11 April, 2010
I'm really excited to have this new open-dialogue with you, readers. It feels so legit! Based on your emails and comments in response to my "Retail for Real" blog earlier this week, I have some more informational posts in the works for you, in which we'll focus more in-depth on the vintage market. If you have any more specific questions on this topic or others- feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll do my best to accommodate all of the requests.
I just have to keep reminding myself that every single day is a precipice of possibility. The possibility of getting everything I have ever wanted. So in the meantime, I just wanted to share this sweet little song with you guys. The video leaves something to be desired, but I like Kat Edmonson's voice here, and the lyrics are so full of optimism- something I frequently lack and often need more of. Just bare with me for the next few days while I navigate my next move... Literally. Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it. Stay tuned... :)
09 April, 2010
07 April, 2010
Anyway, I have this t-shirt...
I wear the heck out of it. It's just so easy and worn-in and soft and cozy. I run my errands in it, I pretend to exercise in it, I sleep in it... Yes, sometimes all in the same day (calm down, I'm a working mother- that stuff is tiring). I don't give it a lot of thought, and no one ever mentions it, and at this point it's just "the shirt".
Well, I've got a little story for you...
Evelyn and I were in line to pay for books at Barnes and Noble recently with around half a dozen people in front of us. Suddenly a pudgy clerk, in his thirties came out from behind the counter, walked straight to us and said: "Congratulations on successfully combining motherhood with a Sonic Youth t-shirt. You win, move to the front of the line." I laughed uncomfortably (because that's my typical response to strangers talking to me), and said: "Thanks" fully expecting him to walk away. No. He was completely serious. He took the books out of my hands and led me to the counter. People were confused and irritated. I heard a lady mumble: "Are you kidding me?". I made my way to the front of the line, both flattered and humiliated; but the clerk was so pleased with himself and genuinely happy that I couldn't help but smile. It was oddly adorable. He even gave Evelyn a candy for being the daughter of a once-semi-cool-kid-come-mother-come-anti-laundry-old-band-t-shirt- wearing-book-maven.
Yay, nerds! :)
05 April, 2010
Women love clothes, and young women especially tend to think of the fashion industry as glamourous, and beautiful and I don't know what... so when I tell people I'm a buyer for women's clothing, the immediate response is usually: "Wow!" "Awesome!" "Lucky..." or "Fun". Oftentimes I wonder what they're imagining my work to be... I try to think about it from an outside perspective and wonder, what would I imagine a "buyer" does all day? I can't. I've been up to my eyeballs in this business since I was 14 years old, working as a gopher and retail slave -girl for two years before wriggling my way into "Buyer's Assistant" at 16 (which, cool job title aside, was exactly the same job). It's impossible for me, therefore, to have any remotely unbiased views of this life or to relate at all to the countless girls that seek it out. Am I jaded? Not unless I started out that way. My opinions of, and interest in fashion are so deeply ingrained, they're hard-wired.
My mother sourced and sold vintage couture. I grew up reading "W", "Vogue", and French "Elle" like they were nursery rhymes. I understood the nuances of "cuts" and "lines" while most girls my age were still dressing their Barbies in poly-blend. This may seem smug, but it's really the opposite of that. I didn't know any better. I had no idea that it was any big deal until I was helping squeeze Salma Hayek into a Norma Kamali boneless corset dress at 15 and said: "Well, it's all in the structure- her couture is influenced by architecture and swimwear of the 1940's, so it's really structured, without being restrictive. Flattering without being overt, you know? She sews you in and holds you there with these incredible dual-purpose fabrics, so you don't need the boning!" Salma looked at me like I was possessed, and then she bought the nearly $4,000 gown. My imminent promotion followed soon after. This was my "Oh, I'm not normal"-moment.
The thing is, I knew so much about fashion by the time I went to college, that I couldn't have cared less if I ever went near the industry again. I lusted after the cuts and lines of industrial architectects rather than the cuts and lines of couturiers. Fashion was family, and home, and fall-back, and meh... it wasn't going anywhere. Inevitably I went back to it, simply because it came easily, it was what I knew and I knew it well. I went from gopher, to assistant, to buyer, to store owner and I can tell you- there's not a ton of differences between the four other than money; who's making it, who's spending it, and who's paying it out. Of all those little hats, the one that fit me best was buyer. I make my own hours, I work alone, and the better I buy- the more I earn. The best part is, as I get older, I buy better, I buy smarter and it just gets easier and easier. The worst part is, I'm not challenged, except by my own morals.
