Posts Tagged ‘Shopping’

Madewell For Shopbop

February 28, 2009

Madewell (J Crew’s new brand) has created a capsule collection with the online retailer Shopbop.  Check it out here.

Dispatch Vest – $125; Photo: Shopbop Dot Com


If You Could Only Buy One Thing This Spring, What Would It Be?

February 28, 2009

I was just flipping through the current issue of Lucky magazine, and the editors were asked this question – what WOULD they get for Spring, if they could only buy one thing?  They answered with the following:

  • London Sole snakeskin ballet flats
  • The perfect trench
  • Slouch slate gray trousers (like the ones shown in the Spring Gap presentation)
  • Clubmaster sunglasses
  • A wispy floral tank

Normally this is a question I would answer, knowing full well that I would buy whatever the hell I wanted, one item be damned.  However, given my financial goals and budget, it might be a good idea to choose one key item for the Spring.

I wouldn’t even know what to pick! I have plenty of shoes, I suppose I am good on tops and blazers/cardigans/jackets, so I am thinking a great pair of pants might be the place to start.  But….pants?  That sounds so boring.  I’ve already decided what I love for Spring, how could I ever choose?

What about you?  Have you started thinking about what you want for Spring?  Have you made a list?  Are you on a shopping budget?  Is there a particular item or items you’ve already got your eye on?

High Street Hook Ups

February 28, 2009

I studied abroad in London for a short time during college.  While there, I lived in Kensington, between Gloucester Road and Queen’s Gate.  I was in the city to secure an internship, it was my main reason for going.  The organization my school worked with placed me at a PR firm, which was terribly uninteresting.  I had hoped to intern at a magazine, but instead I found myself running out to buy fruit for clients (I’m looking at you, Mary J Blige) and receiving piles of samples from the couriers who raced between our office and the offices of Cosmo, Elle and Vogue.  I hated it, and I managed to talk our program director into letting me quit, opting instead to do research at the V&A for my credits.

I shopped a lot while in London.  An obscene amount, in fact.  While there I discovered tons of shops that I had never seen in the states, and found that London high street shops were brilliant at interpreting trends for cheap, much more so than American retailers.  Since that time (2002), a few European retailers have made their way to the states – H&M, Zara, Mango, Jigsaw, etc.  I find myself sad when I read through UK magazines, that I no longer have immediate access to the those great shops.  So, I decided to gather some websites together!

A great site for researching London shopping is Street Sensation.  In fact, I can recall looking through this site before I even left, years ago.  The site actually has live photos of the streets, which has been fun for me in retrospect, as I can virtually walk my old commute from Sloane Square, a mile down King’s Road to my job at Halpern.  In fact, you can even see my office!

While in London, I spent the first month hitting the Starbucks by my apartment.  The coffee was 10 times more delicious than what they sold in the states.  I found out, however, that the reason my mochas were so yummy was because I was not requesting “skinny” drinks, meaning I was getting whole milk.  Soon after I swapped to Coffee RepublicCosta Coffee was another favorite.

The first store I hit up was Harrod’s, for obvious reasons.  Then came Harvey Nichols.  I couldn’t afford to buy much at either store, but the food halls were amazing.  Also, I credit the boy at the YSL counter at Harrod’s for introducing me to YSL Touché Eclat and Clarins Beauty Balm, which I still use.

My next stop was the flagship Topshop store on Oxford.  I still miss that place.  Nearby I would hit up H&M, HMV, Zara and French Connection.  I can recall seeing Kylie Minogue’s “Love At First Sight” video while waiting in line at Topshop and I totally fell in love with her.  And, my first name starts with a ‘K” and I totally wanted her earring.  That song still reminds me of the store.

I would often walk from my apartment to Kensington high street, using the small back streets.  It was upscale, with cute shops, and it was quiet.  When I’d emerge on the high street I’d hit up shops like Selfridges, Jigsaw, Dune, Muji, Whistles, Monsoon, Oasis and Warehouse.  An intersecting street, Church, had a cute shops including Office, Sweaty Betty and a super awesome shoe store.

