What does success look like? Patty Soltis knows. For over five years she was Vice President and General Manager for Neiman Marcus in both the Tampa and Boca Raton, Florida, locations. As a leader she knows what it takes to have a global view of every aspect of business, of every brand, to include sales, marketing, fiscal responsibility, change management and business development—to name just a few skill sets. Too bad, then, that the one thing people often fail to address is their personal brand.
“We tell people that they are walking billboards for their brand,” says Patty, who is Managing Director of STYLEdge. “That person is a brand unto themselves, and yes, we get lots of pushback that clothing isn’t important, that it’s superficial in some way, but that’s just not true. As humans, we are all about visual communication.”
Patty is so passionate about her mission that a little over a year and a half ago, in January 2015 she launched STYLEdge with a co-founder and good friend, Elaine Sweeney. "Elaine has years of experience as a presenter and television personality and local fashion icon. We met at a charity luncheon. At first, we thought we’d deal with cleaning closets and personal shopping,” Patty says, “but our business swiftly evolved into working not only with individuals but with public figures, professionals, and organizations, companies with two or three employees to multi-national and international firms.”
Patty, a graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington, and Oakland University in Rochester, MI, where she obtained her MBA, is a firm believer in community. On any given day she meets and interacts with many people, clients, friends, business associates, and other like-minded individuals. She is on the Women’s Leadership Committee of the United Way Worldwide and is part of the Advisory Council for the Sykes School of Business at the University of Tampa.
But she is always thinking about her personal brand. To anyone with an interest in style, it makes sense. What we choose to wear says a lot about how we feel about ourselves and our world. Clothes are statements. “Don’t ever forget,” says Patty, “that you have seven seconds to make a first impression. We love it when clients tell us ‘I had such a good first impression of you, that I wanted to talk to you.’"
Seven seconds isn’t long, especially when you think about how business is carried out these days, on planes, in airports, at coffee shops as well as traditional meeting places such as offices. “The business cycle has emerged with technology so that we work everywhere. How do you dress for that?” asks Patty. “Those are the puzzles we solve. Think in these terms. Your next best customer could be the person sitting next to you on a plane. What impression did you give?”
One of the biggest issues to address is to think beyond labels. Patty feels that women often limit themselves with labels such as pear or apple. Instead, she encourages clients to think beyond. Short body, long legs, for example. Nonetheless, it’s not always easy for people to adapt the looks they see on the runway into wearable styles that must often coexist happily with existing wardrobes.
On the subject of runway looks, Patty has a lot to say about budgets for fashion. She feels it is necessary to think through where to hold back and where to spend. “Fiscal agility is very important when shopping,” confirms Patty.
So where does she start? “Well,” explains Patty, “start by thinking of your brand as your image. And then think about it as a road trip. Imagine where you want to end up and create the route to get there. We’ll help you.”
On a practical level, Patty distills wardrobe down into five core functions: Everyday Professional, High Impact Meeting, Day to Evening Event, Business Casual, and Weekend.
But clothes are only part of the picture. An “image” is more than just the clothes one wears. A brand is also about what you say and how you say it.
Here are just a few of Patty’s tips. You’ll learn more at her website www.styledgefashion.com and as you follow along on this blog, as we’ll be checking back in with Patty.
PATTY’S STYLING TIPS
- Assess your current image. Search for yourself online, particularly through social media, and see what others are seeing. Is that the image you want to project of yourself?
- Think about what you are saying, visually and verbally, about yourself in how you appear to others
- Don’t be afraid to ask for professional styling help.
- Obtain feedback from people you admire, know and trust.
- Promote yourself in a way that emphasizes your assets.
- Have a strong elevator pitch prepared about who you are and what you do in life.
- Be humble without being self-deprecating.
- Make valuable connections. Birds of a feather flock together.
For more information about Patty and Elaine, visit www.styledgefashion.com