Alena Hrabinova is the head of VIP services and personal shopping for House of Fraser Middle East and is based in Abu Dhabi. Ms Hrabinova worked in for 11 years in London, where she gained experience as a personal shopper and stylist at Fenwick. The promise of a new and challenging position brought the 30-year-old Slovakian to the UAE in 2013, where she lives alone near the Corniche.
I wake up and head to the gym in my building for an hour’s workout. Afterwards I take a shower and have breakfast – usually poached egg and avocado on brown toast with chilli and lemon juice. I also have coffee with a little bit of milk.
After breakfast I get dressed. This is always the worst part of my day, as I have a wardrobe brimming with clothes and there’s too much choice. I can wear whatever I want to work as long as it’s on trend; normally I wear outfits that we’re selling in store to help sell the brands. I always had the talent of putting outfits together, but I was never aware of why I was so good at it. I then took a principles of personal styling and the global market of fashion course at the London School of Fashion, which helped me to back up what I already knew with theory. Once I’m finally dressed I head outside to get a taxi to work.
When I first get in, I sit with my assistant to analyse what we sold the previous day. We look at the customers we had, what they bought and what we need more of in the store. I then meet my first personal shopping client of the day. Usually customers like to make appointments, but sometimes people just show up. Personal shopping is a complimentary service at House of Fraser and we help customers navigate the 305 brands we have across the store. I first ask clients a series of questions to gauge what they’re looking for. They could be searching for anything from an outfit for a black tie event to clients who want an entire wardrobe overhaul. I then collect clothes they can try on. If you’re a good personal shopper you will know how to read your client’s personality and how far you can push them into trying something that they’d never normally wear.
I go through our database to see which customers bought what so that I can inform them when something else of interest comes in stock; this way they see new clothing items before they go on the store floor. I then go through the latest fashion magazines to stay up to date with the latest trends for the coming seasons.
My lunchtime lasts for an hour. I usually prepare my food a day ahead so that I don’t end up eating things that are unhealthy. I like to prepare grilled fish and chicken with green vegetables.
I’ll have some more personal shopping appointments. I also take the time to sit with the buying team to figure out what we need in terms of stock. I am the face of House of Fraser to our customers, so I have to communicate to the team what I feel is doing well in terms of brands and trends. We work very closely together.
I send emails or WhatsApp messages to customers who came in and made purchases the previous day. I like to check up to see if they are happy with what they bought and find out if they need anything else.
Trust is a very important aspect of personal shopping. I’m always honest about whether I like an outfit someone tries on. I’d rather not make a sale if something isn’t suitable. I could push someone to buy something I’m not sure of, but if the customer leaves with an outfit that she or I aren’t happy with then it won’t reflect well on me.
After work, I go out for dinner. I love Japanese food and my favourite restaurant is Zuma. I try not to eat out all the time as it can be unhealthy. Sometimes I’m invited to customer birthday meals. I’m a very outgoing person and I love people; If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in the job that I’m in right now. I absolutely love everything about personal shopping. If I don’t go out, I’ll make something to eat at home.
I go for a swim in my building’s pool. I then sit and read online news from Slovakia and celebrity gossip. I also catch up on Vogue magazine. Reading calms me down and prepares me for bed. I like to be in bed by 10.30 to 11pm and asleep by 11.30pm.