How you present yourself speaks volumes to everyone you meet, even before you begin to converse verbally, so portraying an image that puts your business in the best possible light to potential clients is essential if you want to get ahead. Two of the US’s most successful style trendsetters were on hand at the recent Engage!10 luxury wedding summit, held at The Ritz-Carlton, to share their views on how style is defined and discussed the importance of getting image spot on in order to win business. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports.
Randy Fenoli will be familiar to readers from his ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ television series on the TLC network, a dapper, impeccably dressed, perfectly coiffed, thin-as-a-whippet man who could no doubt exude style dressed in a bin bag, such is the power of his (albeit petit) presence. Fenoli is the fashion director for the famed bridal store Kleinfeld in New York and dresses thousands of brides each month, much to the delight of his adoring fan base.
He was joined for the presentation by Todd-Avery Lenahan, a designer extraordinaire who specialises in the design of the highest-end luxury hotels such as Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons all over the world. Lenahan’s style complemented Fenoli’s in terms of taste and quality yet still managed to define him uniquely. Both engaged the audience completely with their passion for style.
Lenahan begin the presentation by getting the audience to think of three or four words that defined their personal and professional style.
“These words do not have to be specific to your look, more what they say about you and who you are,” he said, citing words such as “fabulous”, “fearless” and “fierce” as examples from a previous audience.
Getting individuals to think about how others saw themselves was a great way to define personal style.
Style as a sales tool
“You are your greatest endorsement of your business,” Lenahan continued.
“Your style sends a message out there to all your customers; it helps you create your vision.”
Fenoli agreed and said that people make a judgment about individuals based upon what they see.
“It takes a little effort to put things together,” he confirmed.
“You need to think not only about your clothes but also about your posture, how you carry yourself. It’s all important: let’s not forget that business is business.”
Fenoli said that the tone of his personal style was a crucial element of his own success: “I have 1.5 million viewers looking at me each week, so I’ve got to look good all the time. I’m meticulous about what I wear. In particular, when I travel I have an inventory of my clothing and tick each piece off as I pack.”
Speaking to the world of weddings but with relevance to all kinds of business, Lenahan said that leveraging yourself as a stylist over your main career (such as a photographer, wedding planner, etc) would make a huge influence over the bottom line of a company, adding to the value of the service provided.
Self confidence and style interlinked
“When a potential client first comes to you they are coming from a position of insecurity in that they don’t know you,” Lenahan said. “They need to be able to entrust you and feel confident that you are going to produce what they need. Your confidence exudes from the way you look, your posture and the way you speak.”
He encouraged the audience to think whether their presentation calmed and reassured others and whether it suggested to others that they were professional enough to be unfazed by new challenges. He also challenged attendees to think whether their appearance endeared themselves to others.
Fenoli said that he always chooses his words very carefully and said this was also a matter of style.
“When I find a dress for my clients I’m extremely careful how I phrase things,” he confirmed. “It’s about taking control of the situation and having the power to steer things your way. You have to be the god of your existence!”
Take a personal inventory
Fenoli said that you have to take an assessment of yourself once in a while and be realistic with what you have. As most of the attendees were female and thus the comment was most relevant, Fenoli said that weight was an issue that most people struggled with, whether they felt themselves to be too large or too small.
“We have to embrace who we are. We all have to struggle with our weight,” he said. “Tailoring and good proportion are the key. You do not have to spend a huge amount of money on clothes, just get a few good pieces and have your tailor fit them for you. That’s a great way to ensure that you keep to your weight as well,” he stated.
Fenoli said that he was on a never-ending crusade to find new style ideas, flicking through magazines and creating portfolios of his favourite ideas.
“You need to find a sense of style that is right for you and that will get you noticed. Sylvia Weinstock, for example, sports her huge glasses and is always noticed,” he said.
“When you find your own style it’s something of an “aha!” moment.”
Lenahan said that he had his own persona; “aha!” moment after leaving his previous career as a designer for Walt Disney.
“They were very strict on appearance at Disney,” he confirmed. “For example we were not allowed to have shaved heads, nor wear beards. Working independently I realised that I could change my look to suit the needs of my client, simply by growing and shaping facial hair, changing my glasses or changing the neckline of my clothing.”
More than just good taste
Style is, according to the presenters, a complement to good taste.
Lenahan said: “It’s about taking everything about yourself and letting it appear at the surface. You are basically saying to your client: trust me because I am a barometer of good taste”.”
Style is also about consistency and Lenahan questioned the audience as to whether their message that they delivered had the same potency and seamlessness time after time.
“Is your presentation consistently and seamlessly responsive to the dynamics of an evolving business world and consumer trends?” he posed.
Creating an authentic sense of style means capitalising on your own unique attributes, he added.
Fenoli’s key take-aways
To assist the audience in creating their own sense of style, Fenoli had the following take-away nuggets of information:
- Always use a full length mirror
- Always iron clothing
- Save Crocs, flip-flops and tennis shoes for the garden/beach/tennis court
- Always have a decent mani and pedicure
- Never wear scrunchies and only tie your hair back with elegant tie-backs
- Never wear sweats outside the home unless you are at the gym, and even then they should be stylish
- Never wear T-shirts with logos
- Never wear holiday sweaters (but always thank the gift-giver and then give them back to the store later)
- Never wear fanny-packs
- Always wear good accessories, nothing cheap and cheerful
- Always ensure you have white teeth
- Always take pride in your appearance.