Thursday, December 15, 2011

Which fictional customer would you be?

I put my knowledge of Word flowcharts (pretty non-existent, I have to admit) to good use today and made one of those magazine style personality quizzes. Kind of fun to do, actually. Who doesn't love a good stereotype? So there you go: which one of these fictional character's style of dealing with shop personnel resembles yours?

(Disclaimer: this is in no way to be taken seriously.)
(Also, sorry for the crappy design, I'm condemned to paint and word for a while.)

Rebecca Bloomwood: Safe to say you're a tad impulsive, and maybe - if sometheing particularly covetable or discounted is involved - slightly hysteric. You're easily influenced and will buy everything as long as you like it. You don't really depend on shop assistants when it comes to advice and choosing, but you are friendly with them. They are after all the gateway to consumer bliss!

Vivian Ward: You're quite shy, and not very certain of your style. You're a kind customer, albeit a little needy. You tend to ask for help rather than seek things out on your own. You need to be drawn out a bit. Cruelty or indifference really get to you, even when you're obviously way cooler than the people around you. But don't worry, all of this can easily be solved with an affluent boyfriend.

Elle Woods: People's first impression of you can lean towards 'airhead', but you're certainly no fool. You're friendly, but determined. You know exactly what you want, and you're assertive enough to call out anyone trying to bullshit you, often leaving them dazed and confused. Snaps!

Emily Gilmore: Whoa. Emily Gilmore is assertiveness on speed. You know what you want alright, and anyone trying to cross you will be exposed to true biblical wrath. Demanding might not be a synonym for mean to you, but you run a high risk of coming across quite cruel. Maybe tone it down just a little bit, and try not to take lack of professionalism as a personal insult.

I'm totally a Rebecca. How 'bout you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gent: No pause button, just Rewind

One of the things I used to love most about living in Gent was that everything was so incredibly nearby. Friends, university auditoria, cafés, 3 cinemas: all in walking distance. I never replaced my bike after it was stolen (the thief was considerate enough to leave my front wheel) in my second year at university - I had time in abundance and was walking everywhere anyway. Shopping for groceries was never just schlepping around with overstuffed bags. It was an excellent opportunity for bumping into friends and window shopping. I must have passed Rewind in the St Pietersnieuwstraat at least one time a day during the years I lived in one of the streets behind it, and went in countless times.

shopping Gent Rewind Scandinavian design

shopping Gent, Rewind, Scandinavian design

I never bought anything there, partly because I deemed it just a bit too expensive at the time, partly because sizes are a bit too small, but I have quite a few girlfriends who don't mind paying full price here. Do you remember the look on Abu's face seeing that giant ruby in the Cave of Wonders? Eyes all big and sparkly? That's exactly how you should imagine the faces of innocent girls walking into Rewind. In case you need a reminder:

Picture via, uh, here. I bumped into a nauseating hentai version of Aladdin on my search for this picture. Is NOTHING sacred to you, internet?

shopping Gent Rewind Scandinavian design

The window display is sometimes basic, sometimes a little funky. It mirrors the clothes very well: mostly sober, but very smart. Modern minimalism and all that jazz. If you're into Scandinavian style, you don't want to miss Rewind. Since they stock lots of indie brands, it's a great place to discover some new names. For instance, this is where I discovered the beautiful French label Sessùn:

shopping Gent, Rewind, Scandinavian design

The clothes differ in style (they go from plaid shirtdresses to gold sequined tops; romantic to edgy) but they're all designed with a similar aesthetic vision: slightly different from what you would expect, a lot of natural fibers and all round high quality. As for personnel, it's always the same guy behind the counter (some fashionable girls I've encountered over the years aside). He's really friendly and always ready to provide explanation or advice. Kind of the gay best friend you'd always like to accompany you on shopping trips.