You see, there is a new breed of consumer- someone who grew up on Claire's, Forever 21, and polyester prom dresses. They want more and more for less and less, and they don't care where it's made or how- so long as it's cheap and trendy. What's more disheartening is the fact that we (in the industry) are kow-towing to this woman. We're supporting disposable trends, and unethical manufacturing simply to meet the demands of debt-ridden consumers whom either don't know any better, or don't care. But it's cute? That dress you're purchasing at a bargain price was made of cheap, synthetic fabric, dyed with hazardous chemicals and some (illegal in this country) pesticides thrown in for good shipment. But it looks okay to you? It was probably sewn in a filthy sweatshop by a worker paid an unfair wage. There is nothing to be proud of in that prom photo, dear. Your dress is shit and it will fall apart on you. In fact, it's likely something will go wrong with it by the end of the night. Got a deal on your bridesmaid's dresses? Bad manufacturing doesn't bode well for the chicken dance, sister. You're better off having just one bridesmaid and buying her a decent ensemble. Better yet, buy vintage. The fabrics and tailoring are incomparable. Try the touch test. Vintage satin vs. today's cheap but oh-so-shiny and wrinkle-free impostor-satin...
I mention the satin, in particular because I'm fresh off of buying for prom season and to my shock, I found the most incredible silk satin dresses by Joseph Walker. These feel like the vintage couture I know and love. These are the real deal- or as close to the real deal as you're likely to find for the price. Retailing for around $200 they blow the competition out of the water (*ahem* Jessica McClintock *cough,cough*). Even his palette is inspired and tasteful. There is nothing of the garish brights and neo-neons that pop up in nearly every showroom, nearly every Spring. Particularly, his pinks and greens... A subdued, and slightly greyed pink that just looks grown-up and beautiful and an absolutely sumptuous jade green; something universally flattering but oft overlooked. Furthermore, consumers, you're not actually saving on anything- here's a little fashion industry secret... YOU'RE BEING SWINDLED BY BARGAIN PRICED CRAP! Retailers know what prices you're used to, what prices you're immune to, and what you consider a "deal". The less they pay for the goods, the more they make off of you. Think they're passing savings onto you? Absolutely not. The "savings" are built into their profit margins, not passed on to the consumer. In other words, the less they pay, the more they profit. Is there a trendy little shop in your town that seems to ALWAYS have a sale going on? They actually don't... they're simply buying a dress for $10 pricing it at a 5.0 margin (WELL above industry standards). They then mark the dress at 50% off and you're thinking "Wow, I'm getting such a great deal", when in reality, they're profiting off of your trust and making more than they would on a higher priced, quality garment sold at full MSRP (a 2.3 margin). There is no bargain, my friends. The sale price was a farce and that damn dress will fall apart in a few months. Which just opens up a whole other can of worms... false economy, consumer culture, mass waste, etc. On this topic, the moral is this- hang on to your mother's and your grandmother's clothing; these are the items worth their salt, these are the items worth keeping and handing down to your daughters. Expect to pay more for items made ethically and appreciate quality craftsmanship. Have we forgotten what this is? With Levi's now made of varying materials in varying countries, two identical pairs of style 501 you've worn forever (and in the exact same size) will now vary by up to 3 inches in length and 2.5 inches in the waist. The washes and finishes will have no consistency and the cut and feel will most likely be unrecognizable.
Inevitably, potential buyers think that this job is about style, trends, and getting clothing at cost. On style... Of course style is a key factor in maintaining relevance, moving merchandise and longevity in this job. I'm not sure if this factor is innate, it's a bit of an x-factor- but it's also about influence, and inspiration. On trends... This aspect of my job is really the science part of it, and again a bit of x-factor for good measure. Trends are about picking up on little clues and subtle cues in the collective consciousness. They are about understanding the motion and force of fashion from Asia, to Europe to America's East coast, to California, and back to Asia again. It's about the trickle-down effect of Haute couture to Prêt-à-Porter to up-market, to mass production. And once you understand all that, it's about timing. Computer-generated analysis of markets and retail analysts offer some help and take a bit of guesswork out of which departments and categories are moving well, but ultimately it comes down to your innate ability to time a given marketplace. Knowing months in advance what trends will hit at what moment and where. Will your consumers be ready? I can't tell you how many times my own timing has been off. Often as a buyer, having access to upcoming colors, collections, and designs- you're so far ahead of the collective curve that you overestimate your own clock. I've had to store away entire deliveries for months at a time, until such time as the trend hit and the consumer was ready for it.
