From the Maxx to the Marshalls: 'Style Savant' Kahlana Barfield Brown Gives Our Affordable Faves a Giftworthy Edit

True confession time: I am a veteran “Maxxinista.” If you don’t know what that is, you obviously never had the unique privilege of growing up near a T.J. Maxx—it was even my first part-time job! A decade later, I spent years modeling for the brand, so suffice to say, the Maxx and I—and its equally well-priced sister store, Marshalls—are pretty much ride-or-die, at this point. After all, who doesn’t love to get the max for the minimum? (Yes, I just seriously dated myself with that reference.)

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As it turns out, my enthusiasm for these two stores has met its match in fashion insider, influencer, former editor at InStyle magazine and overall “style savant,” Kahlana Barfield Brown. Also an honoree in this year’s The Glow Up 50, Barfield Brown’s longtime professional and personal relationship with TJX Companies (parent company of both T.J. Maxx and Marshalls) parallels my own—in fact, her younger sister is now the one with the part-time gig at a T.J. Maxx. And like me, when it comes to reliably affordable finds, it’s always one of the first places we look.

“It’s where we would go, especially during the holidays, because when you’re shopping for so many people, it’s great when you can go to one store and buy something in every category. You know, whether it’s for myself, or for my daughter, or for my sister, or my mother, there’s something for everyone in all the categories: kids, women, men, home, everything’s there,” says the mother of two (Barfield Brown gave birth to her second daughter a few months ago). So we’ve always we’ve always shopped at T.J. Maxx...Like, I know the brand in and out because the brand’s been in my life my whole life.”

Now, Barfield Brown is helping the rest of us find some affordable holiday gifts for our entire list—and thanks to the wonder of the internet, you don’t need to live nearby or even enter a store (though impressive shopping safety measures have long been in place at my local Marshalls). If you have fond memories of scoring in-store, you have no idea how many more unexpected treasures you’ll find online.

Illustration for article titled From the Maxx to the Marshalls: 'Style Savant' Kahlana Barfield Brown Gives Our Affordable Faves a Giftworthy Edit
Photo: Kahlana Barfield Brown/TJMaxx

“Seriously, the amount of designer clothes that I’ve found at T.J. Maxx and have bought for a fraction of the price of that you would find it elsewhere is crazy,” Barfield Brown laughs. “Like, I have found some gems.”

As have I—from stumbling upon usually out-of-reach luxury labels (seriously, there’s a Runway section), to deep discounts on basics, to wall art (yes, I’ve actually copped a canvas at Marshalls). I even maintain a running list of favorites to reference whenever the mood hits. (Did I mention you can save your faves? No? Well, you can do that, too.)

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“T.J. Maxx has great, great prices and trendworthy items as well, so it’s not like you have to sacrifice quality for the price. You’re getting the quality but you’re also getting an amazing, amazing price point,” says Barfield Brown, sharing her in-store shopping strategy. “I take my time, I have my list and I work my way through the racks. And I always find great items—and like a mix, you know—I’ll find designer items but I’ll also find smaller brands and, you know, up-and-coming brands, and things that I’ll discover, brands that I’ve never heard of, but I’ll also see the ones that I’ve known forever. So it’s great because you just never know what you’ll find...and it feels like a treasure, right?” she adds. “It’s like...you were able to get such an amazing price on it that you value it even more because it feels like a treasure...you just feel like you won.”

To help us win this year, the style maven is not only repping for one of her favorite retailers but has curated an edit of gift options for the entire crew. There’s always something new. There’s always something fresh,” she tells us, further explaining in a statement. “From kitchen essentials and home décor, to gifts for your little one or furry friend, they’ve got everything to help you cross your loved ones off your gift list!”

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Of course, given the opportunity to chat with one of the most stylish women in the ether as a new year looms, we had to ask her strategies for shopping beyond the holidays, especially in an unforgiving economic climate.

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“You know, I remember when I first started in fashion, spending money on just like whatever was the biggest, baddest trend—you know, whatever it was,” she recalled. “After a while, it was like, ‘OK, I was only able to wear that for one season,’ you know? And so I really I started to kind of change the way I shopped. Like, I’m always shopping—obviously, I love to be on-trend. But I think that there’s a way to be on-trend and also be like timeless at the same time. I really love to invest in classic silhouettes and also classic, neutral colors—like, neutrals are my favorite,” she adds, noting that she then adds a pop of color or her favorite (and mine), leopard, to punctuate a look. “You know, I love black...beiges...olive greens and browns and those colors where you can get a lot of wear out of it,” she adds. “You can mix and match those colors with different items, and no one will even know if you wear the same blazer two days in a row because it’s such a neutral, you know?

It’s the kind of style savvy that’s built Barfield Brown’s extensive and trusted platform, but with a growing family to be grateful for, she tells us her ultimate focus this season doesn’t require any shopping at all—and it’s something we can all afford. “We’re just going to just love on each other and just enjoy this time together,” she says, “just be present and enjoy this moment right now—just enjoy the holidays.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?

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