shopping Gent, Rewind, Scandinavian design

shopping Gent, Rewind, Scandinavian design

shopping Gent, Rewind, Scandinavian design

Plus sizes won't easily find something here, but Rewind also sells a selection of books, music and some great accessories. It might not be extensive and fast-moving enough to qualify as a concept store, but it comes pretty close. Maybe you should see it as a nice compromise between a more classic boutique and a concept store: innovative without being too overwhelming.

shopping Gent, Rewind, Scandinavian design

shopping Gent, Rewind, Scandinavian design

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A bird's-eye view of Brussels and Gent shopping areas

I've got a ton of stores I want to talk about, but somehow don't get round to actually writing about them. So tonight, I decided to procrastinate productively and fooled around with Google Maps. I made a google map that lays out the main shopping areas in the centers of Brussels and Gent. It's not at all complete, so feel free to comment, suggest, ... I've added the stores I reviewed, so it's easy to get an oversight.

See Brussels shopping areas on a larger map

View Gent shopping areas on a larger map

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hidden treasures in exotic hippie stores

A quick glance over my blog posts teaches me that I've made a lot more posts on slightly expensive or downright luxury stores than I have on cheaper stores. Time to mix it up a little! I was recently surprised by a little store in the Donkersteeg in Gent. The Donkersteeg is not so much a street as it is an alleyway, famous with locals for hosting Mokabon, a bit of a coffee mecca. I rarely pay much attention to my surroundings here. The only time I saw something noteworthy was when I saw a man dressed in a neon disco suit and 50 cm platform heels exit one of the houses. He looked a little drunk and was supported by two friends. That is one mean prank to play on a drunk mate.

Just a few steps away is a Asian inspired shop, oozing zen and stuffed with colourful wool winter hats. This was the first time I saw they were selling dresses, and quite cute ones at that. They were by the brand Shikha, which is apparently the name of a city in the Myagdi District of Nepal. The name is seems to be the only connection to Asia, but this must have been enough for the owners of the store. The dresses were playful, simple, reminded me a bit of Modcloth. A small sample:

Cats! Who doesn't love a good cat print? This is what they look like in front of the store. Kind of a funny sight, no?

Definitely a good address for when you're in the mood for something frolicky.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Modo sales and a bracelet obsession

I'm writing this post a day late and a dollar short (quite literally). I went to the Modo Sales two weeks ago, but couldn't write about them since I was about to embark on my trip to Venice. The event takes place twice a year though, so I think it's worthwile sharing anyway.

The Modo Sales are an initiative by Modo Brussels, the organisation behind Modo Parcours (which I wrote about here) as well. Modo Brussels is doing a great job putting Brussels on the map fashion-wise. They very much increased the visibility of Brussels designers. Part of this are the sales they organise twice a year, during which designers can sell their overstock. This year sales took place on Friday the 18th & Saturday the 19th of November.

I thought I'd be smart and go during my lunch break on friday, thinking it would be less busy in the early hours. Turns out I was wrong. A lot of people were browsing, grabbing, checking labels, pulling out cash. A little too busy for my tastes. I found some dresses by Sandrina Fasoli I liked and waited what felt like an eternity in line for the dressing room to fit them. There weren't even that many people queueing, but there was only one (1!) dressing room (more like three curtains with a mirror inside). It took the middle-aged British lady in front of me forever and ever to make up her mind. She was constantly asking over one of the salespeople and asking for different sizes and his advice on this and that. He looked a little desperate by the end and couldn't help rolling his eyes to me when she called on him for the 7th time. I had trouble keeping a straight face when all I wanted to do was burst out laughing. The women behind me were seriously annoyed, though, and were muttering French curses more and more furiously as time flew by.

I rushed in and out when it was finally my turn (much to the relief of the people behind me) and returned the dresses. Their sizing was somewhat to small for me. I wanted to buy a black merino wool sweater with beautiful silver details, but a man from Sandrina told me I couldn't take it with me while I perused. I offered to take it to the register and buy it first, but much to my surprise this wasn't an option. You see, I didn't carry any cash, because the website advertised you could pay with debit & credit card. This was the first year the organisation had the option, but the designers had to sign some sort of contract for it, which the people from Sandrina Fasoli hadn't done. I was a little annoyed by this, but mostly because the guy in front of me seemed more preoccupied with upholding his artsy cool image than behaving in a customer-friendly way. Maybe it was just me.