But more and more my job is really about protecting consumers and the marketplace from bad investments, it's about shielding stores from bad reputations, and finding a happy medium between style and substance, whilst maintaining a fair price-point for desirable apparel. And clothes at cost? Yes, it's a perk. If you're interested in being a buyer, you're likely something of a clothes-horse anyway, so you'll appreciate this aspect of it. I keep waiting for the stuffed-to-the-gills closet thing to get old (it hasn't yet).
On the way back, I snapped this picture of her, because she was just so happy- skipping along, perfectly content with life, strutting down the sidewalk in her heels, talking about flowers and which houses were her favorites. It was adorable and uncharacteristically pleasant.
And then shit went down... Literally.
"What? What happened?"
"Something stung me in the ear!"
"What do you mean? A bee? Oh no! Are you alright? Let me see..."
At this point, I lifted her hair back and saw a huge dripping mass of bird shit. What I thought was: Ohhhh... shit. But what I said was: "Ohhhhh..."
"What? WHAAAAT?! WHAT IS IT?! Mommy, it's WET IN MY EAR!"
"Ummm... I think you have some bird poop there."
Cue instant tears, laughter, anger, smiling, and hysterics. Simultaneously (because she's my child).
"GET IT OFFFFFFFFFFFF!!!"
"It's not a big deal... we're almost home anyway. You can take a shower as soon as we get there."
"You don't even CARE because you're not the one that got POOPED ON!"
"Of course I care. Everyone gets pooped on at some point."
"Maybe I did before you were born."
"Maybe..." *No, not really*
"Well, what if I get rabies?"
"You can't get rabies from bird poop- they just eat little bugs and berries and worms... they don't eat rabid, gross stuff. It's all just squished berries in your hair! Probably blueberries."
"MOM! You don't know about rabies because they don't have rabies in Hawaii! I know all about them! It was probably a vulture that pooped on me because it ate an old dead animal with rabies and now it's in my hair and in my EAR! Birds have rabies in their stomachs! RABIES, not BLUEBERRIES! I read a book called "All About Rabies" by John McCain."
"John McCain, huh?"
"Well, maybe it was William... Mc...M'Hale...john...cain... SOMETHING! Anyway, I read it and I know all about it, and I have it!"
"You're sending pictures of the poop to people, aren't you?"
Please note in the above photo: The opened package of paper towels (used in my attempt to clean bird poop off of her), and the opened package of vanilla wafers (used in my attempt to console her with sugar).
All swallowed in their coats
With scarves of red tied around their throats
To keep their little heads
From falling in the snow
And I turned around and there you go
And, Michael, you would fall
And turn the white snow red as strawberries
In the summertime
Thanks Vice. Thanks Darby.
Contemporary female fashion has reached a nadir unseen since Chinese foot binding and artificial cranial deformation. The third millennium, for whatever reason, has spurred clothing designers and the women who buy their wares to completely eschew the basic principles of aesthetics in lieu of the conceptual. It has been happening for quite some time on the runways, but I believe this is the first instance in history where utility and attractiveness have quite literally been chucked out the window in the name of fashion-forward pipe dreams.
All it takes is a stroll down a busy street of any major metropolitan city to see what I’m talking about. Women, it seems, have been erroneously convinced that it is OK to ignore what actually looks good on their bodies and purchase (or, at the very least, desire) clothing that stimulates their brains in a way that makes them think, “Oh, wow, I can’t actually believe they sell something like this and that I had the audacity to buy it. LOOK AT ME, WORLD!”
Well, ladies, here is my take on why a large portion of you dress poorly. And, just in case you’re wondering, the reason I am qualified to talk about this is because I have eyes, a penis, and a preference for things that look flattering without explanation. Take that, you fucking eye-rapers.
Is there a FUPA epidemic at the moment? Have they added an additional ingredient to fluoridated water that reacts with estrogen, which has resulted in an increased incidence of overly inflated guts and unsightly muffin tops? This is the only logical reason I can surmise for the current popularity of drop-crotch pantaloons and jodhpurs outside of equestrienne settings. What kind of woman can try these on, look in the mirror, and wholeheartedly believe she looks good in them? And don’t even get me started on the fags who’ve appropriated these for men. About the only thing these pants have going for them is that they illicit entertaining rhetorical questions. Here are a few more inquiries you can direct toward drop-crotch-wearing weirdos a la Al Jaffee’s Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, except the pants are a stupid answer and your question is snappy (or something like that): Might you have a penis that you are trying to hide? Do you enjoy inconspicuously shitting your pants? Are you incubating a joey in there? Was the impetus for this style a person who tried to wear a shirt as pants? When you fart with these on, does the stench get trapped in there? Are you Aladdin?
