Saturday, October 1, 2011

The expanding industry of outlet malls

Everyone who's the least bit cost-conscious, likes to indulge in sales, vintage shops, or shopping in outlets once in a while. Sometimes it's not even about the cost, it's more about the thrill of scoring a cheap but great piece of clothing. When you buy a 500$ dress at 50% off, you actually feel as if you saved 250$, even though you spent that exact same amount on a dress that, after you cut the price tags, might suddenly not seem that alluring at all. We all have something in our closets that was 70% off, so you couldn't possibly not buy it, even though you never wore it afterwards. I don't know why we react so greedingly to reduced prices, but I'm sure the evolutionary psychology has some sort of bogus explanation for it. Like when us girls used to go berry picking and another tribe approached us and told us that if we were to trade our berries for their mushrooms they'd throw in a free fur vest, then we'd go absolutely NUTS. Maybe I just really dislike evolutionary psychology.

Now that outlet malls and villages are popping up everywhere, it doesn't seem such a bad idea to put some thought in them. One of my dearest friends took me to Maasmechelen Village in the spring, as a birthday present. We had a great time and I found some cute things, but I wasn't overwhelmed like I thought I would be. She recently told me that she'd watched a documentary on outlet malls, and apparantly, the stock there doesn't consist of leftovers and overstock anymore. Most of the time they weren't made for regular retailing at all. They're fabricated especially for these outlets, using inferior materials and a different construction. Hence the lower price. This shocked me a little, but when it comes to fashion and marketing, I'm prepared to believe anything nowadays. To top it off, these places are designed to lure you into buying something. For instance, they're never near a big city. When you ask why, the response is that they don't want to create competition for the regular stores. Sounds logical, right? Except this creates a different effect: because people have to travel a while to get there (and thus invest time and money in transportation), it would feel like a futile trip if they didn't buy anything. So the costumers are more likely to spend money on stuff they don't really want. All is fair in fashion and war, I guess?

According to my research, you should take a close look at the tags if you want to whether you're buyin something that was designed for outlets or not. An even better way of finding out what quality the clothes are is bringing someone who knows something about sewing and textiles. My sister is a fashion technology student - I know who I'm bringing to my next trip!

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shoe shopping in Brussels: Mellow Yellow

This is probably a bit of a confession, but I generally don't like shopping for shoes. I'm very particular about them (same thing goes for purses). My tastes developed and broadened over the years, but shoe-shopping used to be an absolute disaster. First of all I didn't like most of the shoes I encountered. Secondly, the ones I did like were usually too expensive. And thirdly, I have humongous feet. The result was that most of the time I was already highly satisfied when a shoe fit, and didn't bother with looks or style.

I used to wear gray cheap look-a-likes of these. Avril Lavigne had nothing on me.

The last few years my budget became more manageable and I picked up on the aesthetics of shoes. My feet are still enormous and I suffer with every new pair, but hey, women used to endure way worse back in the good old days. When my feet hurt, I take my shoes off. You can't really take off your corset when you're about to faint. So yay for modern times! Anyway, I still struggle finding shoes that are good quality, original and affordable. I can't buy shoes at Zara or H&M, because they simply don't fit me. The shoes at Sacha fit (they sometimes come in a size 42, which is a huge relief for my 41,5s), but if spotting people wearing the exact same shoes as you were a drinking game, you'd be well on your way to a terrible hangover by mid-afternoon while wearing Sacha shoes.

Unfortunately, I didn't find a lot of other options. That's why a Mellow Yellow store turning up in Brussels was a nice change of scenery. I haven't bought any of their shoes yet, but for now I just like knowing it's there. It's in the Dansaertstraat (I hang out in this street a lot, does it show?), the prices are reasonable, the shoes are pretty. The shop is rarely crowded, and best of all, one of my lovely high school friends works there! If you spot a gorgeous curly girl behind the counter, chances are it's her. So go explore and say hi for me!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Trop beau

Once in a while every avid shopper will come across a store that's absolutely unique. I love it when that happens. It counterbalances the ridiculous amounts of H&Ms in our shopping streets. (I lost count in Brussels - I think it's about 5 in the Nieuwstraat/Rue Neuve alone?) Too bad that these shops are usually a tad more expensive than our Swedish friends - and in this case, a LOT more expensive. However, there's good news: everything in Beau is on sale. I had passed by the exquisite looking shop in the Dansaertstraat quite a few times, never daring to enter. It looked superexclusive, for instance, you had to ring a bell to get in. I'd never ever went into a store where you needed to ring a bill. They're usually out of my price range anyway. I made an exception for Beau, though, because something sparkly had caught my eye in the window display: Byredo perfumes. On sale! I had been craving Blanche for a while, so I asked my very stylish friend Sarah to come along and off we went.

The first thing that struck me was the feeling of exploration. Moving from one wonderful object to the next felt like wandering through a very chique flea market. I must have smelled all of the perfumes (a nice selection of Byredo and Frederic Malle), fingered all of the jewelry and cast a lot of longing looks in the general direction of the hats (a few pieces of Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy if I remember correctly). In the end I bought Blanche. The packaging is just as nice as the smell itself:

I'd like to go back and buy La Tulipe (the perfumes are even cheaper now, 30% off), but sadly a certain someone will have an absolute fit if I come home with yet another perfume. We'll see. Anyway, it looks like Thierry Struvay, the owner of Beau, is down to his last items. The sad thing is, everything's on sale because Beau is closing. Such a pity. But if you've always wanted to own something by Alexis Mabille, this is your chance. So go check it out, before this gem is out of business. And when you're at the counter, take a peek at the unbelievable bookcase in the space behind it. I've never seen such a highly covetable collection of art and fashion books. Considering these, it's no wonder that the owner was able to conceive such a wonderful, visionary store. So go and enjoy it while you still can!

Edit: Sadly, Beau closed its doors a short while after this was written.