Say hello to Colomba Giacomini – curator of dream closets! Born and raised in London, Colomba comes with over a decade of experience in styling, wardrobe consulting and personal shopping and working with marquee labels like Matches.com, Browns and Net-A-Porter. Styling, as a concept, may have been restricted to more affluent communities in the past, but social media and digital shopping platforms have made it a lot more accessible for people today. Whether its luxury e-commerce sites Farfetch, Matches or Moda Operandi – people can now access luxury at the click of a button. The role of a stylist has evolved through the years and continues to adapt to an ever changing industry like retail – Colomba tells you why and how

Tune in to The Vue Podcast to listen to her views on what it takes to be a stylist in the retail industry, the role of tech in sourcing inventory for stylists and which brands, in her opinion, are nailing the experiential retail game.

Akshara: Hey, guys. Welcome to a new episode of The Vue Podcast. I’m Akshara, the Head of Customer Marketing at Vue.ai and I’ll be your podcast host for the day. On our past few episodes, we’ve been talking all things retail, what stores are doing, why privacy is a concern to customers these days, and how innovation is being brought to retail experiences. Today, our focus is going to be fashion in a way you’ve never heard before. Our podcast guest is Colomba Giacomini, an independent stylist who’s got a decade of styling experience working with marquee luxury companies like Matches, Browns and Net-a-Porter. We’re so excited to talk to her about how personal styling has evolved over the years and why technology will play an important role in the future of fashion. Welcome, Colomba. We’re so excited to have you.

Colomba: Thank you so much for having me.

Akshara: Great. So let’s start off a little bit with your profile. It’s a pretty interesting mix of fashion experience, you’re a personal stylist, you’re a wardrobe consultant. You specialize in wardrobe maintenance, clearance and personal shopping. What interested you in getting into this space?

Colomba: I love being around people and I’m a real giver I guess. So I really love making people’s lives better. And, I find that dressing people has such an impact on their lives to give them confidence, to make them feel great. And so I think I started by just like with my friends when I was at boarding school, always trying to help them look better, if we were going to a party or whatever was happening. And I always wanted to kind of make everyone look their best because it makes you feel your best. About 10 years ago, I worked at Matches at one of the boutiques and one day a lady came in and she said, I saw you last week, but you were busy. So I’ve come back and I really wanted you to help me because I watched you helping someone else. And then after about 20 minutes, she took me into the fitting room. She said, Please, will you come to my house and will you dress me forever?

And that I was like, Yeah! that sounds like a great idea. Having always loved doing it, it doesn’t sort of styling before and it just sort of tumble wield. We did from that. I just grew the business, stopped working for Matches, but now work really closely with Matches and I just you know find new clients all the time and just expand what I do every day. So yeah, that’s how it started.

Akshara: Right. You know Colomba, styling as a concept was always restricted to more affluent communities, would say with today’s social media and digital shopping platforms have made all of it so much more accessible. So whether it’s Net-A-Porter or Matches or Moda Operandi or any of the luxury retailers, people can now access luxury at the click of a button and, you know, personal styling services. So how has the role of stylists evolved in the last decade and what has changed? Where do you see this going?

Colomba: Well, to start with, like you say styling really was only for the super affluent. But I have clients from all different backgrounds and all walks of life. And I have clients who will sort of save up and use me once every season to really help them to make a path for how they want to shop that season. And I’ll have other people who I see every week. I think that the personal stylist you get in shops and on Net-A-Porter and the style services are amazing, they can be so helpful. They really know their product. It really means that you can get a little bit more help and assistance, even if it’s just online and not going into a boutique. So there’s no actual client facing, but you have got somebody at the end of the phone. So I think that has really helped, that everyone can have someone to help them. Also, the fact that places like Net-A-Porter are really now also specializing in not just the super high end. They’ve come down a bit, a little bit as well. And they’ve got some low mid-priced brands which means then that they’re discovering people that are cool and unique and interesting, but it’s not so expensive, it becomes unaffordable. So I think that really helps as well.

