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LONDON — On a recent Friday afternoon, in a sprawling flat not far from Hyde Park, a fire is crackling, champagne corks are popping and a woman called Babette is playing fashion godmother to a woman with cash but, until recently, no Manolos.
This story first appeared in the December 27, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
It’s just another day at Mayfair Agency, the clients of which range from Jimmy Choo president Tamara Mellon to the San Diego Padres baseball team. The agency, which specializes in personal style management, is run by Babette Kulik, who revamps her clients’ wardrobes, Christmas shops for them, and consults for sports stars and luxury brands alike. Among the brands she works with are Hermès and John Lobb, part of the Hermès Group.
“I focus on merchandising and customer relations. You know: ‘Would the customer actually like a certain carrier bag?’ sort of thing,” said Kulik.
Her next project will be working on the BAFTA Awards in London in February, linking makeup artists and designers with the actors appearing at the show. Mayfair also has secured the rights to sell the book “Britney Spears: Stages,” by Sheryl Berk in the U.K. and Europe. Kulik said the promotion strategy will be to link the book with a charity.
“I want to give my customers an old-fashioned experience,” said Kulik of her style consultation as she pulled a cream Céline jacket from a clothing rail and handed it to client Christina Abbott to try on. “In the old days, when you bought a hat, the hat maker would take care with the fitting and deliver it to your home. Service in those days was 100 percent, and shopping was not a headache. I want every one of my clients to feel like a princess or prince.”
And while personal shoppers and fashion stylists may be around every city corner in the U.S., in the U.K. — a country not known for great service — they’re still rare.
Kulik, whose Spanish-born mother was a dressmaker, began her career as a shop assistant and later took care of VIP clients for Gucci, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent in London. She founded Mayfair, which has offices in London and San Diego, in 1999, after working as a freelance style consultant. She currently has about 30 clients who come to see her for their seasonal or special events dressing, for gift-giving (she helped clients purchase presents for the christening of Damian Charles Hurley, son of actress Elizabeth Hurley) and for everyday fashion advice.
Prices are approximately $400 for the initial consultancy and then about $100 per hour, plus expenses, for shopping, sourcing and phone time.
“She’s got great taste, and you can trust her advice,” said Mellon, a former London “It” girl known for her stylish dress sense who nonetheless has been one of Kulik’s clients for a little over a year. “She saved my life this Christmas, helping me buy presents — even one for my husband. She does amazing work.”
Abbott, another client, said life was “pretty ugly” before she met Kulik, who helped her change her makeup and skin care routine in addition to her wardrobe. “My office is on Bond Street, so you would think I’d have no problem shopping,” said Abbott, who is the U.K. personal sales and retail director of luxury mobile phone company Vertu. “But I don’t have the time. Before meeting Babette, if I needed black shoes, I would have bought any ones, now I wear Manolos,” she said showing off a pair of suede stiletto court shoes.
Kulik spends about two days each week shopping for clients, on the phone or at stores calling in clothes from Hennes and Mauritz, Harvey Nichols, designer boutiques and showrooms. Her roster of designers includes Michael Kors, Céline, Yves Saint Laurent, Theory, Prada, and Katayone Adeli.
Kulik also works on celebrities — and those who want to be. She’s helping the San Diego Padres with their branding and merchandising before they open their new ball park in 2004. Earlier this year, she made over Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher in a bid to get him better endorsements. “I chose Ermenegildo Zegna and John Lobb for a more sophisticated look, Prada to give him an edge, Karl Kani for a hip-hop feel and Donna Karan jeans to round out the look,” she said. “So many of these young sports stars love fashion, and they have money but they don’t know their way around.”