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Nicole Pollard hunts down high-end wares for her affluent and demanding clientele
» Among the services Pollard offers are wardrobe consultations, gift selection, shopping trips, and styling. She typically purchases clothing, shoes, and accessories but has also procured boats, cars, party favors, and costumes.
» “One woman asked me to buy her ball gowns with matching shoes, Judith Leiber bags, and jewelry for every night of the week, then hire professional photographers to shoot her wherever she went, like paparazzi. Another spent close to $1 million in a day on clothing and shoes.” Pollard won’t reveal their names.
» Pollard, who is 30, grew up in Santa Monica. After dropping out of San Diego State University to work as an assistant in the marketing department at Paramount Pictures, she became an office manager at a preschool. During summers, she traveled throughout Europe. “Some people would have lounged on the Spanish Steps—I was looking at shoes. I thought, ‘I’m doing this for free. I might as well get paid for it.’ ”
» Many of the first personal shoppers were “hostesses”—society women whom upscale department stores, like Wanamaker’s in New York, began hiring at the turn of the century to assist wealthy shoppers and attract other prosperous clientele. The service expanded to every major department store across the country and spiked during World War II, when gasoline rationing required customers to do much of their shopping by phone.
» Pollard launched her business, LalaLuxe, in 2005 out of her bedroom. Today she has an office in Santa Monica and a staff of five (one assistant and four unpaid interns).
» Gifts from the shops Pollard frequents are among the perks of her job: “I don’t pay for most of my handbags and shoes.”
» At first Pollard mostly conducted shopping tours of destinations like Robertson Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. For a client’s 40th-birthday celebration, she accompanied the woman and ten of her friends to lunch at the Ivy, then held a diamond jewelry party in a limo and took them on a shopping spree at Christian Louboutin. “They closed down the store for us, and we had champagne and cake. There is probably still frosting stuck in the carpet.” Her fee: $3,000.
» Pollard’s rates range from $300 an hour for wardrobe styling to more than $10,000 a day for shopping trips via private jet to places like San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Newport Beach. By contrast, fees at L.A.’s Shopping Friend and StyleChic, which offer similar services, start at $100 and $175 an hour, respectively.
» Regular clients of Pollard’s include entertainment executives, celebrities, Brentwood soccer moms, and at least one Arab sheikh, whom she won’t identify. She primarily acquires clients through referrals. “They all run in the same circles. I get one, I get all their friends.” She also works with guests of the Four Seasons and Beverly Wilshire hotels.
» People’s tastes vary depending on where they’re from. “The Japanese love logo-printed luxury items. New Yorkers are more refined. Middle Eastern clients want accessories. In L.A., it’s all about jeans.”
» Some clients hire her immediately after having plastic surgery. “I have worked with people who are swollen and covered in bandages. We try to go for loose-fitting clothing—stuff that can be unzipped.”
» Phone consultations take place before every appointment. “A person might say they are a size 6, but when I meet them, it turns out they’re a size 12. I’ve had to cut tags off so people can’t see.”
» Pollard says her services haven’t been affected by the recession. “Stores were hurting, but I didn’t get hurt. People still want to shop, but they are embarrassed to do it themselves, so they hire me. Good thing I don’t get embarrassed easily.”
Photograph by Dustin Snipes