How shopping is changing
With what we wear and how we wear it seemingly under scrutiny like never before, we sat down with stylist, personal shopper and our new Fashion Insider, Boo Attwood for a chat about personal style, overcoming shopping anxiety and how even the term ‘boutique’ is changing.
If fashion is your passion, or if your style has you stumped, time spent in the company of Boo will leave you feeling at one with the world of fashion.
The idea of having a personal stylist was one that even five years ago seemed very unattainable and reserved only for a privileged few, but it seems like it’s a sector that’s booming: how do you explain this change?
Generally, I think we’re living in an increasingly competitive world: people are coming out of university and struggling to find their place in the job market. As a result, I think people are realizing more and more that paying attention to how you present yourself isn’t just a bonus – it’s really very important indeed. In order for you to be up there, competing for the best jobs and the best positions, you need to project yourself in the right way and that obviously comes across very much in the way you dress and your overall image.
You’re right in saying that it was only a short time ago that people couldn’t understand that there was a need for this, let alone why there was. I was reading only the other day about how the top Estate Agents in London are now bringing in tailors and stylists to sharpen up their image: people are starting to see how this matters.
Why is clothing – and specifically ‘style’ such a challenging thing for so many people?
That’s a good question. I have certainly seen people who, in their professional lives can command authority in boardrooms or amongst their peers, but for whom the idea of going into a boutique on Bond Street is utterly terrifying. A lot of what I do is teaching people how to ask the kind of questions that have become second nature to me over the years I’ve worked in the fashion industry, and in doing so encouraging them to make self-assured and confident decisions about their personal style.
How did you hone that skillset?
It’s partly a simple case of the time I’ve been doing it, but it’s also being attentive to the fashion world as a whole. I’ve a presence at London Fashion Week, I attend shows and I’m constantly working with different clients. I visit the stores, the PRs and go to new season collections and press days. It can be exhausting, but that’s where you build your connections and your industry knowledge, almost on a piece by piece basis. Because I have the inside knowledge of behind the scenes, I know what’s coming up before many people do. It’s absolutely about keeping your finger on the fashion pulse: the more you know, the smarter you become at knowing what to buy and where to buy it.
Presumably, your varied experience has been nothing but an asset here?
It’s fascinating to me to be able to funnel all those years of experience and all those contacts into what I do, and I think it gives me quite a unique approach to personal shopping and styling.
Over the years, my eye has been increasingly well-honed through the work that I’ve done, whether it be high fashion editorial or for private clients, personal shopping, or for moving images (TV and games). It’s constantly evolving and I’m always learning. I think I’m at my most experienced now – it’s very much a cumulative thing.
With London having such a huge and varied offering of designers, styles and boutiques, it’s easy to see how having someone with the inside knowledge you have to guide them is something you just can’t put a price on.
Exactly – and especially for people who have limited time to do that. I often get to know about the collections quite a while before they hit the stores, so I’m a step ahead of most people and even many personal stylists who don’t have the extra industry connections that I do. Obviously having all that information is invaluable, because I’m able to draw on this massive ‘knowledge database’ of pieces and designers and so forth. There’s nothing more frustrating when it comes to shopping than traipsing around store after store and never quite finding the one thing you are after.
Even iconic stores, like Brown’s and Harvey Nichols, are changing. What does this tell us about the way shopping is evolving too?
Well, those are two good examples: Harvey Nichols recently spent a fortune on giving its store a complete overhaul. The Style Concierge offers stylists, such as myself, a beautiful and private space to work with our clients and then there’s the brand new beauty department which is an incredible emporium of things – a curated dream, really. Brown’s was recently bought by Jose Neves, the man behind Farfetch (one of the world’s biggest online fashion retailers). What this huge empire has done is politely reinvent the boutique for the digital age. If you go onto their site you’re able to choose something from Stella McCartney, but they offer it to you from any number of boutiques around the world, so stockists can create their own collections, bought and curated by their own buyers, but also have the flexibility to sell to anywhere. They can ship from Stockholm to Shanghai in a day, which is just incredible.
The high-end and luxury market was suffering a little a few years ago, but there has been a definite resurgence recently, partly because consumers are demanding more individuality and more luxury, and implicit in that is that they’re after fabulous quality too.
That choice isn’t limited to the high-end though, is it?
No, not at all. There are certain places on the High Street that have a fantastic offering of clothing – it’s just knowing where to look and how to choose. It’s not about quantity of clothing you own: if you’ve the right pieces in your wardrobe, they’ll work extremely hard for you. You just need to choose wisely.
Boo Attwood runs the Image Consulting and Shopping in Style Experiences with SideStory. Book now to learn more about the Capital’s fashion offerings and how to put together pieces that work. It’ll be time extremely well spent indeed.