I know I’m very lucky…

 

Just when I was thinking that everyone had heard of “Personal Shoppers”, two people I was chatting with last week asked me what I did and looked at me as though I had two heads when they heard my reply. The first was a man of about 60 and he smirked at me and said, “You do what? You take people shopping; how funny… I didn’t know people did things like that!” The other was a boy in his late teens and his response from the other end of the spectrum was… “OMG that’s the coolest job I’ve ever heard – I’d love to do that!”

I’d just assumed that being a Personal Shopper was quite a normal thing these days. I thought that as it’s offered in many department stores and because there have been so many styling make-over TV shows over the last couple of years pretty much everyone knew that it wasn’t a service only reserved for the rich and famous…

In fact, it actually must be fairly common to most, as I get so many emails from people wanting to know everything about becoming a personal shopper; from what to study, to what to charge, to how did I get started? And many people I meet all know someone with a daughter or niece who wants to “work in fashion”. I probably get 5 students per week asking if I have any work experience or placement opportunities and I feel so mean when I email back saying “no”. Because studying fashion has become so popular I sometimes wonder who is giving them positions and if there are enough decent jobs to go around, at the end of the work experience, especially these days when it’s so hard to get, if at all!

© Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime.com

I was reading the other day about how companies who took on graduates for relatively low-paid jobs previously, are now expecting the equivalent student to work for free, or even pay for their positions – which really seems incredibly unfair. And it’s the whole chicken and the egg thing – how do you get experience if you don’t have any previous experience to prove you’re up to the job?

I didn’t study fashion at university, but “in my day” 12 years ago when I was in the sixth form deciding what to study at uni, “fashion” was not such an obvious choice for students as it is today. When I was at school, you tried for the London College of Fashion if you were hugely talented at art or maybe applied for a graduate training scheme to be a store manager/trainee buyer – but even those kind of careers seemed hugely unknown. However, these days the industry has had much more exposure because of the likes of “Gok” and “Trinny and Susanna” etc. Now everyone wants/thinks they can become a stylist because their mum asks their opinion before heading off to Per Una or because they can reel off some trends from a fashion magazine. Now don’t get me wrong, I totally believe that everyone can work hard and put the time in and (hopefully) achieve their dreams. However, I would like to think that some kind of flair is required for a chosen career!

To be a good personal shopper in my opinion one of the most important attributes is patience, followed closely by being diplomatic and a people person. Although the fashion part is obviously hugely important, being able to make someone feel comfortable and at ease instantly is as crucial. You also need to have up-to-date knowledge of what’s in all the stores from Primark to Prada, because every customer wants something different – someone might want to only shop “top end” and others may want 10 items for £300. You need to know the trends each season but more importantly be able to adapt them to suit the individual customer’s style. Many don’t want to be overly “trendy”; they simply want to know what suits their shape and colouring – and basically they want to look and feel good.

I don’t want to put anyone off trying to be a Personal Shopper but it’s not an easy job – you must be prepared to work hard and be enthusiastic at all times! However, putting all that aside – it is a hugely rewarding career. Seeing the difference in the “style” confidence of a customer at the end of a session compared to the beginning, makes it all worth while… Seeing someone holding themselves differently and feeling less stressed about getting dressed in the morning – makes you feel like you’ve genuinely helped someone! I know I’m very lucky…

P.S. For more information on how I got started have a look at my blog posts from October 09 – The Right Place and the Right Time, Fashion Foundations and London Calling. Also read my below comment…

4 thoughts on “I know I’m very lucky…

  1. Fiona Huntingford

    I’ve had a lot of emails regarding my last post from people wanting to be personal shoppers… So I just thought that I’d add this additional information.

    I haven’t had any formal “personal shopping” training and did no work experience before my first client! It was quite daunting but I knew in my own mind what I wanted to offer them. I didn’t need a course to learn skills as I had already worked in the fashion industry for over six years and I felt ready… I had previously wanted to start my own business after leaving university and it would have been a huge mistake. I thought I had the knowledge and skills required, but thankfully I was led down a different path, going into buying and then into wholesale. It was only after this time that I was actually “ready” to assist clients properly.

    My clients book me for different reasons, some are wanting a life over-haul for one reason or another, they may have lost a lot of weight or split up from their partner for example and it can be quite a traumatic experience for others, if they’ve always hated shopping. You need to have confidence to be able to put them at ease instantly… as the most important thing is that they can enjoy their day and get the most out of it.

    Therefore:

    1. Training is not always necessary as long as you have an excellent understanding of fit, colour and shape. For me the best place to learn these skills is in a boutique environment on the shop-floor (working in Topshop for example is no good, as you need to work one-on-one with clients).
    2. You must be a people person – if not, you will struggle to gain the confidence of your client, which is hugely important.
    3. You must love what you do and have as the saying goes – a “passion for fashion”. You can be working very long hours and if you don’t love what you do it will show!
    4. You must be a style perfectionist – the little details make all the difference.
    5. You must have patience – clients like to go at their own pace, which you must respect.

    I hope this is of help.

    Fiona.

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