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Malcolm Levene Headshot

Personal Branding: It's a Stretch

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When I think of stretching, three things come to mind:

My gym.
My mind.
My grandfather.

My late grandfather was a Russian immigrant who ran away from Bialystock at the age of 18. He ran to escape the secret police in Russia who had him down as a left-wing activist. I understand his departure was filled with intrigue and cloak-and-dagger espionage. He used his brother's passport to get out of the country. He was one of seven children; one of his sisters was killed in a pogrom. He arrived in the U.K. in 1913 and went into the clothing trade. He soon became general manager of a large clothing manufacturer named Polikoff, owned by a Polish Jew named Alfred Polikoff. The factory was based in the East End of London.

Grandpa Levene made suits for both the England football and cricket teams. In addition, he suited up Fred Perry and Primo Carnera, who was a world heavyweight champion boxer. However, his real claim to fame was the fact that he invented the self-supporting and self-adjusting waistband for trousers and skirts in 1939. The patent office accepted his invention; however, he didn't complete the transaction. He decided to give his invention to Polikoff. Such was the generosity of my grandfather -- so much so, he was elected a member of the Excelsior Philanthropic Society in 1939. I often wonder how it might have been if my grandfather had gone through with the patent in his name! Today, so much of our everyday apparel is self-supporting. From underwear to slacks, to sweat pants to skirts -- in fact, any item of apparel made to stretch to accommodate the waist size required is down to him.

Although it's been some years since I was in the fashion business, it could be said that clothing and style are almost attached to my DNA. My father was a tailor, my mother worked in a clothing factory, and an aunt and uncle owned and ran a factory making women's dresses. Furthermore, my maternal grandparents also worked in clothing factories.

Of late, I've been coaching a few men and women who would benefit from improving their personal style. It's as if they have a blind spot when it comes to their personal taste regarding their appearance. It is quite normal that many people find it difficult to see how they come across in their appearance. Each of us tend to see what we choose. That's where I come in. In a way, I represent an alternative mirror.

I am able to help clients stretch their imaginations to see themselves as others see them. I assist as they begin that necessary task, which is to leave their comfort zone and stretch. I help individuals to fully understand the visual impact they are making. Most people tend to look at themselves selectively -- you know, noticing a facial wrinkle, a grey hair, etc. I tend to look at people as a whole, from personal grooming to shoes, and everything in between.

I do not wish to change anyone's personal style, only to enable them to stretch their thinking and open their minds to be more creative with themselves. So often we become stuck, even inflexible with ourselves. I recall working with a woman who told me that when she opened her closet, which was full to the brim with clothes, she had no idea what to wear. This is only too common.

Here are a few thoughts to help you to stretch your thinking about your image:

-- Give yourself the gift of taking care of your appearance.
-- Have a wardrobe clear out.
-- Be more flexible with the way you see yourself.
-- Spend time thinking how you'd like to come across.
-- When you go clothes shopping, give yourself plenty of time.
-- Buy clothes for the person you are now.
-- Ensure you maximize on your uniqueness.
-- Wear the best quality clothes you can afford, especially shirts/blouses.
-- Don't forget personal grooming. All grooming, including nails, should be top notch.

To learn more about Malcolm Levene, visit www.malcolmlevene.com.

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