The first meeting I had with Joyce Shiri; one of Zimbabwe’s leading image consultants and founder of JS Happening Image Consulting Firm, changed my opinion about power and dressing.
Joyce was professionally and exquisitely dressed and sat with a poise and confidence that demanded that you listen to her. And listen to her I did. You have guessed right, I kicked myself in the foot, for not putting more effort in my appearance. (Which consisted of a “dhuku” and a dress which I had worn because it did not need any ironing).
Joyce is a firm believer in the power of image. She believes that people dismiss or acknowledge someone within a few minutes of meeting them.
In Zimbabwe the field of Image Consulting is perceived as a new “kid on the block” within the business fraternity.
However, this field has been around since the 1970s and was popularised by the book “Dress for Success” by John T Molloy, which was published about that time.
Originally, image consultancy was an exclusive enclave, for movie stars, sports stars and musicians and the rich who had “spare change” to pay someone to look good. Rachel Zoe, one of the biggest celebrity stylist has a net worth of about US$16 million.
However, corporates have since realised the power of image and have begun to engage image consultants to spruce up their brands.
The World Wide Association of Image Consultants is a body that has been formed to elevate this field and training institutions such as Colour Works in Kwazulu Natal also offer specialised courses.
So what really does an image consultant do? Basically, an image consultant’s job is to ensure that their clients exude personal style and good mannerisms. These include; dressing, clothes buying, body language and etiquette. I will also add working space ambience. (What use is someone looking immaculate surrounded by dirty, ugly and smelly spaces?)
There are different categories of image consulting too. Corporate etiquette might include training in telephone decorum, emotional intelligence and dining room politeness (Very important — Have you ever seen how people behave at buffets? Some people take all the meat while others are left with only lettuce). Another category is personal Image consulting. This field includes activities such as cosmetic tutorials, body line analysis and very importantly wardrobe detoxing (Yes some of those clothes we hold on to, which can’t be even distributed at out funerals have to go).
For males, a business suit in navy blue or black are an absolute must, in one’s wardrobe. Shoes must have laces. As a rule of thumb ties should always “kiss the bottom of the buckle”. Any higher it becomes a baby feeder and any lower it attracts attention to the wrong parts. It is also important to avoid bright and bold patterns. If you are fond of red ties, sorry guys that colour is worn by CEOs and Presidents.
JS Happening Image Consulting recommends the “Real Style Website” by Antonio Centro and the movie Kingsmen for men to learn about style.
For ladies, a well-made blazer, button up shirt, and a knee length black dress that outlines your body are absolute musts for your wardrobe. A pencil skirt is also a must have. Joyce also recommends a navy blue business suit as opposed to the traditional black colour. Ladies should avoid those killer hills and bright red lipstick to work. The Movie “The Devil Wears Prada” is also full of fashion essentials that all women can learn from.
What can one expect at an image consultation meeting? The meeting will include a full discussion of your lifestyle, spending patterns and responsibilities. Analysis of body shape, hair and face will also be done.
Perhaps the most dreaded activity is the visit to your wardrobe. This is where the gnashing of teeth begins. Be prepared to have those beloved belly bottoms and worn out stiletto shoes thrown out. (It’s possible that you might actually not be left with anything to wear). Next will be a visit to the shops.
For SMES, an analysis of the company working space will be analysed. If employees wear uniforms then suggestions might be made on how best these women can be presented. Overall, a consultation session can cost you about US$50-500 per session.
So why do SMEs need image consulting?
Professional Impressions, an Image Consulting Company, outlines a lot of benefits that come with image consulting. They argue that; by building presence, self-confidence and approach companies can improve their credibility.
Most importantly positive image develops a uniform business brand, which enables companies to gain access to new businesses. Image consulting also ensures that individuals develop a personal brand that is aligned to the organisational goals and increases executive presence. More importantly image consultancy can improve demand for your products and services thus improving profitability.
Who should take up image consulting?
All SMEs across all industries should have basic knowledge of grooming and etiquette. For example, SMEs who are in the hospitality industry should ensure that employees are smart and uniforms are well presented. (Flies, bad smells and rude waitresses are sometimes quite common in a lot of restaurants.) Our kombi drivers and touts can do with a bit more politeness and courtesy.
Hairdressers should be particularly wary of unclean spaces. Vendors should also ensure that their stalls are kept clean (The vendor stall in Mutare next to Diamond FM is a firm favourite. Very clean and well organised). Mechanics should particularly ensure that those overalls are clean and those garages are smart.
In conclusion SMES should make use of Image Consulting services to improve and boost their image. They should also learn from our big companies on how image is crucial to company growth. All unemployed graduates out there who have a flair for beauty should try this business.
Joseline Sithole is the founder and managing consultant — Southern Africa Development Consultants — an SME Consultancy Company. Email [email protected] for comments.