On the way home, I would often go to Oddbins, which was on the corner of my street.  Before leaving abroad, I had read “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” and always wondered what this “Oddbins” she spoke of was about.  The guys at the store would always get on my case because I called it a liquor store.  “We’re a WINE SHOP.”  I’d buy cases of Australian chardonnay, which was delicious and dirt cheap.

Down the street was Boot’s, which essentially filled the same needs as Rite Aid or Long’s back home.

When commuting home from work, I would always shop along King’s Road, which remains one of my favorite streets in the city.  There were some great stationery shops, the UK is known for beautiful paper products.  Peter Jones was on the corner just outside of my tube stop, although I rarely went in.  Other favorites were Joseph and Habitat, where I bought a lot of stuff for my apartment.

Aside from lots of shopping at the Portobello Market and small stores in Notting Hill, I also liked the following stores:

Net-A-Porter Asks Me To “Shop The New 80’s” – I Say, “If You Insist”

February 26, 2009

I have a love-hate thing for Net-a-Porter, that evil luxury web retailer who lures me in with beautiful designer clothes and teases me with fantastic sales. For the record, I HAVE shopped the site before (I’m in debt for a reason, after all) and, if you can afford it, I highly recommend their sales.

I received an email this morning asking me to “shop the new 80’s.” The 80’s were bad enough for fashion the first time around. Granted, I was age 1-10 during the 80’s, but I’ve seen enough photographs and movies to make this claim with complete confidence. That said, I enjoyed some of the 80’s revivals seen on the spring and fall runways, and I figured I could pull a few pieces worthy of 2009.

From the site’s edited picks:

I’m blazer-obsessed, and I would love a white blazer. I know, it’s a bit Miami Vice, but I like it. And McCartney is known for her brilliant tailoring when it comes to suiting. Stella McCartney blazer, $1,795.

I love heels, I love them high, and I love them loud. These super bright stilettos would be awesome with jeans and a white tee-shirt, or paired with a great black dress. I WANT THEM. Alexander McQueen patent platform pumps, $860.

I’m loving the floaty skirt paired with the leather bodice. I also love that it’s short. Kova & T one-shoulder dress, $510.

I adored this dress on the runway and when Gwyneth wore it. This is one of the few sweetheart necklines, a huge trend for spring, that I actually liked. Stella McCartney dress, $2,595.

I decided to pick a few items of my own that I felt represented the “new 80’s.” Items that I would wear, that is.

A skinny pair of jeans that hit at the ankle are a must, and the zipper adds a screaming 80’s element. Stella McCartney ankle zip jeans, $325.

I am loving this metallic-treated bomber jacket; it’s totally updated Top Gun. Rick Owens jacket, $2,500.

Throwing some neon into the mix, this Marni suede bag is HOT. Marni suede frame bag, $1,090.

The cork sole on this shoe made me think of a updated Candie’s mule. Pedro Garcia leather sandals, $475.

Normally I would not be attracted to this dress (too loud), but I found myself oddly drawn to it. I love the color, it hints at neutral red/navy blue and it would be cute alone or paired with jeans. MCQ dress, $415.

I tend to like my jewelry big or dainty – kind of how I like my shoes flat or sky-high. This necklace feels bad-ass, I love it. ACB tiered fringe necklace, $300.

Another McCartney blazer, this one extra long with cool, elongated lapels. Stella McCartney silk blazer, $2.055.

This reminded me of a Lite-Brite. Remember those? See by Chloé bag, $640.

All Images: Net-a-Porter

Old Trends Are New, New Trends Are Old

February 23, 2009

I was looking through some old photos and I ran across this shot a friend took one night while we were getting ready to go out.  And it made me wonder……is anyone wearing these hippie, embroidered, peasant tops anymore?  I feel like I never see them, and I love them.  I miss them.

I say we stage a comeback.  Who’s with me?

How Do You Shop?

February 11, 2009



As a visual merchandiser, I am constantly aware of how people interact within retail spaces. What I love about visual is the dynamic between the creative and analytical elements. Making a store or a display look “pretty” and compelling is great, but there are other considerations. Following are just a few:

  • What does the product assortment look like?
  • Are there promotions to be dealt with?
  • What are the adjacencies?
  • How will the customer interact with the product itself and what amount of employee engagement can be expected?
  • Is there stock to support the presentation needs across the store fleet?
  • How will the product interact with any POS signage?

