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Ten Minutes with Tonya Evans, Industry Expert

Tonya Evans is president and CEO of Style Strategist, an image consulting firm that helps individuals communicate verbal and non-verbal cues into a personalized, professional message. Here, she shares with us why it’s important to dress with purpose and develop your blend-out style.Tell me about Style Strategist Inc. and dressing with purpose. How do your services differ from other style and fashion sites or services?

Tonya Seavers Evans

Style Strategist is an image consulting firm. I work with entrepreneurs and individuals at corporations and help them marry their image with their message, based on their goals and aspirations.

Style Strategist provides training seminars for corporations as well, and those are more focused on boardroom attire, how to do business casual appropriately and how to look like you’re dressed with purpose and dressed for business in a corporate setting. An example I use when explaining marrying image with message is the Tiffany box. When you see the Tiffany box you immediately think sophistication. You know it will be something beautiful and high quality. I look at image consulting and my job as an image consultant is to help individuals develop their own personal Tiffany box – one that conveys confidence, competence and credibility.

Sigourney Weaver’s character in Working Girl, Katherine Parker delivered this famous line, “Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman – Coco Chanel.” Does that advice still hold true today?

Image today is more important than it was even five years ago. In part, because of the recession, but even before the recession, entrepreneurs, individuals and corporations were competing globally for business. At multinational corporations, they’re looking at potential employees from around the world. The attention to detail that makes you look boardroom-ready is more important today and provides an edge against others competing for the same role.

What is a style strategist and how can men and women benefit from working with a style professional? What should they think about when defining their personal brand?

A style strategist is someone who works with you as an individual to help you define what I call your blend out style strategy. It’s about coming up with a style that takes into account where you are today, your aspirational goals and your lifestyle to create a style that is uniquely yours and makes you feel the most confident and professional so your message is the focal point.

Your image is an important component of your overall brand. Again, the focus should be on your business and career goals and a careful look at where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. Sometimes, how you look is the only tangible representative of your personal brand, so it should be carefully developed and created with silhouette, color, fabric and other components in mind.   

Donald Trump is a great example of someone who understands the importance of image and personal branding message of business mogul. Whenever you see him he is always in a business suit and always looks like he’s ready to close the deal. Whether you’re a high-powered business person or graphic designer, your image is a way of expressing professionalism, your level of attention to detail and organization or your lack thereof.

In less than five seconds people size you up and make assumptions about your work ethic and other personality characteristics simply by the way you look. A bad image is bad for your brand, so you really have to think about what message your image is sending.

Personal image today extends to the social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. How do you help your clients create consistency between their online and offline identity?

We educate our clients about how what they communicate virtually contributes to both their personal brand and image and how they are perceived by others. You have to be aware of what photos you post online and what messages you communicate because you never know who is paying attention. 

It’s also important to understand that each social network has a different personality as well, so that has to be taken into account. Photos posted on Facebook would probably be more casual than those posted on LinkedIn, for example, but those images should always be a reflection of your personal brand and message. Many HR professionals conduct random searches on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites to get a feel for who they will be interviewing with. Have the most professional headshot, watch closely what kind of profile pictures you post across all mediums and make sure your image is consistently professional.

A good rule of thumb is never post anything you wouldn’t want your mother or boss to see - just don’t post it.

What was your experience before you founded stylestrategist.com? How did that serve as an impetus to start a fashion blog about messaging and style?

My background is in journalism and mass communications and I spent the bulk of my career in communication departments at corporations and non-profits. I have always had a passion for both fashion and writing and decided to work with a leadership coach to explore how to meld those two passions. When I thought about my past experiences I realized that I coached executives in preparation for media interviews from a messaging perspective and on one occasion had to rush out to purchase clothes for my company’s president because his had been lost on the plane. I realized that my experience was unique and that I could prepare leaders from both a messaging perspective, and help them cultivate a powerful executive image. That’s how Style Strategist Inc. was born.