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We're dedicating this week to the kind of fantastical shopping that most of us only get to experience in dreams. Taking a page from casino parlance, we'll be talking a lot about "whales," those big spenders who feel perfectly comfortable dropping tens of thousands of dollars every night on roulette, or, in our case, on Cartier, caviar facials, and Chanel. Welcome to Whale Week 2013.
Alisa Neely is successful one-woman show working on the closets of Boston residents, and with over six years of experience in the business, she has plenty of savvy shopping tricks up her sleeve. We chatted with the seasoned personal stylist about everything from the "mini Barneys" she discovered in Concord to which countries are sending tourists to Boston's designer storefronts. Let's check out what the expert behind Scout has to say...
Most extravagant item you've had the pleasure to work with?
I haven't had one particular item that was so unbelievably extravagant, but there have been items I myself was coveting and then a client purchased and I got to be very excited for them. I work pretty closely with the Four Seasons, so the concierge there will call me when they have guests there who want to shop. I now have good relationships with clients that stay there regularly and shop with them. I'll set up their hotel room when they come—it's like a walk-in closet or showroom. I'll have different stations for jewelry and whatnot.
With my clients, I'm looking to get them something they won't see on anyone else or find anywhere else, or even an unbelievable deals on designer.
How have your shopping habits changed since you started styling?
I'd say that it would be surprising for people to see how edited my closet is. I don't have nearly the amount that many of my clients have. My wardrobe is much smaller, but I will say that I love everything I have. I really don't make mistakes on what I buy anymore.
What luxury item is always worth investing in?
I would say handbags, beautiful ones will always be in style. I try to guide people away from boldly labeled things. I'm not a huge fan of everything labeled. While that can still be amazing, it feels a bit much. I'm loving the Celine bags that are out right now. I also recommend investing in coats. It's a necessity where we live. And finally, good shoes. A great pair of shoes makes your outfit look better and vice versa—a bad pair make it worse. I find generally shoes and bags are less affected by your body type or coloring. You can budget a bit with trendy clothes, but with shoes and bags you really see a difference between well-made and not.
What is the first thing you ask a person when identifying their style?
The two important questions are: "What is your day to day life like?" They might want to dress like Sarah Jessica Parker on Sex and the City, but nobody's lifestyle would require most women to dress like that. I try to figure out whether they're toting kids around or wearing suits five days a week. That way we can invest money properly. I also ask "Do you have a celebrity style that you admire?" That way I get an indication of what they're thinking for themselves. I can talk through it with them. Picking celebrities can help them qualify how an style looks on a human rather than a hanger.
So many mistakes are made at the sale rack. People have problems with discounted prices because it may sound like a good deal but really not work at all on your body. It's better to have one outstanding $500 piece than $50 mediocre ones.
Take us on a virtual shopping spree. Which stores would you visit? Which spas?
My ultimate day would always start with yoga at Exhale, then go out shopping. I'd go to Barneys, they carry the most unique labels for a department store, and I'll say it's been a great tragedy that Stel's and Dress (my old favorites) have been closed. But I'd also go to Good, Alan Bilzerian, and Club Monaco. I take clients there all the time. Their basics and t-shirts are great. Then outside of Boston, there's a little boutique out in Concord that I discovered called Viola Lovely which carries Golden Goose boots, Barbara Bui, Jerome Dreyfuss bags, among others—like a little mini Barneys. They are carrying great stuff, I'd take the trip out there and drop some cash. E. R. Butler on Charles Street would also be on the list. It's a funny place, because it's kind of a hardware store, but it has an incredibly jewelry selection.
From your observations working with tourists, which countries tend to send the most shoppers to Boston?
I used to work for Burberry with their VIP clients, and I can tell you from that experience that the Chinese come here to buy and shop luxury. Chanel also has a lot of Asian clientele, and a lot of them are students here. They'll buy and bring home to their families.
What's your end goal in styling people?
My goal is to take the question "What should I wear?" out of their mind when dressing for work, or an event, dropping their kids off. I definitely find I work with a huge range of people, men and women, who really appreciate having the shopping component taken off their plate. For example, I have a client coming in from London twice a year: she works with a ton of luxury labels, and she feels great when getting compliments on her outfit. These people feel good going into whatever they're doing.
· Style Scout [Official Site]
· 38 Essential Boston Shopping Experiences, Winter 2013 [Racked Boston]
· All Whale Week coverage [Racked Boston]