“I found out quite early in my career that I wasn’t made to be an employee,” says Babba Canales. The entrepreneur has cut her teeth at buzzy companies like Uber and Away, but her latest project is By Babba, a brand marketing agency all her own. “It was during my time at Away that I was reminded of my true calling of being an entrepreneur versus employee,” she notes. “I wanted to help other brands find their brand voice and strategy, and do it at a scale. That’s what redirected my interest in starting By Babba: to once and for all be my own boss and open my knowledge and network to help multiple brands.”
But life as an entrepreneur is no standard 9-to-5, as Canales notes. “No two days are ever the same. Some days I am traveling between back-to-back meetings, whilst others I am traveling internationally.” With such an unpredictable schedule, it’s safe to assume that when it comes to weekday dressing, there’s no room to slack off. And while a professional wardrobe is a requirement, Canales’s weekday looks are refreshingly easy.
Though she’s quick to mix things up, there is one style staple Babba counts on for the heavy lifting: “You really can’t go wrong with a good power suit!” Look no further for proof than a typical week in Canales’s shoes… and blazers. “Matching suits not only look sharp but [they also simplify] my morning routine. One quick decision on which suit to pick and I’m done, versus having to match up an entire outfit on a stressful morning. Suits also give me that confident edge that is sure to make an impression.”
And it’s not just Canales embracing the suit—the style was a key trend on both the past fall and spring runways. The idea of clothing as a form of empowerment is one that has resonated through the industry over the past year. Although suiting once seemed especially corporate and buttoned-up, Canales is proof that dressing professionally can also be fun. Bold prints and vibrant colors mirror Canales’s positive energy and passion for her career: “Life is a journey, not a destination, and so should your career be as well. Life is too short to hate your job.”
Read on for a look at Babba Canales’s weekday wardrobe and prepare to be inspired!
Anna Harty; STYLING: Ade Velkon suit; A.L.C. tee; Monceau Pearly Gates Loafers ($270)
These days, By Babba’s home base is Spring Place, a co-working space in NYC’s Tribeca neighborhood. For a day in the entrepreneurial office, Canales blends professional and casual. A pinstripe suit gets dressed down with a T-shirt and furry loafers. “My closet is super versatile,” she notes. “I try to choose looks that can take me anywhere.”
Traditionally, pinstriping can feel pretty formal. But looking for nontraditional cuts of suits (like Babba’s sleeveless top) can keep the ensemble from feeling quite so stuffy. For a day when you need something a bit more polished, swap in a blouse and pair of simple block heels.
Anna Harty; STYLING: Baum und Pferdgarten suit; ATP Atelier mules; Gucci bag
Since a single day can take Canales just about anywhere in the city, she relies on a bold red suit when she’s on the go. “[It] takes me in between meetings with luxury brands to corporate.” While suiting can often be written off as basic or boring, this colorful, printed set is proof that more eye-catching styles can work in serious meetings too.
To break away from that throwback corporate suit, consider the cut of the pieces you’re looking at. If a bold red or geometric print feels a little too loud for your office, other details like Canales’s wide-leg crop trousers (instead of a traditional slim fit) and double-breasted jacket are more fashion forward.
Babba describes Wednesday’s look as “flirty and feminine.” While a slip dress could easily skew as evening wear, by adding a button-down underneath, she can easily transition the outfit from day to night. Notes Canales, “This ensemble is great for meetings over coffee and socializing over drinks.” One more trick Canales has for transforming her look from day to night involves accessories. “I am a big accessories person, and I think accessories are perfect for transitioning a look. Shoes completely change a look—keeping an alternative pair on hand makes it super easy to be ready for anything.”
Canales’s look is great for early fall but can easily transition into the cooler months too. Instead of brogues, try over-the-knee boots, and consider a sweater instead of a button-down. The heftier pieces will keep you warm while still keeping the punchy (yet professional) feel of this outfit.
Anna Harty; STYLING: Marville Road suit; Ganni tee; Sandlund / Hossain tote; Camper sandals
“The fourth look is definitely a staple for me,” Canales notes about her relaxed navy suit set. “It’s really an anywhere outfit that I incorporate, especially when I need an outfit that doesn’t require too much thinking but delivers an impression.”
When hunting for a more relaxed suiting set, pay special attention to the fabric, and make sure it won’t wrinkle as you spend your day running from your desk to the boardroom and back again. Luckily, swapping out a tailored suit for one in a looser cut means that you aren’t forced to fuss with it throughout the day—ensuring your pick doesn’t require constant steaming will make all the difference.
Canales’s employment has taken her from Sweden to London to New York, and as a modern career woman, it’s not unusual to find her crisscrossing the globe regularly. But one benefit of her constant travel is the fact that she’s mastered the art of the airport outfit. “The last look is my travel-day uniform—taking me straight from work to the airplane,” she says. “The materials of the pants and shirt are super light and keep you cool in any weather. I would switch the heels for sneakers in the Uber on my way to the airport and be ready for a red-eye.”
Canales turns to up-and-coming labels like basics brand ADay and the suitcase maker (and her former employer) Away when she travels, “ADay is definitely one of my go-to brands in terms of professional yet comfy travel outfits. They have beautiful, minimal pieces that look great but feel even better,” she notes. “I rarely have time to wait for a checked bag. I, therefore, always opt for Away’s perfect carry-on, compliant with all global airlines. It fits so much more than one would think with the compression compartment.”
Today, women increasingly have to dress in a way that’s not just singularly practical but actually makes navigating a busy schedule easier. Canales exemplifies this modern take on style—one that goes beyond the office and manages to be both comfortable and fashion forward. A weekday wardrobe, like many jobs themselves, is no longer as simple as 9-to-5. Women can find true confidence and empowerment in what they wear, and for Canales, it always comes down to the suit. “Suits give me that confident edge that is sure to make an impression.”