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Edward Chamberlain-Bell interviews Chata Romano for his blog JoziStyle, featured on radio 702

They say that fashion is a bitch, and she’s thin! I’ve met plenty of fashionistas who will look you up and down before making a dismissive comment about how something you’re wearing is so last season. Not Chata Romano!

Chata Romano needs no introduction. She might be an image consultant by profession, but she’s not about to judge you by what you’re wearing – unless you ask her. Chata enters the room, looks you squarely in the eye, and flashes a dazzling smile that almost blinds you, before she says how pleased she is to meet me. I’m speechless. Chata didn’t once give me the onceover, she just greeted me like a friend, and we started talking.

I love Chata’s bubbly personality, she can talk about everything from food to films to fragrances, but it’s when you start talking to her about style tips (not fashion trends per se), that her eyes light up as she shares her enthusiasm for helping people develop their personal sense of style. I like that. Chata doesn’t want to re-incarnate you as the next hottest fashion trend, but rather make you look like best possible version of you!

Apparently ‘stone’ is not my best colour, so I should switch to ‘khaki’!

I’m better at interviewing people than I am about fashion, so I put Chata in the hotseat and asked her a few burning style questions!

Why and how did you create The Complete Image Solution®?

For as far back as I can remember I’ve had the genuine desire to help other women; to change their lives, to show them what they can do with what they have, to celebrate their own sense of self-worth and not to emulate others. My husband I started our business 34 years ago – with a very small budget – and we put our heart and soul into what our business has become today. The first 5-years (from 1990 – 1995) was very tough, we were the very first Image Consultancy in South Africa and women, at the time, weren’t quite sure whether an Image Consultant was a service they needed, or not. Hard work, perseverance, the true joy in what I do and the beauty of word-of-mouth paid off.

You’ve become a household name – and when did you know you were making a name for yourself?

My alignment has always been with women who don’t live in the limelight. Women who aren’t super-tall, super-slim or super-wealthy. A successful business, for me, was never about the fame and the fortune. When the recognition and success eventually followed I embraced it, cherishing the fact that it was because of my work ethic – not walking over people to achieve my dreams. The very first time someone asked me for an autograph was my beloved Grandmother who had supported my dreams since I was a young child – the most special autograph I have ever signed! My national fashion and beauty workshops, attended by 100 women, were soon attended by 4,500 women, and I have never looked back. I am now supported by a network of dynamic and fabulous consultants who operate under the umbrella of my brand and I am incredibly proud of them.

Over 175,000 delegates have benefited from your workshops. What is the most common detail people overlook?

The list is soooooo long but, above all, people overlook establishing an image that suits them as individuals. I will keep on presenting or keep on consulting until I see a spark in their eyes – that is when I know something has registered. Perhaps it was the colour I suggested. Or perhaps it was the style I suggested. Or a combination of both. Personal branding (how people remember you) is, absolutely, and without question, a must-have for every individual.

You advocate style over fashion – how do you help people to develop their own sense of style?

I ask them one question: When the world sees you what would you like it to see? And, based on the adjectives they use to describe the image, I then create that image for them. Some people say ‘elegant, chic and classic’. Some people say ‘trendy, stylish and fun’. Everyone is so very different, which is just wonderful! If we were all the same life would be incredibly boring.

If someone was completely clueless about style, what style hacks could anybody pull off?

I love the question and I wish I could answer it for you but it really does depend on the individual – for example:

