Saturday, September 24, 2011

Top 5 annoyances while shopping

5. Size selection

I'm a pretty low maintenance shopper. I like to go into a store, browse a bit, maybe try out a few pieces, decide whether I want any of them, pay and leave. Quick and dirty. I'm not much of a talker usually, so I rarely pester (or even talk to) the personnel. (Hello thank you have a nice day goodbye excepted of course) Which is why I really hate it when they only hang some samples in the store and not the actual clothes, so you have to ask for the right size. What's really annoying is that it's always the tiniest size known to human kind. It's probably pretty handy if you're petite, but I'm sure it kills girls with low self esteem. If there's a few sizes on the racks, it can still be a bit tricky, because you don't really know for sure how large they go, and you might be embarrassed asking. In any case, the following scenario is a real shopping turn-off:

'Uhm, excuse me miss, do you have this in size x?'
'We might, I'm not sure. Let me go and check!'

In case of a negative answer, the girl will usually appear after a while with a look in her eyes that might say
a) Just a simple 'oops, no'
b) I'm skinny and fit in all the sample sizes and I genuinely pity you and your thighs
c) Looks like another fatso beat you to it! OMG IS THAT A SNICKERS IN YOUR PURSE?

4. Messiness

Like I said, low maintenance. I don't mind if a sweater isn't all that neatly folded because a previous costumer ruffled it. However, sales at Zara REALLY freak me out, and not because of the great deals. Last january, I couldn'teven muster up the courage to step into the store. What's with those enormous piles of clothing? How do they come to exist? Do they just leave them there at the end of the day? I've never not seen them during sales. I have to admit, it can hold an adventurous charm. But I fear that one day I'll stick my arm into af them, trying to find that cool shirt in my size, and grab the arm of a cadaver or something. Scary.

Also, I don't expect to be able to eat off the floor, but huge dustballs in the dressing rooms, that's pushing it. This usually happens in stores where they don't even provide you with a stool, so you have to come up with crazy manoevres if you don't want to put your purse on the floor. I once tried to hold it with my teeth while fitting a dress. Not. A. Success.

3. Music

Ever ran out of a store because of the music? A frequent phenomenon when entering a store that targets teenagers. The clothes have to be pretty effing cool for me to put up with really crappy r&b. Otherwise it's bye-bye. This particular annoyance isn't just characteristic for cheapass brands, by the way. After spending some time in some or other cool designer store, you might start to get bugged by the spacy techno or minimalistic electro. Why not just pay somebody to shout 'we're sooo over melodic music' once in a while? YOU'RE COOL OKAY WE GET IT

2. Dressing rooms

One of the things I loved most about being a student is that you could go shop whenever. These days, I'm forced to join the multitude on Saturday. It's not that I don't like other people. I just don't like them crowding all the dressing rooms. Saturday is my favorite day of the week and I'd rather not waste it standing around like an idiot, wishing they'd provide some chairs at the very least, because god those heels are hurting and why has that lady been in there for ten minutes when all she had was a sweater to try on and why are they stubbornly refusing to open up the other dressing rooms when there's enough people in line to populate a small island? These are important questions, people. While there may be less people in the more expensive stores, they also provide some food for thought. Like, why do they insist on using curtains? Sure, they look chique, but showing your comfy panties to half the store because they won't close properly? Not so chique. It can be quite funny when you're on the outside, though. Two weeks ago I was descreetly watching a really artsy German guy trying on harem pants and watching them in the mirrors outside. When he wanted to go back in, he couldn't find the entrance and nearly exposed my half-naked friend. The shop assistant had to help him out. Put a smile on my face.

1. Arrogant Shop Assistants

By far my number one frustration. Don't you hate it when you walk into a store and are greeted with a nose up in the air, or not greeted at all? The habitat of the Arrogant Shop Assistant is usually the less budget friendly boutique, but they occasionally swarm out. So basically you can never be entirely sure you won't encounter them. Unsympathetic people always unsettle me a bit, but in shops, it really mistifies me. I don't get it. Why would you want to put people off buying your clothes? Do some brands expect their employees to behave this way? Or are they just bitter because of a critical daily snob overload? It took me a while to get over my fear of demeaning looks in chique stores, but even now I can still be intimidated by slightly angry looks and a set of pressed lips. I bought a pair of shoes in Paris last July and the lady behind the counter refused to hand me the bag. How rude is that? I was perfectly polite and hello, I just spent all this money to keep your pay checks coming. The least you could do is hand me the damn shoes and not make me crawl over the counter to get it. (They were fully worth it, though.)
If you find these kind of experiences unnerving and are even a bit traumatised, try bringing your mom! That's usually a good anti-ASA remedy. Too bad my mom's not really the shopping type, nor does she have the habit of waving around credit cards to make sure we get all the attention we deserve. Still, it's worth a try!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What brands to look for when you're shopping in Belgium

