The Astonishing Tessa Smith, and How To Live Your Brand

[Cache #236]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

Is your brand dead or alive?

By alive, I mean this:  are you living it in ways that clearly and powerfully support your brand foundation (your core purpose, your vision, your position, your mission, etc).  Or is your foundation just a bunch of dead words, whether on a page or locked away somewhere in your mind?

If you’re willing to take a hard look at yourself, you just might conclude that your brand is on life support.  You may have an inspirational vision statement.  You may have a deeply compelling tagline.  But you are doing nothing of substance with it.

La Closette, a fashion and personal styling consultancy in Toronto and Montreal that Coin is proud to call a strategic partner, does not have this problem.  They are one of the most vital brands I have encountered, because they have profoundly invested themselves in their very bold tagline, which is this:

Look great.  Feel great.  Do great.

I didn’t write that line.  But I wish I did.  Firstly, because I love the cause-and-effect progression from looking great, to then feeling great, to then being able to do great things for yourself – and as the line strongly implies, for others.  Secondly and more importantly, because La Closette actually delivers strongly on all three elements, and especially on the last one.  The doing.


Fashion Heals – Holt Renfrew – 50 Bloor Street West, Toronto
All photos by Best of Toronto

Third and most impressively brand-building of all, note, in the commentary below, the ways in which La Closette is not just randomly doing great, but getting a multiplier effect out of their tagline by doing great in alignment with the Look great and Feel great components.

So:  how is La Closette doing great?  Consider the immense effort they put forward in helping organize Fashion Heals, a benefit for SickKids Hospital that helps save the lives of kids with cancer.  Held with 300 people in attendance this past Wednesday at the ultra-upscale Holt Renfrew store on Bloor Street West in Toronto, Fashion Heals’ second annual edition was targeted to raise $60,000 for an Innovation Grant for Paediatric Cancer Care and Research at SickKids.

Of the 1,400 children diagnosed with cancer in Canada every year, 82% survive.  To paraphrase remarks made at Fashion Heals by oncologist Dr. Sumit Gupta, parents think it’s great that he and his team can save 82% of the kids.  But it doesn’t do them any good if he can’t save their kid.

So 100% is the only acceptable figure, and SickKids can only get there through the same dogged and brilliant innovation that got them to 82%.  That’s why the innovation grants are so important.

The centrepiece of the evening was a fashion show, run by La Closette, in which all of the models were either SickKids staff, patients, or parents of patients – cancer survivors and their parents, in other words.


Fashion Heals – Dr. Barbara Cifra with Irene Kim and MT Meikle of La Closette
All photos by Best of Toronto

In the preceding days, each model had a fitting session in which La Closette principals MT Meikle and Irene Kim, along with Holt’s staff, helped them choose clothing from the store.  And let’s keep in mind:  Holt Renfrew isn’t just any store, and their clothes aren’t just any clothes.  This is the place you go to buy, for example, your $995 Givenchy t-shirt.

Just before the show, each model had a professional makeup session.  At showtime, each in turn took their spot onstage.  MT and Irene relayed some personal facts about them, and then described their outfit as they strutted their stuff down the catwalk.


Fashion Heals – Tessa Smith, 2016 SickKids Patient Ambassador
All photos by Best of Toronto

Each and every model is a very special person.  The brightest spotlight of the evening shone on aspiring photographer, musician, writer and model Tessa Smith.  Tessa, 17, also happens to be a two-time cancer survivor and the SickKids’ 2016 Patient Ambassador.  She has had cancer in the retinas of both eyes, and lost one of her legs to the disease.  In addition to doing the catwalk, Tessa gave a blunt, inspiring, moving and funny keynote.

How do you think Tessa and the other models looked?  How do you think they felt?  And what about everyone else in attendance?

And what are you doing to make your brand even remotely as alive in comparison?



P.S. I was privileged to MC this event, and to introduce Tessa’s keynote speech.  I am sorry to say I disappointed her.  She asked me to make an amputee joke in my introduction.  I thought about it for one-billionth of a second and declined.  Proving the obvious – that she has a lot more courage than me – she went out and told a few herself.

All photos from Best of Toronto:

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