Koji Sasahara  /  AP
Designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, Prada, Tokyo offers VIPs a private shopping experience — flush with champagne and canapés. VIP clients include Paris Hilton.
updated 10/15/2007 2:52:00 PM ET 2007-10-15T18:52:00

Philanthropist and movie investor Allison Weiss Brady, 36, experienced a different kind of bridal shower.

Instead of enjoying a spa weekend in Napa, Calif., or a night on the town, Brady and her best girlfriends shopped in privacy at the Van Cleef & Arpels boutique in Bal Harbour, Fla. As a frequent client of the store, Brady says the jeweler was happy to throw her a party. At her request, each guest brought a toy to donate to Toys for Tots in lieu of a bridal gift.

Sure, it was fun for Brady and her closest friends to play shower games, drink cocktails and indulge in canapés, but she also understands Van Cleef & Arpels' strongest motivation.

"It's a great way to make new clients," she says.

For big spenders like Brady, VIP shopping experiences come with the territory.

You might not be able to persuade a store to close down during regular business hours for your private party, but as a loyal spender—ahem, shopper—at most department stores or boutiques, you will receive special treatment.

Sometimes that means early access to new arrivals from your favorite designer or the opportunity to shop from a private room, with several sales people running back and forth from the floor, showing off their latest and greatest pieces.

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What does it take to reserve an afternoon in your favorite store's special spot? A history of being a good and loyal customer helps. Brady, for example, has been a client at Van Cleef & Arpels for years.

Stylists and personal shoppers are also granted access to these rooms, because department stores know their clients tend to be big spenders.

There's no cost for a VIP room's services. Your own hefty spending habits are what gain you entry in the first place. The store sees no need to charge extra when they expect you to be spending well into the thousands.

Brady might head straight to Van Cleef & Arpels for diamond baubles, but for clothes, she favors New York's Bergdorf Goodman. She has established a relationship with one of Bergdorf's top salespersons—a transplant from Barneys New York—who knows exactly what she likes.

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"She knows my style, my taste and my size," says Brady. "It's just easier to go to the same store at the same time, because the service is just better."

Because Brady maintains such a strong relationship with her salespeople, she feels no need to hire a personal shopper to help out along the way. "It's almost to the point that they're like personal shoppers," she says.

Customers looking for extra guidance, of course, can always retain a personal shopper. Amy DiFrisco knows exactly where to take her high-end clients. For basics, she directs them to her own shop, Two Blondes, on New York's Upper East Side, but for suiting and formal eveningwear, she takes them to Barneys New York.

"I take clients shopping up and down Madison Avenue," says DiFrisco. "Amid all those refined little boutiques, Barneys has by far the best VIP shopping room."

Barneys transformed what used to be its bridal atelier into a space where salespeople bring in garments for VIPs. While shopping, these preferred customers are served wine and champagne and can enjoy stunning views of Manhattan from a private terrace.

Barneys may be Manhattan's top spot, but stores are pulling out the stops for VIP clients across the globe. Personal shopper Jasmine Serrurier says shoe designer Rene Caovilla makes the best presentation in Milan, with boudoir-esque décor and ultimate privacy.

"Every shop offers their best clients a little extra attention, topped off with a glass of champagne," she says. "But the Rene Caovilla Milano flagship is the most beautiful, and the room is extremely private."

Who wants to try on a pair of diamond-encrusted slingbacks with black lace overlay—one of Caovilla's newest additions—in front of a crowd of spectators, anyway?

© 2012


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