As Vice President of Brand Strategy for Blue Flame (Sean “Diddy” Combs’s advertising and marketing agency) Ericka Pittman makes it her priority to both work hard and look good. Whether she’s in business mode planning Diddy’s infamous white party in St. Tropez, or out to dinner with friends, she’s mastered which styles works best on her body and she knows how to expertly pair high and low-end pieces for outfits that are polished and put together. Pittman’s style mantra, “style is timeless and fashion is only now,” comes from the Hall & Oates classic, “Method of Love.” Her fashion weakness? A great handbag. The fashion maven shared with us how she puts her effortless look together and how she’s turned her childhood obsession with Day to Night Barbie into her wardrobe motif. ESSENCE.com: How would you describe your style? ERICKA PITTMAN: When I think about my style, I think it represents a classic way of thinking. The pieces that I choose tend to be staples; they tend to be generational. I do a lot of vintage shopping because I find that some of the looks from the ’40s and ’50s resonate even today. ESSENCE.com: What does style mean to you? PITTMAN: Style is an individual expression. It’s identifying the things that make you happy when you wear them, but more importantly you have to make sure you wear your clothes and your clothes don’t wear you. ESSENCE.com: What are you go to staple pieces? PITTMAN: The sheath dress I think is a staple. You can do a bunch of different things with a sheath dress and if you get it in a staple color like black, gray, or even a cream — it adds cache. ESSENCE.com: What one clothing item best represents you? PITTMAN: Definitely a belt — it adds a subtle flare that can be either understated or overstated, but mostly adds utility. ESSENCE.com: What items are splurge worthy and why? PITTMAN: Bags and shoes. Your bags and your shoes should be really high-end because they are more durable and they last longer and they tend to last through trends. If you get a classic high-end shoe you can have it for up to five to seven years. Bags as well, while bags tend to be trendy you can put it away for a few months and bring it back and it’s like ‘oh I remember that bag, it’s awesome’. ESSENCE.com: What is your favorite item right now and why? PITTMAN: Believe it or not, I have an Yves Saint Laurent Passport bag. It’s gold metallic and it’s slowly but surely becoming my grunge vintage bag because I wear it so much. It’s almost like the more distressed it gets, the cuter it is. I just love because I can wear it with everything be it work, evening, or weekend, everything fits in it. ESSENCE.com: How would you suggest balancing high end and low end? PITTMAN: There are a few things that I think a woman should invest in from a high-end standpoint. It’s doesn’t have to be really expensive, but a great quality pair of black slacks, a black pencil skirt, and a white shirt. The lower end pieces, you can really have fun with your accessories. Your belts your bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. You can have loads of fun with that stuff for fairly low prices. ESSENCE.com: What’s a must for you every day? What don’t you leave the house without? PITTMAN: I don’t leave the house without earrings. If you don’t have pierced earrings, wear clip-ons. A woman should always have on a pair of earrings no matter where she’s going. ESSENCE.com: How do you tie in your work wear with your casual going out clothes? PITTMAN: Almost everything that I buy in my closet, with the exception of some super fun stuff or some super conservative stuff, when I shop the questions I ask are: can I wear this in three different environments. Can I wear this to work? Can I wear this on a date? Can I wear this to an event? And for me that usually helps in making my decision about a purchase. I have a day to night Barbie theme about my wardrobe. I should be able to go from my office to dinner to the reception or the event and be completely appropriate in every environment. ESSENCE.com: Whose closet do you envy? PITTMAN: From an accessories standpoint I envy Kimora Lee Simmons closet. Her closet is beautiful from a shoe and handbag standpoint. Clothing wise, I admire Victoria Beckham, she knows her style and she looks good in everything she wears. ESSENCE.com: How big is your closet? PITTMAN: My closet is custom and is about a quarter of the size of my upstairs loft space. ESSENCE.com: Describe some of your all-time favorite pieces and why you love them? PITTMAN: My all-time favorite piece — a basic Louis Vuitton Speedy 45. Everything fits, it’s beautiful and neutral and it works with most outfits and occasions. Always cute, my staple for on-the-go, and timeless! ESSENCE.com: What will you never be caught dead in? PITTMAN: Anything that is too small or too big. A tailor fit makes most wares look fab! ESSENCE.com: What are some of your latest purchases? PITTMAN: I have been on a vintage binge! Jumpers any way I can get them, they accentuate my waistline and can be fun, chic, casual, and sophisticated all in one. ESSENCE.com: What are you dying to get your hands on? PITTMAN: I am no slave to fashion, I am more of a style maven… however, I wouldn’t say no to those Manolo Blahnik Tall Cage Boots in Black! ESSENCE.com: What is the foolproof outfit that always makes you feel your best? PITTMAN: Black pants and a black blouse with great, chunky accessories. Black-on-black looks always wear well and work in almost any environment. ESSENCE.com: How do you deal with the avalanche of trends? PITTMAN: Trend is fun, but it should be used as a tool to enhance your wardrobe, not become the driving force behind what makes the cut from last year’s look. If you make the right choices you will have your investments for years to come and have fun making them work LONG after trends say it’s a good idea!