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Colorful Career of an Image Consultant : Both Women, Men Find New Selves in Coordinated Hues

February 16, 1987|JUDITH P. JOSEPHSON and EDITH H. FINE

SAN DIEGO — "You don't want to bring out circles under your eyes, unless you're doing an Alka Seltzer ad."

"People plan vacations and finances but keep buying clothes and putting them in their closets, hoping they will turn into a wardrobe!"

Image consultant Rebel Holiday's business is transformation. With her neon red curls, throaty laugh and fresh-faced beauty, Holiday takes center stage, and her course in "Visual Excellence" pulls in professional women by the droves. Holiday bubbles with tips to bring out the best in everyone through using color to enhance natural skin tone, and specific design principles to highlight the individual's personal style.

Holiday is part of a growing phenomenon--the burgeoning field of image consulting, which encompasses not only color, but style, wardrobe, attitude, body type--the total look. Consultants, many with thousands of clients, analyze people's colors at homes, beauty salons, cosmetic counters and work seminars. Consumers are becoming better educated about color and style, and banks and other businesses have embraced the concept to spruce up their corporate images, particularly at the middle and lower managerial level.

Like many others, Holiday, 27, stresses individuality. "I don't believe in making people look like other people."

At class sessions, Holiday whips out fabrics from a brimming basket, draping different people, showing how some colors and prints work and some don't. Depending on skin tone, a softly swirled blue floral print makes one woman look like a "sofa," another "a wood nymph." The color black chops one client off at the neck while making another look vibrant and healthy.

"Some people shouldn't even stand near black," Holiday said.

"I was always told to wear rust. So like a good little redhead, I did. People would say, 'Do you feel OK?' I'd go into the bathroom and put on more rust blusher and lipstick and straighten my rust blazer. I looked like the star of a low budget horror film!"

Each month, Holiday's combination of savvy, energy, expertise and quick wit attracts 20-25 people. The $275 package includes an individual color and makeup session, an individualized "color fan," four 2 1/2-hour evening classes and a notebook with course materials, quotes, written exercises and guidelines for creating a professional and personal wardrobe.

One recent participant, Michelle Miller, is director of the Technical Communications Center at MA-COM Government Systems. A pragmatic executive with three degrees, she admitted, "I never had a class in appearance or design, yet I know from being a public speaker that it's important. I've studied how to speak but not how to look."

The first night, Michelle wore a "before" ensemble, a lavender blouse with bow and a gray knee-length suit.

"This is a real outfit," she grinned ruefully. Even the uninitiated could see that the purple drained Michelle's naturally attractive features. "I've always had trouble with my red hair and yellow skin tone."

Miller attended all four classes, took an additional Saturday workshop and shopped with Holiday's guidance.

"I look at the whole course as a professional investment. I believe it will save me time and money when I shop. I need to invest in my wardrobe, but I want to do it in a cost-effective way."

In greater numbers, men, too, now seek color and image advice.

DeAnna Tarantino, of Charisma Color Concepts, said, "One-third of my clients are men, a drastic change from two years ago. Men become believers. Where a woman may stray from her color palette, men don't."

Charisma Color Concepts is one of about 40 color consultant companies in San Diego--not including the beauty salons and cosmetic counters that perform such services.

A quarter of Holiday's clients are men.

"Men are great. They do exactly as they're told but they're not as willing to come to class."

Before classes begin, each client has an individual color session. Seated in natural daylight, without makeup, the person is draped with a neutral cloth. From stacks of trays holding 5,000 inch-square colored material swatches, Holiday chooses samples to hold against the cheek in a systematic order. Holiday or her assistants gauge whether or not the skin changes color.

Holiday's system is based on scientific principles of color interaction derived from the Muncell color wheel, a numerically defined color system. Colors which bring out gray, green or yellow skin tones are eliminated.

"We start with the reds because red's a color that will bring out the green (in the skin). Red and green intensify each other. We start with the bluest red and go to the warmest red . . . and continue through the spectrum.

"Rather than putting people into categories, we determine the range of colors that work and evaluate the patterns in the colors. . . . You never know for sure what's going to happen. I consciously do not guess."

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