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Danielle Baggioni
Fashion

Danielle dresses up women at Selfridges. Interview.

By Isabel Mariscal
27/04/2009

I have been in London for only a few weeks and the young French girl that I am has not yet acquired the knack of standing on the right side of the escalator or queuing for the bus in a line. So when I am told that I have to interview Danielle Baggioni, personal shopper at Selfridges, I had to ask where Selfridges was  situated and what a personal shopper was…

To inaugurate my first steps in this famous London establishment, I have to meet Danielle in the personal shopping department up on the 3rd floor. The cosy yet chic atmosphere of the Personal Shopping area hits you as you arrive. I introduce myself and I am kindly asked to wait whilst sitting on one of the very comfy sofas in the reception area. Danielle arrives a few minutes later, all smiles, and invites me to join her in her private world, her private dressing room! Danielle has taken the time to prepare it with a few carefully selected couture items: a few dresses, an evening coat, a bag and a pair of unmistakable red patent Louboutin. Three giant mirrors form a triptyque.  “Mirror, mirror, tell me which dress I need!” In the land of fashion, Danielle’s role is to answer this question.


La cabine du Selfridges
Danielle’s dressing room


As a personal shopper and an expert in fashion, she is probably checking my outfit as we speak. What does she think ? That my blue poker doteshirt clashes with my beige suede jacket? Danielle on the other hand has played it very simple. No mistake possible, she is dressed from head to toe in black. She’s very chic and elegant with a very natural make up look. It’s impossible to guess her age. She tells me that she keeps her young physic by cycling and going to the gym. She loves life and from what she tells me, she must have had a very full one.

She is 18 in 1968 and decides to set sail for Southern England. Once she has obtained her work visa (yes in those days, French people had to have a work visa for the UK) she soon finds an au-pair job. Her objective is to learn English. With a slight smile, she let’s me know that she also wanted to discover what London life  had to offer .London was then the Mecca of parties, dance clubs and fashion areas such as Carnaby Street.
She likes what she finds there and decides to stay and work in fashion shops to continue to improve her English. She ends up in the King’s Road, one of the most fashionable areas of the 60s. Fashion boutiques line the street and many a young designer first started their trade there; the ineffable Vivienne Westwood and the inventor of the mini skirt Mary Quant amongst them. 
In the 60s, the mini skirt is not simply a piece of cloth; it is a symbolism of women’s independence. Women take the pill, wear short skirts and work. This wind of independence, is one of the reasons that leads Danielle to want to succeed by herself. As a French woman, she finds that it gives her an edge. “Being French is a passport in the Fashion world” as she points out.
She rapidly climbs the ladder; sales assistant, shop manager, buyer. She tries them all within some of the most famous couture houses: George Rech, St Laurent, Versace…Danielle looks at her past and believes that she has been involved in all aspects of fashion. Then, approximately eight years ago someone offers her to stake up the position of personal shopper at Selfridges. She accepts… the rest is history. She quickly builds up a large client list. Perhaps her success comes the fact she is French. Because she is French, she adds a certain “French Touch”, thus reassuring her clients.
She likes to think that her clients are comforted to know that they are in the hands of a fashion expert who is French. But even if Danielle is French, she has spent her adult life in the UK and it is mostly in ‘franglais’ that she painstakingly tries to explains to me the differences between the French and the English way of dressing. 
As a novice in the language, I desperately hold on to each word and expression she uses, “smart casual” or  “trendy”. In vain, I think the only thing I have retained
is that French women have an effortless dress sense…Perhaps my dark blue poker dot shirt and beige suede jacket were not that bad after all. Whatever way you look at it, her French passport has been a real “open sesame” and she has consistently used it over her long career.

