When it comes to careers in retail, Raphael Wagner has had quite a colorful one: the Brazil native started out working as a visual coordinator for high-end department stores, helping put merchandise together in attractive ways. Then, for several years, he worked the cosmetics counters spritzing and selling luxury fragrances. All of it helped prepare him forand led him right tohis current gig: personal shopper extraordinaire at Bal Harbours Saks Fifth Avenue Club. For the last three years, hes been a by-appointment-only shopper, helping South Floridas fabulous set put themselves together, working from a private room at Saks where music and champagne are part of the retail experience. With so much experience navigating the ins and outs of luxury stores, hes perfect to offer expert tips on exactly how to buyand givethe right gift.
KEEP THINGS CLASSIC
Go for gifts that will endure through time, that someone will want to keep forever, advises Wagner. Stick to classic silhouettes and shapes because theyll never go out of style. And, if you can afford it, stick to classic brands like Chanel, Prada or Gucci, even if its just a wallet or a key chain. There is no one who wont love them, so you cant go wrong with these.
THINK BEYOND THE BOTTLE
If youre buying a fragrance for someone, Wagner says, ask for a small sample vial of it at the counter. Include it with your gift. The recipient can open it, try it and make sure he or she likes it without having to open the actual fragrance. If they dont like it, they can return it. If they do, they have a little extra to keep for themselves. Its just a thoughtful touch.
STAY AWAY FROM CLOTHES
I love fashion, but its just too tricky to buy clothes for someone, Wagner says. What if its too big or too small? If you really want something fashionable, go for an accessorya scarf, gloves or a purse. Those are safe but still stylish.
GIVE THINGS YOUD RARELY BUY FOR YOURSELF
There are some items that, even if you can afford them, you just rarely go out and buy for yourself. Like scented candles or expensive soaps or personalized stationary. They make great gifts because of that. Everyone loves them and you did your recipient the favor of buying them.
CONSIDER AN EXPERIENCE
One of the best gifts Ive ever received, Wagner said, was a private brunch for two in the middle of the Grand Canyon. It was special and different and Ill never forget it. Of course, an experience doesnt have to be that extravagant to make a great gift, he says. If its a foodie youre giving to, think about hiring a chef to come to their house to cook for an evening. Or if its someone whos got a lot on her plate, consider sending her to a spa and give her a Bridal Day. Even if shes not a bride, what a great way to get pampered.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
I just did this for a client whos a good friend. She has everything you could think of and I was having trouble coming up with a birthday gift for her, Wagner says. So I thought about things we have in common, and music was one of them. I bought her an iPod, then sat down to fill it with the music I know she loves. When your gift list includes people who can get anything for themselves, he advises, a gift has to be personal more than anything else.