- Business Insider was invited to trial the recently launched “Fashion Now” in-suite personal shopping experience at the 5-star Hotel Café Royal in central London.
- Mari Solazzo, head of private shopping for London-based luxury retailer Matches Fashion, curated a designer edit for our Lifestyle Reporter.
- Solazzo’s clients include British clients among the top 1%, celebrities, and wealthy foreigners.
The discreet world of personal shopping is a luxury usually afforded only to the top 1% who have both money to burn and time to kill.
I — a lifestyle reporter at BI — met with Mari Solazzo, head of private shopping for the British luxury retailer, at the glamorous five-star hotel on Regent Street.
Solazzo and her team are usually based at the Matches Fashion headquarters on the 11th floor of The Shard, but we met in the hotel’s exclusive Regent Suite for a consultation under the new “Fashion Now” private shopping experience.
This is what the suite looked like.
Its bathroom was equally as stunning.
Hotel Cafe Royal
Regent Suite, Hotel Cafe Royal.
Fashion Now was initially designed as an emergency service for guests whose luggage had gone missing in transit.
Eliot Sandiford, director of PR at Hotel Cafe Royal, told Business Insider: “If we have a guest who has flown in for two to three days from Paris or New York, they don’t have the time to go to Selfridges or Harrods.
“This way concierge can arrange a call with a Matches personal stylist to discuss sizing and have items for any occasion delivered to their door within 90 minutes.”
It now encompasses a specialised in-suite private shopping experience. The service involves a phone consultation with a stylist, after which a curated wardrobe edit is assembled in your suite, accompanied by the stylist who will run through the garments with you.
It’s complimentary to all of Hotel Cafe Royal’s guests who are staying in a suite, which cost from £440 to £1,500 per night. The Regent Suite is one of the latter.
I was met by Solazzo and Indre Dauniene, one of her Russian-speaking personal shoppers.
Solazzo explained that it’s really important to have people who speak different languages on her 16-strong team to cater to their wealthy foreign clientele.
She oozed glamour but also radiated warmth, a far cry from the pushy shop assistant stereotype. Perhaps it’s down to the 30 minutes of meditation she said she fits into her morning routine.
The pair were both dressed in pristine monochrome designer outfits, finished with perfect red lipstick and nails.
Solazzo’s crisp white shirt and black trousers are both by Margiella — her favourite designer at the moment. Her outfit cost more than my monthly wage.
She paired her outfit with velvet Miu Miu platforms — £580 each — an “investment buy.”
A 24/7 luxury service
Solazzo usually offers the service to guests over Champagne, but I settled for a cappuccino as it was only 9.30.a.m.
“We’re usually in the office from about 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., but we’re always on call 24/7,” she said. “If the client wants something you never say no.” This is a phrase I heard uttered several more times during our meeting.
“I always tell my team we’re like doctors,” she added.
Solazzo’s army of personal stylists are constantly on call to deal with any kind of fashion emergency a client might have — and they work across multiple platforms.
Matches recently introduced an online private shopping service, and three of her team are now employed solely to reach customers via WhatsApp and Skype.
They have around 90 clients each and spend their days furiously tapping and swiping away on their phones sending out new edits.
For her “bricks and mortar clients” — who value the face-to-face experience — there’s also No.23 the townhouse on Welbeck Street, in the prestigious Marylebone area.
Here’s what it looks like.
The elegantly decorated 18th century townhouse offers clients bespoke personal shopping consultations by appointment only — providing their spend meets a certain threshold, which Matches declined to reveal.
In a typical townhouse experience, customers will be presented with between 75 and 80 units of clothing. Solazzo said that while there’s no obligation to buy, they expect to sell at least half of those items.
Her team also flies around the world to meet their clients needs. Dauniene recently went to San Francisco, while the others will soon visit New York, Australia, Korea, Singapore, and Kuwait.
While Matches is known for showcasing some of the newest and upcoming designers of the moment, Solazzo said her Middle Eastern clients tend to favour classics such as D&G and Gucci.
“I’m always educating them that if you’re wearing Gucci, just wear a simple Joseph piece underneath,” she said.
They also apparently love the international delivery service because they hate to carry shopping bags with them. “So with one click we just ship it to their house where the maid is on-hand — so we’re both digital and physical, you see.”
Meanwhile, Russian clients are big fans of Valentino, according to Dauniene, and often require standout runway pieces for the lavish events that they attend.
As well as wealthy foreigners, the private shopping service reaches celebrities, for whom Solazzo has another small designated team to look after, as well as UK-based shoppers who have grown up with the brand.
My curated edit
At the Regent Suite, Solazzo curated an edit for me to peruse.
“My first question is always ‘What’s your favourite colour?’ then ‘What do you hate?'” she said.
“I also need to know if you have kids or whether you’re a business woman to figure out your lifestyle.”
These kinds of things will typically be ironed out in the phone consultation prior to the face-to-face meeting.
Solazzo picked me out a velvet Racil robe (£630) that she advised would be best worn with a plain white t-shirt, jeans, and backless fluffy Gucci loafers (£720).
“This is one of the best looks you can have of the season,” she said. “It’s one of the trends that we are recommending the most at the moment.”
She also chose a cream jumper from the Olsen twins’ fashion label The Row (£1,600), that she said would compliment my light blonde hair. It’s a colour I had never considered, but one which I am now determined to incorporate into my wardrobe.
Next up, a blue corduroy suit by Maison Rabih Kayrouz. The blazer (£1,605) would come in handy for other outfit combinations, she said.
As we delved deeper into the haul, Solozzo’s eyes glistened with excitement, but also a seriousness. There was talk of empowerment, timelessness, and investment purchases.
Finally, Dauniene curated a sporty street style outfit for me — which they called “ugly fashion.”
It consisted of contrast-striped wide-leg velvet trousers by Serena Bute (£350) paired with an oversized cotton shirt from Acne Studios that I could dress up “to empower” with stilettos, or simply wear half tucked in with white trainers and a blazer. “Bedtime wear is very in,” she said.
Solazzo’s team will usually conduct three of these in-person meet-ups a week and spend the rest of their time researching and putting together edits.
They also offer a wardrobe detox service, whereby they visit some of their wealthy clients’ homes to help declutter and create capsule collections.
Contrary to what you might expect of a professional shopper, Solazzo confessed to me that she never plans her own outfits ahead of time.
“I need to wake up and see how I feel, I can’t plan in advance,” she said. “And to be really honest, if I have a big event it’s usually just a day before that I sort my outfit.”
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