I met Jean when I visited Banana Republic at Mirdif City Centre a while back. Living in Dubai, I’ve done my fare share of shopping, and I’ve literally met countless sales attendants – but there’s something about her that struck me as different. She was genuine, and I’m a sucker for genuine. People like her are so rare to find these days. She made it her job to be my own personal stylist for an hour and I left the shop with a heavy bag of clothes I was certain was not going to collect dust in the corner of my living room…That’s when I knew this lady had to have a brush with fame! Everyone, meet Jean!
How long have you been working in the fashion industry?
I started with Dolce and Gabbana. I stayed there from October 29 (2013) until Dec 31 of last year (2014). Because I didn’t have any retail experience, I started as doing admin and cashiering. But then I would notice and observe my colleagues. From time to time when there is a need I would go out and help as well, and then I thought “I can do this, I am very good with people. I wanna do this, I wanna be out there. I see myself growing within the company if I’m working as a sales advisor…I don’t want to just stay behind the counter. There’s so much energy that I can use which is not being utilized.”
After a year, I told my manager I see myself growing and she was very supportive. I had to go back from the start: interview with the HR, interview with the manager, all of this. I’m very happy they gave me a chance. It’s all a first for me. Because it’s very hard in Dubai to get a chance if it’s your first time. I’m a nurse by profession, and I’ve worked with kids but I’ve never worked in this field and it’s nice that [they gave] me a chance because I will be able to show my potential.
It’s nice with Banana [Republic] now, I see myself growing with the brand. I can identify with the brand, I enjoy wearing [their] items. It’s not just about the uniforms that we wear, they always joke because they say you’re spending all your salary at the store. It’s nice to be working with a brand that you do identify with as well, a brand that you love yourself. I’m very grateful to be given a choice to move to Banana [Republic]. I did a short stint with C wonder, which is also me – very colorful, however I chose to move to Banana Republic. I’m very happy, it’s a correct decision on my part.
What is your favorite look or style? Who is your fashion icon?
I don’t really dress like [her] but I like Gwen Stefani. I really enjoy how she dresses. I [can’t] wear it day-to-day because my lifestyle [is all about] going to the mall; I don’t think it’s appropriate to look like this all of the time, but [I would like to] if I’m given the chance. I like Rita Ora, Rihanna, Jessy J. I’m not very girly-girly, I like how they go for track pants and pair it with heels. If you follow [rules] in fashion, these items are not supposed to be mixed, but [I like] how they’re able to pull it off…A boyish shirt with a dressy skirt…I really like how they pull these off because I believe there shouldn’t be any limit in fashion.
First you have to be comfortable with what you’re wearing and especially now in this age, fashion has evolved so much that you don’t have to be tied down to mixing and matching specific things. Even me, before [I was] very sportive and very casual. When I started working in retail it enlightened me because now I’m more open to different looks. I started wearing something more feminine, something more clean-cut, which I never did before…semi-casual, semi-formal… I’m still learning. In the end, there are people that you look up to, but you have to go for what you’re comfortable with.
What are pieces of clothing you think every woman should own?
- A dress. They always say it’s a black dress but it doesn’t have to be black. Go for a one piece dress in one plain color. You can match it with any shoe item, or any accessory. You can dress it up or down.
- A white-collared shirt. Long sleeve. You can pair it with a very girly, put together midi-skirt, buttoned down with the sleeves rolled up. You can go casual with it, just have it down with shorts or skinnies. Or for a little formal look, tucked in with a skirt or trousers.
- A well-fitted trousers. A very versatile trousers that you can use from day to night. People who come into Banana Republic are always looking for pieces they can use throughout the day. They’re very busy, going from day to night, from morning brunch to dinner. People are always on the go, they want versatile pieces. A nice trousers, not too long, maybe ankle-length. Pair it with heels or with flats. You can even go with canvas shoes.
- One nice handbag. Every woman should own one nice handbag that will dress up her outfit. Even if she goes for a shirt or basic outfit…no matter what she’s wearing. Every woman should have one item that she cherishes, a special piece. You can never go wrong with a nice handbag. Invest in a nice piece that you can wear for any occasion.
What are your favorite brands?
I like Adidas Originals. I like how it’s sporty but there’s a feminine touch to their items [and] how the sports brand can go street. When you hear Adidas you think it’s just for the sports-wear, but their pieces are for everyday wear. You see people matching them with dressier items. I like Massimo Dutti, Zara, [and] Banana Republic of course. Forever 21 is also good; it’s accessible and affordable. It’s on trend as well. I also like Love Moschino.
How would you say working in the fashion industry changed you? What tips would you give other sales people in clothes stores?
It changed me in the way I see people working in it. You go in the mall and you think these are just people who work there. I don’t want to generalize, but I believe you can work in any industry, it’s how you do your job and how you enjoy it. I’m very fortunate to be in a group who help each other grow.
People who work in fashion should love what they’re doing. Enjoy it. If the company gives training in fashion, embrace it, take advantage of it, because they can use this experience [elsewhere]. Even if they start working in retail they can always branch out and [work] in [a] different direction. There’s a lot of opportunities in fashion these days, especially in Dubai. They can work in advertising or public relations.
People working in fashion need to know their brand. People who come expect you to know what you’re selling. It’s a shame sometimes when the people shopping know more about the brand than the ones working there. It’s very important to be customer-focused. When you’re at work you need to be ready – sometimes it’s sad how people bring issues outside of work to work. A sales person should always be positive and customer-oriented. They decided to work there and it should not be about selling, but about helping this person get what they need. I also believe every sales person needs to be tactful. If one [customer’s] look doesn’t look good, you just have to use the right words. You just have to say something like “Oh, maybe you can try this one [instead].”
[As a sales person] you always have to be careful with your language and be genuine. Just always imagine you are shopping with a friend. You just have to see this person as someone you know. Because you will never give someone you know, a friend or a family member, information that you don’t believe in. Try to be more observant. Consider [the] person’s body type. If they ask for help you are there to help them. You want them to look good also. You can also guide them. There are colors [and] looks that [we] see in magazines but our body shapes are not the same so you have to consider these things. Be up-to-date with fashion and really be there for the customer. You have to understand what the customers [are] saying to see what they need. Always focus on their needs. And as they tell us in trainings, ‘a sales associate is someone who just sells. A brand ambassador is someone who carries the brand out there to the customer.’ Every sales associate should be a brand ambassador at the same time.