I left the sweater behind and decided to hastely explore the back of the building. I got intrigued by the oh-so-light and gossamery jewelry of Vanessa Aerts. (She has a webshop too, so eat your heart out!) Her work is almost ethereal, but very modern and down to earth at the same time (mostly because she uses leather and modern shapes). She had some necklaces I very much liked, but I seem to have developed a slight obsession for bracelets these days and decided to buy this one:
Priced at 120 euros on the website (I paid 85). Mss Aerts was very nice and keen to help. She wrote down the amount I had to pay on one of her business cards and told me to take it to the register. On my way to pay (now very much pressed for time), I passed by Michael Guérisse O'Leary. I remembered his beautiful clutches sold by Valérie Berckmans and couldn't help taking a look. Perhaps I shouldn't have, because I saw yet another bracelet I wanted. He told me it was 20 euros (the original cost was about 60 euros) and gave me a business card as well.

My hurray-I'm-buying-pretty-things-glee soon faded away when the lady at the register told me I couldn't pay with a credit card after all, because of some or other bureaucratic problem. This would've probably pissed me off if she hadn't been so very nice and apologetic about it. Stupidly enough, the money I had on my debit card could only be accessed by internet. I had to go and tell I couldn't pay for the bracelets. Mss Aerts kindly offered to put it aside until I could come back for it, which I accepted. When I told Michael Guérisse O'Leary about my problems, he was really sympathetic. He gave me his bank account number so I could make a deposit later in the day and told me I could take the bracelet with me. I hesitated about putting this online, because people abuse kindness all too often, but it was too kindhearted a thing not to share.

Luckily, I was able to access my bank account after work, so I quickly returned to buy both bracelets. I'm a sentimental baby and I can get really touched by random acts of trust, so I stopped by the Pain Quotidien to get Michael a raspberry tartlet. That's what karma will buy you, people.

SO after all the trouble, the loot. I couldn't find a place to photograph them well, and than my eye fell on this little guy. He's an old gift from friends and you have to admit: he's quite fierce. Look at him smizing!

Yeah, I had a fantasy phase. Didn't you?

Friday, November 25, 2011

How we fall in love with clothes

In a way, buying clothes resembles starting a relationship. You might think that's crazy, but bear with me for a moment - I don't mean I make my girlfriends go ask a skirt if it will please go out with me, because, you know, I sort of like it and uhm, we might have fun, what do you think? Nor do I sit anxciously buy the phone waiting for a new coat to ring, wine and dine my shoes or do I have the habit of buying my wardrobe expensive engagement rings.

What I mean is this: shopping isn't a rational occupation - at least not for most of us. We're guided by feelings, desires, expectations and sometimes fears (how many of you don't buy certain types of clothing because you fear it will make you look fat, or certain colours because you think they wash you out?). We don't always buy the things we most need, we go for the things we want. We even make sacrifices for the clothes we most want. We watch what we eat to look pretty for them. We take care of them. We make good choices and bad. And if we're smart, we learn from our mistakes. Sounds a little like relationships, no? There are different manners in which we buy and deal with clothes, just as there are different ways to deal with men, or women, or whatever floats your boat:

The love at first sight
Once in a while you might come across a piece of clothing that strikes you as absolutely perfect. It's flawless, beautiful, flattering. It's exactly what you were looking for - or it's the piece of clothing that you didn't even know you oh so badly needed. It's the missing link in your wardrobe, even if ten seconds ago you didn't know about its existence. You might cave in and buy it immediately. If you decide to sleep over it, you will want to go back as soon as possible before anyone else snatches it up. In the meantime, you can't help imagining how you will combine it with your other treasures; how people will take notice; how it will transform or complete your style. You'll doodle images of yourself wearing it. You'll start looking it up in lookbooks and on the internet, just to verify if it really was that awesome and get convinced: yes, it was. In other words: you're style-stalking. You're trying to put yourself in the way of what you most desire. If your love is reciprocated (by which I mean: the design of the garment seems to suit your shape and size as well) and nothing gets in the way, you'll most likely cave sooner or later.