  • Take a classic black suit: Should the jacket be short or long?
    The length very much depends on the individual. The best and most proportionate length, for every single one of your listeners (female or male) is a standard length which is the half way point from your shoulder to the floor – without shoes on (you don’t want your shoes to influence the correct end result. The top half of your body and the bottom half of your body are now perfectly balanced, even if you are not : ) This perfectly proportioned half-way measurement will now ensure that you are perfectly balanced!
  • Take a white shirt: Should the collar width be narrow, wide or regular?
    If your neck is short then your collar should be narrow or regular – not wide as it will look disproportionate. If your neck is balanced you can choose all the options (it’s not short and it’s not long – so all good). If your neck is long your best choice is a wide collar – this disproportion will realign and balance the visual, making your neck look shorter. Like magic!
  • Take a jean: Should it be fitted or flared?
    If you are happy with your body then fitted or flared jeans are both fabulous options! If you are short and you have a fuller body shape then I would avoid (here comes the surprise!) a flared jean as the width of the silhouette will only make your legs (and hips!) look wider. You must, absolutely must, opt for a fitted jean instead. Now, I didn’t say tight, I said fitted – there is a very big difference between the two. If you are tall and slim both options work for you – just be a tad wary for the fitted option, if it is too tight your legs will look like they are going on forever, which might be the intention, but it will look disproportionate.
  • Take a shift dress: Should the fabric be structed or soft?
    Before I share the tip let’s establish what, exactly, a shift dress is. It isn’t a flared, soft, flowy, summer dress. It is quite tapered and MUST be shaped like a coca cola bottle NOT like a coca cola can – this will emphasise the waist area. Good, now we understand this important shape we can continue. he fabric must, 100%, be a combination of structed and soft to ensure the most sexy of silhouettes. The overall look is structured not but the fabric isn’t too stiff, the fabric has a percentage of give which makes it soft (not flowy soft).
  • Take a sandal: Should it have an ankle strap or not?
    Women with slim ankles have been told they can’t wear ankle straps because the strap only makes their ankle look thinner. Here I agree, but I also disagree. I think rules can be broken, if you know how. If the strap is very thick then I completely agree – the ankle is slim, the strap is thick so the proportions don’t work. But if the strap is slimmer and daintier then your ankles will look fabulously GORGEOUS.

Do men consult you for makeovers or personal shopping? What common mistakes do men overlook?

Yes. And they are wonderful clients because they soak up all the information like happy sponges. Women were brought up in the environment of colour, style and wardrobe – men were brought up in the environment of sports, cars and insects (or thereabouts). Initially my male clients are a bit sceptical, thinking the appointment will be a complete waste of time but I, actually, have to keep an eye on my watch because they ask even more questions than women do.

Time to confess: What is one ‘look’ that you regret? What is one trend you’d wish to see the end of at the moment?

Definitely! The puff-ball skirt! Okay – it was yonks ago but I remember, very vividly, that I loved the look and bought about 10 of them. Each one made me look shorter and rounder than the previous one. It was through this self-awareness (I never went to an Image-Academy as a youngster, I was self-taught) that what suits one person doesn’t necessarily suit the next person. At least I learnt this lesson when I was very young – and I have never repeated it. There isn’t a specific trend at the moment that I would wish to see the end of – I think the colours and styles for this season are quite fabulous – there is something for everyone (worn the correct way of course!)

Are you a shopaholic? Does your husband complain that you have too many clothes or shoes?

It very much depends on what merchandise is in stores. There are some seasons when I absolutely love the trends and will, literally, shop till I drop. And then there are times when I won’t buy a single item for months and nothing appeals to me. Except for shoes – I can never get enough. If I see a gorgeous pair of shoes that I have to have, then I just have to have them (I can hear them calling out to me). Either way I have to LOVE an item in order to buy it, I am not an impulsive shopper. Pumpkin (a.k.a. my most delicious husband) has never once, in 34-years, ever complained about my wardrobe – aren’t I a lucky fish! Especially when 70% of the wardrobe space is mine and only 30% of the wardrobe space is his (or should I correct those percentages by a more accurate 80% / 20%?)

What advice would you give someone who wanted to become an image consultant / personal shopper?

First and foremost: They must take genuine delight in making other women look and feel fabulous. And they must have the ability to become their client in the time they spend with them. I see so many consultants putting their very different clients into the same box. The individual appointment is, after all, all about the client, full-stop. The financial reward is satisfying but the emotional reward is so much more satisfying – the expression on your clients face, the emotional phone call from the husband, the WhatsApp photograph showing the letter of promotion.

You’re an image consultant, author of five books, public speaker, and businesswoman – what do you do for “me time”?

I don’t have a lot of me-time. I love my work and I, more often than not, switch off my computer in the very early hours of the morning. So when I do get me-time I spend as much of it with my Pumpkin. I love his company and he puts up with all my craziness and energy, without any fuss. We are real BFFs. We love the simple things in life – eating out (whether it’s casual or fancy), going for walks (whether it’s windy or not), watching movies (preferably mini-series, but heaps of movies will also do). And when I am not with my Pumpkin you can leave me at a spa for the day – from when they open the doors to when they close the doors. You can also find me in my ‘creative-room’ which has an array of metallic paints, super-glue, glitter, beads, sequins and all things shiny and sparkly.

Chata Romano has also released a new eBook ‘First Impressions’ worth R350.

For more information about Edward Chamberlain-Bell please click here

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