Dress to im­press

Liv­ing in Paris in­spired Rose­mary Al­lan to trade in her job in in­sur­ance to be­come an im­age con­sul­tant and run a bou­tique bed and break­fast. She hasn’t looked back since, she tells Gil­lian Har­vey

Living France - - Lifestyle -

Famed as the fash­ion cap­i­tal of the world, Paris may seem the ideal place to set up an im­age con­sul­tancy – some­where peo­ple can come to dis­cover the colours, shades, cuts and styles that en­hance their nat­u­ral looks.

How­ever, when expat Rose­mary Al­lan, 55, de­cided to train as a con­sul­tant in 2010, it was for more per­sonal rea­sons.

“I’d gone grey,” she ex­plains. “And sud­denly ev­ery­thing in my wardrobe seemed to make me look washed out. I’d go to stores and pick up colour­ful clothes be­cause I liked the shade – but noth­ing seemed to suit me. I felt com­pletely con­fused as to what to wear to suit my new colour­ing.”

In some ar­eas of France, this might not seem such a fun­da­men­tal prob­lem, but work­ing and liv­ing among ap­par­ently ef­fort­lessly stylish Parisians, not know­ing quite how to dress was a real frus­tra­tion for Rose­mary.

“It was as if, overnight, noth­ing in my wardrobe suited me any­more!” she says.

De­ter­mined to re­gain her style, Rose­mary booked the ser­vices of a lo­cal im­age con­sul­tant to help her to un­der­stand how to dress to suit her new colour­ing.

“Un­for­tu­nately the ap­point­ment didn’t go well,” says Rose­mary. “I left feel­ing more con­fused than when I’d gone in. There was no clear ad­vice – noth­ing to take away with me and use on a prac­ti­cal level.”


It was this con­fu­sion about style that prompted Rose­mary’s de­ci­sion to train as an im­age con­sul­tant with Colour Me Beau­ti­ful in the UK in 2010.

Tak­ing leave from her job in in­sur­ance, where she’d worked since mov­ing to Paris from Hong Kong in 1996, she took the first of sev­eral two-week cour­ses and re­turned with a wealth of knowl­edge about how dif­fer­ent shades and tones com­ple­mented peo­ple’s colour­ing.

“I chose to train as a con­sul­tant sim­ply to gain a full un­der­stand­ing of how to adapt my choices to my new ap­pear­ance,” she ex­plains. “I didn’t ever imag­ine I’d start work­ing as a con­sul­tant; it was a rather ex­pen­sive present to my­self.”

Newly con­fi­dent, Rose­mary ar­rived back in Paris with a clear ap­pre­ci­a­tion of how to dress to suit her nat­u­ral colour­ing and look her best. And peo­ple soon no­ticed the change.

“When I went back to work, dressed in some of my new out­fits, peo­ple started to com­ment how well I was look­ing,” she says. “That’s the thing about wear­ing the right clothes – peo­ple don’t say I love that shade of blue or that jumper really suits you, in­stead they com­ment on how healthy you look – that’s what the right colour and style can do for you.”

To her sur­prise, Rose­mary also came to re­alise that there was real de­mand for her ser­vices in Paris.

“Friends would ask me for ad­vice,” she says. “And peo­ple be­gan to con­tact me hav­ing found me on the Colour Me Beau­ti­ful web­site. I was as­tounded to find that most of th­ese women were French women – Parisians – who seemed to be so con­fi­dent and stylish. It amazed me that they felt they needed ad­vice.

“How­ever, I soon re­alised that of­ten th­ese women stuck to neu­tral tones – safe colours and a strict set of rules about when they should be worn. They wanted to wear more colour­ful cloth­ing, but didn’t know where to start.”

Grad­u­ally, Rose­mary be­gan to take on clients and re­alised how much she had to of­fer, set­ting up her con­sul­tancy busi­ness BWon­der­ful along­side her ex­ist­ing job.

“To my sur­prise, I even won Best In­ter­na­tional Im­age Con­sul­tant at the Colour Me Beau­ti­ful awards in 2011,” she says. “I was so sur­prised; I blushed a beet­root colour.”


In 2013, Rose­mary also de­cided she wanted to step aside from her cor­po­rate life and try some­thing new.

“I started a bou­tique B&B and apart­ment let in Paris,” she says.

“I was a lit­tle un­sure, but ac­tu­ally I’ve found that deal­ing with B&B guests on hol­i­day is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from deal­ing with the cor­po­rate world; I’ve found B&B guests to be won­der­ful, very re­laxed and open and gen­uinely grate­ful for all my ef­forts at hos­pi­tal­ity.”

And it seems that Rose­mary has a tal­ent for mak­ing her guests feel at home. Her ac­com­mo­da­tion 52 Clichy comes highly rec­om­mended; rated one of the top places to stay on three ma­jor book­ing web­sites in­clud­ing TripAd­vi­sor.

