Business fashion is a tricky balancing act. You want to show your personality, but you don’t want to rock the boat. Some “rules” are okay to break, and some are non-negotiable. You want to be fashionable, but not extravagant.
Ghada Melki, the head stylist for Harvey Nichols one of the fashion guides for the evening, advocated adherence to the classics.
“Every wardrobe needs a good white blouse,” Ms. Melki advised. “This is a basic, and can be paired with anything.”
As models strolled the aisle showcasing Ms. Melki’s recommendations, audience members called out questions.
“How can I find heels that I can actually wear all day?” Asked one woman who worked in the event-planning industry.
“Look for thick heels,” replied Leila Al Marashi, a fashion designer and a co-host for the evening. “Tory Burch has an excellent collection of heels for the office: thick heels that do not scuff easily.”
Some questions were easily answered: “When can you wear skinny ties?” – “When you’re under 40,” whereas others were more nuanced.
“How do you strike a balance between expressing yourself without being too flashy?” was a question voiced by many audience members throughout the evening.
“Stick to the basics,” Ms. Melki said, “but you can express yourself through your accessories: bags, shoes and jewelry.”
“This is especially true for Emiratis,” Ms. Al Marashi added. “We love our accessories.”
Ms. Al Marashi’s personal style was an example of pairing classic dress with accessories that make a statement: her conservative abaya was set off by a black leather purse studded with 2-inch gold spikes.
One accessory of choice for businessmen and women looking to make a statement is the cambridge satchel. The boxy, leather messenger bag, whose outline conjures images of autumn in London, is available in black and brown… and neon.
But in a mixed crowd of fashion mavericks and business professionals, not all advice was well received.
Reflecting a current trend spicing up classic cuts with leather accents, one of the looks presented as an option for a “job interview” included a grey dress with a leather front.
Some were taken aback. “Excuse me, but how can you wear leather to a job interview at a bank?” asked one woman.
Men’s style also raised a few eyebrows.
“I was taught that you cannot wear a patterned tie with a patterned shirt,” one man commented after reviewing model “breaking the rule.”
“That is no longer the case,” Ms. Melki explained. “But you have to be careful. The patterns need to match.”
“You cannot go from ‘zero’ to mixing patterns in one day,” Ms. Al Marashi added. “Harvey Nichols employs personal shoppers who will help find the right pieces for you. Take advantage of that!”
“Style and fashion are different,” Ms. Melki said in closing. “Style is personal. First you have to find the style that suits you. Then you can add fashion, when and where it fits.”
Start with a white shirt.