Zany Alexander McQueen Shoes and All That They Have Inspired
If these are the type of unwearable apparel this guy was making while he was alive, I don’t think humanity is going to miss him very much after the barnacles and leeches have sucked dry the PR collateral of his untimely passing. Oh, am I being harsh? Too bad. These shoes are fucking harsh, as in they will jar your senses when you try to walk in them and end up gashing your forehead open on a staircase. I’m all for women wearing high heels (because it makes their asses look nice and lengthens their legs—two utilitarian AND attractive concepts I can thoroughly get behind), but shoes are arguably the most important and functional article of clothing. What’s the point if they make you walk like a giraffe who just huffed ethanol? There isn’t one, so stop wearing these types of shoes please. They look like Spuds MacKenzie designed them using his snout as inspiration.
Big, Furry Hats
This trend seemed to begin a few years ago, and I specifically remember walking down 6th Avenue and spotting what appeared to be a woman walking with a Pekingese balancing on her head. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a hat and that she was not blind or mentally impaired. I wrote it off as a joke until a few days later when I saw another young lady—this time a loose acquaintance—wearing an even bigger puff of fur atop her melon. I laughed in her face and when she asked what I was chuckling about I pointed to her head. She frowned and became irate that I would dare make fun of her new $350 piece of headgear. I guess that’s what you get for trying to help people these days. To be clear: I am not speaking of the aviator-style hats that many men and women also seem to be donning these days. They are also ridiculous, but not nearly as idiotic as the fur-trader variety that makes the wearer look like a giant walking Q-tip. I challenge anyone to look me in the eye (or even leave a comment below) and make a good argument for why these things aren’t an elaborate, systematic prank being executed by the fashion industry. Go on, I dare you.
Jeans, by definition, are supposed to have pockets and a zipper, or a button fly. Leggings are supposed to be form-fitting garment—thicker than stockings but thinner than traditional pants—that look good with pretty much any outfit. Combining the two, you get something you’d figure only single mothers of two buy for a girl’s night out that ends with their face in a puddle of vomit and their kids demanding Cheerios at 3 AM because “Mommy woke them up.” Then, after taking a spin on your respective Champs-Élysées or Madison Avenue, you realize that even the young and supposedly chic have embraced this gruesome Frankenstein of fashion. The unholy union of these two types of pants should not only be illegal, preachers should warn against their dangers in their sermons. Breaking news: According to my sources (the internet), the latest in jeggings technology has indued them with zippers and pockets. This doesn’t change anything. Why not just wear tight-fitting jeans? There is no good answer to this question other than “Because I have no taste.”
Shorts & Tights
This matchup is the equivalent of sliding a lamb intestine over a condom. And it probably smells about the same in there, too. At first glance, it appears the logic is the same as with the droopy crotch crowd—covering up a dumper the wearer is self-conscious about. But, taking a closer look, I have seen many fine and grope-worthy butts sealed inside the musty cotton-and-lycra mausoleum of shorts on top of tights. If you’re cold, wear thicker tights or jeans or additional layers that fully cover your legs—not shorts. If you haven’t yet, ask your mom about this particular style sometime. She will say it is dumb—I promise.
If a girl has an impeccable ass, maybe, MAYYYYBEEE, she will look good in a pair of these, depending on the particular cut and style. But only, and I must stress only, if the symmetry of her butt cheeks is perfect and each half of the buttocks is separated and presented as an wonderfully oval mound of flesh. Most women, however, wear these because they believe high-waisters create an optical illusion—that their lower-belly pudge will be less noticeable if the waist of their pants is moved past their navels. Please, ladies, celebrate your squishy little bellyette (as long as you’re not obese). I like to hold on to it when I have sex with you because a) it’s a useful grip and b) it’s funny. Don’t think for a second that your pants are tricking me into thinking that your hips start right below your breasts. If they did, that would be weird, and, regardless, when you take those pants off everything’s just going to go flopping around anyway. Imagine how much more disappointed the person who sees you naked will be then.
