In my latest book, True Style: A Look Beyond the Surface, I tell the story of my retail experience, during the 1980s, while working with a young woman named Katie. Katie was my gateway into understanding the true meaning of style and discovering my sartorial brand.
I found myself intrigued by her interesting and clever sartorial mix. Katie was the master of creating looks that told her unique story. Others may have turned their noses at her way of dress, but their opinions simply didn’t matter. You see, Katie’s unique stance on getting dressed was by no means contrived, nor was it driven by what was expected. Rather, her wardrobe was her sartorial branding which undeniably painted a clear picture of her unique story.
During my time with Katie, the retailer provided the staff with steep discounts to ensure we were dressed in the current garb sold in the store. In essence, because we were expected to dress in the current inventory, there became only subtle variances in our clothing. While the majority of the staff became fashion clones, Katie marched to the beat of her own sartorial drum. Katie’s self-awareness enabled her to personalize her wardrobe in a way that clearly transcribed her story.
She instinctively combined the store’s inventory with garments and accessories from her personal archive — black Doc Marten boots with frilly dresses; rock-n-roll t-shirts with traditional pants and blazers; rubber-band bracelets and skull ornaments combined with the stores jeweled selections. Though this type of dress is a mainstay for today’s youthful attire, during the 80s, this style of dress was groundbreaking. Katie never looked contrived, rather, her style melded naturally with her entire persona.
I quickly discovered she viewed clothing as a form of visual expression, and whether she meant to or not, the expression was the perfect introduction to her personal brand.
Though she had a sensitive side, Katie was also a bad-ass that enjoyed the underground party scene (which would later be defined as grunge).
What was the formula Katie used to cultivate her sartorial brand? The best way to lay theory to Katie’s idea of getting dressed is to say she subscribed to the following code:
When you know yourself, you unleash a reservoir of positive outcomes into your life. This awareness provides a distinct platform into forming a perfectly curated wardrobe.
Katie knew that wearing a head-to-toe look from the retailer wasn’t a true representation of who she was, and wouldn’t do her brand justice.
With precise branding, it is important to stay true, and in order to stay true, you must first know thyself. Knowing yourself will place you far above the others in having an accurate sartorial brand.
I image Katie was probably uninspired by the thought of wearing an outfit that was mapped out or predestined by someone other than herself. Katie wouldn’t allow herself to be molded into what was expected. Doing so would be an unfortunate injustice to her brand.
Katie’s sartorial brand was established by her uniqueness, and not one that was conceived by following the fashion rules of others. It was through her unique style of dress, she was able to reach a certain type of customer and developed a cult following.
There are various types of fashion personalities; everything from classic to bohemian. A fashion personality is the way to dress that best represents who we are as individuals.
It was no secret, while Katie was a sweet young lady, there was also a part of her that was mysterious and dark. Her life and sartorial choices were authentic and worked together to form a harmonious and authentic style story.
In order for branding to have a precise mark of distinction, it must read as authentic. To mimic another brand will only produce a one dimensional image that lacks the depth, story and passions which exist from the original.
The same attention we give to our business brand should be given to our sartorial brand. A clearly marked business brand is defined by its personal story, and doesn’t misrepresent.
I learned a valuable lesson from my time spent with Katie — Our sartorial choices say a great deal, therefore, if our clothing speaks for us, it would be wise to let the conversation be one of a powerful representation of you and your sartorial brand.
To get your style fix, join me at my blog, So What to Twenty — Where Style and Substance Intersect.
Originally published at medium.com