A "Transformational" Fashion Experience

I arrived at HBS with a suitcase crammed with my most precious possessions. There was not a lot of room for clothes, which was fortunate because all I owned was a couple pairs of faded shorts and some beach t-shirts. My wardrobe served me well in Australia, but it clearly was not going to cut it at HBS.

I discovered this sad fact on my first night out in Boston were I fell foul of the “No Sneakers” rule. I’ve since learned Boston’s dress rules are an anomaly and NYC knows better, but the fact remains: What you wear matters. After all, “The clothes make the man.”

When was the last time you turned up your nose at a classmate trying to sound intelligent while wearing a colorful polyester shirt? But don’t just rely on my anecdotal evidence. A study that considered the importance of first impressions showed a person with a nice smile on average earns 12 percent more than a person who doesn’t (that’s A LOT for HBS students). And if a smile matters, think about what a pair of close-fitting jeans will do.

When the fashion-show directors emailed me last week to ask whether I would model in the annual Retail and Apparel Club Fashion show, my first reaction was similar to when I received my HBS acceptance: “Did they make a mistake?” But then I thought, “If Yaa (NE) and Meredith (NH) think I’m tall and sexy, who am I to argue?” If fashion is the key to success, then I’m willing to learn. And what better place to learn than at a fashion show? I came to HBS to learn management skills; clearly this includes style and poise. In fact, I was somewhat disappointed these topics were not included in the core curriculum.

Not only is dressing well important in business, but there is serious cash to be made in fashion-imagine the margin on a pair of $500 jeans. Even Puff Daddy is in on the game. There are hundreds of small brands out there and new ones are born every day. As a misinformed foreigner, I hadn’t heard of Milly or Tahari – two boutique brands participating in the show – until this week.
As you can probably tell, I have a lot to learn about fashion. But I’m getting there. At my first “catwalk training session” this week, I picked up some tips from two very stylish Europeans. Serge (NA) explained what to do on the runway: “Shoulders back; smoldering look at the audience.” And Francesco (NA) demonstrated his “Ferrari,” a look straight from Zoolander.

If you would like to see the culmination of my fashion educational experience, you can witness it in person at the fashion show March 30.

Tickets: $30 (members of the Retail and Apparel Club or European Club), $35 (non members) through Paypal link or in the Grille.
Time: March 30 from 9:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Place: Charles Hotel

March 27, 2006
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