Akshara: Right. You know, to the second part of my question, do you think a stylist’s role is going to evolve in the future? Like do you think they are going to be using tech or do you think they are going to be doing anything different than what they already do today?

Colomba: Well, I use tech now. I use tech in when I’m trying to find a product that I can’t find. You know, those sites List and things like that where it tells you on which site all around the world the product to start to use that a lot for sourcing things. I use the search engine and websites a lot to see if I want to find something really specific like I want. I’m always wanting something with sparkles. So if I want sparkly shoes or shoes with crystals, now Net-A-Porter has an amazing search engine. So you can just put in crystals do and everything that has any form of sparkle on it will appear. And I think that that makes choosing process much quicker as opposed to having to scroll through page and page and page and page, you can edit down to really actually what you’re looking for. And I think people are often looking for specific colors, prints, lengths, sleeve length, you know, everyone has their individual quirks that they don’t like. Say like the back of their arms, they don’t like their calves, they have bunions, whatever it is, and if you can search like in great detail on a website, it really makes the shopping experience so much better. And as a stylist, when I’m looking after, say, 25 people at the same time, if I can narrow it down, it makes my time much quicker and it means that I’m charging them less because I’m not having to spend five hours. I maybe can do what I could do in five hours in two, which means to me as I can do more and then I can charge them less.

Akshara: Absolutely. That’s actually a great point about, you know, just how tech can sort of play that role on productivity and making things a lot more efficient from a stylist point of view when they’re actually looking for inventory. You know curating a look for your clients obviously requires taking you know multiple things into consideration. So whether it’s understanding their personality, the kind of looks they want to portray, researching brands and sourcing merchandise. So what’s your process of putting things together for people?

Colomba: I have clients, some are in America. I have one client who I didn’t meet for three years. I just used to have her send me tons of pictures. So I always start with anyone if I can’t go meet them for coffee by saying send me loads of photos of yourself. I just want to see you at all angles, see what you’d like to be in, some people go to the mirror and take a picture of themselves in their underwear. Others send me pictures of themselves dressed. You know, whatever it is, I just need a visual of you. And somehow and I guess that’s why this is my job. From there, I can pull out what I think is your style and they will usually have told me what they’re looking for or what events they’re dressing for or whatever it is. But as long as I can see a picture of someone. I get a real understanding and feeling of them and I just go from there. And usually the first time I get a lot of stuff to try. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming because I can pull as much as I want. So you know I warn you like the first and there’s going to be a lot. It’ll take a while, but you don’t need to try everything on some things I’ll pull out and you’ll say, no, I hate it and I have no offense if you don’t like it. I didn’t make it. It’s not my baby. It’s just we move on and we move on to the next thing. But it’s just how you get to know someone. And also you need to see them in their underwear. You need to see them trying things on, to realize that actually they think they’re a size 10, but maybe really they’re an ‘A’ on the top and they’re slightly bigger on the bottom. And you just get the you get to grips with that. A lot of people think that they’re bigger than they are too, I have that issue a lot. I’ll style someone and they’ll be like Oh, I’m definitely a size 12 and you get there and they are tiny and you’re like, you’re definitely not a size twelve.

Akshara: Right.

Colomba: We also have wonderful tailors. Nobody’s bodies are the same. So once I have dressed you I bring in the tailor and you can move things around, lift the waist up, drop the arms, whatever it is that needs doing. Because I think that one of the problems with shopping when you don’t have someone to help necessarily is you’re like, oh, it doesn’t fit, but it doesn’t mean it necessarily doesn’t fit. It might just mean that it needs tweaking to fit you, because not everybody is obviously the same shape as much as the tech will always help. And I love that it’s growing and it really does help me. The human element for me is the key. The feeling you get when you’re in a room with someone, how you can calm them down, how you can build them up, how you can make them brave, that’s the most important bit for me.

Akshara: Right. And I think you know, that’s a very interesting thing you said about the human element. Can you give us a little anecdote or talk about something where you really had an interesting experience with one of your personal shopping clients?

