One of the best things about being a tourist is the license to give up control, hand over the reins to the professionals and relax. This means the best chefs cooking for you, the best musicians or dancers performing for you, and the most well-phrased city guides showing you around.
Sophie Lloyd, founder and guide at ShopHopBA, is a well-dressed, shopping professional. So when it comes to the overwhelming shopping selection Buenos Aires has to offer, who better to turn to for a customised tour?
My tour with Sophie began before I even met the lovely, 20-something Brit. Part of the process, as she explained by e-mail, is a list of interview questions to get a feel for the customer’s style, taste and what in particular they are seeking, be it a gift or the perfect leather bag. I responded with unique boutiques and eclectic finds, hoping this might encourage Sophie to reveal a few gems.
Rolling into the neighbourhood known for the shopping elite, Palermo Soho, I met Sophie on a summer Friday for our shopping date. She was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with a dash of charm and a huge helping of great taste.
As we began weaving through the streets, Sophie assured me she had a plan. Based on my list of answers from the week before, she had selected a few stores in the neighbourhood, though she often tweaks her circuit as she takes it.
“On meeting (clients),” she revealed, “I also get a pretty good idea of their personal style based on what they’re wearing so may throw in a few extra shops along the way.” I looked down at my go-to garb, realising that I wasn’t doing Sophie any favours.
Nevertheless, Sophie hit my style spot on. She took me to renowned independent designer Benito Fernandez, where we found colourful prints and maxi dresses galore. Plus she introduced me to a few new spots including Maria Lizaso, which is anything but another boring Soho boutique, and even took me to browse some menswear locations, showing just how wide her range expands. She listened to what came out of my mouth and gave a second opinion when needed.
We popped in and out of shops, browsing and chatting. I’m not one to dawdle, and Sophie took my shopping speed in stride. She shared stories of writing for the China Daily in Shanghai, where she lived for 5 years, and how she came to be leading me through the streets of Buenos Aires.
“I’d always wanted to have my own business,” she says after moving to Buenos Aires in February in 2010 and continuing in her path as a freelance journalist and costume stylist. “I love shopping and fashion and, more importantly, taking other people shopping, so I decided to do something with that as a side project.” She then launched her website, www.shop-buenosaires.com, and welcomed her first client in April of 2011.
Throughout our tour and conversation, Sophie revealed more and more of her knowledge of the Argentine fashion world in a generous and humble manner. She is filled with fun facts like what labels are thriving in Tokyo- Juana de Arco – and brand new stores openings- Naima. It dawned on me: I need this in my life every Saturday. No pretentious fashion elite, just good old fashioned shopping.
While we were beginning to wrap up the tour, Sophie suggested one last stop a little out of the way. Turned out she had saved the best for last. Holed off behind a tiny storefront on Malabia sits the newly-minted boutique THEM. To the untrained eye, the spot is nothing special. But Sophie led me into a collection filled with sassy pantsuits, Hollywood-inspired prints and unique cuts. Not surprisingly, she informed me how the label was born from an ex-A.Y. Not Dead collaborator and designer friend. With David Hockney references and a cool spirit, THEM won my heart, thanks to Sophie.
By the end of our 2 hours I felt like I had just gone shopping with a great friend, a great friend who just happens to be professional, ready to take control and let the client, be it woman or man, young or old, relax. If you’ve got one of those here in BA, hang onto him/her! If not, you should probably call Sophie.
Shop Hop BA provides half-day or full-day shopping tours open to individuals or groups. The price is AR$150 per hour for up to 4 people. You can reach Sophie Lloyd at [email protected].