Francesca Collina has an extremely important job: She has to make sure that her clients look good. With a great relationship with local stores like Recess and French Lessons, Collina is the person to call if you need an opinion on your outfit or an assessment of your wardrobe .
If no one had any idea what you did, how would you describe it?
I would say I’m a personal stylist and I help people with their wardrobe and I help them find clothes that fits their body type and their style. Because everyone is different. So I don’t dress everyone the way I dress, for example. I’m not going to pick things out that I would like for me because everyone has a different style. It’s kind of like interior design, but for a person.
How did you get into this business?
I’ve always had an extreme passion for fashion. My background is totally different. I have an MBA in marketing and I worked in the corporate world in marketing. Then when I had kids, I decided I wanted to do what I really enjoyed. But I’ve always loved fashion. I grew up in Florence, Italy and was obsessed with the fashion over their. I’ve always wished I went to fashion school and I didn’t and I went the safer route.
I’ve always had friends ask me for my opinion. So they’d come to me and say ‘I have a black tie event, can you help me find a dress?’ And that’s where it started. So I was already doing it for a hobby with my friends. They’d go shopping and come to my house to try things on and see if they worked or how to pair items. So then people told me I should turn this into a business. So I made it official, got a website and built up a fairly large number of clients all through word of mouth.
Do you operate mostly out of Winchester?
Well, I’m based here in Winchester, but I have clients all over. I started off here because I live here and through word of mouth, I would say I have about 40 percent of my clients in Boston. Then I’d say 30 percent in Winchester and the rest are in other suburbs like Lexington, Weston, Wayland.
How many clients do you cater to in a day?
I try to take care of one client a day. Other than emailing, invoicing and making contact. But I go more by season. It’s very cyclical. So fall and spring are very busy seasons. I’ll start getting hit with clients in August because they are thinking about fall fashion, which leads into winter. And that carries me into late November. Then it slows down from Christmas until end of February. So this is the more quieter season. Then it starts up in February and carries into May and June because people want to revamp their wardrobe.
Usually what I do is I start with the client’s closet. So let’s say I have a brand new client who I’ve never met before, I go to their house, look at their closet and we go through everything for that season. I get rid of tons of stuff. We make a pile to toss. Then there’s a pile of clothes that I need to see on them. Then there’s the pile that goes to the tailor. Then there’s the pile that’s perfectly fine. So I learn the client’s body shape and their style, then I learn what they need. I make a list of the things they need to complete their outfits.
Next we go shopping and fill the gaps of what they need to compliment the existing wardrobe. But a lot of times, people have the right outfit; they just aren’t wearing it right or pairing it. So people aren’t wearing a shirt because they aren’t wearing it with the right pants. People think they need new clothes when they really don’t.
How often are you stumped?
Good question. I have encountered some difficult situations, but I always find a way to pull it off.
Just so you know, this appears to be a high end service, but I pride myself on being able to work in any budget. People who don’t have a large budget do not have to worry about it, we can always make this work.