On Monday, my fifth day in the city, I hopped on BART at Glen Park and went downtown to do my tourist duty. Conveniently, the weather really sucked, but I was unfazed. Instead of doing the prudent thing, I skipped the waterproof overcoat in favor of a flimsy umbrella. I found myself ducking into alcoves and under oversized awnings – and at 10 when the stores opened, right into their hushed solitude.
I browsed a handful of stores we don’t have in Florida:
Porsche Design = attractive, simple leather goods, shoes, and sportswear. Cross between Y-3 and Prada Linea Rossa (Sport). High frequency of logos (-).
Barney’s = icier service than I’ve experienced at other Barney’s stores…and, in my humble opinion, not enough of a range of styles and prices in men’s contemporary or designer. Or maybe everything I liked was too expensive and everything else was uninspiring. It could definitely be that. The store does include a Valextra counter, though, and for that I love it.
Emporio Armani = wonderful store (vaulted ceilings, columns, interesting rack layout), but similar to Porsche design – lots of logos and not terribly exciting clothes. Mostly made in Italy (+).
John Varvatos = warm, inviting store with friendly staff…clothes are great although the black and gray racks are the only ones that really excite me. I try to like Star USA but the JV Collection just feels more luxe and worth the dough.
and Goyard = hand-painted French trunks and leathergoods – only available in-store at a handful of boutiques worldwide. Lots of knockoffs were swirling around Manhattan a couple of years ago. Still beautiful though – I’d get an orange card case…
Once I’d had enough of what I can’t afford, I headed over to Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom to browse a bit more accessible pieces. Found a Burberry Prorsum red plaid wool peacoat that my friend just bought in New York – on sale for $1,500. So much for accessible! Great item, though, with great details.
My experience downtown, designer and non, accurately summarizes my feelings: something about the accessibility of “modern contemporary” brands, and everything above and below them, is unappealing to me.
With the discount e-tailing boom (Gilt, ideeli, rue la la), formerly exclusive/niche brands have grown to such visibility and popularity in both the discount and mainstream retail world that they are carried almost everywhere, which means brands have to produce more, faster. Quality cannot be consistent through these changes; my buying and browsing experience is irrefutable evidence. Meanwhile, their price points remain unchanged or even increased. In essence you’re paying more for something that is less and less unique every day. To boot, logos are still very popular with many brands, which I flatly don’t understand. Do people still want to flaunt a pony logo or “EA” monogram on their polo shirts? Logos immediately turn me off.
It’s no wonder that legit fashion connoisseurs are creating and choosing niche, local brands more and more – brands that allow them greater control over quality, durability, and the origins of their clothing. Everyone has to make these choices for themselves – I figure many people do not give it a thought – because spending $85 for a tee shirt from Diesel, made in China, likely to shrink or stretch out, is unacceptable. Getting that shirt on sale for $40 is only marginally better.
In any case, once I do have the cavernous bank account to do some damage, I will head straight to the Dior Homme store in Union Square…