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Hiring a Personal Image Consultant in China

The fashion industry in China changes fast, so it can be difficult to keep up with trends. Here are tips for expats who want to take the guesswork out of shopping by working with a personal image consultant while living abroad.

What to Expect

In Chinese culture, there is a common belief that a leader's image reflects on China as a whole, says Shanna Wu Pecoraro, AICI CIP, executive director of SP Image Consulting International, a global image-consulting firm. "The new generation of professionals has a sense of duty to be their best and to improve China's image," she says.

That's where image consultants come into play. Wu Pecoraro breaks a global image consultant's job into three parts: physical appearance, behavior and communication skills.

“I’ve had clients from women who want to project authority to a plastic surgeon who wanted outfits for every situation.”

— Michelle T. Sterling, founder and principal of Global Image Group

Typically, consultants have a pre-interview with the client, covering topics such as the client's image goals, budget and style. After that, consultants schedule a time to evaluate the individual's existing wardrobe before beginning the shopping outing, says Michelle T. Sterling, founder and principal of Global Image Group, an image consultancy with offices worldwide.

The key, Sterling says, is to tailor the service to a client's specific needs. "I've had clients from women who want to project authority to a plastic surgeon who wanted outfits for every situation: rainy days, sunny days, drinks at a lounge versus weekend meetings, Persian weddings versus American weddings and everything in between," Sterling says. "He had 20 different tabs in his look book."

In general, the personal image consultants in China tend to range between $50 and $200 per hour, Sterling says.

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When working with an image consultant in a foreign country, individuals can use a trusted online foreign exchange service to cover consultation fees and the price of clothing. It's fast to calculate the latest dollar to yuan exchange rate and convenient to initiate bank-to-bank international payments via one's laptop, tablet or smartphone.

What to Look for

While each consultation differs depending on the client, there are a few characteristics an ideal image consultant should have:

  • Worldly:  Global image consultants should go beyond basic knowledge of life in china and be knowledgeable about style trends worldwide. "In China specifically, a good stylist will help you project affluence, status and prestige," Sterling says.
  • Execution oriented:  Image consultants are best for clients who have an end goal in mind because they are "execution oriented and have a systematic, organized approach to shopping," Sterling says. "We aren't trying to push product like a stylist in a shopping center might."
  • Certified:  "Good stylists or consultants should have some sort of certification," says Sterling, who also operates the Sterling Style Academy, a training academy for stylists and image consultants. The Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) is also a well-known certifying body and has different levels of certification.
  • Detail oriented:  Clothes aren't made to fit every body type. Good stylists and consultants recognize this and recommend that clothing should be tailored - especially in China, where, according to Sterling, men and women wear more tailored looks than in the West.

Whether the goal is to overhaul their wardrobes or simply to avoid shopping centers, expats living in China can blend their personal styles with the local Chinese culture by working with global image consultants. 

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