SparkUpFresh The dreamy life of a VIP personal shopper June 1, 2017 | 1:03 pm Cover Art Samantha Gonzales Words by Pola Esguerra del Monte & Robert A. Vergara Jr. Multimedia Editor and Digital Reporter Aimee Hashim, owner of luxury trading company LoveLuxe Trading, Inc., has shopped for more than a hundred Birkin bags. She doesn’t own all of them. The 28‑year‑old keeps for herself “just ten” of those. The rest goes to her stellar clients (a long list which includes tycoons and actresses), who get to enjoy the elusive Hermés “handbag of all handbags” famous for its pricetag (up to $150,000 or ₱7 million) and its long waitlist, which makes it more like a Ferrari than a bag. Art Samantha Gonzales That, among many other reasons, is why moneyed people hire Ms. Hashim’s services: she gets in line for them. Oh, but that’s not the end of it. She profiles prospective clients, assesses their taste, then has their shopping money (plus her fee) deposited in her bank account. Then, she contacts her Dubai‑based staff, boards a plane to the shopping capitals, makes rounds on fashion houses’ shop floors, rubs shoulders with the who’s who of the industry, runs through exclusive collections, picks out the items for her clients, flies back, and then delivers the haul back to them, personally, in their homes. “Remember this pair of Ralph & Russo shoes of Marian [Rivera]?” she asked us one afternoon at a coffeeshop neighbouring a television network in Quezon City, talking about the local celebrity whom she considers gave her the biggest break. “She’s been wanting to get it for couple of years, and she has already asked several shoppers. I was the only one who got those because you can only get a pair by appointment.” “It’s about bridging the gap of what’s not accessible to my clients,” she says in that afternoon, one of those rare occasions she’s in town. The luxury trader was in between meetings with two celebrity clients whose ages are about the same as hers when she first took on this job. This—shopping for the rich—counts as her first job. Hidden past the racks of designer clothing, genuine leather handbags, shoes, and god knows what, her closet contains her own proverbial skeleton (though not necessarily negative): a nursing uniform. Ms. Hashim, in a previous lifetime, is a registered nurse. Art Samantha Gonzales In fact, she could’ve further pursued a career as a doctor—she has the smarts for it, plus that’s what her engineer parents wanted her to do—but like a woman walking in the wrong pair of heels, she tripped and landed someplace else. The year was 2008. Aimee Hashim had just graduated from college, and has barely rubbed off her reputation as the most glamorous student in class, whose habit of wearing heels in the classroom compelled the school to create a new rule against it. Bored of waiting for the nursing boards results, Ms. Hashim logged onto her computer and whipped up a CV. The next day, she walked in the holy grail of luxury shopping malls, Rustan’s. Wearing a trendy pair of jeans and sexy heeled boots, she came for an interview. “I wasn’t even applying for a personal shopper position,” she recounted, reeling in memories from her childhood where she’d been naturally fond of fashion. “I remember the HR head telling me that she liked how I carried myself from the moment I stepped in, and by the way that I spoke with them.” The company offered her the job as a lifestyle consultant for the company’s platinum clients. For the uninitiated: Platinum clients are Rustan’s VIPs who are feted the center’s best new items in a special fitting session at an eponymous lounge. As a lifestyle consultant, her job included choosing clothes, shoes, and bags for their customers—celebrities, businessmen, elites—based on their profiles. “It was my first job out of college, and I think it was my destiny,” she said. “I think I was destined to do that when I look at all the odds.” Because literally, armed with a nursing degree, she was the odd one out. “Among my colleagues, I was the only one who was different.” she narrated. “They were like, ‘You’re a nurse, what are you doing here?” Which is such a foolish question. If they only realized then that if there’s anything nursing taught Ms. Hashim, it’s how to take care of people. “You have to build a relationship with them,” she said, now talking about her clients. “You need to study each person, you have to know their preferences, what works for them, what doesn’t work for them, what they like, and what they don’t like. Those are the things that I had to study.” In the midst of her new endeavor, Ms. Hashim learned about the result of the exam. But despite the positive outcome, she still chose to continue with her newfound job. “My family at first didn’t support me because they really wanted me to pursue my career, my profession. They were all engineers and they wanted to have a doctor in the family,” she said. “But it was so easy for me to adjust [to fashion]. It just came naturally I think because I really love what I was doing,” she said. “I get a certain kind of high when I see the things that I shopped for,” she added. “Before I did this kind of work, I was already shopaholic.” In fact, she might as well have walked out of a Sophie Kinsella novel… …minus the mismanagement of finances. Art Samantha Gonzales Ms. Hashim is invested in Birkins, but also in this business and a plethora of other ventures like a travel agency and a flower shop. She also has a full range of staff who assist her in keeping tabs on stores all over the world. Yet she still considers LoveLuxe Trading as her baby. After all, she built it from the ground up. From Rustan’s, she transferred to SM and worked as a merchandise manager for the company’s shoe designing department. But not long after, she left the company and flew to Dubai (where her British‑Indian family lives) to start her enterprise. In Dubai she looked for contacts, shopped for new items then posted the products on Facebook. She had only one rule: “I will post whatever is saleable to me.” Opening the business, Ms. Hashim had only one goal: to be the “go‑to person of almost everyone whenever they want anything.” “It became one of my trademarks,” she said. “If anyone wants something that is hard to find, they just go to me. I used my connections, having the points that I have there. I call the stores, if it’s not in their store, I ask them to please find out if they can have it shipped to theirs, or if I need someone in another country to buy them.” In the next couple of years, she is eyeing more businesses related to fashion and retailing, that will perhaps allow her to go beyond the luxury market. “I also want to build a safe environment for online sellers,” she added. “That’s my dream, that’s how I see myself in the next couple of years.” With a brand that continues to expand, along with the territory are detractors, and Ms. Hashim sometimes even becomes collateral damage, especially when showbiz figures are pitted against each other. The most recent case is an infamous Dolce & Gabbana t‑shirt whose authenticity was questioned. But issues like that do not succeed in bringing a good woman down. Clients keep coming back, and new ones pour in. And on top of it all, like a whiff of Chanel No. 5 over a well-done ensemble, Stefano Gabbana (verified account) followed her on Instagram. “I remember telling this to my mom: ‘You watch out, I’m going to show you how it’s done.” “And it really happened.” Photos courtesy of Aimee Hashim. Latest News from Spark Up Bandwagon’s Clarence Chan on music, business and the future After blockchain, Pacquiao invests in tech startup Cebu Pacific wants millennials to study how to fly a plane How to build a business in an age where everything’s mobile Workout habits of startup founders Five other startups that are solving Manila’s traffic A guide to the Silicon Valley diet craze called 5:2 Coming soon to your favorite casino: cryptocurrencies An online platform for social enterprises? Oui, oui. Is this ‘academy’ purveying male self-confidence or rape culture?