Cincy Chic: When you originally started your personal shopping business, Alternative Shopping, back in 2006, you expected it to mostly cater to busy women in need of fashion advice. However, initially about half of your clients ended up being men. Were you surprised by this outcome?
Amie Berger: No, and yes. I knew a lot of men — especially single and divorced men — were intimidated about style and fashion and needed help. I know it sounds stereotypical, but in most relationships, women tend to manage the decorating and shopping. There have been many times when I would be shopping and see a man in the men’s department looking lost. I just wanted to approach them to offer help! I have had men confide in me that they are lost when it comes to fashion and decorating. But even though I knew men needed the help, I also thought they would be reluctant to ask for it. It’s just nice to see that there are some men who do care about their image and are not afraid to ask for help.
Cincy Chic: You have a fashion background having been a former buyer and manger at a high-end boutique, which eventually led to starting your personal shopping business. Do you think someone is born with the ability to “see” or “know” what’s fashionable or in style, or do you think it can be taught and/or acquired?
Berger: I think style is so subjective. It’s really about reflecting your own style, but doing so in a way that looks pulled together and polished. As an image consultant, I think my most important skill is that I am a good listener. I try to learn as much as I can about my clients – what’s important to them, who they are and what image they want to portray. Then I try to shop or pull together pieces that will help them reflect that image. As a consultant, I also try to encourage clients to step outside of their comfort zone and try pieces or styles that they might not have considered on their own. I think my background and experience is helpful, but I also feel like I am constantly learning and updating my own thoughts about what is “fashionable.” Like any profession, it requires some innate skills combined with continuous knowledge and development.
Cincy Chic: You do image consulting for individuals, and homes as well. Is it easier to dress a home or person?
Berger: Honestly it’s the same. Whether dressing a home or a person, I first start by interviewing the client and determining their style and the image they want to portray. Most of the time people might have an idea of what they like, but they really do not know what their “style” is and how to make it work for them. I just try to help them verbalize and then visualize their style, either through fashion or home dècor.
Cincy Chic: Your number one professional goal is to simplify one’s life. Since this issue is all about working smarter, not harder, what one advice do you offer those struggling to keep it all together?
Berger: As the owner of Details by Amie Berger, a wife and a mother of a two-year old and an eight-month old, my best advice is to ask for help! If there is someone out there who can provide professional assistance at whatever you need help with, use them and their service. You wouldn’t try to repair your own car if it needed engine work. You would utilize a professional. For those who get overwhelmed and stressed about shopping and do not know where to go or how to pull it all together, utilize the services of a personal shopper. If you have kids, you’ll pay for a babysitter, maybe even feel rushed to make your purchases, just to come home and realize that the outfit looked better on the mannequin than on you. Although it might feel like an investment, in the long run, you will save time and money, reduce your stress and feel good about the results.
Cincy Chic: As a former product developer for a leading textiles manufacturer, you have worked with a lot of textiles. What is your favorite textile to work with? Is there one that you can’t live without?
Berger: Hard question. I’m like a kid in a candy store when in a room of fabrics. I like a slubbed silk, especially when it is lined. It drapes so well. I like fabrics with texture that are soft and yummy such as Matelasses. Not too much I don’t like, to be honest.
Cincy Chic: What’s the most memorable/outrageous request you’ve ever received?
Berger: I had a client ask me to build her an outdoor cat jungle gym. Not only was it an unusual request, but a hurried request. I had a weekend to pull it together. It was very unique and different. I had large wood tree branches brought in and net to hang from the fence and a balcony so the cats could not escape.
Cincy Chic: How do you deal with a client who believes a certain look — whether for themselves or their home — is right, when it’s an obvious wrong?
Berger: It’s a tough situation, but not too uncommon. If they have called me to help them, then most likely they have some kind of an idea that something is not working for them. I really just try to explain to them why something doesn’t work. This is not about hiring me to come in and just do a job for you. You are also hiring me to educate you so that you are able to do things on your own in the future, of course with my help, if needed. I have clients who have told me that they will go shopping after meeting with me and say to themselves, “What would Amie think of this?”
Cincy Chic: You’ve heard the saying “The shoemaker has no shoes.” Do you have a personal assistant/shopper for yourself? How do you spend your free time?
Berger: Actually I do have an assistant — Margot Richey. She helps me with my business. She helps me with the kids when I need it. Or if I have to do things for my family, she will run my errands for me. She really is the best thing! Totally worth the money! My free time — ummmm — shop! No, really, it’s spending time with my family, enjoying the outdoors and great laughs with friends.
Cincy Chic: What’s the biggest misconception people have about their image?
Berger: I think for a lot of people their image does not match who they are on the inside. This is a tough question because first impressions do mean everything. If you look good and look together, most likely when you approach someone they are going to know you mean business. But when I think of “image,” I not only think of what you look like on the outside, but on the inside as well. Does your outer image match who you are on the inside? What you wear reflects how you feel. I do believe that. When you dress in your power suit for a meeting, most likely you walk into that room with your chin up high ready to take on the world. Image is very important and being true to and reflecting your image is what helps us feel and look confident.
Cincy Chic: In your opinion, why do you think image consulting is so important?
Berger: I want people to feel good! There is nothing better than helping a client who hates how she looks in clothes and can’t figure out her style. I love when I have her try on a dress I bought for her and watch her spin with a big smile on her face and say, “I would have never picked this out for myself, but I love it!” That is why image consulting is so important. So many people never step outside of their comfort zone.
Cincy Chic: Is there anyone that you won’t ever work with?
Berger: No. I think everyone thinks this service is only for the wealthy. People are often surprised at how affordable I am. I have worked with the young, stay-at-home mom, the middle-aged business professional business man, and an older woman who had no family to shop for her and lived in an assisted living facility and just wanted some new clothes to make her feel good. I have done it all and love it all. I can shop anywhere based on a client’s budget and needs.
Cincy Chic: What’s your favorite thing about Cincinnati?
Berger: It is a great city with a very welcoming personality and so much to offer, no matter what your interest. I love that it has all the amenities of a big city but with a small-town feel. I have moved around a lot, and this, by far, has been one of my favorite cities.
Editor’s note: Make sure you check out Berger’s recently-launched, bi-monthly newsletter that is chock-full of fun tips on fashion and home dècor. And if you have any pressing fashion questions that need to be answered, just e-mail Berger, and she’ll select and answer questions in upcoming newsletters.
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