Colomba: With my clients that I see regularly I have what we call the power of veto. And if I think they’re making a mistake, I’m allowed to say, no, you’re wrong. You need to buy that, it’s the right thing and I promise you, you’re going to wear it. And I would say 9.9/10, I got a message the moment they worn it. And it’s like, oh, my God, I loved it. I feel amazing. It was amazing. You were totally right. And that always makes me feel really good. Or things like the other day, one of my clients sent me a screenshot and her husband had sent her message after lunch with her. I had just left her, and she had come to lunch with him and it said, I just want to let you know, you look so beautiful today and I’m so lucky to be married to you. And she felt amazing. I felt amazing. He obviously thought she looked amazing. And it’s just those kind of things that really make the whole thing worthwhile for me. I have a new client that I’m seeing lately and she’s recovering from from breast cancer and she’s had constructive surgery. And she is, she’s really dressing a whole new body and she just feels amazing. And she just went on a trip and we got tons of updates and pictures and she felt so fab. She looks stunning. Her husband loved it. She just really felt back in her skin. And I think I have multiple clients who’ve been through that, actually. And as women, your bodies change, the aging process, your children, you know, all sorts of things change. But if I can help them dress for the body they have at that moment and make them feel good, even if that body is not the one that they are used to or whatever it is. If I can help make you feel good at the time, then that’s really for me. The absolute key.

Akshara: I would like to ask you in your experience as a stylist or the kind of things and the styling recommendations and the personalised styling services you might see online or both at the store. Where do you think people or brands actually make mistakes? Like what do you think people don’t do right when it comes to styling?

Colomba: It really upsets me when I’ll go into someone’s wardrobe and there will be a whole load of weird Balenciaga that doesn’t fit very well. And you just know that some shop assistant saw her coming and went, oh, perfect. She likes to shop, clearly and I’m just going to sell her a whole lot of things and tell her she looks great. And you play on someone’s insecurities, will you? And for me, that’s a real annoyance. I think that even when I worked in a shop, I could never sell someone anything that didn’t really 100 percent suit them. I think you really you have to have a conversation and you have to be honest. I think everybody values honesty when they’re shopping. And I’m really happy to turn around and tell my client that she looks like a potato in it or that she looks like a stuffed sausage or whatever it is. And that, you know, we laugh about it. And it’s funny. But I think the key is honesty. And I think that’s the one thing sometimes I notice when people have been out shopping in certain places and it’s it happens all around the world, in every area. It’s not a specific brand or anything I can name if I can get it just depended on the individual. I just don’t like when people sell people things just because they’re really getting a commission or they want to sell it. I think it really has to be if you want good customer service and you want people to come back, then you have to be honest and truthful with what they’re buying.

Akshara: Right. Obviously, you know, you work with a lot of different types of clients, so what is a typical day for a personal stylist look like?

Colomba: My routine, so if I’m seeing someone so say on Monday, I have three clients. Usually I try and see people kind of between two and three hours. Not right often much longer at a time because it can be really tiring getting close on and off doing things. So between two and five hours is kind of the max. And if I’m editing and I’m taking them close, I will have had two, two days prior to that decided what I’m going to bring and have it sent over. So I will have edited from Matches or Net-a- Porter. I have gone to Sloane Street and gone down around all the boutiques and selected what I want have her try or him try. So that would be at home with my sausage dog – he’s my assistant, beavering away like, well, online, choosing everything. Putting it in a list and sending it off to the stores and having them pack it all and get it ready and giving them a time. And then I’ll go to the client’s house and I will unpack everything and glay it all out. Show her what I bought and then go through slowly trying everything on if that’s what we’re doing. Or sometimes I’ll go round and we’ll be doing her diary. So we’ll have a diary out. Will be going through writing notes on each occasion, on each event. What she’s going to wear. Sometimes we try it on. Sometimes we lay it out. Usually we take photographs so that we have them as reference so that when she is there without me, she still has the picture, even if it’s written down. Sometimes I’ll go around just to make outfits. So that’ll be just three hours of getting things out of the cupboard, trying things on, laying all out on the floor, taking pictures so that when she next travels, she has them as a reference. It really varies. And that’s my side. If I’m with a client. If I with a brand, I’ll be going into their offices. I’ll be looking through their inventory. I’ll be discussing these in collections or things that I like or however, whatever element they’d like help with. I’ll be going and discussing or will be going to maybe go into a design meeting with someone and giving my input on what I feel would be really commercial and what I think may be, you know, the elements maybe that I could take a look at a collection and say oh but I will maybe if you added five things into here, you give yourself you don’t need to change much, but it would give you something a bit more commercial that is easy to produce. So that kind of things, well.

