We catch up with Ciara Halpin, personal shopper for Arnotts, to talk about her career, for dressing for the job you want and breaking the cardinal Wear Black to Interviews rule…
Ciara has worked in fashion all her life with over 25 years’ experience in the field. She’s worked in every aspect of the industry, from shoes, to beauty and customer service. She describes personal shopping as her “dream role” because “it encompasses all of my experiences and allows me to be creative in a variety of areas. While I did formally study colour, my path really stemmed from the variety of my previous experience.”
What are your top tips for dressing for the job you want and not the job you have, or dressing to impress for interviews?
A great piece of advice I often give customers is don’t feel you have to stick to wearing black for interviews. Many people often feel that the classic black top is appropriate interview attire, but that is not always the case. Blue and navy are a really great alternative to black as blue is the colour of trust. Never underestimate the power of a good shoe and bag, a good heel will make you stand tall and confident. In terms of what pieces you choose for your interview outfit, it really depends on the role and environment you are working in. A good tip is to look at the people you are working with and those in higher positions to get an idea of the types of clothes people are wearing. Always remember that you can still be feminine and appropriately dressed.
What does your typical day entail?
There is no typical day in Arnotts Personal Shopping, which is why I love this job so much. Variety is the spice of life, I could be doing anything from styling a shoot or fashion show, hosting a corporate event on top of my day to day personal shopping appointments. It is very important for me to liaise with our buyers and keep on top of what’s new in the store, communication is huge as I need to be knowledgeable of any new brands. Organisation is also key in this role, as I need to ensure that all clients are well looked after in booking of appointments.
How do you get to know your customers – what does the consultation involve?
A consultation begins with a brief phone call. It is very important that I listen and understand the clients’ lifestyle. Personal Shopping is all about intelligent shopping and educating customers to spend money where they spend their time. I need to assess where they actually need clothes for. In terms of a business wardrobe, I need to look at the environment in which they work be it creative or corporate and ensure that they are dressing accordingly. I find that once you get to know a customer they always come back, you become invaluable to them as you are showing them a cost effective way to shop. You can provide them with the perfect capsule wardrobe which is something every woman wants.
How do you encourage people to make radical changes to their look?
You have to ensure the client is ready for a change. You can never force anyone to wear something that they are not ready for so it often takes a couple of sessions. If I feel strongly about something I will make a suggestion and I know it will not happen overnight, it is very gradual. People often watch TV shows which showcase makeovers that happen in the flick of a switch, when in reality it is a team of stylists working over a couple of weeks. I have to manage the expectations of my customers to ensure that they don’t put themselves under too much unnecessary pressure.
What is your style ethos?
Dressing for your shape is hugely important for me. You need to find out who you are and what style you identify with if you are classic, romantic, creative. The most important thing is that you are comfortable in what you are wearing. If you are unsure, just keep it simple.
What style advice do you find yourself giving out most?
I encourage everyone to really think about their lifestyle and draw out where they spend their time and take lead from that. It is important that you have staples in your wardrobe that you can rely on. As every person is different a colour palette is also very important, if you can have neutrals with accents of colour, that is key.
What are your top picks for the season?
My top picks for the season are anything from Peter O’Brien’s AW14 Collection. His stunning Crombie coat is my ultimate investment buy. Helen McAlinden also has some exquisite pieces, in particular her grey neutral jumpsuit which has a really fantastic cut. Lulu Guinness has some gorgeous bags which should be included in my top picks.
What will you be wearing for Christmas?
For Christmas I will be wearing Raoul, every piece from this label is luxurious yet affordable.
Where is your favourite city for style spotting?
I find my fashion inspiration all around me and particularly when I visit other cities. London is where I look to for key trends, Paris is where you will find the ultimate chic pieces which are also great for business looks. Finally Copenhagen is where you will find the best laid back, casual looks.