You are what you wear
What we wear has a certain influence on what people think of us, especially in our work environment. Over the next few weeks the Mail & Guardian will look at different industry sectors and analyse the style of South Africa’s high-powered individuals.
This week we feature Romeo Kumalo, chief commercial officer of telecommunications company Vodacom. For Kumalo it is important to be comfortable and wear well-fitting clothes that reflect your personality.
How would you describe your style?
I do not have a style.
I dress appropriately for the occasion. I am a bit of a GQ guy. I’ve been reading GQ since I was a little kid and read my father’s magazines. It is definitely my style guide.
Suit: Gucci, Hugo Boss.
I do not go out looking for labels. I buy what looks good. With suits, a Hugo Boss size 50 looks good on me. It is a perfect fit. This Gucci suit
Shirt: Custom-made at House of Camisa in Hyde Park.
I have too much purple in my cupboard, so I am trying to buy more blues and whites. But I am drawn to the colour. I love bright colours and when I was growing up I used to wear lots of yellow, green and florals. I match dark pants with bright shirts and bright ties.
Tie: Pal Zaleri.
Watch: Louis Vuitton.
Cuff links: Paul Smith.
I love bright cuff links, especially this range.
Belt: Louis Vuitton.
Shoes: Pal Zaleri.
I love beautiful shoes. I am a shoe and belt guy, because they say a lot about a man’s style. It makes the introduction.
Dressing for the occasion:
Casual wear: I like wearing dark jeans matched with a bright shirt.
Formal events: I make an effort. I enjoy dressing up for dinner and formal events. I have a number of tuxedos. I recently got a beautiful Pal Zaleri tux. I used to have a Giorgio Armani one, but it became too tight.
How has your style evolved?
When I was growing up, I really made an effort and planned my wardrobe for the year. In the early 1990s I had a stylist by the name of Shaldon dressing me. I learnt a lot from him. I still have items in my closet that he bought for me and they still fit me almost 20 years later.
I have an 18-year-old Versace jacket and a pair of Gianfranco Ferre jeans I bought 16 years ago that still fit me, although they are a bit tight.
I even have a Gucci belt from 16 years ago.
The stylist taught me to organise my wardrobe. There are colours and basics that one needs: black, blue, brown and grey suits. Then come the shirts, ties, jackets and shoes. I have learnt how to shop smart.
How important is it to look professional at work?
In the line of work that I am in I do a lot of presentations and it is very important to look professional. But it helps to look good in the workplace in general. It is sad, but people do form first impressions.
In my previous world of TV and radio people would wear baggy jeans, but a corporation is a different world and you have to look professional, but not necessarily fashionable. My mom always said that when you left home, you should look in the mirror and ask: “Is this it?” You might not come back, so make sure you look good. It may be the last time you leave home. You never know.
Where do you shop?
I do not really choose a specific designer, but I pick up things when I travel. I travel to Europe often for business, so I shop at the airport. It is the only time I really have time to shop as there is always an hour-long wait before a flight. All major designers haves stores at the airport. It makes shopping easy for business travellers who have time to kill.
I also shop at Armani in Sandton and Pal Zaleri in Melrose Arch. Sometimes, I see something in GQ that I really like and I take it to a tailor to make it for me.
Kumalo studied advertising. As a student he had various jobs, including being a waiter at Pizza Hut in Hillbrow. “I had a tough manager, but I learnt everything about customer service by being a waiter at Pizza Hut. It was the best-performing Pizza Hut in the country,” said Kumalo.
He loved his early jobs and advises all young students to have the same experience. But he has not been able to eat a pizza since working there.
After university he worked at an advertising agency, then moved on to work his way up in the marketing department of Action Station. Later he wanted to run a radio station, so he ended up as station manager of Metro FM. He has also worked as general manager of the SABC.
He is an avid gymgoer and a weekend golfer and cyclist, sports he says help to keep stress at bay.
Who would you like to see featured in this column? Give us your suggestions here.