By Jane Lasky/Illustration by Paul Jackson
Dressing your best during a business trip to uncharted territory is probably the best sartorial advice I can give to any uninitiated road warrior.
A severely jet-lagged Edward knew this tip all too well. He was beyond stressed regarding what to wear to arguably his most important overseas meeting, a career-making or -breaking gathering in Hong Kong for which all my British colleague could do was worry about which suit he should put on.
I told him to focus on something else, like what he wanted to cover during this meeting, but that suggestion fell on those proverbial deaf ears. In fact, Edward continued to fuss about the matter so much so that at the last minute he decided to go shopping at upscale Pacific Place, a Hong Kong mall that curried favor with seekers of high end products sold in the then British territory.
This clothes horse wasn’t gone long. Within minutes he was back at our hotel, wearing a grin and holding a garment bag protecting what he planned to wear to work his image later that day. It was a nifty and very overstated houndstooth suit made by Claude Montana, a daring and rather eccentric French designer.
Not only was this choice one that made for a very loud fashion statement, but it also was a very expensive choice, too. Well over US$2,000 expensive. I just stared at the beast, thinking to myself what a horrible way to make a good first impression during an all-important meeting with a Chinese heavy hitter in the media arena who was likely quite conservative.
Boy was I wrong.
Edward rang me shortly after the two met, laughing so hard he would hardly speak, making his ability to convey what happened nearly impossible. Finally, he became coherent enough to let me know that the meeting was a good one but that that aforementioned important first impression had been “rather uncomfortable”.
A Sartorial Conundrum
“He was wearing my suit,” Edward managed to sputter. “It was the same Claude Montana houndstooth suit I know you didn’t approve of when I showed it to you.”
I was speechless. It seems both of these proper (and prosperous) businessmen were out to impress each other, with the man who had the power to hire Edward dressed in the only other version of my friend’s new suit to be found in all of Hong Kong.
Who knew? At least the potential debacle that happened when these two snazzy dressers first laid eyes on each other turned into a strange bonding moment that then led the pair to make it through the odd experience with good humor. OK, and a little embarrassment, too. But what a great story that, after all was said, worn, and done, had a happy ending because Edward snagged the job. Well played, my dear colleague, well played.