In a city with thou­sands of op­tions, this is a real ac­co­lade.

“This year, I had 100 nights al­ready booked by 1 Jan­uary,” she says. “I get re­peat busi­ness and rec­om­men­da­tions from pre­vi­ous cus­tomers. I’m al­ways work­ing hard to help my guests to en­joy their stay in Paris,” she says.

“I try to keep up-to-date with lo­cal events, vis­it­ing the­atres, restau­rants and ex­hi­bi­tions in the af­ter­noons and evenings to en­sure that I can make in­formed rec­om­men­da­tions and en­hance peo­ple’s hol­i­days.

“It’s great, as I’m not sure I’d be out and about so much if I wasn’t run­ning the guest busi­ness – it’s a win-win as it means I am truly en­joy­ing liv­ing in this vi­brant city.”

Rose­mary has also ex­panded her im­age con­sul­tancy work, of­fer­ing con­sul­ta­tions, ad­vice on style and even ac­com­pa­nied shop­ping trips where she helps peo­ple to use their new-found knowl­edge to re­fresh their wardrobes. She’s also no­ticed a dif­fer­ence when it comes to work­ing with cus­tomers of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties.

“I’ve found that Bri­tish peo­ple of­ten want to gain as much knowl­edge as they can in a short space of time,” she says. “They will tend to just book a colour con­sul­ta­tion and are pleased with the knowl­edge they ac­quire. How­ever French clients seem to want to know ev­ery­thing in­side out – they’ll of­ten book a colour and style con­sul­ta­tion and then ask me to ac­com­pany them on a shop­ping trip too. They are really in­ter­ested in learn­ing how ev­ery­thing works.”


With her im­age con­sul­tancy also mak­ing its mark – she was voted the Best Im­age Con­sul­tant in Paris by an expat mag­a­zine in 2017 – it may seem sur­pris­ing that Rose­mary, who is ex­tremely busy, wants to de­velop her busi­nesses more. How­ever, her next goal is to knit to­gether her pas­sion for host­ing and im­age con­sul­tancy so

that more guests come to use her ser­vice dur­ing their stay, rather than book­ing separately or com­ing from else­where.

“At the mo­ment, peo­ple who book into the B&B of­ten book a con­sul­ta­tion as well, but as an af­ter­thought – an ad­di­tional treat,” she ex­plains.

“Mothers might book as a con­fi­dence boost for their daugh­ters, friends book to­gether as a fun af­ter­noon treat, or oth­ers who are in­tend­ing to re­fresh their wardrobe come for ad­vice. But my goal is to have more guests come with the aim of build­ing im­age con­sul­ta­tion into their stay, as a pri­mary fo­cus.”

More than any­thing Rose­mary en­joys see­ing her clients leave their con­sul­ta­tion with a re­newed sense of con­fi­dence.

“Peo­ple come to see me if they’ve gone grey, or lost their way a bit, or want to do some­thing spe­cial for them­selves,” she says. “It’s hard enough hav­ing self­con­fi­dence, es­pe­cially in Paris where ev­ery­one seems to find it so easy.

“I like to leave my cus­tomers with a tool­kit to use – it’s not about

rec­om­mend­ing a par­tic­u­lar shade of blue, it’s more of a gen­eral idea of whether dark, strong bold colours suit, or whether to choose muted rather than re­flec­tive ma­te­rial. And I al­ways ex­plain why – hav­ing a ‘be­cause’ helps peo­ple to re­mem­ber the rec­om­men­da­tions and un­der­stand a bit more about how the right style or colour can com­pletely change the way they look.

“For peo­ple com­ing for a colour anal­y­sis I give peo­ple a mantra of three words – mine are cool, deep and clear. For me, it makes my choices so easy. I don’t waste

my time when I’m shop­ping.

“At first, I treated my im­age con­sul­ta­tion ser­vice more as a hobby – I was con­vinced no one could be as con­fused as me! But I’ve found that while most women ba­si­cally have the right ideas, they don’t know ex­actly why cer­tain things suit them.

“It is the ‘why’ that makes choices ob­vi­ous, so you stop wast­ing time (and lots of money) buy­ing the wrong things or wor­ry­ing about your choices. It’s su­per-em­pow­er­ing to ab­so­lutely know that you look your best even with­out makeup, whether you’re wear­ing jeans or are dressed up to the nines.”

And, in her new niche – worlds away from her work in the in­sur­ance in­dus­try – Rose­mary has found the hap­pi­ness that comes with help­ing oth­ers to feel great about them­selves. “I’m so lucky to be able to do two jobs that make me happy and seem to make oth­ers happy too,” she says. “It’s truly trans­for­ma­tive.”

52clichy.com bwon­der­ful.com

Rose­mary Al­lan of BWon­der­ful

The court­yard at 52 Clichy

One of the be­d­rooms

There is a fully equipped kitchen

En­joy­ing break­fast on the bal­cony

52 Clichy of­fers a com­fort­able base

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