Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Image Consultants, Stylists & Personal Shoppers

D.C.-area image consultant Katrina Van Dopp called me today to pick my brain about a topic she was she was planning a short talk about. She wanted to discuss the difference between an image consultant, personal shopper, and stylist.

I thought that was a very interesting idea, and I encouraged her to choose one or the other – stylist or personal shopper to compare with the term "image consultant". In my rebranding efforts, I am focusing more on my work as a personal stylist. This is mainly due to “stylist” becoming a buzz word in the mainstream. People other than celebrities are now looking to stylists for personal style guidance.

I thought back to the article Roxanne Washington wrote about me in the Plain Dealer, when she said she thought of an image consultant as one of those people who looks like a cookie cutter image and uses the same mold for everyone. Almost like the Dress for Success books of the 1980’s. She was surprised when I came in looking hip and stylish in a decidedly non-corporate outfit.

These days, in my opinion at least, an image consultant and stylist both deal with the person as a whole entity. Each component of that person, inside and out, plays a vital role in shaping the outward image. Everyone should be treated as an individual.

A personal shopper, from what I have seen from personal shoppers I know, is paid to sell merchandise for their employer. With no training (or at least minimal training) in body line, color, and fashion personality, these shoppers are paid a commission to sell. The more they sell, the more they make. There may be a focus on trendy clothing, because once a trend has run its course, you will be left needing more clothes, and hence, they have a shopper for life. This is not the best way to build a wardrobe with quality and investment in mind.

Image consulting and personal styling are both service fields. Personal shopping, on the other hand, is sales-oriented and bottom line-driven. Image consultants and stylists are typically paid an hourly fee to use the power of impression management to help the client attain his or her goals, whatever they may be. We can and do shop anywhere, from high-end to low-end. A knowledgeable stylist can find great clothes that suit the client perfectly almost anywhere and with any budget.

From Bergdorf’s to boutiques to Target and almost anywhere in between.

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