Seven seconds is all it takes to make a first impression, according to neuroscientists in the United States, and while there are all sorts of body language tricks to help you create a sparkling presence, a much-underrated factor in that opinion-forming is your wardrobe.
Scruffy style? An interviewer will see a slapdash attitude. Overly neat and coordinated? Reliable but unimaginative. The indicators that make you appear impressive and successful are so subtle that sometimes it takes an objective eye to spot their absence.
“Many people don’t really think about their professional look – they count on their skills only,” says Nina Iskander, a stylist based in Dubai. “A personal stylist can definitely help to guide and improve the professional appearance to match the professional experience.”
Indeed, although more commonly associated with girlie shopping sprees in Harvey Nichols, the right image consultant can discreetly transform your appearance in a way that can help you climb that career ladder – and stay at the top.
Sammy Aki, a menswear stylist based in London, works with international clients from the UAE and beyond. With a background in tailoring, she is one of the creative forces behind the twice-yearly Savile Row fashion presentations at London Collections: Men.
For Ms Aki, styling is not about a radical change of image, but tweaking and perfecting a look so that the client can be entirely comfortable in fine clothing, whether sitting in the office or attending events around the world – and every day she works to achieve this with the help of the best tailors on the planet.
“Clients who have to wear a suit every day want to add personality to this ‘uniform’, as well as feel comfortable and look elegant,” she says. “You want to make sure that you are comfortable in what you are wearing day in and day out, without resorting to ill-fitting clothing – so many men wear suits one size too big for them.
“The tailors and cutters at work on Savile Row all wear fine tailoring every day – they spend the whole day standing and working, yet look at ease in the suits they wear. I try to help my clients achieve this. This in turn helps them stand tall and proud when at work, knowing that they have the best for them.
Ms Aki adds that the business casual look is a hard line to walk for some.
“I enjoy putting together the right accessories, such as good shoes,” she says. “A lot of my clients work internationally and travel a fair bit, so I love seeking out great travel fabrics that will ensure they aren’t all creased up and hot and bothered in the office.”
That cool and collected look alone can be enough to make you stand out in a crowd of flustered, crumpled colleagues, making you appear as one of those men or women who effortlessly sail through life [however much paddling is going on beneath the surface]. And, says Ms Iskander, standing out is essential: “We are living in a competitive world,” she says. “Even if we only talk about Dubai, the competition is massive, so it is really important to look at your best.”
Your best does not, of course, mean your most ostentatious: the office is not a place to show off your bling. Indeed, according to the stylist Amal Tayssir, who works with both western and national dress, the higher up you climb, the subtler your style should be.
“The personality of an authoritative figure should overcome their attire, accessories and make-up,” says Ms Tayssir, who was the stylist for the ADTV morning show Sabah Al Dar. “We choose to emphasise quality of fabric, the drape or cut, and the solid colours that put across a more ‘serious’ image. Make-up is minimal, and accessories are few but are of high value.”
Ms Tayssir also has good advice on choosing a stylist – and it comes down to more than just finding clothes you like.
“A good image consultant will not only make sure that your wardrobe does the communication for you, but will also provide you with guidelines on how to carry yourself,” she says. “You need someone you can talk to, feel comfortable around, and trust, trust, trust. A good personal stylist will always explain all steps to a client, including personality analysis, job analysis and physical analysis.”
For Ms Aki, too, trust is everything: you must, she says, feel that your stylist has the same outlook as you yourself wish to convey: “My clients often ask me about restaurants and exhibitions, not only in London but across the globe,” she says.
“Ultimately, you want to find someone who is passionate about working with you and is well equipped to do so.”
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