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Lost City

A Personal Shopper in Notts

17 March 22 illustrations: Kasia Kozakiewicz

A personal shopper in Notts talks us through picking outfits, working with clients, and why their job might not be exactly what you think... 

No one knows what a personal stylist is, or a colour consultant. Instead, I just say that my job is making women feel fantastic. I do personal shopping too, but it’s not just taking somebody shopping and getting paid for it like you might think, it’s about giving people the tools to know what suits them and why. That way they can become confident in the shop without me.

My journey started many years ago when I studied knitwear at Nottingham Trent. After that I worked as a manager at John Lewis for six years, during which time my dad passed away. That experience caused a real lightbulb moment for me, it made me reevaluate ‘what am I doing here?’ Soon after, a stylist job came up at John Lewis and I decided to apply. Instantly, people could see the difference in me, like a weight had been lifted off, and it quickly became my favourite job. In fact, I loved it so much that I used my bonus to train in London with the hopes of setting up my own business.

Nowadays, I’m totally independent. Nearly six years ago I set up on my own, which was the hardest and best decision I’ve ever made. I came home one day and said to my husband ‘I think I’ve just handed in my notice’ and that was it. Now my office is what my children’s playroom used to be, and it might sound weird but I feel like I’ve found my calling. 

I still get butterflies every time I meet a new client, because I find it so exciting

It’s a funny transition because you become your whole brand, and like any business I had to learn to do my own accounts and marketing. I also never really switch off, I go to bed with a notebook by my side. That being said, I still get butterflies every time I meet a new client, because I find it so exciting. I love getting to know my clients, and seeing the difference between when they first arrive and when they go. It’s great that this experience can bring out the best in them, and give them confidence.

There isn’t really a normal day because every client is so different and it’s all about figuring out what they want. But I do tend to take a three-pronged approach: colour, style type, and body shape. The client usually comes to my house around ten in the morning and I start by looking at colours with them, explaining the difference between colour categories and how they relate to skin tone and eye brightness. Then we’ll move onto the colour drapes, figuring out which colours suit them best, and they always leave with a keychain of colour swatches to bring shopping. Style is a bit more difficult. We go through the different style personalities, which are really helpful as a guide. For example, the ‘natural’ style personality values comfortable things, so we work toward finding clothes with movement. Finally, we go into body shapes, and discuss what they want to focus on and what they don’t, a lot of it is about the drape or the fabric etc, and how that can change the way you look.

On average, I tend to see about three people a week, and one person usually takes up a whole day. Even after seeing them, I’m doing moodboards or sending reports, or tidying the studio back up. Before the pandemic I saw someone every day, but now it’s probably three a week. Things are starting to pick up again now though, which is brilliant, and we’re back in person rather than on Zoom!

I think people think stylists are out of reach, and for people with lots of money, but that’s not true

I think people think stylists are out of reach, and for people with lots of money, but that’s not true. Actually, it can save people money because it teaches you to be excited about what’s in your wardrobe. I think it’s a stereotype that my job is all about buying lots of new clothes, because actually it’s often helping people look at what they’ve got. I don’t want to tell people to buy something that they don’t need, often it just takes a few new key pieces to refresh someone’s wardrobe. Fast fashion and sustainability are big issues, and I think lots of people are more cautious now about what they’re buying and why. Many people (myself included) turn to retail to feel better, but you can get that high from your own wardrobe.

I’ve worked with people from fourteen all the way to about ninety, but I think my average demographic is middle aged women, often who have kind of lost themselves. It can be heartbreaking actually, I always ask people to tell me three things they love about themselves and three things they don’t, and so often people can’t name one thing they like. They need to be shown that they have so many good things. It’s a weird feeling being middle aged, people can stop noticing you’re even there. You see that in the way people walk, and how they dress themselves, it’s like they’ve  lost their sense of self. What I do is all about helping people get that back, and showing them what they already have. 

I have a lot of special memories about this job, but I’ll always remember my first client because her feedback made me cry. She had just lost eight or nine stone in weight, and couldn’t see herself as a smaller person. She would sit in my studio with a massive jumper, and a lot of that process was showing her what she looked like now. She got in touch with me after and said it was a life-changing experience. I still get Christmas cards from her now actually, and we stay in touch. But that moment was so amazing for me.

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