Gawen Rudder: Dress like Matilda, or Matt

GAWEN-PIC-1.jpgGawen Rudder, principal of The Knowledge Consultancy, advises young creatives to smarten up if they want to get ahead

Matilda Kahl (left) is a one-time art director at Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. For over four years, following her previous gig at Y&R, she chose to wear the same black and white outfit to the office every day.

No more, "What the hell do I wear today?" Kahl simply bought 15 identical white silk shirts from Zara, six pairs of plain black pants, then dressed it up with a black leather ribbon tied at the neck. Job done. (Oh, and a black blazer in winter.) As she pointed out in an interview with Harpers Bazaar, "A work uniform is not an original idea. There's a group of people that have embraced this way of dressing for years - they call it a suit."

Dedicated followers of fashion will recall that Nine breakfast presenter who wore the same blue suit for a year to prove, what I think he called, "a sexism point."

The 'suit' descriptor of male account management people no longer implies they'll necessarily be wearing one. A jacket perhaps, open-neck shirt and no tie. Gone are the tight-fitting gray flannel suits and spread-collar Brooks Brothers white shirts favoured by Gregory Peck and Don Draper in the late fifties and sixties.
When Esquire created a top ten best-dressed British admen list, only two wore traditional suits, the rest forgot to tuck their shirts in. Runner-up, and the only creative on the list, Sir John Hegarty, wore an electric blue suit, his trademark Paul Smith striped socks and an arty scarf.

Matt Eastwood 2014.jpgJacket required.
Those fortunate enough to know Matt Eastwood (left) will be aware that the jacket has contributed to his rise and rise to Worldwide CCO at J. Walter Thompson. After a stint as a junior copywriter at O&M in Perth, he moved to Melbourne and eventually landed at M&C Saatchi where he was mentored by Tom McFarlane. Inspired and ambitious, he determined that one way up was to dress for the job he wanted. He smartened up, and as part of his goal to become an ECD by age 30, he took to wearing a jacket. People noticed.

As he says, "When you're so deliberate about something like that, people call you out and give you a hard time. I lost count of the amount of times people would go, 'Hmm, job interview?' But eventually it made sense. They thought of me as the kind of a person they could take to pitch meetings."

Colour counts.
At the ripe old age of 38, David Ogilvy found an office in Madison Avenue, and with a little help from his big brother in London, launched Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather. Ever the eccentric, he affected a full length black cape with scarlet lining which, thankfully, gave way to his signature red braces and his edict that all O&M offices should be branded with red carpet. He even signed in red ink. (John Bevins, who at the time was Ogilvy's youngest creative director, penned his notes in sepia ink.) But for corporate colour consciousness, it's hard to beat the fastidious Sean Cummins. The late nineties was his purple period - office chairs, graphics, et al. Then in 2011, bemoaning the fact that Melbourne creatives always wore black, he decided to spice things up a bit with yellow - check out his website and offices. In fact his TriBeCa bedroom featured a similar colour palette.

Clothes maketh the man.
Back in the day the Phillip Adams brand was, and remains, the black skivvy. Sudeep Gohill, ex Droga5 Sydney, has his right arm physically branded with an intricate tattoo. Bram Williams with his initialed baseball cap, and 'Andy Capp' late of M&C, are rarely seen without their personalised head gear. My daughter owns over 100 T-shirts, but I'm guessing Todd Sampson has heaps more. I can only think of one guy still sprouting the once- ubiquitous pony tail, and that would be Warwick Majcher, David Morris' art director for 17 years. Long before today's hair shaves and sculpts, many creatives - to quote former Patts head honcho Alex Hamill - "looked like Jesus."

Dress like a barista.
Today the ├╝ber-cool male-look seems to be hipster, haphazard and hard to define. Mark Zuckerberg favours identical grey T-shirts and, like Matilda Kahl, simplified his life. So Matt's jacket may not be the only way one can create a personal brand for themselves. However ripped-knee jeans and thongs might not get you into the meetings that matter.

Sarah-BARCLAY-web.jpgSo what might women wear?
A colleague suggested high heels, tailored trousers and a power red top. Nah, not sure about that. So who better to ask than Sarah Barclay (left)? The ex-Palace art director, Clemenger Melbourne group creative director and for the past eight years a New York native. The gender role model and J. Walter Thompson Global ECD, offered this advice, "For me, what you wear is an extension of who you are. I love the challenge of putting an outfit together. As a creative person, you have permission to show some flair. When you rock up to work a little glam, not only does it give you more confidence, people notice."

And button up.
Matt tells the story about a young team at DDB Sydney. They were a brilliant team, but came to him asking how they could be taken more seriously. Eastwood told them they needed to start dressing the part and move on from the stock-standard black T-shirt and start sporting a more professional wardrobe. And so started their '3 Buttoned Shirts a Week' rule. As he recalled, "It sounds quite amusing when you hear about it now, but it made a huge difference. Funnily enough, one of the biggest differences may simply have been in their own perception of themselves."

GAWEN-PIC-2.jpgWhen it comes to award nights, many it seems like to dress to impress. Drum roll ... Presenting Campaign Brief's best-dressed advertising couple at the 2016 Oasis Ball in Perth: Telisha Marron from Southern Cross Austereo and Ryan Gower.

3 Comments

Copy Desk said:

My work fashion approach to date has just had one guiding principle, well, two if you count the fact that any item must pass a basic smell test. The smell test has two parts: The take-off and the overnight. When you take it off, smell it. Smell what you would consider the high risk areas. If it fails, laundry. If it's lineball, set it aside and try in the morning with an objective nose. Again, go for the hot zones. Get right in there.

The guiding principle I adhere to is probably what most people do: don't wear the same thing two days in a row. It's based on the idea that people will think you're a lazy schlock if you front up in the same grey marle t-shirt and jeans combo you rocked the day before. The truth is other people don't think about you at all, let alone what you're wearing, let alone what you wore yesterday. I don't even remember what I wore yesterday.

I spend literally minutes each morning trying to adhere to this rule. It's hard to find a t-shirt that still has shape. Why can't you get a decent pre-shrunk t-shirt under $80 anymore? Why, instead of segregating all of my clothes, do they continue to morph into one clean clothes mountain on a particular shelf? Why do I have to wear my favourite socks early in the week? Why can't I exercise some self control, so my Friday socks aren't those waxy half acrylic jokes from Coles? Why did you move to a blend, Holeproof? What the fuck?

Anyway, this article blows my approach right out of the water. To paraphrase George Costanza, it's time for a complete 360. I have my favourit outfit, and I wear it on Mondays. Next week, it's going to be Monday every day. Marcus Murphy - looks like you were right all along. Incidentally, Marcus - I believe - still rocks the pony.

Steve Dodds said:

I always wondered whether it was lack of ambition or my penchant for Hawaiian shirts and argyle (often together) that held me back.

Good to know it was both.


Yes but said:

I know ECDs that wear a t-shirt. It's the quality of what comes out of their mouth that makes an impression.

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