By NASA MARIA ENTABAN
DENVER Leong’s role as a personal shopper is sort of like a shopping buddy’s – he helps you pick out clothes, gives honest opinions on how you look and gives advice on mixing and matching.
The difference is, he’s an expert who knows what he’s talking about and will give you professional style advice and tips, plus, he’ll go the extra mile to figure out what looks suit your personality and lifestyle best.
He’ll pick out clothes, accessories and shoes, mix and match outfits, serve you refreshments and give style suggestions – and the best part is: he’s all yours for up to two hours.
“During a session, I’ll get to know the customer’s style preferences, from her favourite colours to what sort of job she has and her likes and dislikes,” says the 29-year-old stylist in his comfortable corner at the back of the Topshop store in Midvalley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur.
“Over the years I’ve learned how to tell what a person’s dress size and shoe size are, and through conversations with them I learn more about their lifestyles and personalities – this knowledge helps me pick out outfits for them,” he explains.
The business administration graduate started as a retail assistant in high street brand Topshop fresh out of university six years ago.
“In this time I worked my way up to a senior sales position and supervisor,” says Leong. “In those years I was very hands-on with customers and did some minor paperwork, and learned a lot about the brand and trends.”
When the chance to become a personal shopper came about early this year, he dove straight into it and has been having the time of his life since.
Most of his personal shopping sessions are by appointment – prior to the session Leong will ask you information such as your budget, dress size, whether you’re shopping for a particular occasion and who your style icon is (according to Leong, the cast of Gossip Girl are among the most popular style icons).
Appointments are the best way to get the full personal shopper experience but Leong accepts walk-ins and he spends time on the floor observing customers.
“If a customer has at least one garment in their arm, it shows that they’re interested in trying on something, so I approach them,” explains Leong. “The piece they picked out, and their style and appearance, gives me a general idea about what they are interested in trying out.”
“For example if they’ve picked out a simple black dress it could mean they work in an office or they’re conservative with colours. In a way I try to read their minds and then build more outfits based on my observations, and expand the selection as I get to know them better.”
Apart from getting outfits personally picked out for you (and from different Topshop outlets all over the Klang Valley no less), the service is absolutely free.
“Most of the time people think that they have to pay for the personal shopper service or spend a minimum amount but it’s actually complimentary,” explains Leong. “You can even bring friends and family members along to try on clothes together.”
Leong enjoys his job immensely, but admits that it can be mentally draining on busy days – on average, he has three to four appointments in a day which go on for up to two hours each.
“It’s a lot of effort and a lot of thought goes into piecing together outfits based on a customer’s personality and lifestyle,” he says. “And sometimes when I go out to source for outfits I have to really focus on thinking for three to four different people at a time.”
“People think of me as a friend. I get to know my customers on a personal level, from the type of job they have to their daily lives and some talk about their personal lives to me,” says Leong, who has mastered the skill of balancing professionalism with just the right amount of friendliness.
“As a personal shopper, I think I have a really good sense of what works and what doesn’t,” says Leong. “Trends come and go, and I always know what to invest in for long-term use, what you should splurge on for a one-off event or occasion and so on.”
“It’s like playing dress-up at work, which is really fun. I get satisfaction from seeing people happy, you have to have the passion to do this job because its long hours and a lot of extra work, which you can only do if you truly love this job,” he adds.