Why Fashion Matters Even if You’re Not a Fashionista

What you wear says who you are.” Barbara Glass

For a few hours on August 24th, I got to experience what it takes to be fashionably successful. Sitting alongside fashion industry experts, I listened in as they shared career advice with students at The Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago.

Here’s the fashion success panel, pictured left to right: Amanda Monteiro, director, Armani Jeans and Armani Junior; Barbara Glass, Fashion Editor of InFashionChicago.com;  Bill Reishtein of DivaMall.tv; me – Barbara Rozgonyi, and Helen Newman, owner of Helen Newman Ltd. Showroom.

As the only one on the panel without true blue fashion credentials, I found it fascinating to hear each panelist’s personal career success stories. Are you in the fashion industry?

A room full of fashionably dressed [of course!] students asked questions about what it takes to not only get started, but to get ahead in an industry where, as Heidi Klum says, “One day you’re in and the next day you’re out.”

How I Got to Be A Fashion Success Panelist

Last month, Jill Hinrichs, ILIA Chicago’s Career Services Advisor, called to ask if my company needed any brand ambassadors to help out at events.

One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was on the panel.

Jill thought my marketing and social media experience would add an interesting angle.

Turns out, Jill was right. Our panel conversation referenced social media fluency as a must-have for fashion internships and entry-level employees.

My Fashion Marketing and PR Project Interludes

Although I’ve never worked directly inside the industry, my fashion interludes include writing press releases for boutiques; consulting for Sears; presenting Coco Chanel as an example of integrating personal and corporate branding in a keynote speech; contributing to international research on how fashion brands use social media; writing about  Tim Gunn as the ultimate corporate spokesperson and sharing fashion events via the wiredPRworks network.

On the panel, we talked about why packaging is so important. What would you add to this list?

13 Fashionable Ways to Package You, Your Brand and your Business

1. Be recognizable. Have a look that gets you noticed by the right people. On our panel, the other women were wearing black. I wore bright colors, which caused me to rethink how loud I want to be when I walk into a room.
2. Pay attention to details. Small things, like how a fabric photographs, are important to consider. Try on an outfit, take a few pictures, and see if it supports the image you want to convey.
3. Be on trend. This goes for everyday items like documents. Do you compose and send in Times Roman? Shake it up a bit and use a more modern font like Garamond or Cambria. Or, go with a san serif font like Tahoma. To get more attention, pop in color in headlines.
4. Change your look, but stay within the design family. People get bored so easily. That’s why it’s important to have a variety of looks you can change out with colors or images.
5. Include an image with every blog post; a picture is worth a thousand words.
6. Be a model. This doesn’t mean you have to be young, tall and gorgeous. Position your company as the model for the best in business. Snag cover stories with a PR agency that knows how to package your business as a supermodel in your industry.
7. Make your own runway. Find a few companies or people you want to be like. Follow them online, model your business after theirs and watch success walk down your runway. Art students will want to follow Artist Tara Reed for advice on how to make money by licensing your art.
8. Get a makeover. Whether it’s your hairstyle, your makeup or your marketing that looks sad and tired, a makeover will lift your spirits and refresh the way the world sees you.
9. Read fashion magazines. Top copywriters regularly swipe headlines off of Glamour, Vogue and Marie Clair. While you never, ever want to plagiarize, it’s okay to borrow the sound and the feel. If you don’t want to take the magazine home, visit the sites and subscribe to the newsletter.
10. Think digital. Whether you want to be or not, your goal is to be a screen star. Not in Hollywood, but on your customer’s screens: iPad, notebook and mobile phone. Show up at places, take pictures, tag them and share via social media.
11. Get a personality! PR stands for personality + reputation. If you don’t have a personality, you don’t have a business. And, every personality needs a look. When I went to see a speaker known for her flashy jewelry, I wore mine. Before the program started, I asked for a picture. Guess who she mentioned in the program?
12. Love fashion! Find a look, line or label that becomes you, add in shoes and accessories, all in a color palette that matches your style. You’ll be more confident, visible and successful!!
13. Take risks. When Social Media Club Chicago presented a speaker who talked about being swamped, I cut a piece of ivy from my garden and wore it as a garland necklace to compliment the theme. It was fun, free and memorable.

How do you use fashion to package you – or your brand?

Wondering what’s in fashion for fall 2012 and winter 2013?

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