Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Prada -- Soho

Prada often gets a bad rap. A favorite of label whores and counterfeiters alike, the streamlined, subdued nylon bag favored by these two groups is what many people envision when they hear the word Prada. True, some low-end bags still have that silhouette, but Mucia is so much more than that.

The New York flagship store in Soho showcases all that Prada has to offer. Much of the floorspace showcases architectural elements, not fashion, but as with all forms of art, isn't fashion also about context and setting?

575 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

Monday, February 26, 2007

Buffalo Exchange - Haight Ashbury

When it comes to recycled fashion, Buffalo Exchange is one of the best. I would go so far as to say it is the best second hand shop on the Haight for everyday wear. It's not full of cheaply made new clothes like Crossroads, or costumey like Wasteland, yet the selection is better honed, and of better quality than the Goodwill on Haight. In addition to a full range of clothes for all sexes, it has a good selection of shoes, bags, belts and other accessories.

1555 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

Sunday, February 25, 2007

American Rag - Civic Center

Interesting small labels share the racks with big, yet still stylish labels like Comme des Garçons, Pucci, and Marc by Marc Jacobs. The front of the shop showcases new clothes, surprisingly divided nearly evenly between men's and women's fashions. The back is filled with vintage, clearly picked with the swing set in mind.

The selection changes often, so the Moscow rule of shopping is well-advised here. American Rag always has a nice selection of denim, including those übertrendy styles that may not look good on every figure, but, I'm sure, have an audience. Shoes are fashionable, yet walkable, from dressy flats to Pumas and Vans. My favorite section of the store is the jewelry, much of it made by local designers.

1305 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94109

Saturday, February 24, 2007

General Woodwork -- Stoke Newington

Since I've been in a DIY frenzy lately, I had to mention General Woodwork Supply on Stoke Newington High Street. They carry everything an urban do-it-yourselfer could need and offer a valuable service: custom cuts. Bring in your pieces of wood that need to be cut to fit around those strangely shaped Victorian plumbing fixtures, and they'll cut them for you.

76-80 Stoke Newington High Street
London, N16
020 7254 6052

Friday, February 23, 2007

Fad or Trend?

What is the difference between a fad and a trend?

In fashion, the word "fad" seems to hold negative connotations, while "trend" is up-to-the-minute good. Vogue publishes "trend reports," not "fad reports."

Literally, a trend is meant to be the beginning of a cycle, or movement, as in "the downward trend in real estate prices is escalating," or "the trend in eco-friendly appliances has carried over to electricity providers." Linguistically speaking, the word "trendy" is often used wrongly. In most instances "faddish" should be used instead. Big shoulders were a fad in the 90s, fancy jogging suits in the 00s.

What's the fad of 2007? Uggs are not considered trendy anymore, but they're still around, so perhaps they were actually trendy, not faddish. The same applies to Crocs. I have to admit to owning a pair of those. They're so ugly they're cute, and anyone who's tried them on has to admit that walking in Crocs feels like walking on marshmallows. I have to draw the line at wearing them with dresses, though. That's just wrong.

Can something be trendy, even if it was naff the year before? Vera Bradly bags come to mind here.

I've got it! The new trend is to dress like a granny. My shopping trolley should be right in style soon. More on that later.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Samsonite Black Label - The City, Sloan Square, Oxford Street

If Webstats are to be believed, Samsonite Black Label is more popular in the UK than the US, perhaps because of the collection designed by Alexander McQueen? It's certainly more expensive. Shoppers who want to buy this designer line of the tried and true workhorse of travel have several options in London. The boutique on Sloane is modern and minimalist, while the boutique in The City is a bit more traditional. The basement of Selfridges also has a nice collection of Black Label in stock.

The displays at Selfridges are, as usual, true to brand, adopting the decorating schemes of many Black Label boutiques.

8 Sloane St
London, SW1X 9LE
020 7245 8261

7 Royal Exchange
London , EC3V 3LL
020 7929 3944

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hamleys -- Regent Street

Hamleys is one of those magical toy stores that can drive even the most well-behaved children into a frenzy of greed, while causing adults to wax nostalgically for the nonexistent "good old days" of childhood. There are no new-agey ideas that boys and girls should play with the same toys here. The fifth floor, labeled "Boys Toys" is chockablock with toy weapons and action figures. The third floor, "Girls" is a pink riot of baby dolls, Barbies and arts and crafts sets. Computer games and Lego are wisely placed in the basement, along with science toys. Perhaps as a nod to the adults buying things for themselves, train sets dominate the floor called "Hobbies."

The non-PC Golly seems to be banished from the shelves but it still seems to be OK to sell prostitute dolls to little girls.

Is it my imagination, or does Superman have breasts?

188 - 196 Regent Street
0870 333 2455

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I'm a Top Shop Girl -- Oxford Circus

I knew that if I waited long enough, Bea Arthur's fashion sensibility would eventually come into vogue.

Top Shop has always been one of my favorite High Street chains, so I was not surprised to see the shop stocked with items that seem to recognise Bea's, until now, ignored role as a fashion icon. Strangely, these clothes still manage to be trendy. Acrylic fruit on chains and flowing dresses in Mod prints hearken back to the Maude era, while slouchy boots and jersey caftans remind us of Dorothy, in The Golden Girls.

216 Oxford Street
London , W1D 1LA
020 7636 7700

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Caravan -- Spitalfields

I suppose this place is called Caravan because it is filled with all sorts of lovely trinkets that an especially stylish travelling gypsy might collect, homey with a touch of magpie and a hint of bordello. The price range is broad, but everything seems to be carefully chosen. Plastic, larger than life, ravens share shelf space with hand blown light fixtures and silver ceramic cookie jars. I hate the overused word "eclectic," but in this case it truly fits.

11 Lamb Street
Spitalfields, London
020 7247

Friday, February 02, 2007

Gift With Purchase

In the US, gifts with purchase are usually limited to the makeup counter and fast food outlets. They're certainly important in those markets. I don't know a single woman who hasn't, at some time bought a lipstick, on an unguent because it came with a free set of makeup, purse, umbrella, perfume..... I'm sure that every child in America knows what a Happy Meal is, unless she has never seen television, nor been allowed to mix with other children. Where would McDonald's be without them? It's a pity that most US manufacturer premiums seem to be limited to cheap disposables or those bought from vintage tchotcke vendors on eBay.

In the UK, it's all about the gift with purchase, with everything. Every weekend, the Newsagents are chock full of free premiums offered by publishers. This Saturday alone, the London Times was giving away a free DVD of The Killing Fields with purchase of the newspaper, The Independent was giving away one of a series of banned books, Time Out London's Literary supplement was giving away a free book too. Glamour was giving away a free umbrella with the purchase of this month's magazine.

It's not limited to publishing. Branded premiums are available every day in grocery stores. PG Tips is currently giving away a free toy monkey in specially marked boxes of tea. It ties in with a new ad campaign, which pays homage to their old "monkeys' tea party" ads. They seem to be flying off the shelves. I've noticed some are up on eBay already.

This Web site gets about 100 hits a day, so I know there are readers out there. I'd love to hear from you. Have you ever bought something because there's a free gift with purchase? What was it? Am I one of the few swayed by these type of marketing ploys?