And, perhaps most importantly, how does The Customer shop? This will vary by customer demographics and the product, naturally, but there are overlapping strategies used by most retailers. For example, most of you are probably aware of the concept of impulse buys, lower price-point product that is customarily displayed near the cash wrap/register. I challenge you to find a store that does not execute this strategy. It could be a Target, Chevron, Gap or Chanel boutique, there WILL be something near the register designed to catch your eye.

End caps (the ends of aisles, essentially) are a hot spot for vendors, who pay big bucks for the space in grocery stores and mass merchants such as Target/Costco. Have you ever noticed that tortillas are ALWAYS merchandised on a non-dominant end cap at the end of the aisle featuring “International” foods?

The same goes for eye-level merchandising, and you’ll notice that this remains consistent by vendor across all retailers, and it’s usually driven by price-point. Large food manufacturers, for example, can afford to buy this space for their mid-range product. Higher price-point items within the same category will be found above eye level, with lower priced items nearer the floor. The same goes for alcohol. When retailers develop their own competitive “generic” brand – as Target has with many products – they will merchandise those items alongside the brand name goods.

I once had an interview at Gap, Inc. for a visual manager job for Old Navy Baby. After meeting my interviewer in the lobby, I was immediately taken a few flights up, to a lonely corner, and placed in front of an open grid wall. Behind me were two rolling racks of spring samples for boys and girls.

“Pull something together,” I was told. I had an hour.

As someone who eagerly watches shows like Top Chef and Project Runway, after this interview I had a new-found appreciation for how difficult it is to execute a challenging task in a short period of time. The hour felt like 5 minutes. My process went something like this: I took stock of the samples I had to work with, there were some assortments but only a piece of each, so I would not be able to bulk anything out. I figured they probably worked on the same grid walls to develop their visual standards for stores, so I tried to determine how they went about this. Do they coordinate outfits or split items by category or color? I hadn’t been to an Old Navy in ages and hadn’t had the time to hit up a store before the interview. I opted to merchandise by coordinating items, including accessories.

He wasn’t impressed. But, he was kind of a bitch and I didn’t want the job that much, so it was a win-win. An experience, at the very least!

I’ve lately become more and more intrigued with color. In my current position, I do quite a bit of merchandising my color, although I have fought against it with some categories as I don’t feel it makes sense with how the customer shops. These can be difficult determinations to make, and as I said above, it greatly depends on the customer demographic.

For example, take American Apparel. They merchandise by color within particular styles. Stores like Banana Republic tend to split out their merchandising by theme or collection, with a focus on newer, on-trend items at the front of the store. A department store may not have the same flexibility as they often are required to split out merchandising by vendor/designer. Within a designer boutique, like Marc Jacobs, however, you may see all items merchandised by color

American Apparel

Marc Jacobs

Banana Republic

With some categories, it makes absolutely no sense to merchandise by color; such as books or vinyl. It would look pretty, but talk about a nightmare for the customer. CVS does not merchandise all eye-shadows together by color, as customers will customarily be looking for a particular brand before a certain color.

I’m still waiting to see a grocery store merchandise produce by color, I think that would be beautiful AND customer-friendly.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on how you shop. Are you fairly observant or do you keep your head down and focus on what you’re after? Does a beautiful window or interesting merchandising enhance your perception of a brand? Any hang-ups or pet-peeves about retailers?

J Crew, You Slay Me

February 4, 2009

By now you should all know that I am the biggest J Crew whore in the Universe. I’ve had a fairly easy time staying away for the past few months, due in large part to my budget focus, but also because they’ve been trying to push through their inventory and it’s been the same, tired product.

No longer! When I got my J Crew catalog last week I just about died. I was tempted to grab a thick Sharpie marker to start circling my wants (old habits die very hard). Instead, I shoved the catalog into my work bag while muttering the mantra: “I will not shop, I will not shop, I will not shop.”

I finally looked through it this morning, and decided to try an experiment. Instead of heading to their website and filling up my cart, I would instead share everything I want – get it out of my system – and wait for it all to be marked down.