Sometimes we don't act on these flights of passion. We're too cautious or our object of affection is out of reach (too expensive, for instance). It then gets stored in our memory, surrounded by a bit of melancholy and a faint longing. The only cure for this is somehow seeing your beau again and realising it wasn't ideal after all. This happened to me quite a few times (with boys as well as clothing, to be honest): you see something back in sales or another person wearing it passes you by in the street and you can't help feeling a bit relieved and a bit mystified. (What the hell was I thinking?) I had my eye on a skirt from Mexx 5 years ago. I liked the colours (blue-ish shades) and the shape. It was bit floaty and romantic, but practical at the same time. I didn't buy it because I spent all my money on other things I needed more (I remember not having any pants anymore and buying jeans instead). Three months later I saw it on sale and noticed the fabric was already falling apart, even though nobody had worn it yet. A narrow escape!

This COS dress and I are still living our happily ever after!

The slow build-up
Some objects get more attractive over time. Maybe they're a little understated, maybe we just didn't pay much attention before. But suddenly we take notice. At first you're just a little sympathetic. You acknowledge something isn't butt-ugly. Afterwards you think it's actually nice. You may be a little surprised: why didn't I see this before?And the more you encounter the piece of clothing, the more alluring it gets. Until suddenly you realise: wait a minute, I want this. After which you go for it. The danger here is that some other woman might have taken notice before you and you are left empty handed. And maybe a little heart broken. Classic chick flick scenario. My Best Friend's Wedding, anyone?

After slowly falling in love with this Manoush dress, I managed to pick it up for 30$ - they usually retail for over 300$, so I was double lucky.

The marriage of convenience
This type of relationship isn't ubiquitous anymore - not in fashion, nor in love. How many people can honestly say they buy things only because they need them? How many women have one pair of good winter shoes, one solid winter coat, one quality purse - and not necessarily beautiful at that, but practical? (Now that I think of it, I only have one pair of winter shoes and one winter coat, but mainly because my favorite pair of boots fell apart and my second winter coat doesn't really fit anymore. Not exactly a conscious choice.) Buying items because you need them doesn't make your heart go pitter patter. They're rarely exciting. Serious, respectable, solid: yes. Delightful, enchanting, mellifluous? Not exactly. Still, this type of clothes is usually trustworthy and you might build a long-lasting quality relationship with them. If it didn't make me sound like some kind of fungus on a tree root, I would describe it as a symbiotic kind of love, based on reliability.

One word: winter anti-slip socks. Gift from my mother.

A winter sweater I bought out of pure necessity about 5 years ago. I still wear it. I mean, it sparkles!

The quickie
The quickie is pretty much the opposite of the marriage of convenience. Quickies are emergency fashion fixes. They're the items that are so hot one season they're bound to be outdated the next. You like a certain trend but don't want to invest in it? Here's your solution! Another example: apparently a lot of women regularly go outfit shopping. As in: they're going out friday night, feel like they have nothing to wear and buy a cheap but hip head-to-toe outfit. Sometimes you just feel like something new, right? And ah, fast fashion, how you come in handy. The downside to quickies in fashion (as opposed to a real quickie, may I hope, unless you're a psycho killer) is that after a while, they tend to clog the back of your closet. They can make it kind of hard to construct your own sense of style. Also, good as it may feel at the time, you might regret it afterwards.

A loyal friend tried to talk me out of this skirt, but it was 5 euros and I felt like I needed yet another skirt. I wore it once and now use it in the house on lazy days when I don't feel like wearing pants.