It's funny how we all like to stand out sometimes. For instance, one of the most fun things about buying clothes abroad is being able to say 'Oh you like this? Yeah, I bought it in [random hip destination].' It's nice to be able to wear something unique (or unique in your home town anyway). It's even nicer to wear stuff that reminds you of a great trip. One of the most recent additions to in my wardrobe include cute red ballerina's I bought in Paris while visiting some dear friends. Whenever I wear them, I think about wandering through the streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, watching impromptu concerts in obscure gazebos, dancing to goofy French songs and making killer cosmopolitans in the middle of the night.

My point is, if you're anything like me when you're travelling, you'll prefer visiting stores you wouldn't normally find at home. It makes your treasures just a little more special. It can be pretty hard to collect the necessary information, though. So I made a quick list of some quintessential Belgian brands, with just a few categories and a link to the brands' websites. It's not exhaustive in the least, just what comes to mind when I think of typical Belgian brands. You never know whether it'll be of use to some or other fashion-crazed tourist!

The basic

Le fabuleux Marcel de Bruxelles

The romantic


Luc Duchene

Just In Case

The retro


Who's that girl

The laid back

Hampton Bays


The preppy

Mer du Nord


The sophisticated

Annemie Verbeke

La belle et la bête

Ellen Verbeek

Rue blanche

A. F. Vandevorst

The very chique



Dries Van Noten

The avant-garde

Ann Demeulemeester

Walter Van Beirendonck

Maison Martin Margiela

Haider Ackermann

I might have missed some. What do you think?

Shopping in Prague: no easy feat

Let me tell you a story. Two years ago I was visiting Prague with some friends. We spent several days over there, enjoying the sights, climbing the stairs of Letna Park, drinking hot chocolate in Kafka's favorite kaverna. I had been to Prague a few times before (and I'd come back after: last year I lived there for a month), but never with some shopping in mind. Prague's not really the shopping kind of city. You go there for culture and history and - granted - cheap beer. It's not like Paris, where you go in the hopes of scoring an Chanel purse at some flea market. However, when you've visited a city a couple of times and kind of know it, your mind starts wandering off to less sightseeing and more natural behavior. Ergo, shopping! In preparation of our trip, I desperately tried to find some information on cool, characteristic stores in Prague. I didn't find anything. Literally nothing. Of course, I didn't speak Czech at the time, but you'd think that at least a few tourists would have explored the Prague shopping field and reported about it. Surely not everyone was contented by the local H&M?

While we were gallivanting, we kept our eyes wide open. We eventually found a brochure about real Czech designers and decided to check out the stores listed. They were all situated in Josefov, the Jewish district, which is awfully nice, but usually awfully expensive as well. We liked exactly one shop, where we each bought a scarf. The others were either boring or way too expensive - or both. After that, we'd finally given up on our quest and accepted that Prague didn't have any quirky stores worth mentioning. And then, on our last day (OH FATE YOU ARE CRUEL), we stumbled into a tiny store in the sweet neighbourhood of Holešovice, selling the most awesome t-shirts and accessories. My friends bought a couple t-shirts each, I got a really nice bird necklace (which was later broken by my boyfriend, whom I've still not forgiven). After we payed, the girl behind the counter gave us a little book listing all like-minded stores in Prague. Unfortunately we didn't have time to pay them a visit. Even more unfortunately, I lost the book and I can't for the life of me remember the name of the store. And even though now I do know some Czech, internet is - same old, same old - no help whatsoever. So this is what this blog will be about: I will make an inventory of the shops I like, and occasionally some shops I loathe. Why is it that we review restaurants and hotels, but not shops? Surely there's a vast amount of girls (and boys, not discriminating here) who'd like to know what they're in for when they're visiting a city. So this is for all of you travellers out there, or basically whoever likes to discover new ventures. Belgium will be my playground, my creditcard will probably suffer and my boyfriend will sigh and roll his eyes. But I'm on a mission. Trying to make the world wide web a better place one shop at a time!