Icon Trench

I’m a big believer that every woman should have a trench in her wardrobe. They are universally flattering and classic. I own two, one khaki and one black, both from Banana Republic. I’ve had them both for ages. My khaki trench is cute, but the fabric is very stiff and I’ve been hatching a plan to buy a new one for years. My black trench has been through some rough times; a few years back I unknowingly tossed a cigarette into my back seat and it burned a small hole into one of the sleeves. Luckily, mt seamstress was able to relocate the sleeve buckles to cover up the flaw.

J Crew’s icon trench mimics the classic styling of London Fog coats (which, I have tried – and failed – to find on eBay….I’ve bought 4 and had to resell them all). It’s not too forward, but it still feels modern. I like that it’s double-breasted, it’s a good length and, if I know J Crew at all, the quality is likely good.

Tissue Boyfriend V-Neck Tee

I’ve been hunting for a good alternative to American Apparel cotton tee-shirts.  White v-neck tees are so perfect for layering and I love pairing them with dressier items.  I customarily buy kids tees (Hanes) but they are always so thick and too short.

Merino Michelle V-Neck Cardigan

I already own this in black and love it.  It’s currently marked down but I am sure they will bring the price down more.  I am digging the glazed pecan color.

Silk Contrast Tunic

Paired with the right accessories this is so Chanel.

Molten Metallic Tank

I bought a lamé tank in silver last year that I’ve really liked wearing.  Although it’s a bit bulky, so I am liking this more slender version.

White Denim Flare Jean

I am desperately in need of white jeans.  I try to avoid buying classic trousers if I can avoid it, as I never wear them outside of work and prefer to wear white or black jeans to the office.  J Crew pants don’t typically work very well with my figure, but I like this flared jean so I might give them a try.

Wool Crepe One-Button Blazer

I’m in the market for another blazer; I’ve typically worn Theory blazers, but my last two have fallen apart (an elbow on each wore down and split open) so I am moving away from those.  Wool blazers are ideal for California cool weather.  They’re not too heavy and are great for layering.  I prefer one-button style blazers that are on the longer side, as that proportion seems to work well with my body.  I am loving the charcoal color!  It would look great with white jeans.

Leather Capri Sandals

I buy these flip flops every year, in whichever color is on sale.  I have them in leather, velvet, zebra-printed horse hair, you name it.

Chiffon Whitney Long Dress

Alright, I don’t need this.  At all.  But, talk about Grecian Goddess!  It’s beautiful!  If I were getting married, I would wear this in a minute, and at $325 it’s a steal for a wedding dress.

I like it in the graphite color.

Rimini Vachetta Flat Sandal

My old pair of J Crew gladiator-style sandals are in a sad state.  These would be a cute replacement.

Erica Cotton Cady Dress

I don’t know why, but I feel that I must own this.  The bodice is gorgeous, and I love the spiced wine color, which I can easily take into fall.  For spring, it will look fantastic with turquoise accessories and maybe a denim jacket.

Café Capri

I bought these last year in black and ended up returning them because I have two pairs of skinny black jeans I wear all the time.  Also, this “Audrey” style pant can often feel played out.  However, for the spring, I might consider buying this pant in the stone color.  For work.

Pintuck Dress

This dress pretty much sums up what I live in at home during the spring and summer.  I LOVE mini dresses, as I am 5’6″ with long legs and NO torso, so it’s a shape that works very well on me.  I always pair mini dresses with flats – never heels.  I would wear this with a pair of gladiator flats and a denim jacket.  I wish I were wearing it now….

Pearl Garden Bracelet

I adore J Crew’s over-sized bracelets.  I like my jewelry to be dainty or BIG.  And, I like that they’ve used the traditional pearl and amplified it into a large cluster dangle.

And, there it is!  That was nowhere near as satisfying as shopping, but it helped.

All Images: J Crew

Deep Markdowns Draw Consumers Out Into Dreary Weather For Last-Minute Shopping

December 20, 2008

Image: Veer

I work for a nationwide specialty retailer.  And I can tell you, the desperation is palpable.  As a visual merchandiser, my busiest time is usually from August through October, when I am working on holiday.  This year, November and December have been hell.  We are changing up merchandising and promotions so much it makes my head spin; I can only imagine what it’s doing to our store staff and customers.

