MARIE CLAIRE: How important is style to one's success?
CARMEN BUSQUETS: Style is an important tool you can and should use. Particularly when you are just starting out or hoping to get to the next level, you want to project poise and confidence, you want to telegraph competence. It's important to accomplish this slowly, with subtlety, and with a lack of arrogance. You can be totally fashionable in the latest leather jacket after work. But you want to prove yourself on the job and not let your personality overwhelm everything else.
MC: How did you, a former boutique owner, translate your style to the buttoned-up world of finance?
CB: I've never felt any real stigma as a woman in business, perhaps because I've always been my own boss. But when I was young, it did take a long time for investors and people in finance—men and women—to take me seriously. So my main advice to young women just starting out is to think about style, but don't let it become a distraction.
MC: What's the first thing a woman should keep in mind when upgrading her look?
CB: Start with grooming. No matter what your career, you always want to look put-together and organized. In Latin America, where I'm from, we always say if somebody's not clean, they are not stylish. This is true at any level. You don't have to get manicures every day, but make sure your nails look nice. Invest in a good haircut. Think about scent—you want a fragrance that makes you feel good but isn't overpowering. We are our most radiant when we feel our best.
MC: What about in terms of work wardrobe? What key pieces do you recommend?
CB: The classics are always the best—a good pair of black pumps, a black dress, a crisp white shirt you can accessorize, and a well-fitted coat that will make you feel amazing.
MC: What about the latest runway trends—is there room to have fun?
CB: Cultivating personal style is also about knowing yourself. So buy one thing every season that you just love. It can be a statement necklace or a crazy pair of boots—something that makes your heart sing. Use it to turn your office outfit into a "wow" for after work. Eventually, you can wear it with your white shirt and pencil skirt to the office.