What is the job of a personal shopper? Let’s ask Barbara Chiucini!
Based in Florence, Italy, she creates a personal shopping experience for her clients and show them some of the best Florentine artisan workshops, but not only.
Her international clientele can benefit from her expertise and capability to create tailormade itineraries and explore all aspects of the area of interest, as a very informed local. Attention to client is definetely Barbara’s strenght.
Passionate about fashion, style and shopping addicted, she graduated in Marketing and Commercialization of Fashion from the Polimoda and worked for important product development agencies on behalf of international brands.
Her dream-project of dealing with personal shopping became a reality 4 years ago with the creation of her own brand: Beyond.Florence.
Read Barbara’s answers and dive into her fascinating world.
Questions for Barbara Chiucini
- What does being a personal shopper mean to you?
- What kind of path brought you to become a personal shopper?
- What type of clients seek you out? What are they looking for?
- How do you get to understand the needs of every single client?
- Describe your typical day at work.
- Is there a fun fact you’d like to tell us about?
- If you had to tell us about a particular project that made you more excited than others, what would it be?
- Is there a way to understand if a garment is the right one for us?
- Do you collaborate with other professionals?
- Why did you choose Florence to base your business?
- For years you have been a professional in the fashion industry, did you notice any changes in the way people choose what to wear?
- With what criteria do you pair shoes and clothing?
- Can you suggest us 5 unknown places in Florence we can’t absolutely miss? (boutiques, restaurants, cultural spots…)
#1. What does being a personal shopper mean to you?
To me it represents the natural development of both my professional experience and my passion for shopping: working become fun! It means creating empathy and synergy with your customer, transforming the purchase/shopping activity into a real emotional experience.
This is the most important purchase that a customer takes home: having his time optimized through this journey and especially having discovered local places, products and people, through the assisted shopping method.
#2. What kind of path brought you to become a personal shopper?
Passionate about fashion, style and shopping addicted, I graduated in Marketing and Commercialization of Fashion from the Polimoda. I dealt with product development at important product development agencie,s on behalf of both US and European international brands.
For over 20 years I followed the creation – from design to finished product – for various categories of fashion products: clothing, knitwear, leather accessories, footwear.
I mean, fashion seen by those who make it, behind the catwalk! The dream-project of dealing with personal shopping became a reality 4 years ago with the creation of my brand: Beyond.Florence.
I use my on-field background and my innate passion to offer personalized Shopping & Lifestyle services in Florence. Shopping with a focus on local, niche brands, ateliers, high craftsmanship, not only for fashion but also for interiors and lifestyle. On my itineraries there is always a surprise location where to enjoy a drink or admire a lesser-known side of the city, with genuine local glamor.
#3. What type of clients seek you out? What are they looking for?
To date, my clientele is exclusively international. A higher percentage from the United States, Canada and Australia, followed by Europe and some Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, China).
My clients are often frequent travelers so they prefer to look for more exclusive and local products. At the same time they are attracted by the lifestyle and the experience of discovering the area, which is different from visiting a city with a tour guide.
They are interested in purchases that have value over time or that are truly original, not conformed, both for the fashion product (clothing, accessories, jewels) and for interior design items, antiques, vintage etc. I love when they go shopping to bring gifts to family and friends!
#4. How do you get to understand the needs of every single client?
If they contact me directly from my website, then I send via email a short questionnaire to talk about their interests, expectations and understand what they are particularly looking for. I use some formats related to shopping (go see my website) with the itinerary we will do together.
These are useful for making customers better understand what is actually so special about the area, they often do not have clear ideas. But each customer always receives his own dedicated and tailor-made itinerary.
#5. Describe your typical day at work.
If the client is a traveler, at the time of booking, the travel designer/travel agency or the hotel where the person is staying, informs me about the wanted kind of shopping: fashion, artisanal etc…and about the nationality, age and group composition (eg couple, family, mother and daughter, friends in a small group, etc.).
If I work on field, I usually arrive early at the meeting point, so that I can review the itinerary already approved by the client (and evaluate a plan B on some locations). A bit of lipstick et voila, I’m ready for the meeting and better if with a coffee to break the ice.
My job – when I have no customers – consists of a research on the territory and networking, which are essential to keep me updated on the activities of the shops and artisan workshops, on new openings and new products. In the low season (before Covid) I usually visit suppliers and talk about their projects.
At least 40% of the time is dedicated to back office tasks: contacts and reservations, processing and sending itineraries and planning. I use social networks a lot – Instagram more than anything else – to keep me up to date, observe competitors, expand contacts
#6. Is there a fun fact you’d like to tell us about?
It’s a pleasure! American family of mother and two teenagers sons. The shopping was focused both on the requests of the mother and the children. Children expressed interest only in going shopping at two very famous international brands.