We’re not alone, it seems.  All retailers, from big box stores to luxury brands are discounting, and discounting BIG time.

Macy’s Inc., the second-largest U.S. department-store chain, is offering $800 sapphire or ruby and diamond rings for $249 during part of the day. Gap Inc.’s Banana Republic chain is advertising clothing for as much as 60 percent off. A $2,100 Marc Jacobs dress was listed at $629.95 on Saks Inc.’s Web site.

“This year, you have many retailers just trying to clear inventory to raise cash rather than to achieve highest profit,” said Linda Tsai, a retail analyst at MKM Partners LLC. “It has the potential to create havoc for retail and considerable bargains for consumers over the next few weeks.”

Source: Bloomburg

Inventory is, quite possibly, the most difficult issue for retailers.  How much do you buy?  How assorted?  What kind of agreements and minimum buys have you negotiated with vendors?  Trust me, it’s not easy.

The winners are consumers.  Yes, people are losing their jobs by the thousands and many more are cutting back.  But, it is the holiday season, and there are gifts to be purchased.  Thankfully, there are major deals to be found.

Personally, I did no shopping this year.  David and I are not buying for one another, he took care of the gifts for his family, and I only need to buy a $100 gift certificate for my dad, whose name I pulled for my family.  I didn’t even send out holiday cards this year, which I always do.  I think it’s partly the state of our economy, and also the fact that I have been busy; starting this blog, working, etc.

How about you?  Are you still wrapping up your holiday shopping or are you all done?

Holiday Gift Giving

December 12, 2008

It seems that everyone is trying to rein in their spending this holiday season. Even with retailers in mark-down mode, consumers are feeling the pinch of the recession. Not only that, but when so many people are losing their jobs and struggling financially, it becomes hard to justify spending loads of money on holiday gifts.

I’ve collected some tips I believe will be useful for those hoping to keep a tighter lid on their spending this December.

Tip One – Get Your Family/Friends/Partner On Your Side

My family ditched traditional Christmas gifting a few years back, when I was in my early twenties. We now each draw names and place a limit on how much we spend. Two years ago it was $250. This year it is $100. And yes, even children are included.

Ditto with friends. If you’ve traditionally exchanged gifts with your girlfriends, suggest gathering for a pre-holiday dinner or potluck. Rent corny holiday movies, bake cookies and drink cheap champagne. Anything that takes the pressure off buying gifts for one another.

Striking a No Gift Deal is easiest with a partner. I’m 29 and David is 30. We’re not buying gifts for one another this year. It’s not necessary. Then again, I don’t place much weight on holiday/birthday or (god forbid) Valentine’s Day gifts. I am lucky to have a boyfriend who brings me flowers on a random Tuesday night. I don’t need a box of candy on February 14th to know he loves me.  Trust me, it’s easy. And, if you feel you must do something – how about opening an ING Savings account and agreeing to deposit money each month to save up for a vacation?

Tip Two – Food, Food, Food

Yes, I know that everyone eats too much during the holidays. However, I am not much of a “crafts” person, so if I make something homemade, you can bet it will be edible. Skip the usual cookie/fudge/fruit cake route and try something new and different. Try making some fruit preserves or create soup mixes, adding beans and herbs and rice with instructions to throw in some vegetables and water. The great thing about these gifts is that you can add on a small, inexpensive coordinating item. For example, a wooden spoon paired with the soup mix, or a cute monogrammed mug with a homemade hot chocolate mix.

Tip Three – Those Who Can’t Give, Write

Instead of buying gifts, buy a few boxes of holiday cards, a roll of stamps and stretch out your fingers. But, for the love of baby Jesus, no printed out “What’s Been Up With Us” novellas. No one reads them.

Tip Four – (Almost) Everyone Likes Music

If you have decent taste in music or your family or friends are always asking you to load up their iPod, then you’re in luck. A great (and cheap) option for holidays gifts is to create a holiday CD mix for everyone on your list. If you need some inspiration, hit up NPR’s music blogPitchfork.

