Fashion 101: Brand Me Part 1

This is part of a lecture I used to give to my fashion students, when I realized that many of them, even the talented ones, often overlooked the importance of creating and maintaining a strong Brand Me. What is Brand Me? It is the brand you represent. Like a company or a product, you are a brand, and your appearance, behaviour, skills, and actions all contribute to building a Brand Me. Whether you are starting a company, looking for a job, trying to sell something, or just keep a job, you want to make sure that Brand Me is strong, consistent, positive, and valuable.

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Images from LA Based bag brand, Building Blocks, www.building–block.com

While it goes without saying that talent, skills, experience, and connections are very, very important in building Brand Me, today’s blog post is covering the little things – that are still very important. I think it is essential to consider these things when communicating with someone for the first time, and at the beginning of the relationship. They will be looking to figure out what your Brand Me is – and if you come off as a reliable, professional, and presentable person, then Brand Me will probably be looking fairly good.

I’ve split this list into two parts, the first part is about personal appearance, and the second covers other aspects of first impressions.

1. Appearance. What does Brand Me look like? Are you a chic, well put together individual whose shoes are always clean and whose blouse is perfectly ironed? Are you the trendy boho girl with messy hair and lots of bangles? Are you an avant garde dresser with an asymmetrical bob and strange Japanese clothing? Consider the message you are sending with your personal appearance, and make sure it is the message you want to project to the world. Don’t think you are selling out if you don’t dress the way that you love. I’d be happy spending the rest of my life in a white tank top, jean cut offs, cowboy boots and a lot more tattoos, but that’s not my professional image and so I don’t wear cut offs to appointments. I don’t feel like I am selling out, nor do I feel like I am a being untrue to myself. My professional life is separate from my personal life, and that is ok. Know what Brand Me looks like – and stay true to Brand Me in your professional life. And Brand Me’s appearance doesn’t have to try too hard – most of us are not selling our look, so don’t feel pressured to go overboard. Just be aware of the message you are sending with your looks.

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2. Outfit. With this being fashion – your clothing is going to count for a lot. As I mentioned above, many styles can work, but make sure you think about the message you want to reflect. And if this is something you struggle with, I suggest you choose a uniform for yourself, and wear that as much as possible. That way you’ll never have a drama trying to figure out what to wear, and you will always be consistent with Brand Me.

3. Makeup. I rarely think “She isn’t wearing enough makeup.” I often think “She is wearing way too much makeup.” Don’t do that. It’s not nice.

4. Hair. Greasy, purple, messy, mohawk, or with dark roots – again, in the fashion world there is not necessarily a right or wrong in this department, but if you are going for a job interview at Net A Porter and you want to be a part of their buying team, I doubt they have many buyers with giant purple mohawks. It’s not on brand for them, and if that is Brand Me, then you probably won’t fit in there.

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5. Breath. Brush your teeth. Chew gum before (not during!) And don’t smell like cigarette smoke. I feel like this was kind of ok a few years ago in Europe, but less so now. Lots of people don’t like smokers, best not show them a Brand Me that says “I smoke a pack a day.”

6. Hands/palms. Nails are so important. Clean and trimmed is a priority. Colour is fine as long as it is not chipped (although if you are that purple mohawk girl, maybe you can get away with chipped black nails.) Long fake acrylic nails with 3D floral nail art is probably not idea if you are going for a job at Calvin Klein. And if you are the type with really sweaty palms, then I’d try and do something about that for your all important handshake.

7. Handshake. No need for detail here, everyone knows that a good handshake is important.

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8. Skin. It is easy for me to say “have good skin!” but not everyone is blessed with that. If you aren’t, then let’s go back to number 3: don’t wear to much makeup. (Or at least don’t look like you are wearing too much makeup.) And while I don’t intend on starting on a long rant about tattoos, I’d suggest you think twice about ever getting tattoos in places you can’t conceal. I’m all about being able to wear an evening gown and not show any of my tattoos, but maybe you want to be less strict and say I want to be able to wear a turtleneck and no one can see my tattoos. While most people are quite liberal about tattoos, you never know who is going to be making decisions that are going to affect your life – it’s best to let them judge you on elements that are easy to control. You can’t get rid of the skull tattooed on your hand for an important job interview.

9. Lips. My friend Nora always told me to make sure you have moisturized lips for an interview. People will be looking at your face when you are talking, and no one wants to see chapped lips.

10. Perfume. Don’t put too much on. Ever.

11. Coat. How many times have you spent hours preparing an outfit for something and then not taking off your coat? It happens frequently. And remember, the person meeting you is probably going to see your coat first. There is no point carefully choosing a beautiful suit for an interview, and then putting on a waterproof North Face parka on over top. Invest in good coats and jackets, they are very important.

12. Bag. Chances are you CV, laptop, phone, or maybe just pen are in your bag and you aren’t going to want to reach into a plastic one during a meeting, are you? And when traveling, cases and larger bags also need to be presentable. It’s hard if you are going from meeting to long haul (I’ve done this and it sucks because I like to wear a backpack during long hauls) and you want to look chic, but keep that in mind when buying luggage.

Check back on Wednesday to read part 2 of Fashion 101: Brand Me.