At the end the kids were really happy with their local purchases: leather garments, niche sneakers, custom-made belts, handcrafted perfumes. We visited the famous brand store at the end and…they enjoyed taking pictures for social media, but they were no longer interested in it, they would have shopped online.
The mother was happier than them, even if we dedicated little time to her, because her children now would have followed her on an art tour without rolling eyes.
#7. If you had to tell us about a particular project that made you more excited than others, what would it be?
I would tell you about a project I curated as an external consultant for a prestigious local 5 stars Hotel headquarters, unfortunately it should have been launched for the 2020 season, so it will be postponed to next year with the appropriate updates.
It is a path focused on the excellence of local handmade products, rich in storytelling, where guests will be welcomed in an exclusively way and will be the protagonists of their own purchase. But I can’t reveal anything, we hope that 2021 can see its implementation!
#8. Is there a way to understand if a garment is the right one for us?
I am very careful that the customer (woman or man) is at ease. Regardless of their physical appearance – which obviously must be respected with specific advice – the customer is happy when they realize that a garment will be an integral part of their wardrobe, that is why I pay attention to versatility.
However, it is a lot of fun when customers make gut decision and buy for the pleasure of bringing with them a piece of their Italian vacation.
#9. Do you collaborate with other professionals?
Of course I do. In the case of a shopping tour on behalf of corporate events or for groups of over 6 people, I collaborate with a couple of colleagues in the field, with whom I share the hospitality and storytelling style.
Currently, given the traumatic travel stop and shopping experiences due to the pandemic, I am spending a lot of my time defining a project already born in 2019 with a partner-in-crime: full-immersive Shopping & Lifestyle packages of 5-7 days in Florence, with dedicated services for small groups of customers.
A form of exclusive retreat (such as those of cooking class or yoga etc) with an approach to local niche shopping, exclusive access to ateliers or laboratories usually not of public access, purchasing directly from producers, all accompanied by the typical “Italian glamour” attentions.
#10. Why did you choose Florence to base your business?
I am from Arezzo, but I moved to Florence for university studies and I immediately found a job in the Product Development Agencies, then my personal life also found its permanent home here, although I have always traveled a lot.
Florence is the dream travel destination for a huge market, a bit difficult from a shopping point of view, compared to big cities like Milan and Rome. Therefore my service is closely linked to the concept of Lifestyle, that is, shopping that also becomes a discovery of the area and everything that is “cool” in the city.
#11. For years you have been a professional in the fashion industry, did you notice any changes in the way people choose what to wear?
Since the advent of large mass market brands, people looking for shopping assistance are obviously interested in purchasing quality products, semi-handmade or even fully bespoke products. Products that are exclusive Made in Italy or linked to our creativity.
The attention to the green aspect, slow fashion and circular economy is also very strong among the new generations. Also, the quest for vintage and second-hand clothing to mix with collection items is always required in clothing.
#12. With what criteria do you pair shoes and clothing?
I only match two colors at most when it comes to clothing, the neutrals: black, white, blue, camel. gray. Then I focus on accessories, shoes, bags and bijoux to give a contrast and emphasize the outfit.
I hardly ever go out without a hat (winter and summer), it’s my passion. When I work, since I walk a lot, I try to dress comfortably with some stylish details. Green light for wide and long skirts, sequins, velvet, accessories as statement pieces for special and worldly events.
#13. Can you suggest us 5 unknown places in Florence we can’t absolutely miss? (boutiques, restaurants, cultural spots…)
I would say that nowadays nothing is unknown because of social media and the web, the difference lies in the eyes with which you show them.
- Place: an entire neighborhood that I love, the “Oltrarno”, full of daily life, small workshops, artisan shops, antique dealers and art galleries, cafes and trattorias like true Florentines.
- A made in Florence fashion icon: Gucci Garden, a unique concept of its kind in the world, with its Museum gallery of the Gucci Brand.
- A visit (and shopping) to one of the excellences of artisan and artistic perfumery, which are numerous but all unique in Florence, is not to be missed: Officina Profumo di Santa Maria Novella, Aquaflor, Sileno Cheloni, Villoresi…
- A coffee break (or rather a vitamin booster) at Floret, on the first floor of the multi-celebrated Luisa Via Roma concept Store, international and exclusive luxury brands… but a visit, yes, it’s worth it.
- If the season allows it, go for a cocktail at the end of the shopping day in one of the locations with a terrace and breathtaking views on the architectural wonders, here are some of my favorites Hotel Continentale rooftop, Empireo Hotel Plaza Lucchesi, Antica Torre Tornabuoni and Hotel Calimala rooftop.
For the gems, the real local ones, made of artisan workshops, boutiques and interior shops… Well I can’t wrong anyone. I wait for you in Florence.
Thank you Barbara for revealing us such interesting informations about your unique job!
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