of dissonance, harmony, style and substance (de natura rerum)
Sometimes you get lucky and your different, seemingly opposite, dimensions and passions come together. When that happens, it’s powerful and pure joy.
As someone who moves among different worlds and who is passionate about clothes, style and beauty as well as social empowerment, economic justice, and cultural diversity, I know how hard it can be to achieve this sense of integration and how great it feels when you do.
This is my story. A story of multiplicity that ends up “put together” (pun intended). And it may be your story too. When I started to style professionally, after a “slow down” in my political science career, I felt that I had to compartmentalize my theoretical mind, sensitivity to cultural complexity, and concern with social values. Despite myself, I fell prey to the stereotype that style is the opposite of substance. I embraced the freedom to be “superficial,” to dress in fun colors and play with new styles. New York black, Buenos Aires cool, Italian with an edge, Beirut chic – my style was speaking about me without words. Still, even if my clothes were put together, my inner self was not. Before I downplayed style. Now, I was downplaying my values and intellect. Misalignment. Not good.
I began to see similar cognitive dissonance in many sophisticated and engaged professionals. Many cared about their looks but were wary about the superficial connotations of clothes and style. Some had a split style personality, one style for work (conforming and boring) and one for the rest of life (genuine and fun).
I encountered exceptions, and when I got to know these individuals I discovered fascinating human stories, like an accountant who had previously worked for the State Department in the Soviet Union. But most professionals of substance don’t have a style that adequately conveys who they are and what they are about. At one conference for non-profit board members, I found myself gazing at a sea of indistinguishable neutral and dark colors (the food table had more colors!). I am talking about people who are deeply engaged in meaningful causes. But their unique voice is muffled, and how they show up doesn’t live up (or style up) to their sensibility, humor, talents, and background. Their message gets lost.
At the same time, I realized that the clients I helped most—and enjoyed most—were precisely such multicultural, socially engaged, and inquisitive professionals. (For a theorist, I took a long time to realize it!). Working with such clients to find their sartorial voice and express their genuine self in a more powerful way, I was able to stop compartmentalizing. I was put together. And it took my work to a different level.
An intelligent style for professionals of substance is possible … and necessary. (This is the pitch part.)
Strategically, it will spread your message effectively.
Normatively, it will convey your values and beliefs in a genuine and organic way.
Humanly, it will connect you to the timeless pleasure of beauty in a joyful way.
You may be thinking, this is all very “interesting” … but now what?
I invite you to think further. Think about who you really are. Think about how you look. Think about your message. Are they in harmony?
If not, you need style with substance.