Outfits Based on Diane Keaton Circa Annie Hall
The only way this look is OK is if you are a woman who is trying to attract Jewish momma’s boys or other women by looking more masculine than them. If you fall into either of these categories, I’m sure this works extremely well. Otherwise, put on a fucking dress please. Is it really that hard? I have to put on pants every day. Or wear some jeans or slacks or a skirt or whatever makes you feel good about your ass. I don’t care. Just leave the tie and (AGAIN!) the stupid hats at whichever stores sell ties and dumb hats to women. What’s more, lady blazers only work under very specific circumstances. I’m not going to get into those here because they should be painfully obvious. But if you frequently look like a display model at Ann Taylor Loft, chances are you should reevaluate a few things about your clothing preferences.
We’ve experienced 2,500 years of evolution since their invention and modern women are actually choosing to tromp around in the standard issue footwear of Roman legionary soldiers. Authentic caligae (their name comes from Emperor Gaius whose nickname, Caligula, translates to “little boot”) have hobnails hammered into their soles. Ladies, can you guess why one would hammer nails into the soles of sandals? Because it makes it easier to stomp babies’ faces and women who will not submit to rape. What a fashion statement you’re making by wearing them in this day and age! But seriously, besides all of that, they’re uglier than an elephant’s asshole. They were also officially trendy in 2005, so if you’re wearing them now chances are you picked them up at Payless. Also, it seems that women with cankles think they’re puling a fast one by using these as a sort of calf girdle. In reality, this tactic backfires because they make your lower legs look like a whole beef tenderloin wrapped in twine. Don’t wear them, and tell everyone you know who owns a pair to burn them and bury their remains in a cemetery.
Of course, there are many other offensive modern styles. This is but a sampling. If you feel I’ve left anything out, please call notice to the particularly offensive trend in the comments below. Thank you!"
1. "We’re so honoured to have you in our Top Ten list"
Top Ten lists are the greatest insult to celebrities and war criminals imaginable. I learned this the hard way, when a celebrity’s publicist accused me of concealing the fact the Top Ten list would also have other people in it.
2. "Of all the plastic surgeries you’ve had, which one do you regret the most?"
Living in Los Angeles, I’ve seen many alarming amendments to the human body. But stranger yet is what only the surgeon sees; for example, the performer whose over-expanded breasts are now so big that during liposuction, they were taped together to stop them falling off. I am not even going to mention the actor whose oft-lifted face finally had to be pulled down.
3. "Can I touch it?"
See above. It will always be springier than you thought and slightly clammy.
4. "God, you’re boring"
There is a reason most interviews are scheduled in hotel bars: alcohol. First, ask the following Magic Celebrity Question: You’re in amazing shape, what’s your secret? To which the star will always reply, “Wow, am I? That’s really nice of you because I never do any exercise and I live off cheese.” This question allows them to relax and open up like a tranquillized tiger. Now, simply order a pint of vodka and let them bang on about how they grew by working with the amazing Daniel Day Lewis as you imagine yourself in a better place, say, a Latvian prison vessel.
5. "So do you really eat cheeseburgers every day?"
Flannel. In fact, I’m going to deliberately spin out the interview for two hours so you are forced to actually digest the burger you just ate to impress our readers. What use puking now, Tinklebones?
6. "Would you go Full Retard?"
In the best comedy monologue in recent history, Tropic Thunder’s Robert Downey Junior, an American playing an Australian playing a black GI, explains how actors choose Oscar roles: “Everybody knows you never do a full retard… Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho'. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. Peter Sellers, "Being There." Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don't buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, "I Am Sam." Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed...’ It goes without say all actors would Go Full Retard. Actresses, however, Go Ugly, cf Rene slightly tubby as Bridget Jones or Charlize in Monster. By the time Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for ten years with Tom Cruise, sorry, for a heart-wrenching portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours, a big hooter counted as a disability. Best unsubstatiated rumour: that after producers Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin argued over whether Kidman should wear the prosthetic, Rudin sent Weinstein, who was trying to quit smoking, 1000 cartons of cigarettes with a note reading “Get cancer.”
7. "Is it true you ate human hearts?"
Are you sure you want to call him a liar?
8. "Me too, it was really nice to meet you. My number? Sure! Here it is…"
In Hollywood, this marks you out as a hopelessly naïve saddo. No one will ever call. In war zones, refugee camps, or any major conurbation known for human rights violations, use this phrase and you can expect text messages that not only cost the sender a week’s wages but contain phrases like “dd fr. malaria” and “can your government help us?”
9. "Did the President bomb a peace summit?"
I got the following official response: “He didn’t bomb the peace talks. But if he did, I think there is a reason.”
10. "Well, they’d better dig him up then!"
Just believe them when they say there’s a body down there.