Akshara: I would like to ask you this question and also talk about how your clients approach this but how do you when you’re styling somebody, how do you look for styling inspiration? Do you use a lot of images from street style or do you look at the runway or do you look at Instagram? How does that work?

Colomba: I often wondered this myself. I don’t spend hours looking at stories or images. I do follow a few. There’s a really great Scandinavian one called like Nordic style report, I think. And I always think that they look great. However, what they’re wearing very rarely translates into something I could put on someone. I just looking at the pretty pictures. For me, it’s all a feeling in the room. I check what’s the what’s new pages of everywhere. Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, whatever days people have stuff shopping, I check. I have Whatsapp conversations going with a huge amount of boutiques and they’ll send me rummages. And it’s really from there. It’s I take inspiration from the item of clothing and build around it from the person and build around it. So it’s not necessarily I don’t read every magazine. I don’t like scour stuff. I’d really more spend time with the people, time looking at actual pieces and work that way round,.

Akshara: Going back to the evolution of stylists, companies like Stitch Fix and Trunk Club have introduced the idea of a modern personal stylist. Right. What tech is actually starting to play a pivotal role? So things like A.I. and automation are curating subscription boxes, understanding customers better and putting together things better. So what are your thoughts on this and how do you see. You know, like deep, A.I tech helping stylists on a broader scale, not on a personal shopping level, but just in general styling across the globe.

Colomba: I think when it comes to those Trunk Club boxes, I think for men  that is super duper helpful. You put in your style, you put in your sizes and they send you a box of things and it will fit, hopefully if you’ve got the sizes right. And it’s like a one stop shop and off you go and you’re ready. For women, I think my style is quite I guess it’s a little bit sort of schizophrenic in the fact that I have so many personalities to the way I like to dress. So I don’t know if A.I is at the stage where it could decide for me even if it looked through what I was already buying but maybe I’m wrong because obviously I don’t use it for that, so I don’t need that element from it. But I think if you’re a working woman, say, and you just need great suits and you need great and it’s a bit more it’s a bit more structured. I can imagine it would be really helpful to just be like, oh, every season I need three suits or some great trousers or great shirts. And it’s a more kind of concise, brief. I can imagine it would be amazing. I know that my clients do send me pictures from Instagram and things that they like and then I often source them or if it’s a good look, someone likes my oh, that’s a cool look I can help emulate it but it tends to come from their side as opposed to from my side. I don’t tend to find them an image necessarily. Like I think you should dress like this. I tend to find them a piece that I’m like, you must own this. And we are going to make multiple outfits with this new Saint Laurent leather jacket with a belt, for example. And this is going to be the look, I think you should be rocking and let’s make tons of outfits with it.

Akshara: What are some of the brands that you think have nailed shopping experiences in the UK? Because now we’re seeing like the rise of ‘Experiential Retail’. People are doing like interesting store concepts and formats. They’re doing pop up stores. They’re doing a lot of spaces that are making shopping really fun and interesting for people.