 “Chelsea look” de Londres par Mary Quant
“Chelsea look” in London by Mary Quant

By now, Danielle has realised that I am a little lost with her jargon. I ask her then to take me through the ropes of a personal shopper. I discover that contrary to what I had imagined, a personal shopper does not only deal with clothes but the full range of products Selfridges has to offer. This can go from 'homewear’ for instance (bed and table linen as well as dinner sets), to mobile phones. Not long ago, she had to buy a gold plated Nokia mobile phone for £15,000 for a client. For another she was asked to order four hundred crispy cream doughnuts!  For Danielle nothing is impossible. She can carry out her clients' Christmas shopping and find tons of ideas for them. She seems to find the idea of spending a fortune on someone else’s behalf rather exciting.
The more I speak to Danielle, the more  I realise that she truly likes her work for the relationship she establish with her clientele. “My relationship with my clients is much more than professional”, she claims. “My clients do not hesitate to call me outside our normal hours of business when they have a wardrobe crisis”.
For her, it is very important to make her clients feel at ease and relaxed so she tries to be as “friendly” as possible. She believes that if a client has no confidence in your ability then she will not come back and all your efforts have been lost. French and British customers are different. French customers are more direct. They tell you if they do not like something. With British customers, you have to be able to read between the lines. It takes more time to understand what they like and dislike.
Even if Danielle knows that she is a glorified sales assistant, she strongly believes that she also has to be very a good psychologist. I find that hard to understand but Danielle argues by giving me a few examples of what she means: « People see a psychologist to feel good from within. I have exactly the same work but I make feel good from the outside. My role is to make my clients feel more confident.” Even if I am not convinced, I do sense that Danielle she does make a connection with the people she dresses. « Yesterday, a charming lady came to see me with her two daughters. She had a prosthetic arm and was a little awkward about it. She was after some clothes that would have both long sleeves and be “trendy”. I managed to find her some rather cool clothes.  When she left, she kissed me and she asked one of her daughters to take a picture of us. When I got home, I realised that that is what makes me like my work. It does not matter how much clients spend it is about the contact I have with them.”
Most of Danielle’s customers are British. Some come from Ireland or from the Middle East. Many are business women who come to see her twice a year, others are housewives who do not want to look to ‘mumsy’ despite the fact that all they have to do is take little Johnny to the nursery and then go to the gym. They know that either “they have not got the time” or that “they have lost their sense of what fits them and what doesn’t”. 
“But you know, I also do men” she tells me with a smile.  The men, you really have to go and get them. They simply do not come by themselves. Most of them have been sent to me by their wife.”
In this superficial world of luxury in which Danielle works, I cannot help asking her whether the credit crunch has affected her trade and the way her clients shop. She reveals, a little ill at ease, that “yes, I have had less new clients that I would normally have had but the old clients  have made up for it by spending more than they usually do”. It looks as though her well-off clients have not been  affected by the economic crisis. Personal shoppers, be re-assured your job is safe for the moment.
I have to admit that before I met Danielle, I had many reservations about her line of work. I saw her work as that of a fashion guru, a coach. I asked her to tell me if I were right but she point blank refused to be compared to them. This led me to think that in her eyes the term ‘coach’ had a somewhat negative connotation. 
My next questions also received the same adamant answers: “Do you think that the women who come to see you are looking for the perfect image? «No» she answers. She does accept the fact, however, that the women she dresses try, to a certain extent, to look like the models seen in magazines…
To conclude, when I ask Danielle if she has plans to go back to France when she retires, she pouts. I gather she is not ready for that yet.Nevertheless, she still has ties with France and goes to Paris on a regular basis to speak ‘fashion’, bien sûr to other personal shoppers in le Printemps, les Galeries Lafayette ou encore au Bon Marché!


Danielle Baggioni
Danielle Baggioni

Selfridges celebrates its 100 years !


Throughout May, Selfridges will mark its 100th year with a Big Yellow Festival. Photo and art exhibition and events of all sorts will be taking place.


Selfridges de Londres
Selfridges de Londres

 

COMMENTS:

23/09/2010 - contact said :

Les filles moi je connais aussi Au Boudoir de Babou, une agence globale de personal shopper sur paris. http://www.auboudoirdebabou.com/ Les personal shopper vous accompagne poru votre shopping ou l effectue a distance poru vous et vous livre sous 48 heures!
le top!
PErsonal shopper in Paris!!!!

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