Sheila Wong

The People’s Image Consultant

The Past, Present & Future of Corporate Grooming

October 11th, 2010

“If a woman is poorly dressed you notice the clothes. If a woman is impeccably dressed, you notice the woman.” .. Coco Chanel

Two decades ago, the word “image consultant” does not exist in the corporate or business environment in Malaysia nor this part of the region.

Corporate Grooming, Corporate Image Training – what’s that? That was totally unheard of in the 80s or early 90s in Malaysia.

HISTORY OF CORPORATE GROOMING

I remembered when I first enter into the world of beauty in the 1980s, image consulting and corporate grooming was unheard of. The market would be talking about fashion, make-up and social graces. The trend then was very much ruled by the likes of Barbara Cartland, Denise Williams fantasy novels where young ladies were sent to finishing school to learn how to be a lady – dress, walk, eat and behave like a refined woman.

Thus, a woman like me, who has Vanity as my name, took beauty as my game. Inevitably when I went to London, it was to pursue a Modelling and Grooming Course, where I learned the fine art of formal dining, fine dining, social graces, deportment, grooming, make-up and fitness – everything that will develop a lady to have fine manners and good grooming sense.

When I came back, I started grooming classes but men stayed away as they felt that was ladies’ territory and it was “taboo” or “un-manly” for them to even get near it. The ladies were taught the art of fine dining and how to conduct themselves graciously at the table – but the men were not. So it was sadly an imbalance situation of the gentle-lady and the ungentle-man.

Ten years down the road, I started to receive invitations to give talks on Dining Etiquette & Social Graces to Rotary Clubs. The first company that got me to do a short talk on grooming was Sime Darby. Surprise! Surprise! I gave my first talk on corporate grooming to a group of Plantation Managers. They were all men and came in their planters’ garb – khaki shorts, white short sleeve shirts and helmets!

The trend then was still that grooming was women’s business. The men felt it was beneath them to learn grooming. Dining Etiquette was a subject that the men felt befitting their status. At least, the scale was a little more balance – “GENTLEMEN AND GENTLE LADIES” – just that the ladies were better groomed than the men.

With the epoch of “WOMEN’S RIGHTS” and “EQUAL PAY FOR WOMEN”, the women went into the workplace with a vehemence to prove that they are more capable than the men.

With such fierce competition, the men started to take note of their image. Slowly but surely, the management are sending their male staff to attend full grooming workshops (not just a one-hour talk), to learn about color coordination, cut & style and clothing language. That was from 2000 onwards.

IMPORTANCE OF PROPER GROOMING IN CORPORATE WORLD

A lot of people asked, when they heard that I am an Image Consultant : Do people actually pay you to teach them to dress up? Don’t they know how to wear their own clothes? Is grooming so important?

To answer all these questions, I am putting forward to them and to you these questions:

Are you giving your best first impression? (Don’t judge a book by its cover?)

What message are you giving your clients, potential clients, family and friends?

Does your appearance support you in business and leisure?

Does your wardrobe support you in business and leisure?

First, let’s understand the full spectrum of image. It’s APPEARANCE, BEHAVIOUR & COMMUNICATION.

These are the “ABCs of Image.” Your image is more than your appearance — so much of what you do and say contributes to the impression you make. An AICI image consultant can serve in many ways, helping you become more poised and polished, guiding you to your own authentic style, and instilling the sense of success and confidence that comes with knowing that your own Appearance, Behavior and Communication are beyond reproach.

Today, the scenario has changed. Every corporation, institution or business is spending millions of rinngits to rebrand their company. Why? Branding is not a new word, but it has recently been in most companies’ plan, to give their company a new look, a new feel to keep with the current trend.

So, ask yourself this question: IS YOUR PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL IMAGE SUPPORTING YOUR COMPANY’S BRANDING? If your company has just undergone a facelift, you too have to go for an overhaul on your own image – in terms of your self-presentation and that includes your grooming, poise, etiquette & communication skills. Your personal image must be impactful to support your company’s branding.

If your boss does not dress well, that is not an excuse for you to be careless in your dressing. If your boss is immaculate in his/her grooming, it’s time you take stock of how you look.

Since two years ago, almost one every other big corporation is having some kind of image training or corporate grooming workshop. In the past, if we were to suggest to the HR to include make-up in the syllabus, they would throw our proposal out of the window. Today, I am conducting about 3 to 4 full days of corporate image training a week, out of which, 90% of the sessions covers hands-on make-up, hair-do and styling of tudung. This is no more a luxury but a necessity for the female employees to know how to do make-up.

TODAY, Corporations, Institutions and Companies are all consumed with rebranding, to keep them ahead of their competitors. They are taking the image of their companies very seriously, which of course, is related to building their brand. Which equals to building the image of their employees.

I remembered a couple of years ago, I was doing the grooming sessions for DHL and I went round Malaysia. I conducted the sessions from the posh corporate offices of DHL right to the hangar of DHL airports – talking above the din of the noise of the aeroplanes’ engines.

I have done for the tea-ladies and security guards, right up to the CEO of a number of our Malaysian listed companies. If image and grooming is not important, and not part of branding, what is?

Let’s take a look at the corporate scene – before and now.

“The best thing is to look natural, but it takes make-up to look natural.” Calvin Klein:

Studies show that women who wear makeup earn 20% more than women
who don’t.

They climb up the corporate ladder quicker and get the higher paid jobs. Why? Because well applied makeup makes you look more attractive and when you know you look good, your self-esteem and confidence soars and people respond positively to you.

