How an appointment with some of the world’s most wanted personal shoppers means time and money saved and a VIP pass to exclusive experiences.
WALKING and culinary tours are well and good, but how about making the best of your international holiday with a shopping trip that has bespoke written all over it? It’s not just the Russian billionnaires and business travellers who are signing up with well-placed personal shoppers. Everyone from corporates to homemakers is benefitting from the expert advice, access to top designers and managers at stores and the private discounts that come with these fashion insiders. London’s fashion blogger and personal shopper Gabrielle Teare says people fly in from all over the world to meet her. In India, Binita Rawlley is the go-to person in the capital, while Mumbai’s Anaita Shroff Adajania, fashion director at Vogue, is very much in demand but works only for selective clients.
Gabrielle Teare, London
In the business for eight years now, Teare works with London Fashion Week and has direct access to the top stylists and photographers and department stores like Harrods and Selfridges. She has trained some of Bollywood’s top stylists. If you want to cut queues at stores or private discounts (owing to how much she shops each day), Teare is your person. With an interior design background, she has back-to-back appointments at least five days a week. Clients range from wealthy housewives and working women to billionaires and often, she takes on remote shopping projects as well, for clients in Switzerland or even India. Interestingly, 40 per cent of her clients are men. Pointing out that we barely use 20 per cent of what is in our wardrobes, as “most of it is rubbish, cheap and nasty,” she adds, “It’s not about the budget, it is how you use it. Shopping in a place like London can be a challenge, as it’s difficult to find the right shops. I know all the edgy footwear designers, and where you can find the best clothes. I encourage you to spend on something classic by a designer and to try something different.” Watching people dance in front of the mirror in dressing rooms, flirting with updated versions of themselves, is reward enough. But Teare, like her colleagues elsewhere doesn’t come cheap. She offers half day and day tours, and jokes, “It is cheaper to use me than buy that jacket that is going to sit unused in your wardrobe!” Details: gabrielleteare.com
Binita Rawlley, New Delhi
Former jewellery designer Binita Rawlley mostly caters to NRIs and expats and operates via word-of-mouth. In Delhi for 17 years now, clients go to her to source lithographs, old furniture, vintage textiles, carpets and, of course, high fashion. “I am a naturally curious person and use personal shoppers myself, when I travel,” she confesses, adding, “If I want to say, peruse old flea markets in Japan, I’m not ashamed to ask for help. It saves a lot of time and, when you buy exactly what you want, money.” While Rawlley, a former stewardess with Cathay Pacific, is an expert on high-end shopping in the capital and Rajasthan, she is well networked across the country. She has a Chennai connection as well, for her tea planter father used to live in the city. Describing her taste in fashion and interiors, she chuckles that she gets by very well in Delhi, “a mine of all things heritage” despite her broken Hindi. Her clients, usually in the 40 to 50 plus age group, have discerning taste, are well travelled and most of them, she observes, have done their homework regarding what they want in our country. Shopping appointments are usually for a day up to a week. Details: binitarawlley.com
Tanguy Ottomer, Antwerp
Stylish and easygoing, Tanguy Ottomer is a celebrity guide you must make time for, if visiting diamond and fashion hub, Antwerp. This is the city that gave us designers like Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten, and Ottomer will introduce you to current favourites like the edgy Cedric Jacquemyn, Damien Ravn and Katrien van Hecke, all former students from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp. Belgians are very avant garde, he agrees, but he believes in designs that last longer than one season. The natty columnist, who is working on his fourth book, has been profiled by all the leading publications, be it New York Times, Financial Times or CNN. His clients are mostly Americans, and Russians, of course, and he offers access to made-to-order experiences, from walking tours to chopper rides. He will take you behind the scenes of fashion, diamonds and art in his city. Not all experiences are prohibitely expensive, says Ottomer, but admits that he has had weird requests. Choosing clothes a client hoped to wear in his coffin at his funeral, is one of them! Free pleasures like the rooftop of the museum MAS, a guided visit to the Central Station or a walk near the river are made extra special by Ottomer’s observations. As for budget, he grins, “Nobody needs a shopping budget. I’ll give you advice on the city, shops and fashion. You don’t have to spend to have a nice afternoon.” His fee is 500 euros for three hours. Details: email@example.com
Angela Stone, New Zealand
Fashion designer and author of How to Become a Personal Shopper, Angela Stone says the best way to identify good personal shoppers is to look at their website (must be creative) and read testimonials. ‘‘Get in touch with some of them and find out about their experiences,’’ she suggests. Having coordinated big fashion events in her country, she believes in eclectic and timeless style but works to meet individual requirements. There are instances of people from London contacting her for a specific bag, which she then sourced from America. Stone has just launched a book for women, Style Guide, with tips on understanding colour, body shapes, and making the best of ‘‘who you are’’ says, ‘‘I help clients put on good clothes, but also feel good from the inside.’’ Her USP is to get people to open up. ‘‘People have a lot of pressure to look good. My clients range from normal everyday people to company heads.’’ Details: www.angelastone.co.nz
Caroline Lobo, Paris
Originally from Bangalore, Caroline Lobo is a self confessed shopaholic, fashion writer and blogger. Growing up in the UAE on a diet of luxury malls and upscale brands only prepared her for her current job with Parisian firm, Carnet de Mode, promoting over 200 emerging fashion designers in the city. Her alumni at IFA Paris and her presence at Paris Fashion Week led to her turning personal shopper quite naturally. “I factor in clients’ needs but the main goal is to just have fun and experience the excitement that comes with shopping in the fashion capital — think macaroons and champagne,” she smiles and recalls how one client wanted to own every single pair of Giuseppe Zanottis in the store. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandhya Oza, Bangalore
Former model and hospitality professional, the well travelled and fashion savvy Sandhya Oza manages Curry Classes for small groups of foodies and DressSmart, an image consultancy and personal shopping service. “My clients are based in Bangalore, Singapore, UK and America. A lot of them are senior executives who travel frequently. Or visitors to the city who need direction. They contact me though personal referrals, social media, Facebook and Trip Advisor and we take it from there,” says Oza. She makes it clear to stores that time is important to her clients. “Quality is very important and I like to ensure my clients are not pressured into buying anything they will later regret,” she says. Details: sandhyaoza.com
Christina Karachaliou, Dubai
The lady behind the lifestyle consultancy services called O’ My Glamour says that she is strongly influenced by the iconic femininity of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Karachaliou works with celebrities who fly into Dubai from around the world. Client requests range from quirky to wildly extravagant. One wanted a pet monkey while another wanted to buy up every dress in every size from a particular French label in Dubai and Abu Dhabi just so no one else would wear it to a black tie event she was attending. “A lot of my clients finish work late and I often shop with them up to midnight, not an issue since mine is not a 9-5 job anyway,” she shrugs. Details: email@example.com
Others most wanted
Sarah Douglas, London
Sarah Douglas, director of The Liminal Space in London, who creates custom itineraries around London, says, “We get a lot of requests to experience British heritage brands. For instance, our clients met the only remaining makers of hand made shoes in London.”
Shinji Nohara, Tokyo
In Japan, former journalist Shinji Nohara is a culinary insider celebrity foodies go to as he can open the doors to Tokyo’s best-kept secrets (given that some Japanese restauranteurs are unsure about hosting foreigners). His tours can last 12 hours, and will include some unusual shopping experiences if you wish.