The 'I don't really love this, but hey, it's around'
Well, the title says it all. This kind of mindset never pays off, be it in love or in fashion. In fashion, it is often a sales related phenomenon. You might not be really into something, or it will not fit you as it should, but it's cheap(er) so you end up buying it anyway. And afterwards it will just be there, in your closet, taunting and frustrating you, because why go through the trouble if you don't end up wearing it? I have a newly instated rule: buy with conviction or don't buy at all!

I bought this Essentiel top in sale and never figured out what to do with it. I wore it once, to an African wedding where I was told to wear colours.

So, do you think I actually have a point or do I just have way too much time on my hands?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eating in Venice

Oh man. Returning to the office after the most wonderful 4 day trip to Venice and seeing a shiny new stack of papers to be dealt with immediately is (much as I love my job) kind of rough. It made me want to back out, take the subway home and hide under my probably still lukewarm bed covers. This can't be real, right? Only yesterday I was strolling by the Canal Grande:

Luckily, there's a great remedy for a severe travel-hangover like mine: reveling in your fresh memories! And while I'm at it, I can just as well make myself useful and give you some tips on Venice. Not on shopping - Venice isn't really the city for that, unless you get a kick out of Murano glass - but on food.

You see, we had a mission on this trip of ours. After reading up on tripadvisor about the myriads of tourist trap restaurants in Venice (this one my boyfriend deemed especially hilarious - 22 reviews, 22 'terrible' ratings - faut le faire!), we decided to try and eat nothing but good food while we were there. This took a bit of research (google blogs and a boyfriend fluent in Italian was a great help!), but it was worth the while. We ate out 5 times and not once felt cheated.

We went to Taverna Ciardi in Cannaregio on our first night. It's pretty easy to find, just off the road from one of the main tourist paths. The food was quite simple but very tasty - all fresh products. There are daily specials on the menu, depending on what the owners find on the market. We both had shrimp with apple and balsamico as antipasto. The shrimp were hard to peel - usually a good indicator of freshness - but delicious. Our main courses consisted of fried seafood and squid spaghetti, including the ink. (Great taste, but beware of black stains!) The service was good too. Our waiter was actually one of the owners and he was exceptionally friendly. The English version of the website doesn't seem to work, but don't let that hold you back, the owner speaks English fluently. Prices are pretty low by Venetian standards, so if you're on a budget but still want to eat something good (and local!), I would definitely recommend this.

Goodies at the fish market by the Rialto bridge. Looks a little alien, doesn't it?

We were wandering around on Sunday morning and toyed with the idea of taking the boat to San Michele, the graveyard of Venice. We walked to Fondamenta Nuove, because our map told us this was the place to go. We couldn't really figure out the vaporetto system, though, so decided to turn around and find something to eat. We started following the tourist arrows back towards the center and looked around for a decent place. Somewhere along the road we saw a lantern down a side street and decided to take a look. We found Osteria La Bottega ai Promessi Sposi by pure coincidence and loved it. The service was really friendly - yet again! I asked for a glass of local white wine I had spotted on the menu, and the waiter told me it was dolce, so I decided on something else. He nevertheless opened the bottle and poured us both half a glass just to taste. Sweet, no? The food was good, too: I had an excellent spaghetti vongole, my boyfriend pasta with a ragu of goose. The platters of mixed seafood on the other tables looked great as well. We had some dessert (white chocolate and cofee mousse and Venetian cookies with a glass of dessert wine), which wasn't memorable, but certainly okay for the price.

