Rachel Lamb spent years in training as a fashion designer before deciding to instead pursue her true passion (and longtime addiction) – shopping! When Topshop Mid Valley flew her in to launch its Personal Shopper service in Malaysia, we managed to ask her what exactly makes a stylist tick.
Rachel Lamb, Topshop Knightsbridge Personal Shopper
What’s your background story?
I was born in London, but moved to Scotland when I was ten. I went furthered my studies at Edinburgh College of Art, where I majored in fashion design; then later returned to London to complete an MA in fashion design at Kingston University London. My graduating collection, entitled ‘The Skin I Am In’ showed at London Fashion Week 2008.
What was your first job?
When I was 15, I started part-timing at a boutique that specialised in ’50s styles. They were just four-hour shifts that essentially saw me spending my salary! My first full-time balanced a position as studio manager for Clemency London and Harvey Nichols at the same time.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
Always. I think the first time it really hit me was when I was 14. I went to this museum and saw all these textiles and fashion illustrations and thought, “I really want to draw like that.” So I did!
How did you arrive at Topshop?
Well, I was working at Clemency and Harvey Nichols, which is a departmental chain, and I came to a point where I wanted to represent just one brand. So I started seriously thinking about it, and figured I wanted to represent a highstreet brand that was fashion forward – one that I could absolutely fully believe in. And for me, that’s Topshop!
What made you decide to go from designing to styling?
I found that I felt a little constricted in design – designers generally have to focus on one particular brand aesthetic. The problem was that I was influenced by so many things; all the trends … And I just love the idea of having access to all these amazing styles, and the concept of putting different outfits together with them.
Describe a typical day at work for you.
There’s a lot of time management that goes into this! First, I take a look at my diary and schedule all my appointments for the day. I check my client briefs, and formulate an idea of individual preferences, styles, tastes, needs and concerns. Then I like to do a floor walk to refresh my sense of in season trends and looks, and how they might suit the day’s clients. And then the appointments start! I generally plan two to three pre-scheduled appointments since they can last up to two hours, leaving time for a couple walk-ins.
What are your favourite and least favourite things about your job?
Of course, I love that I get to see all these amazing products and looks firsthand, but I also love the experience: the massive range of people I get to meet, the travel, and the putting of different outfits together – it’s great. My least favourite … would have to be standing on my feet for a good 9-11 hours everyday.
Debunk a common myth about your job.
That Topshop Personal Shoppers cater only to a younger audience. You’d be surprised about the massive range of clientele we receive – it’s great to shop with an expert opinion you can trust.
What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to be a Personal Shopper?
You’ve got to be patient and a true people’s person. There are a lot of delicate areas to tiptoe around when it comes to personal shopping – we’re talking body issues, different styles, cultures and opinions. As long as you can navigate through them, while at the same time holding back on your personal style to cater to your client’s instead, you’ll do just fine.
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you first started out?
That wearing heels on hard floors all day is hard. That, and that it will only worsen one’s shopping addiction!
In your opinion, how has the rise of social media and blogging affected the fashion industry, and where do you see it in the next 5-10 years?
Oh, it’s affecting the industry massively. Fashion is not as exclusive anymore – mixing designer with highstreet used to be unheard of, but everyone does it now, and I think it happened at such a rapid rate mostly because of everyone’s daily exposure to the social media and blogging scene. I was actually just thinking about that – that I’ll soon have virtual styling appointments on Skype or quickies on Twitter!
My style icon is:
I would never be caught dead in …
I splurge on …
I skimp on …
Casual wear, like jersey tops.
My personal style in 3 words is:
Classic; good fabric.
My personal style rules are:
That black and gold go really well together.
My most treasured possession is:
A really old pair of Miu Miu shoes.
The one thing I’d never throw from my wardrobe is:
This old Topshop Boutique black fringed cape that is so intricate, it looks handmade. It was originally priced at £300, but I managed to get it on sale for £20 – such a steal.
I’m at my happiest when …
I’m wandering around the streets of London on sunny days off (which doesn’t come around very often).
My cosmetic standard is:
Pared down foundation, with bold eyes.
Yay or Nay? Tumblr
Nay, but only because I haven’t quite figured it out just yet!
I hate it when a man …
Doesn’t appreciate fashion!
I love it when a man …
Buys me flowers.
Currently playing on my iPod:
Florence and the Machine on constant repeat.
In my bag:
Generally a spare pair of flats, a fully-stocked make-up bag, a hairbrush, my iPhone, a notebook for ideas, a pen to write them all down, a camera and my trusty Topshop wallet. But since I’m travelling, today I’ve also got with me a passport and hotel key card.
Should you ever find yourself in a shopper dilemma at Topshop Knightsbridge, do look out for Rachel. Far closer to home, you can book an appointment with Topshop Mid Valley’s Personal Shopping team by calling 03-2287 9319 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.