MOST women love to shop but one Ennis woman is turning her love of retail therapy into a business.
Cliona Bradley says that she has always been a “follower of fashion” but two months ago she took the opportunity to turn her love of style into a career by becoming a personal shopper.
“A friend of mine, Louise Brooks [photographer], was looking for a personal shopper for the studio and advertised it on Facebook. It was something that I had been thinking about before but for the stylist side of it, you would have to do courses. But I just wanted to do the personal shopper side of it.
“Louise advertised and I said, ‘Now is my chance to do it’. Louise was the stepping stone for me,” she says.
While her business has only been up and running for two months, Cliona, who is the manager of the accessories boutique, House of Solo on Abbey Street in Ennis, is pleased with the progress.
“I’ve had good reports so far,” she says. “There are a few personal stylists in the Clare area but I’m the only one who is strictly just personal shopping.”
When a customer contacts Cliona for her shopping expertise, she meets them for a consultation, where she finds out what they are looking for, what they like and dislike and what their size and style is.
She says, “ I wouldn’t go out and get something they wouldn’t feel comfortable in because I’m not a stylist, I’m a personal shopper. So I’m shopping for them.”
Cliona has an agreement with many of the shops in Ennis to take their clothes and shoes to her clients’ houses to try on. She then brings back the items that her client doesn’t want.
“I would go out and pick up a few pieces from different boutiques in town and I’d go out to their house and they’d try them on. I would give my advice and say if it suits or not. And if it doesn’t work then I’ll go back again and come back the next day with more clothes.”
She says that many women prefer her service to going into the shops themselves.
“It’s better for me to go in and get clothes for them and bring them home. They’re more comfortable in their own house. If I thought a dress looked nice but would be better with different underwear, they are at home so they can try it on with different underwear.”
Cliona has had a variety of clients so far, from a pregnant woman seeking a dress for a wedding to a woman who didn’t know what to bring with her on honeymoon and a young mother who doesn’t have time to go shopping.
“One customer I had, had just had a baby and she was looking for a few bits and pieces until she loses the weight properly because she was paranoid about her belly. So I picked up a few dresses and a few casual bits to tide her over. And I got accessories to go with the stuff she has already to make them new,” she explains.
Cliona stresses that it is not just young women she shops for, she also deals with clothes shops for older ladies.
“I had a client recently and her son was getting married. She wanted to get a nice outfit but she didn’t want it to be too overpowering, just a mother-of-the-groom outfit and not too mumsy. She wanted it to reflect her personality. So I picked out an outfit for her as well.”
Cliona says that she really enjoys the work. “I love shopping and if I can get paid for doing something I love, why not?” she laughs.
She also likes the local aspect to the work. “It’s all local,” she says. “There are so many boutiques in town that you have a choice. So it’s great that I have the arrangement with all the places in town. There are clothes, shoes and everything here, so there’s no need to go to Limerick.”
Cliona points out that it is important to wear clothes that fit, regardless of the size.
“I don’t believe in sizes. Just wear the size that fits you better. I’m a 10/12 but if I had to get something in a 14, it wouldn’t bother me as long as it fitted properly. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a bigger size.
“People get hung up on the size. I just think, if you get a size up, what does it matter?”
So what does Cliona do when clients insist they’re a smaller size than she thinks they are?
“If I know somebody is not a 10, I’m not going to get them clothes in a 10. It’s just a waste of time. So I’d get them a size bigger and say they’re small fitting. If you tell them that it’s just a small fitting, they feel better already,” she says.
Cliona doesn’t just shop for special outfits or new wardrobes for her clients, she also seeks out accessories to breathe new life into older clothes.
“If they had a dress at home already, maybe all they would need is to add a new belt to it or maybe a brooch. So I can do that as well. It might feel like they have nothing but a new perspective on the clothes can help.”
“If you just put a new pair of shoes or brightly coloured tights with a dark dress it can make all the difference. Then they wouldn’t feel like they have nothing in their wardrobe. Even though I say that all the time,” she laughs.