Let me start by saying I have zero interest at all in personal shopping. So when I was invited to Fenwick, Newcastle, to try out the soft launch of their personal shopping experience I was more curious than excited. See, the thing is, I have a very clear shopping style, I am not a go in every shop and try everything on, buy nothing and then go back to the first shop kind of gal. I work like a Venus fly trap, just serene, calm, barely moving or touching anything, then something appears, the jaws open and I snap up something that I love, which is not that often, sadly for my wardrobe but thankfully for the bailiffs. Contrary to what you may think I don’t buy lots of clothes regularly, but I do have a lot of clothes, actually I don't like to call them clothes, that feels offensive, let's call them savings. My savings are in my wardrobe rather than my bank, right where I can see them. So, the thought of going to a store and a stylist finding anything at all that would suit my very selective tastes (that I had not already seen and tried - remember I go into Fenwick more than I go to my own home) was something that I had little hope for, no matter how good a stylist, but off I went (trying not to be cynical - which is a feat for me).
In the guise that I was a visiting Fenwick as a blogger on this occasion, I met with Donna, Ladies Divisional Sales Manager for Fenwick. This lady knows her retail, she was fascinating to talk to, clear, professional and best of all no flannel. This is such an important quality in the fashion/retail world. I am writing this post from Los Angeles (sorry to rub it in) and as much as I love shopping, here it is ‘flannel-tastic’ (I know, not a word). Every store I walk in I am approached by 3-4 sales assistants saying the following on a loop; ‘how are you today?’, ‘your dress is so pretty’, ‘I love your style’, ‘Your eyes are so pretty’ (I shit you not) so Donna’s sincere/knows her stuff approach is right up my street. I asked her the following questions about the introduction of personal shopping at Fenwick Newcastle, I hope covers everything; Do you have to buy something? Nope, no pressure. Will you only show me stuff that is mega expensive? No way (more on that later). Are appointments only for one? Again no, this can be a social event such as you and a few girlfriends choosing outfits for an event. Is it only for clothes? Mainly, but (I liked this) if you are going to a wedding for example you can have help with your outfit AND a gift! Fenwick don’t have a big online presence, what if I want an item but they don’t have my size? We will happily source it for you from another store. So far, so good, I was impressed.
After my chat with Donna I went into the personal shopping suite, where I was introduced to Mags and Poppy, the stylists for personal shopping experience in store. After talking to the ladies it was really reassuring to see that they were friendly, nice and approachable, no pretty woman moment here. Both Mags and Poppy went over their respective experience and preferences in the industry, Mags is very much knowledgeable on affordable and accessible high street fashion, she knows the floor like the back of her hand and is likely to pull items from Topshop, Warehouse etc. Poppy is super experienced in high-end fashion, sweeping through the French Salon dextrously pulling out Ganni, Olivia Rubin or No.21 like a pro. They complement each other like Dolce to Gabbana, Cindy to Naomi or Jilly to her Mastercard, the perfect styling partnership.
The personal shopping suite itself is tucked away on the second floor, you wouldn’t have seen or noticed it. A private little space behind double doors where you can peruse, try on and purchase all in one little joyous fashion cocoon. Poppy and Mags went through the highlights of new collections for Autumn/Winter and talked to me about both established and newer labels that were available in store. This is a testament to how Fenwick is moving with the times in an increasingly competitive market, the French Salon is no longer a place where ladies of a certain age go for an expensive suit or a dress for a dinner dance. With Vivienne Westwood, Ganni, Valentino Red, Self Portrait and Essentiel Antwerp to name a few, it is raising the bar on the Newcastle fashion map. The French Salon was introduced to Fenwick Newcastle when Fred Fenwick took over the store from his dad in 1890, it has remained an exclusive part of the store ever since. Fred trained in retail in Paris and wanted to replicate the glamour and prestige of French fashion in the North East. However, french brands are few and far between now, therefore the only thing that is still the same is the name, sorry Frenchies.
And now, it was time. The brief:
‘I am going to Los Angeles tomorrow, I am there for three weeks, I am a size 6 (when breathing in), I want a daytime outfit, budget is no more than £300 including accessories, has to be adaptable to all seasons (as in, I’m not made of money, if I am spending that, it better look good with tights and a jumper too), I will try anything, I don’t like my tummy, I have little to no boobs and my ears are my best physical attribute, what do you have for me?’
Mags and Poppy asked me a few more questions, unsure if this was a task for the purpose of the blog or I really was going to LA tomorrow. I assured them it was real, and off they went to the shop floor to work their magic. I liked the ladies, so I was hopeful, but going back to what I said right at the beginning of the post and as Mags rightly said ‘you have your own sense of style, so we need to think about enhancing what you already know you like’, excellent, this meant it wasn’t a ‘one size fits all style team’. So what did they bring me and did I actually like anything enough to buy it?
I already had my eye on this skirt but couldn’t part with over £300 when it is polyurethane despite still thinking about it everyday like a long lost love. I also exclaimed ‘I love Paul Smith too!’, nope, the Zebra T-shirt was actually Topshop (£12), just goes to show how much of an expert I am! I bought the T-shirt, love it, chances are I will think of some way to buy the skirt, does anyone want to buy an Airedale or a Doberman?
I have not taken a photograph of me in this as nobody needs to see a thirty plus woman in cycling shorts unless they are a cyclist or a Kardashian. I said I was fair game, so I put them on with an oversized blazer, I loved this look on me... if I was in a dark room with no people or windows, a great look…..on someone else.
Olivia Rubin, I loved this candy stripe signature dress and had already tried it in store, I am clearly easy to read as they were picking out my style as well as I do. I love it and, yes I would wear this through the day with boots and a denim jacket but despite it being a size 6, pitifully I couldn’t fill the chest (shock).
Taking on the ‘prairie dress’ trend is not really something I have adopted this season, I don’t think that I am cool enough. I tried on this Ganni dress (Below - £200) and thought it was nice, well made with structured bodice but I wasn’t blown away, until Poppy and Mags went to work with a chain belt from Topshop (£22) and a Faux Patent jacket (£55) also from Topshop. Oh my god I was in love, this was the outfit! I bought the lot, and well within budget, that showed me!
I genuinely recommend making an appointment for this experience, Poppy and Mags are a great team and make you feel at ease, there was no pressure at all to buy and no judgement, if I didn’t like something, I just said, I wasn’t there to waste anyone’s time. I went along with low expectations of making a purchase, I can shop for hours and barely try on one thing or see anything I like so this was a real eye opener for my cynical personal shopping experience self. Appointments can be made in person in store, just ask on the first floor or call Fenwick personal shopping direct on 0191 239 6693.