Tip Five – Follow The Passion

Every Christmas growing up, my grandmother would stuff my stocking full or art supplies. I LOVED to draw. So does my boyfriend. Last year for Christmas I gave him a sketchbook and a Micron. Simple, useful, and cheap.

Almost everyone is passionate about something – cooking, cycling, fashion – you name it. Pinpoint your gift recipient’s passion and buy them something small and nice that will get a lot of use. Trust me, it will be appreciated.

Gift Ideas Under $15

Featured Vendor – Orange Art
Their Brookfield Letterpress square notes are great for the home or office. I use these at work and at home. They are a great upgrade from your run-of-the-mill post-it note. Cards are square and printed with a letterpress icon. Bonus: they come in a square box that is entirely giftable.

Featured Vendor – Powell’s
If you’ve never had a chance to visit Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, you can certainly peruse their extensive website. I recommend the Staff Recommendations. I am also a big fan of supporting local bookstores. This also guarantees less hassle if the book needs to be returned or exchanged.

Featured Vendors – Bonny Doon, RH Philips
You can find many, many wonderful wines for under $15. In fact, you can find a great value for under $10. I am partial to California wines and recommend RH Philips Tempranillo and Bonny Doon Big House Red or White for gift giving. The wine editors at the Wall Street Journal recommend South American wines, especially those from Chile. Check out their articles here.

Featured Vendor – Cavallini
It kind of bums me out that no one gives calendars as gifts these days. And, I’m not talking the cheesy wall calendars you can pick up at the mall. I love giving Cavallini easel desk calendars as they are useful for referencing dates, compact, sophisticated and nearly everyone has a desk, right?

Featured Vendors – Stumptown, Peet’s
Along with wine, this makes a great gift for anyone who loves their caffeine. Buy them a pound, ground or whole bean, and call it done. Try your best to find a local brewer with decent beans. If you can’t, I recommend ordering from Peet’s or Stumptown.

Home Accents & Hostess Gifts
Featured Vendor – CB2
Buying a unique (albeit cheap) home accent can be fun. A vase or some cool glasses. Take your pick. I have linked to CB2’s gift giving page.

I recommend Paper Source and Papyrus for great wrap and ribbon.

The Tempation Hot List

December 12, 2008

I’m not entirely sure what compels me to spend beyond my means. And by this I mean, what psychological mis-firings occur in my brain. I am not trying to excuse away pure indulgence and irresponsibility, but I’ve always been curious about this in my particular case. I will likely get into my mental issues later; for now, let’s focus on my spending weaknesses. The Usual Suspects.


This goes without saying. The purchasing does seem to occur in ebbs and flows, however. I have plenty, PLENTY of clothes. I have an entire closet-full of rejects waiting to be listed on eBay. I leave clothes and shoes laying all around the house, much to my boyfriend’s dismay. I GIVE clothes away. If a friend loves something and I don’t love it as much, I’ll let her have it.

Sales are not a huge issue for me, unless it’s J Crew and they’ve marked their sale merchandise down an additional percentage.

I buy equally online and brick & mortar. I’m a sucker for buying shit while traveling, “I’ll never be able to find this anywhere else!” I am not very good at the “give it a day to think it over” method. I can’t even wait few moments to think it over.

This is definitely my largest expenditure, followed closely by,


I love to cook, I love to eat out, I love to entertain and I love to drink. This is a toxic combination for anyone with spending problems. Granted, all of these things can be done for cheap, and all can be done for….not so cheap. I generally bounce back and forth (landing more frequently on the not so cheap side).

Thanksgiving was last week. We hosted 20 people in our small house. Even with the help of family I overdrew my checking account.

This is a BIG one for me.


I devour magazines and love books. I spent an embarrassingly large sum at the bookstore the other day buying the latest Italian Vogue and cookbooks. And I still feel awful about it. Kind of.


I like to blame this one on my friends who all moved so far away. Really, though, when my boyfriend and I travel with our respective families, they pay for flights/meals. We’re spoiled. This does not change the fact that I spend WAY too much money at (and en route to) our destination. Beginning with that stack of magazines from the SFO Hudson News.

Random Shit I Convince Myself I Need

This is a catch-all that can include anything from Pantone books to yoga mats.