Alena Cherdynstceva, russian personal shopper and stylist (her success blog: ale-che.com), tells us her secrets on how she builds a path with her customers for discovering and achieving a unique style.
Face to face with Alena Cherdynstceva
Q: How did you understand that fashion was your path?
I completed my studies at the Eastern Faculty of the Saint Petersburg University. Afterwards, I worked in different sectors, including for quite a long time in the advertising. However, since my childhood, I loved drawing and I was attracted to all the creative activities. Thus after having graduated, I was constantly looking for a job that could help me develop my creative skills. I worked as a graphic designer, illustrator, and in an advertising agency. But I was not very satisfied my what I was doing. At a certain moment, I started getting really interested in style, not only about clothes, but from an overall perspective on the image of people. I understood that I wanted to look in a different way. Many people understand me because they have had these kind of moments in their lives, desiring to deeply change their inner and outer selves. I was convinced that I had to study fashion and style. Thus, I decided to leave my previous job in the agency and go for a professional stylist training in Europe.
I had no doubts: the courses needed to be of an high-level. The choice was among Paris, London and Milan. I ended up staying in Milan, because I really love Italy. There, I completed my course on Fashion-Stylist, Image Consulting and Personal Shopper. Then, I carried out an internship at a Milanese stylist.
Q: How did your career as a personal stylist and shopper start?
At the same time with the internship, I also started working as a personal stylist and shopper, beginning with my friends and acquaintances. The working experience with clients is very important, but the same applies to the study of the new trends and a good theoretical basis. I launched myself in the market, creating by myself the web-site and the advertisements. Step by step I got more and more clients till I reached a good level of loyal customers, who require my services on a regular basis. It happens often also that new clients come to me following the recommendation of some of my previous customers.
Q: What passions do you have besides fashions, and how do you find time for it?
I really love art and try going to all the exhibitions in Milan, visiting museums and art galleries in other cities. I am very glad when I make it to go to the exhibitions on history of customs: this summer for example, I extremely enjoyed one of these shows at Palazzo Pitti, Florence. I think that stylists must necessarily be interested in all art styles and epochs. That is how you broaden your horizon and have another influence on your sense of aesthetics, world perception and taste development.
Q: Do you like traveling? What are your favorite cities for shopping?
I love traveling very much, and my job lets me do it quite often, also because I create my own graphics.
If we compare it to other European cities, Milan is the number 1 in my opinion. First of all, you have a huge range of choices brand-wise, and a great selection. Moreover, prices are 20% or 30% lower than in Paris and London, and this is a great advantage especially if you decide to renew your entire collection of clothes. If we take in consideration New York, obviously you have to admit that you have a great assortment of European and American brands. American brands are definitely cheaper than in Europe, but after-all the selection of the stores is much more oriented towards the American taste, which is quite different compared to the European one.
Q: Who is your typical customer? Are your clients mostly based in Milan or do you follow also Italian and foreign tourists?
I work mostly with Russian customers, who live mostly in Russia or in the Soviet Union Former Republics, but others come also from different corners of the world: Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Spain and even Canada.
There are few categories of people:
– girls and women who consciously came to me because they do not have the possibilities (times, ability) to take care of their collection of clothes in a adequate way and they want to be followed by a professional. Usually, this kind of customer makes a research on her own. She tries something, but finally understand that there is nothing bad about asking the advice of a specialist who can help her to look to herself from the outside. Sometimes they are business-women who have their own business or a high-degree of responsibility. These women usually either want to completely change they style or correct it by entirely renewing their collection of clothes. They often come back to me because they are aware that thanks to a professional assistance, they can save a lot of time, energy and money;
– young mothers who do not have the physical possibilities to take care of their collection of clothes, even because their body is changing. Thus, when they baby grows, there is a vacuum in the wardrobe. Having a stylist in this case is like having a wand: it saves you time and gives you an adequate collection of clothes for your new life-style and changing body;
– women who gained weight. This is a very actual problem. It happened to all of us, at a certain point your body changes and you gain weight. Several psychological problem may raise, someone may not feel good in her clothes and may be ashamed of her body. They want to be feminine and sexy, but they do not understand how to be that way;
– the fourth category is composed by people who come to Milan for shopping and adding to their wardrobe some fashion latest products. Someone wants to do an experiment, look to herself from the outside and listen the advice of a professional. It is men, women and young girls. They need the assistance of a specialist who know the shops, the trends and who can give focused and useful advices;
– and what about men, businessmen? They do not like going to many stores: you know, men do not like shopping :). Thus, they decide to ask for the services of a specialist.
Q: How do you understand the style and the necessities of a customer?
The work of a stylist includes a very important preparation phase, from which it indirectly depends the shopping effectiveness.
At the beginning I ask to the customer to fill out a questionary with basic information: size, budget, shopping list and the reasons behind his/her choice of hiring a specialist.
Then, we talk over the phone and discuss all the details. At that moment I connect more deeply with the person for whom I am working, and I better understand his/her needs. The customer receives all the necessary information, which helps chasing the stress felt by many before starting collaborating with a stylist. At this point, it is very important to me that the customer trust me and fully open herself/himself.
Then, I prepare a collection of photos with some examples of styles, and discuss it with the client. When I meet with the customer, it is key to feel the person and get in his/her comfort zone. Sometimes, I do experiments, letting the client try a very unusual style, changing our collaboration to a more informal level. Then, the clients is more relaxed and understand that renewing one’s collection of clothes is not a task which requires a high effort, but an engaging activity.
Q: Do you think that there is a connection between the dressing style of a person and his/her taste in choosing how to decorate the interiors of an apartment? May visiting a customers’ home help you better understand his/her dressing style?
I am absolutely sure that the style of a person is not represented only by the way he/she dresses, but in many more aspects of life, including the interior design. And, yes, by seeing the interiors of an apartment, I can tell, to a certain extent at least, his/her dressing taste.
Q: Have you had the chance to have a look to the Nizza Paradise Residence? What do you think about it?
Of course, I visited the Nizza Paradise web-site, and I think that it is a very interesting architectural project. If any of my customers will ask, I will recocomendate the Nizza Paradise Residence.