One of the newest career paths in the service industry is that of the Personal Shopper.
Spring is here and women want to look their best; however, many of us are not great at choosing the most flattering outfits for ourselves. Others don’t have the time and could use some coaching and advice.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing fashion stylist and personal shopper, extraordinaire, Natalie Jobity, owner of Élan Image Management LLC
In the interview, she shared what to look for when searching out a personal shopper and she summarized what one should expect.
As interviewed by Cathy Green 3/12/09
Q – What type of woman generally contacts you? Who is your general client?
My clients come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, ages, ethnicity and income brackets. I have a pretty diverse clientele. Right now I am shopping for a young professional who has her first corporate job and needs to dress to impress. I have shopped for women in their 40’s who just feel they’re stuck in a rut and want a new look. I have shopped for women who needed help finding a look for a special event. It really varies. But the key is that the woman recognizes that she needs help with her look/image and is ready for a change.
Q – Why do they hire you as their personal shopper, as opposed to doing their own shopping?
Many women hate shopping quite frankly. And the rest get overwhelmed by all the choices and don’t know where to begin and need a guide (me). Still others don’t understand how to buy clothes to flatter their body. And many can shop for separates, but don’t know how to pull those separates into an outfit when they get home, so the items end up sitting in their closets. Many women really have a challenge coordinating and mixing and matching their clothes.
Q – What types of things do you, as a professional personal (PS) shopper, do for your clients?
It varies. For instance, I can work with a client to purge and sort her clothes before we go shopping. This is a great service because I can help her able to get rid of all the clothing that no longer serves her or her lifestyle so she has the ‘room’ to make new purchases that are more in synch with who she is evolving to be.
On many days I do what I refer to as my in-depth consultations, where I take a woman through a process where I help her define and understand her unique signature style, her best colors, understand the clothing she should wear to flatter and enhance her figure and proportions and so much more. Those sessions typically take 5 hours and helps me get an in-depth understanding of the woman and her clothing/image needs.
When specifically shopping, I am thinking of a few things: what does she need? What critical items are missing from her closet? What does she need more of? What new silhouettes will better flatter her? What colors and prints will make her look fantastic that she is not currently wearing? What body issues do I need to take into account that impacts where I shop (for example if she is petite)? What is she trying to project with her new look and what new clothes best execute against that?
If she is shopping with me I have a list of priorities and I hold as many of her bags as I can. I work with the staff or personal shopper in the store to service her needs. I make sure she stays within her budget and only buy things that further her image goals. And I teach her as we go along—I want you to try this item because of X…that sort of thing. I take advantage of all the services the stores have to offer and add my expertise as her image consultant so that when we’re done, she’s excited, delighted and a whole new woman!
Q – Can just anyone become a personal shopper or is there any professional training or certification required?
I stumbled into this career about 5 years ago and the moment I discovered it I knew it was what I was meant to do. It combined so many of my passions: fashion, color, helping people do better, accessorizing, coaching and using my creative talents. Yes there is specific training to be certified as an image consultant which I highly recommend for anyone interested in being a powerhouse in this field.
Design schools are great but there is specific training you can get as an image consultant which teaches you topics not typically found in most design school programs—for example how to do a color analysis on a client so you know what colors make them pop. If you google ‘image consulting’ training you will find many good trainers in the field. A good place to start is the AICI (Association of Image Consultants International) which is the premiere certification and resource association of image consultants in the US and abroad.
I am certified by AICI and got training in NY. many people have the misconception that if they can shop for themselves, they can shop for anyone but that is not reality. You have to have a very thorough understanding of the different body types and proportions in a client and how to dress them to enhance and improve their look, fabrics, designers, color etc. And you get that knowledge through study and certification and certainly having an innate eye for what looks great on someone.
Q – What should the consumer look for when searching out a personal shopper?
Does the PS understand their needs and the image they are trying to achieve? Did the PS take the time to get to understand their unique style, preferences and lifestyle needs? Can they trust this PS to shop for them so they look their best? Is the PS dictating the way they should look or LISTENING to the client’s words and cues about what they really want and like? Is the PS conscious and respective about their budget for clothing? Did the PS give them options about where they will shop and how they will shop for the client? Do they have a good rapport with the personal shopper? Can the PS leverage any relationships with designers/boutiques? What clients does the PS serve?
Q – Is there any difference in what you as a business owner does, as opposed to the personal shoppers found in large department stores?
Absolutely. I work independently and can shop for my clients anywhere I choose, at any pricepoint. In addition, my clients can come from anywhere. A personal shopper in a store is stuck shopping in that store with its particular selections and its price point. If the client cannot find what they like at that store, that PS can’t add much value beyond that. Also they are dependent on store traffic primarily for their clientele. They also get a commission on the sales they make so this can bias the advice they give their in store client. I don’t have any loyalty to any particular store and can choose to shop online, in stores, boutiques, discount outlets—the sky is the limit. BUT, PS in stores are essentially free to that stores customers whereas my clients have to pay to hire me as their PS.
Q – What general advice would you offer to a woman who cannot yet afford to hire a personal shopper but who needs to bring her wardrobe up to date?
I would first recommend my in-depth consultation so that she learns for herself how to revamp her image based on her body, goals, lifestyle and preferences. That is the equivalent of teaching someone to fish as opposed to fishing for them. If that is still over her budget, then I would recommend they use a PS in a DEPT store whose selections they like. That is free advice and service and it’s a good place to start, albeit somewhat limited.
There are quick and easy ways to update a wardrobe on your own just by adding new colors, fashionable accessories, coordinating clothes a little differently and making a few alterations to clothes you already own. For example the cinched waist is very popular this season. A woman can buy a new belt and that belt can be the foundation for many new looks—whether she chooses to belt her dresses, cardigans, jackets or a combo (a cardigan worn belted over a dress!). And that is just one tip. Again just by spending 90 minutes with a client I can change her whole perception of how she views her personal style and image and give her key takeaways so when she shops on her own, she has direction.
Natalie Jobity, an image consultant/personal shoppper and President of Élan Image Management LLC, coaches women on how to look their best by helping them discover, define and project their own unique signature style and an image that positions them for success. Visit her website and blog at http://www.ElanImageManagement.com