They also get promoted more often, have better sex and find it easier to make quality friends. During her 13 years heading up a major international fashion brand, Silvia has styled photoshoots and dressed corporate bankers. Her clients are among public company CEOs, politicians and a plethora of lawyers, bankers and other professionals. You should be next.
I met this fascinating lady at a meeting of entrepreneurs in downtown Geneva. Silvia was giving a talk on the power of personal branding and, more specifically, her passion as a style consultant. The meeting was held in the dimly lit back room of a pub close to the Pâquis red-light district (yes, Geneva has a red-light district, all very controlled and Swiss-like, but it is there). Her audience was made up equally of men and women, some with beers in their hands, others were drinking wine or sugar-free drinks. The usual networking was going on, business cards were being exchanged, and there was a muted hum of voices as attendees hustled. When Silvia began her talk, her quiet voice was difficult to hear over the hubbub, then the first row of the audience fell silent. By the time Silvia reached the part of her presentation where she brought out her coloured scarf swatches, the room was mesmerised. I knew I had to meet with her again. I pushed through the throng and pressed my card into her hand. “Let’s meet for coffee,” I said. “I know a few insurance peeps back home who could use your talents.” I was joking, of course, but I’m not sure my insider humour was completely understood (or even that funny). Nonetheless, we connected by phone a few days later and set up a date for a meeting at a much more upmarket coffee shop, closer to the Old Town section of the Geneva city centre with its cobbled streets and graffiti-free and wonderfully ornate centuries-old city buildings.
Sitting inside the busy coffee shop with its constant stream of locals popping in for their fix of espresso and a pastry, Silvia told me a few of her secrets.
“It’s actually not that expensive,” she said. “Once we’ve conducted the colour analysis, which usually takes around two hours, we’ll have discovered your ‘wow’ colour.” Hint: look to the iris of your eye to find ‘your’ colours. Silvia recommends dressing according to shades of the darkest area of your iris in the morning when you need a pick-me-up and to shades of the lightest part of your iris when you are relaxing, or on your way out after a hard day settling claims. When you have a solid idea of your colours based on iris, skin tone and body shape, shopping not only becomes much easier, but it also becomes much less expensive. “You’ll head straight to the rack that contains your sleeve length, colours, fabric weight and neckline. This saves so much time. You’ll also never again spend good money on items that do nothing for you.”
She is passionate about the topic. “Dressing is a form of expression. I push others to stop spending money on the wrong clothes and to rather invest in good quality items that will last, bring joy and save money in the long run,” she adds.
A recent article in The Atlanticmentions a study that apparently proves that men feel more powerful when they wear suits. The study also showed that test subjects, who thought they were wearing doctors’white coats, were more meticulous when doing tasks. A second group, who were told that the (same) white coats were previously worn by painters, were much less careful when doing the same tasks.
Silvia disagrees the patriarchal men’s suit is still a thing. “Just look at the sneaker-wearing, jeans-clad billionaires on Wall Street.”
Dr Robin Kiera of Digitalscouting, a Germany-based consultancy specialising in attention hacking in the insurance industry agrees. “In bygone years, company directors wore suits and service personnel wore jeans. Now company CEOs wear jeans and service personnel wear suits,” he said when I brought the topic up during a recent conversation.
“Ah, but what if your job dictates that you mustwear a suit?”I asked Silvia.
“Suits are becoming less structured and any kind of attempt to look dressed up is now regarded as a suit,” she said. She concurs that some business sectors, like law, might still require the archetypal black suit to be worn. “But you can still accessorise spectacles, cuff links, ties and fabric textures in your ‘wow’ colour to bring your personal brand to fore,” she explained.
So what style secrets was I able to get Silvia to confess?
The fundamentals of illusion dressing are the same for both men and women. It is all about tricking the eye.
It is possible to find flattering fashion off the rack once you know which brands cater for your shape.
A good tailor is worth his weight in cotton. He will ensure your off the rack clothes fit perfectly.
Great-fitting clothing in the right style and colour will camouflage body flaws. Helped by a decent pair of shoes, eye-pleasing accessories, good hair and a clear complexion. All of these style hacks will help move observers’eyes away from the parts of your body you would rather not advertise and flaunt those bits you do. What else did I learn?
If you’re vertically challenged:
- Wear tone-on-tone colour top-to-bottom.
- Use height in your hair if possible.
- Try wearing hats and shoes with a higher heel for adding length.
- Play with colour.
If you’re short-waisted:
- Wear a belt in the same colour as your trousers.
- Wear sweaters and jackets hanging below the waist.
- If you’re wearing a suit, wear a tone-on-tone suit and shirt, otherwise the contrast will bring attention to the perceived ‘flaw’ area.
If you have a short neck:
- Vertical stripes will add the illusion of length.
- V-necks also add length.
- Thin lapels are better than wide ones.
- Play with hairstyles.
And if you’ve packed on the pounds since school:
- Wear lightweight fabrics and darker colours.
- Long sleeves make the body look more proportional and ‘together’.
- Remember your grandpa’s vest? Buy some. Undershirts keep the, err, stomach in place.
- Thin lapels
- Ditch the T-shirts.
- Be careful with prints.
If you have long and skinny arms:
- Wear thicker fabrics and layers.
- V-necks will detract from the arms.
- Sleeve length should almost reach the elbow.
If you have a long neck:
- Try tying a Windsor or other large-sized knot in your tie and choose a scarf or tie with horizontal stripes.
- Yup, you read this here, wear turtle or polo necks.
- Ditch your V-necks.
If you have a small chest (boys or girls):
- Wear a colourful top with darker trousers or skirt for a more striking effect.
- Expand with heavier fabrics, heavy cottons, tweeds, flannels and thick knit sweaters.
- Layering is great; wear an undershirt with a button-down shirt.
- Sweater and a jacket or coat depending on the weather.
- Double-breasted suit jackets with wide lapels.
- Double vents.
(These all add width)
It’s your anniversary or you have a hot date?
Wear red. Red spells romance and passion. Watch as your style alters the mood.
Brainstorming your way to your next insurtech success?
Wear green or purple for creative meetings or when you want to stand out.
Do Silvia’s clients really make more money and have better sex? Well, I’m not sure about the better sex bit, but it does stand to reason that if you feel more confident in how you look, you’ll act, and be perceived, as being more confident. And there are studies that show that the opposite sex is attracted by confidence. Except for needy men who are afraid of confident women. Which ultimately means the same thing yes?
Silvia’s clients are convinced that finding their wow colour and style has helped them win clients and courtroom battles. If that is so, maybe the better sex thing isn’t that much of a stretch?
You can reach out to Silvia at www.silviafinney.ch or follow her on Twitter @finneysilvia