Retailers embrace stylists
Customers’ expectations are now high and as retailers vie for a share of the consumers’ dollar, a style expert on the shopfloor becomes the defining differentiating factor when competition is so fierce.
The retail landscape has changed dramatically, especially this year. With more shoppers buying online, how do bricks-and-mortar stores compete in this very crowded space? One of the ways retailers can have an edge is by offering outstanding customer service and this is where the stylists come into play. Customers want an experience, they want to be understood and valued, but most of all they want outstanding service.
I spoke recently with Narelle Vescio, a veteran in the Australian fashion industry who has worked at retailers such as Bardot, Peter Alexander and Cotton On. Narelle believes that exceptional customer service is a real art, where the stylist needs to be authentic and have a genuine desire to provide honest feedback. It’s no longer about simply filling a customer’s shopping basket and getting them to buy lots of clothes that either don’t suit them or they won’t wear. It is about providing customers with valuable information that will help them in their decisionmaking process.
A recent encounter Narelle experienced was with a major specialty fashion retailer, where she was served by a stylist who just gave her “good ol’ fashioned” customer service.
“I felt so good about everything this stylist said and did that I ended up buying a whole outfit, not just the single item I went into originally purchased!” says Narelle.
This “salesperson and stylist” is an absolute asset to the business and to the brand. With more retailers taking this approach, the benefits to both the customer and the business are well worth it.
What kind of stylist are you?
There are several different types of stylists and you may choose to specialise in either one or all of these.
Personal stylists work with individuals, fashion houses and clothing brands and provide fashion advice, choose outfits, props and accessories.
Commercial and corporate stylists work with clients such as magazines, models, celebrities, musicians, actors/actresses. They are involved in photo shoots and do wardrobe selections for red carpet events or any public appearances made by celebrities, models or other public figures. Thes stylists select and purchase garments for editorial features, print or television advertising campaigns.
Wardrobe and backstage stylists work behind the scenes. They source, select and purchase garments for TV shows, movies, music videos and concert performances. They also co-ordinate and work on the production of runway shows.
So you want to be a stylist
If you want to be a qualified stylist, there are several nationally recognised accredited training organisations that offer anything from certificate courses to diploma courses. It is best if you choose a course delivered by industry experts and qualified trainers.
Diploma courses are generally delivered over a year in face-to-face classes, but with Covid changing the way courses are delivered, this may affect the way courses are delivered moving forward and they will more than likely include online components.
Participants learn about a wide range of topics from styling theory and fundamentals, fabrics and fibres, trends, colours, body shapes to styling for various occasions and how to execute a full production runway show.
Qualified stylists are being snapped up in the roles that used to be called sales assistants, as fashion and creative retailers understand the importance of expertise on the shopfloor. Stylists understand the craft involved in understanding customers’ needs and introducing them to products and looks that are relevant and suitable. They need to listen to the customer, look and read their cues and provide them with the information they need to make it easy for them to buy for their wardrobe.
The future of styling
Now that we’re all shopping more online, some retailers have turned their shopfloor staff into virtual stylists, although you may wonder if it’s possible to replicate that same in-person bespoke experience over Zoom.
Can a human stylist on a video call to a customer achieve a similar result? Maybe this will be the solution for the time being with so many restrictions still in place. But will the customer engage the same way? That remains to be seen. One thing I know for sure, nothing can replace human interaction. The role of a stylist will always be there.
Jude Kingston is director and founder of Mind Your Fashion