In the evening we visited Pizzeria All'Anfora in Santa Croce. Take a map with you when you go, because there is no way you will find this on your own, unless you stumble on it. Again, no English website, but the menu comes in 4 languages, if I remember correct. We didn't hear anything but Italian while we were there and the place was really busy: we were the last ones to get in without a reservation. At least 5 other people came asking for a table and were turned away. Service was pretty bad. The busy hour was probably part of this, the staff looked a little overwhelmed. I also suspect our waitress suffered from a broken heart or a really bad hangover, because she seemed to be in a pretty bad mood. Anyway, she's forgiven, because the pizza was good and prices were a-okay. I had the pizza all’Anfora and could barely finish it. The only disappointment were the canned mushrooms. I'd rather eat them fresh or not eat them at all.

The day afterwards we wanted to eat in Cannaregio again, because we had found some great looking trattorias on the Fondamenta degli Ormesini. They were closed, sadly, so we turned to a back-up option: La Colombina, very close to Taverna Ciardi. It took us a while to find it because of our damned map (it proved to be unreliable a couple of times, and so did Google Maps), and when we finally did, they were busy cleaning the place. I'm always on the late side usually, but we somehow arrived first at restaurants almost every single day. Italians eat later than us, and though it's a little weird to have the whole place to yourselves, we were always sure to get a table - so not such a bad strategy, all in all. We returned 15 minutes later and were seated by the chef himself. He was funny, genuine, kind. We immediately felt at ease. After 15 more minutes the restaurant started filling up with locals, regulars, a French couple and a pianist who mostly played easy tunes, but some great jazz standards too. Coperto* was 3 euros, which seemed quite high, but before our meal we got a small appetizer with tuna and a glass of prosecco, so we didn't mind. I ordered the mediterranean fish and got a good portion of well prepared fish (I'm not sure what it was, though), baked potatoes with rosemary and spinach. We ended the meal with a panna cotta and sambucca. At 90 euros (for a shared antipasto, a bottle of wine, water, two main courses and desert) this was a bit more pricey, but the atmosphere was great, the wine list was good and the service was superfriendly.

Beautiful Cannaregio.

We kept best for last and made a reservation at Osteria Alle Testiere for lunch on tuesday. We had read several recommendations, most of which were very positive, so we came with high expectations. The restaurant was lively (after a while - we were once again the first to arrive) without feeling too busy. Some people on TripAdvisor complain that the public is all-American, but an old British couple aside, we saw nothing but Italians while we were there. The staff was very friendly and attentive too, contrary to some of the reviews. We asked for wine advice and based on our questions the waiter recommended a Soave - the cheapest of 3 on the list, where most restaurants will try to push more expensive choices on you. We had spaghetti vongole and fish soup as primi. (I'm going through a vongole phase. I always tend to order the same dish - boring, I know.) While I slightly preferred the way the vongole were prepared at Osteria La Bottega ai Promessi Sposi (a bit lighter, more parsley), the vongole themselves were of even much higher quality and tasted amazing. My boyfriend made the better choice, though, because his fish soup was absolutely exquisite. I'll be dreaming about that soup in the months to come. We shared a mixed platter as a main and were delighted by the quality of the food. We got three kinds of fish, a langoustine each, a prawn and some squid, each of which was mouthwatering delicious (especially the 'orata' - gilt-head bream in English, I believe). We ordered some vegetables to go with it and for 6 euros they were great quality. Not the withered leaves of lettuce other restaurants sometimes have the nerve to serve, but grilled zucchini, eggplant, radicchio and artichokes. They were tasty, fresh and went perfect with the fish. Afterwards, we ordered a tiramisu and a cinnamon grappa. I'm not one for tiramisu usually, but this one was great. The cookies weren't drowning in low quality alcohol and it had a very balanced taste. When we got the bill, we saw that they offered the grappa on the house. We had anticipated to pay around 150 euros, but the bill was 128. Needless to say we left a more than decent tip and I was so impressed with the cooking I bought their book (after checking if it contained the fish soup - which it did, hurray). Expensive, yes, but we felt the experience was worth the price.

So there you go, 4 days of Venice, 5 great meals. During all this we stayed at Ca' Pozzo Inn in Cannaregio and were very happy about it. Breakfast was good, the room was spacious and cosy (with a modern and simple interior), great location, friendly staff. Guess where I wish I was right now?

