Today's "Styles" section brings a profile of two mysterious Russian personal shoppers from Bergdorf Goodman, who apparently have the best, most ridiculous job in the world.
Alla Prokopov and Galina Royzman are personal shopping superstars. In what the Times calls "a city of big-league saleswomen, where it’s possible in a fancy store for a person working on commission to earn $250,000 or more annually," these two are still anomalous, and a Russian Mob joke is almost irresistible.They work apart from Bergdorf's normal team of shoppers, have their own "VIP dressing room," a team of assistants, high-profile "private clientele" and are highly elusive: initially the store doesn't want a reporter talking to "their Russian stars."
They do everything as a team, racking up some of the store’s highest sales numbers, according to executives. It’s not unusual for a client to spend $25,000 to $50,000 with them in a morning of shopping, although once a client dropped around $360,000; and just six months ago another spent $275,000. That was in a single day. Despite working through at least two recessions, the women say they usually meet their annual sales goals.
The pair work with a number of high-profile Russians (an ever-expanding luxury market), various Europeans, and wealthy New Yorkers — although naturally all identities are confidential. While obviously judgment and knowledge of a client's tastes (and, apparently, rad makeup) are necessary, both shoppers are known for their honesty. “'We learned a long time ago never to lie to a customer. If we don’t think a dress is right for her, we tell her.'" Which, when you're talking couture prices, is not a small matter.
No question these women are good at what they do — and that it's fascinating to get a glimpse into their world — but is a job like this, totally dedicated to luxury, an embarrassment in times like these? Bergdorf's seems to feel so; apparently the implicit frivolity of the occupation and the prices of the clothes were behind the store's reluctance to allow press access to the shoppers. But I think this is a miscalculation on their part: we expect a certain grotesque excess from the rich, and catering to wealth is not anything to be ashamed of, especially when it's a finely honed and specific skill. Far more patronizing is the attitude that we can't handle the existence of wealth, that we require everyone to make a sanctimonious pretense of frugality for a few weeks. Have your Christmas parties! Buy your expensive stuff! We can take it. Also: where do we fill out an application for mysterious elite shopper positions? And is discretion mandatory?
East or West, They Speak Chanel [New York Times]