Colomba: While Matches for me is one hundred percent number one in that they have that beautiful five or six storey house on Carlo’s place in Mayfair, they do the most interesting pop ups, events, music, art. They have a cafe out there. You have beautiful personal shopping suites. Every day of the week there’s something interesting to look at in there. It’s not necessarily a place you can walk in and shop directly from but sometimes there is shop and sometimes it’s just amazing installations. Sometimes it’s wonderful music night. So the experience, I think they are 100 percent number one because I’ve been there to make pottery. I’ve been there to listen to design this talk about their work and I’ve been there for music concerts. I’ve been there for everything and I find it absolutely fascinating. All your senses are getting to have fun all at the same time, which is great. Net-A-Porter does services incredibly good, you know their next day delivery, their same day delivery. Matches also does a 90 minutes delivery which is amazing if you’re in central London, so that’s awesome. I love like the smaller pop ups that come. I live in Notting Hill, so there’s often a great pop up on Western Grove that’s really interesting. And they have sort of spaces there which is pretty much just designed for pop ups. So you’ll be walking along and you find really interesting things. I went to one that was actually a floral pop up of someone who does the most unbelievable floral designs for parties and things and they’ve done this whole experience in the shop that you walk through. And it was changing as you walked through. And if I was about to get married, that they would’ve been the first I would have called after seeing what they could do. It was amazing. And I think when you see it come to life, that really is wonderful. The street market is an amazing experience, it’s not always my style, it’s quite out there. And it’s not always what I’m looking for. But you always do go there and it’s an incredible experience to go and look through and they have wonderful staff and who are really, really helpful. I think everyone’s really trying but Matches really nail the events side of it. You walk into their world and it’s so cool and different and the people they partner with, you know, they just did a whole thing with this hotel and it was so cool. And they put a shop on a bow outside the hotel. And there you see the clientele and how they’re encouraging to shop there and it’s it’s really the people that are shopping there. And you feel the brand partnerships and so on point and who they getting to represent them is so on point and it’s so interesting. And the mingling of art, and fashion, and food and furniture all together in one space. I’m permanently like in awe of their edit. So I think them, they’re my number one.

Akshara: Can you tell us, you know, the top three brands that have been consistently good, you know, with just their aesthetic over the years?

Colomba: Saint Laurent –  I always want everything. They create a wardrobe for a really cool girl. And I just, I always want to wear it that you don’t almost even realize that you always are buying it if that makes sense. My clients will. It’ll be like slipping into their wardrobe and after a while you’ll like to see how much Saint Laurent you bought. And they don’t even know, it’s not even that they’re clocking it. It’s just that the coolest pieces are always coming from them. Hermes is always my dream list. I think that it’s the height of luxury. Thinking, if I could have anything I wanted, it would be a room full of Hermes handbags that would be my dream list. And then finally, it’s the summer and I’ve just come back from Ibiza, so Missoni. Somebody pointed out to me that I’d worn Missoni nearly every day of the holiday. So it just makes you feel good. It’s happy. It’s fun. So Missoni for the summertime.

Akshara: Perfect. And last question, what would be your advice to stylists around the world if you were to tell them something that you’ve learned?

Colomba: Always listen to your clients but don’t be afraid to push them and to try new things and to be brave and to just hold their hand and understand that sometimes people are difficult and usually as a stylist, people can be difficult when you’re dealing with clothes. But it’s really nothing to do with the clothes. It’s to do something that’s going on in their life. So allow people their own neuroses and hold their hand and allow and give them the confidence that they do look great and try to instill that in them. I think that’s the key. Just make them feel the best version of themselves and just you’re there to give them as much confidence as you can.

Akshara: Yes, absolutely. I can imagine why your clients might be completely dependent on you to give them your viewpoint. Also, they’ve placed a lot of trust in you to put their wardrobe together. So obviously there’s a personal connection that’s being formed and it’s a very valid point. Well, that brings us to the end of our podcast, Colomba. Thank you so much for being on our podcast today, taking us into your world of styling,fashion, working with companies like Matches and Net-A-Porter, I think we’ve definitely learned a lot and we’re very, very glad that you could share all of these experiences with us today. So those of you were looking for your daily dose of fashion, retail, and A.I. You guys should subscribe to The Vue Podcast until the next episode. Buh-bye.

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Stay tuned for a full transcript of the episode.

You may also want to see more episodes of Women in Retail:

The Vue Podcast: Leaders In Retail | Elisa Rossi, Milaner
The Vue Podcast: Leaders In Retail | Eileen Rizzo, Ashley Stewart
The Vue Podcast: Leaders In Retail | Karen Bruck, Mercado Libre