April 4, 2012
To everything — even your colors — there is a season
Spending five hours discussing your clothing, colors and style preferences may seem like a nightmare to some. But it’s all in a day’s work for Wendy Lehmann, a veteran professional image consultant from England who lends her passion for fashion to remaking your look in Israel. And while Pesach cleaning doesn’t usually mean editing your wardrobe, it’s as good a time as any to eliminate what doesn’t serve you. (Or at least contemplate it.)
Lehmann is the official representative of the United Kingdom’s leading image analysis company, the House of Colour, which recently opened its first branch in the Holy Land. Over the good part of a day, she shows clients how to create a personal brand. A recent immigrant from London to the Merkaz, in the central region of Israel, Lehmann caters to everyday individuals and groups as well as fashionistas, designers, celebs and public figures. Her clients are both men and women.
Getting your “colors done” has never been a big business in Israel — until now. With infectious enthusiasm and flair, Lehmann runs the Israel branch of House of Colour as a one-woman operation from a new studio in B’nai Tzion, near Kfar Saba. For Lehmann, it’s a given that the color and style of what you wear can boost a mood, enhance natural looks and lend confidence to your style at work, home or play.
Her timing couldn’t be better. The country’s burgeoning fashion industry, which produces about $1 billion a year in exports, has won rave reviews. It generated significant media buzz over the first Tel Aviv Fashion Week in 25 years, held this past November. Representatives of leading fashion magazines from the United States and Europe, including Vogue, were in attendance. The guest of honor was designer Roberto Cavalli. He wasn’t the only name gaining recognition. Dodo Bar Or, Israel Ohayon, Tamar Primark and Mira Zwillinger were among the Israeli designers garnering media attention.
All that was good news for Lehmann. And me. This past summer in Israel, I broke my leg in a hiking accident and ended up spending months recuperating. When I learned about the House of Colour’s new Israel’s operations, Lehmann and I were both game to guinea pig me and update my wardrobe beyond the trifecta I was eager to leave behind: wheelchair, crutches and cane. To delve into this British system, Lehmann suggested I bring along from Jerusalem a couple of pieces that I love and a few that I dislike. One more cardinal rule: no makeup.
Once Lehmann positioned me in Israel’s House of Colour HQ, in front of a mirror in natural daylight, she instructed me to pull back my long hair and draped me in a white apron. I felt about as attractive as Lucy and Ethel when they bungled the chocolate assembly line. But instead of snatching up pralines, Lehmann armed herself with swatches of fabric in a wealth of colors. In seconds, she showed me how they seem to affect my naked complexion, lifting my appearance or draining it, making my eyes seem brighter or duller. The first step, which is the same for everyone, was to determine if my undertones were yellow or blue. It soon became apparent that Lehmann, whose undertones are yellow and who classifies herself as an “autumn,” knew exactly what she was doing. Her conclusion? Out of the four seasons, my undertones are blue. I am a “winter,” confirming a similar analysis I had done years prior in California.
The House of Colour system, however, includes not only a prescription of the colors one should wear, but why and how. With that in mind, Lehmann then examined a wide spectrum, holding approximately 30 swatches next to my punim. Recording her findings in a chart I would take home, she ranked each color within my season, giving me easy-to-follow guidelines. “Wow” colors that work great from head to toe rank 100 percent. Those that lend themselves well to dresses and coats 75 percent. The best colors for tops are designated 50 percent and those for accessories 25 percent. My all-time best colors are rich, dark jewel tones: such as bordeaux, plum, deep green and navy, but I can also rock hot pink, every shade of gray, true white and barely-there icy pastels in pink, mint and faint blue. Relying on the top picks in my season could create what Lehmann calls a “capsule wardrobe” of minimal pieces in which every item works with every other. She also convinced me I could carry unusual colors I would have previously never considered for anything beyond a T-shirt, including a brilliant kelly green. Sold!
Despite the popular opinion that everyone can wear black, in the House of Colour everyone actually cannot. Only winters can. And although we can all get away with more when we are young and dewy, it’s easy to see that over time, and for every season, black washes out complexions and makes the other seasons look too formal or stern. That’s one reason why Lehmann says she wishes she could make over Israel’s Charedi population. But there is good news, too. As Lehmann says, “The one color everyone can wear is true red.”
In both individual and group sessions, Lehmann also offers personal style analysis, often in the company of other clients, in what becomes a riotously fun experiment in what looks wrong and what looks right. Group sessions are “demand led.” And Lehmann, who can easily entertain an audience, is clearly of the “more, the merrier” philosophy.
As I did, each House of Colour client departs with plenty of tips for successful shopping and a style booklet, fashion guide and wallet full of color swatches to demystify the process when shopping. Makeup, scarves and other items are available online and from a handful of consultants working in the United States at houseofcolour.co.uk. The company also provides expert complimentary guides such as an electronic “what to wear” guide for every occasion.
In addition to my colors, Lehmann made suggestions for my style of clothes, taking a look at my facial features, general proportions and preferences culled from a series of questions listed in the massive binder she referred to throughout the instructional part of our session. In the end, she deemed me a “natural romantic,” combining my love of natural fabrics and down-to-earth styles with my affinity for very feminine looks. She suggested I think of natural as the cap on my romantic pen, adding that I might best avoid sharp angles, on a jacket lapel, say, for unstructured softer edges instead.
In the weeks since, I’ve turned to my House of Colour wallet of color swatches while shopping and experimented with Lehmann’s advice to edit my wardrobe. Besides drawing interest from fellow shoppers and shopkeepers, her tips have earned me heaps of positive feedback from the new combinations I’ve created from my wardrobe as well as the successful, though sometimes painful, letting go of things that just aren’t right. It’s a bit like letting chocolates pass you by on a conveyor belt. Sometimes the best answer is “No.”
Five hours never passed so quickly.
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