* Coperto is a fixed charge per person for sitting at a table. Always check the menu for this and service fee. We saw restaurants asking for 6 euros coperto and a 15% service fee - total rip off. Most decent restaurants will include the service fee in their prices.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Links à la Mode

By the time you see this, I'll be off to Venice. See you in a couple of days!

Incite, Invigorate, Influence, Inspire

By Jessie Thorpe of Denimology


When selecting blogs to be featured in Links à La Mode, more often than not, I'm drawn in by an interesting image or a cleverly composed title. I'm a big fan of wit, whimsy and a little sarcasm. However, this week I handled things a bit different and made choices spurred on by inspiration, you know, that good ol' gut feeling!


Bloggers aplenty (this means you) emboldened me to do more than just write about style and fashion (denim in my case).  I wanted to bust out some serious sequin yardage. I pondered why everything looks better with glitter. I was impressed- no, I was in awe- with brilliant use of nail polish! I chose links that lured me far from my computer, taunting me to use my hands for anything but typing. Dear bloggers, you may have a small pedestal (you know.. your blog), but your voice can still be mighty... and inspirational! The future of fashion belongs to those of us willing to get our hands dirty!


After you've had a good read of this weeks links, step away from the computer and go stain up those hands. Make sure to document the process because, you know, your coming right back here to your computer anyway. You may as well be inspirational. Last thing, it's okay if all you do is make is a mess; at least you were inspired and that counts for something, right?





If you would like to submit your link for next week’s Links à la Mode, please register first, then post your links HERE. The HTML code for this week will be found in the Links a la Mode group will be published later today. ~Jennine



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Labels vs. thrifting

My last post was about the scavenging possibilities at the flea market in Brussels. Our hunt that day made me ponder the (in)conveniences of thrifting. Thrifting might sometimes have its disadvantages (vintage smell being the most notorious one), but I want to talk about a huge benefit: the abscence of marketing influences.

Imagine you're in your favorite shopping street, mall, whatever. Do you enter every store? Or do some stores draw you in more than others? The mechanisms behind your choices are incredibly diverse and diffuse. Personal taste. Experience. Brand appeal. Price. Image. Target audience. Connotations. These are all things that determine whether you will or will not spend money (or even set foot) in a certain shop. I myself am very susceptible to branding and prejudice. It irritates me to no end, but I can't help it. Two years ago I spotted a black-and-white printed silk shirt Surface To Air in sale on ebay. I had seen the print on a dress before and absolutely adored it. Did I buy the shirt? Uhm, does Donatella Versace's hair colour regularly threaten to sweep out Italy's bleach supply? Duh.

Unless you thinks she gets this colour from using camomille extract?

I still paid about 100$, which I justified by telling myself the dollar was really low and the original price was way higher. Two weeks later I found myself in Zara holding a black-and-white printed silk shirt (I really do have a thing for black and white prints) with 50% off. I remember thinking 40 euros was still an awfully high price for what was, after all, 'just' a Zara shirt. Two shirts, two measures.

Can you guess which is which? And which got the most wears? (The creases aren't intentional. They're just me being lazy.)

This is one of the coolest things about thrifting: there's no double standards. You're not pestered with assumptions and considerations on the brands surrounding you. You're just looking at clothes in their own right. You have to wonder if the garment really does fit your style and if it's worth it's (puny) price. You can't rely on the source of the clothes to tell you whether it's cool or stylish. I'm ashamed to admit that, when it comes to clothing, I find the process pretty exhausting. It takes training and good styling skills to figure out what you do or do not want without the background and directions labels can provide. (More on that in this interesting post from Fashion Pearls on Wisdom.)