Being able to apply makeup skillfully is a great asset! So ladies, it pays to pay attention to your make-up.

“The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.” Hubert de Givenchy

We are not talking about Haute Couture (high fashion). Just that every woman wants to look slimmer when they don on their workwear. Thus it’s good to know your body shape, and what cut to go with it. So when you walk out from your bedroom in your professional garb, you know you look good and definitely with that, you walk with more confidence and the grace of a woman.

When we touch on the subject of grooming, colors naturally come to mind. Instead of following what’s the latest color, understand that colors have a language on its own. Learn about the psychological impact of colors, how people can read your personality based on the colors of your clothes or the way you match them, how colors can influence moods. How you match tells a lot about you – even things that you do not want people to know about you. But of course, we need to understand basic color concepts & mix-n-match. I believe you had the experience when you see someone, you feel very disturbed – it’s either the clothes that the person is wearing does not have pleasing proportions or the colors just throw you off-balance.

Thus in Corporate Grooming, the current trend is to include cut & style for your body shape, colors for your personality and of course dress codes for your profession.

Talking about which, let’s understand that fashion consultants and image consultants are different in their business and way of looking at grooming.

FASHION CONSULTING VS IMAGE CONSULTING

Information extracted from the net..

The fashion industry is engaged in a constant dialogue about what is beautiful.  And twice a year, during the world's series of major fashion weeks, an issue arises that divides public opinion like a shark fin cutting the still, mirrored surface of a lagoon:  Is fashion's ever taller, ever thinner, Silly Putty standard of beauty harmful?

Several years ago, in the wake of the highly publicized deaths of several models who had struggled with eating disorders, many international fashion capitals considered mandatory regulations regarding models' weight.  New York legislators ultimately declined to pass city or state laws enforcing controversial BMI standards, and American designers instead adopted health awareness guidelines.


Still, the debate rages on:  If runways can become more racially diverse and still reflect designers' visions — call it the Michelle O effect — could diversity of size follow?

My conclusion: FASHION IS NOT REALTIY UNTIL WE TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THE BODY CHALLENGES THAT GO WITH IT.

A SLAVE TO FASHION? Slave no more. Be smart. Be suave. Be sophisticated. Be slim. Be svelte. Be sexy, Be sensational, Be successful. BUT NEVER NEVER BE A SLAVE TO FASHION.

FASHION FADES, ONLY STYLE REMAINS. Coco Chanel

That’s how I see image consulting is here to stay. SWET certified image consultants don’t only share with you the latest fashion, but what the latest trend can do to make or wreck your image, what style can best bring out your unique individuality that speaks of YOU.

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

What do Companies Desire in their Employees?

APPEARANCE – Look Pleasing, Credibility & Respectful to match their statuts

ATTITUDE – Good attitude – great manners & pleasing & easy to get along

APTITUDE – Good Aptitude – ability to work & produce results

What Can Corporate Image Consultants Deliver?

APPEARANCE

BEHAVIOUR

COMMUNICATION

So what is an AICI certified image consultant?

An AICI image consultant guides you in presenting yourself to your best advantage and in expressing your highest potential. Whether you are an individual or a business, whether you work outside the home or not, an image consultant can teach you how to polish your image in three areas:

Your physical appearance – Grooming, hair, makeup, color, wardrobe, and personal shopping.

Your behavior – Social skills, stress management, etiquette, civility and protocol.

Your communication skills – Diction, body language, relationship-building and conflict resolution.

An image consultant utilizes the learning environment you find most comfortable and convenient, whether it be a personal consultation in your office or home, a coaching session over the phone, a presentation to your executive team, a seminar for your employees or a workshop at your annual conference.

So what is AICI?

AICI stands for ASSOCIATION OF IMAGE CONSULTANTS INTERNATIONAL

AICI is the leading and largest professional association for Personal & Corporate Image Consultants worldwide

AICI has 1300 member worldwide

A non-profit organization, AICI is dedicated to advancing the level of professionalism and enhancing the recognition of image consultants. AICI provides certification to image consultants, starting from :

FLC - First Level Certification

CIP - Certified Image Professional

CIM - Certified Image Master

AICI’s vision is to have AICI professionally certified members as industry leaders in every country around the world – transforming, empowering and inspiring all people to reach their greatest potential

AICI MALAYSIA CHAPTER was formed in February 2010.

AICI Malaysia’s Vision: To be the gap for providing standard of excellence in image

AICI Malaysia’s Mission: GAP

Growing business from strength to strength

Advancing in educational & development for the members

Professionalism at the highest level

Today, we have 27 members and the list continues to grow, as we aspire to help all the image consultants in Malaysia to be internationally certified and have a very high professional standard, and in turn, raise the professional image of the workforce of Malaysia, so that we can be globalized with the cutting edge.

What can SWET do for Corporations, Institutions, Businesses and Individuals?

Today, the shift towards globalization has resulted in new demands and expectations by the current economy. The business environment is constantly changing. With the emergence of new challenges and opportunities, customers are getting more fastidious in their taste and their expectations of people serving them

Corporations, businesses and individuals are now constantly on the look out for an image solution for their business branding or developing their human capital for optimal performance coupled with an impeccable self-presentation.

From SWET, we groom and produce SWET certified image consultants, who are also AICI image consultants, who comply and conform to the professional standards of AICI.  SWET certitifed image consultants are trained to help you and your company in your career advancement and personal enhancement, building a powerful brand for you and your company.

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