Shopping With a Personal Touch: 7 Questions With Jean Chung

BY Dominican Pie (@DominicanPie)

“Diversity is the spice of life”, while its been said quite often, for me it has always rang true. It’s what I love about New York City is that people from all walks of life, from all the corners of the earth, are constantly descending and renewing these five boroughs. Each neighborhood has its own unique make-up, it’s own unique style and look.

Washington Heights and Inwood are no different. Both neighborhoods (along with all of Northern Manhattan) have been going through a lot of changes this past decade. These two neighborhoods, which were predominantly Dominican in the eighties and nineties, are becoming more and more culturally mixed with each passing day.

Change isn’t always bad, among the sea of new faces floating around the neighborhood there are many friendly ones. There’s nothing better than making a new friend and finding that you both have something in common, like a love for fashion. The first time I saw Jean was at Apartment 78, in her now infamous short-shorts, tank top, with an oversized sweater, with a pair of boots to match.

We quickly bonded over fashion and once we began talking I found out that Jean is a personal shopper. Now, I’ve heard of personal shoppers in the past, and have met some along the way but have always thought that it was something relegated to the rich and famous. She quickly set me straight on the matter. Here is what she had to say:

Q: If you could describe what you do in four words or less what would it be?

A: I make happiness contagious.

Q: Are there any designers or brands that you are drawn to?

A: Well, I currently work for Free People, so I must say that brand is my first inspiration, simply due to the amount of exposure I have to it in comparison to any other brand. But I do love to look at various online fashion blogs, small boutiques, independent lines of fashion, jewelry and art and people in NYC. Various styles I see at different party scenes, different neighborhoods are really inspiring. I also like to look at retro looks, such as pictures and footage from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Q: What do you love about fashion?

A: Fashion is all about utility and creativity. I am a very creative person, but often do not have time to actively participate in any type of artistic activity. But getting dressed everyday is something that I have to do in life. By tying the two purposes into one, I can be creative through a small routine everyday. It is very therapeutic to feel right in your own skin.

Q: What are the benefits of having a personal shopper?

A: The type of shopping that I want to do is not really the type that is related to the rich and the famous. People often do not know that there are different types of personal shopping. I do not plan on dealing with high fashion or drastic price ranges. Something overly expensive is most likely going to serve the same amount of utility as something with a moderate price range. My shopping is for two motives: young professionals who do not have time to shop for themselves but have the money to invest in someone like me, or the client who feels stuck in his/her style and would like some help expressing his/herself through me. The first motive, clients will mostly likely come back to me every seasonal change or for different events they have to attend. But for the second client, their appointments with me should slowly decrease after they find out how to equip themselves with the right items to fully express themselves. After a couple shopping dates with me, they should be able to find the skills to style themselves, without my help. Through this, they can benefit from the therapeutic and creative release that I feel when I get dressed every day.

Q: Tim Gunn moment: what’s the one piece of advice that you would give a woman who wants to switch up her “look” but doesn’t have a huge budget?

A: Do your research. There is nothing wrong with spending time on you, especially when it comes to pampering. Either through a hobby, or through a massage, or a shopping date, it is important to do research before you dive in. Check out the top trends, look through blogs and boutiques. Figure out where you belong or how you wish to define yourself. Once you have done the research on what you feel appropriately expresses you, then you can move to individual pieces and your body type. That way, you can shop without feeling scattered and the tendency to buy something that you will never wear will decrease. The research should help you find certain stores that you can maximize from as well, such as price range, consistency of styles, fabrics, colors, etc.

Q: Where are you from? Where did you grow up? Where do you reside now?

A: Before NYC, I lived in Philadelphia, PA, where I did my undergrad and post-baccalaureate studies. My childhood was spent in a town outside of Pittsburgh, PA but I was born in Columbus, OH.  My whole family moved to Seoul, Korea when I was in fourth grade and then came back for college. Now I live in Washington Heights!

Q: What brought you to the Heights? How did you discover this neighborhood? Do you plan to be a lifelong Washington Heights resident?

I moved here because I needed a place nearby my school when I moved for my masters program. My program is at the 168th Street campus, thus, I wanted something affordable and nice and close to school. I am the 4th generation Columbia grad student who is living in my current studio and I love it. I guess I didn’t know what neighborhood I was moving to; I simply landed here by chance. Now, I am most comfortable here and know a lot of people already, thanks to working at Apt. 78. The community and the people are quite beautiful. It is the part of Manhattan that has so many hidden gems. I may have to leave (who knows what might happen to me) but regardless, this place will always be my home.

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