For jewelry, however, I find it liberating. For instance, the bracelet I bought two weeks ago. If I had spotted it at H&M, it's not entirely impossible I would have considered it tacky. Or maybe I would have liked it, but not bought it, because it's H&M and everyone will wear it so even if it is special, it won't be that special. If I would have seen it in an expensive jewelry store (which is very unlikely, because I don't think I ever even entered one of those), I might have thought it was a bit pretentious and not worth its money. Jewelry thrifting somehow makes it easier for me to spot the special pieces and like them for what they are, regardless of price. So while I'll rarely go thrifting for clothes because it wears me out, I'm definitely sold on thrifting jewelry. How about you?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guilt free splurging: the flea market in Brussels

Sunday in Belgium (otherwise a most godless country) is still a day of rest, much to my frustration. Basically, the choice is between hiking, visiting family or brushing up on your art knowledge in an overcrowded museum. Or you can go to the Marolles/Marollen in Brussels! It's a pretty poor but colourful and fascinating neighbourhood that has one big attraction: the flea market at the Vossenplein/Place du Jeu de balle. (It's surrounded by cool cafés, by the way.)

If you can't take a bit of chaos, this might not be the place for you. Some of the vendors carefully display their goodies, others just throw them on a blanket and some just sell straight out of cardboard boxes.

Vossenplein, flea market, flea market Brussels, Place du Jeu de Balle, Marollen, Marolles, thrifting Brussels, vintage Brussels, vlooienmarkt, tweedehands Brussel

Stylish, right? You'll see this kind of installations every weekday (Saturdays and Sundays can get quite busy, especially when the weather is nice) from 7 am to 2 pm. When closing time is near, one of the cardboard vendors will usually give a signal that everything he displays can be taken away for free. It'll be mostly old cutlery and fake porcelaine, but it's always fun to watch the frantic searching and grabbing.

There's few things you won't find at the Vossenplein. Some of the clothing (especially the ones with labels - we spotted a beautiful Max Mara coat, too bad it was made for a woman the size of an elephant) is lucky enough to come with hangers and racks, but most if it form soft piles of thrifting discipline on the unforgiving ground. This kind of piles of clothing scares me at Zara during the sales as well as here:

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I mean, for all you know there could be a small Bulgarian family living underneath those layers. Or a rabies infested dog looking for a nice nest. I'm all for budget buys, but I ain't risking my hands for them.

This looks safer, too bad most of the shoes are pretty fugly:

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Diagnosed with bad eyesight or desperate for a bit of geek chique? These glasses are probably as cheap as they come!

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If you buy perfumes just because of the pretty bottle, you can save yourself some money right here:

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There's also quite the collection of old suitcases and leather purses:

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Fur coats to imagine you stem from Russian nobility:

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That white coat! Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Look at this:

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Now tell me there isn't a resemblance! Me thinks Leandra Medine could do a really great styling with this.

If you're not really the vulture type, common magpies will love the array of trinkets:

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Last week I found this bracelet on the blanket in the middle:

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I'm not usually into gold and swirly whatevers, but I kinda liked this one. It got me some compliments too, mostly from men. One of them told me it looked like something straight out of Lord of the Rings, so I styled it on a gollum-like creature:

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He was thrilled, obviously.

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Anyway, back to the market. Just some random scarves:

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There's a booth with some really nice hats, too. There's a little mirror and people trying every hat they can find. I bought the one in the middle of the picture, black with a small leather bow. (If I get lice out of this, I'm killing the friend who talked me into buying it.) Don't try to haggle, the guy selling them will yell at you because you're crazy and he's already selling these handmade hats way under their price, I mean, you couldn't even pay for the material for that kind of money let alone the working hours! But other than that, he's nice.

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And finally, I found a kick-ass crystal cocktail shaker.

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Again, I'm not the gold-and-crystal kind of gal, but I liked this. Got it for a bargain too, my mom (ever the budget conscious woman) was real proud. It wasn't until I got home that I realised it looked a little like the bottle of one of my favorite perfumes:

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Maybe from now on I'll drink Petite Chérie and spray myself with a zesty cosmopolitan. Hope you had a great weekend as well!