07/05/2014 08:11 BST | Updated 06/07/2014 06:59 BST

The Fashion Dilemma...


Recently, I've been asked to present workshops and seminars that focus on fashion. Initially, I was a little reticent - I left the retail fashion business in 1994. I felt that as I was no longer in the loop, therefore, was concerned my contribution would be rather tepid. However, I accepted an invitation to present a lecture on fashion at the Metropolitan University, London, where I'm Visiting Professor. About 10 days before the event, I did some research. I also attended a fashion lecture presented by Caryn Franklin. From 1986 to 2000, Caryn co-presented The Clothes Show on the BBC. Anyone mildly interested in clothes, fashion or style, regularly watched The Clothes Show.

I must admit, I was a tad nervous before arriving at Caryn's lecture. I kept thinking, 'Will all this seem new to me?''Will I be able to remember the fashion stuff, that was once second nature to me?' Perhaps not so surprisingly, almost as soon as Caryn started to speak, I felt entirely at home. In part, this was because Caryn's style of presenting was so engaging. My fashion background came flooding back to me. I was pleased I hadn't forgotten the key components of fashion and style. Which are: remain individual, mix it up, listen to your inner voice and focus on your personal style; which, I might add, unlike fashion, never dates. Phew! That was such a relief.

Armed with the fashion information I'd gleaned from Caryn's lecture, some research, and the use of my fashion-style intuition, I felt ready to present, albeit a tad nervous. After all, it had been 20 years since I was in the fashion business. And while much has changed, much hasn't. For instance, it continues to be a buying and selling game. The risks still exist and getting it right for both the retailer and consumer is pivotal. Moreover, as Coco Chanel has said, "Fashion changes, but style endures." This is so true. Indeed, fashion is ephemeral and in a way has to be. To be commercially viable, it has to change swiftly and become flavour of the month. Personal style, however, is, well, personal, and that's all about you, not what's in. Also, it's far more lasting.

For instance, your body shape is such that the latest hip-hugging pants don't suit your frame. Or, the newest shorter length jackets don't flatter your body shape. Perhaps this season's colours don't complement your skin tone, or current wardrobe. By following fashion, you might end up being a lemming. This is not good, as in life today, individualism is celebrated. And in order to embody your individualism, you'll need to have more than a modicum of self belief. In addition, one must learn how to develop a Personal Style. I say develop, because it takes time, effort, some risk- taking and practice to acquire a good eye, one that will lead you to making the right choices for you.

Some tips that will act as a guide:

- Take time to just browse, often, it's not best necessary to buy anything right away.

- Feed your mind with anything that has an aesthetic bent. Could be a magazine, a movie or visit to a museum.

- Ensure before you decide what to buy, that it fits well and feels comfortable.

- If feeling uncertain about your Personal Style, ask a trusted friend to accompany you while you shop.

- Remember, only purchase an item of clothing if it says something about you that's flattering. Perhaps the colour, shape, design or type of fabric.

- Don't follow fashion, however, be appraised about what's going on in the fashion world. That way, you'll be inclined to remain current.

- "Don't be formulaic = (Made to a formula). Create your own formula..." - Caryn Franklyn.

- Trust your intuition. If a clothing item feels right, it probably is. If it feels wrong, it probably is.

- Endeavour to create a Personal Style statement. Could be, 'I am sophisticated and elegant.' Let that statement act as your guide into making clothing choices.