent Jimmy Choo wedge sandals; red lipstick.
2. White Donna Degnan capri pants; black Banana Republic t-shirt; black blazer; black Manolo BB heels; red lipstick.
JMB: If you had to give away all of your wardrobe except for 5 items what would they be and why?
1. My Celine clutch (white and black, removable gold chain) that my husband just got me for Christmas - I have never had a small clutch with a chain, which is so very convenient during an evening out (free hands, less to remember not to forget at the bar!)
2. My jean jacket - I love it, it goes with everything, and it fits perfectly.
3. My Manolo BB pumps - I have two black pairs because I wear them most days. If I could, I would have these in every color.
4. My current favorite black dress - round neck, sleeveless, hits below the knee. Super simple, but perfect for every occasion from work to date night to weekend.
5. My white vintage Balenciaga blazer - I just bought this on a whim three weeks ago and I have worn it 5+ times since.
JMB: Any packing or organizational tips?
AP: I travel 75% of my time, so I have packing down to a science. For a five day work trip I will pack two dresses and one pair of pants (all black, sometimes the pants are white); four tops (that way in total I have 6 outfits for 5 days); one blazer which works with both the dresses and the pants; two pairs of shoes; a pashmina always (even in summer; airplanes are cold); my Celine clutch for going out to dinners.
Thank you lovely Ada. Can't wait for our traditional Cosmoprof cocktail in July.
P.S. If you love Ada's elegant style as much as I do, click that little heart below.