Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pand 13: when Gent freezes over

The Voldersstraat/Henegouwenstraat is one of the more fancy shopping streets in Gent. Ample of designer bags, shoes and lingerie. It also houses Pand 13, a store I have a longtime love/hate-relationship with. Love because they really do have pretty things, hate because the prices are just too high. Love because the owners also exploit the lovely Tara Jarmon shop around the corner. Hate because the atmosphere can be a bit snobby. Love because of the beautiful interior (the floor!). Hate because I once tried on the most beautiful See By Chloé-dress there, but didn't have the funds for it. So I waited until the sales, only to find it gone quicker than you can say 'girl on a budget'. It was way over the top (purple with red polka dots and a huge bow on the front), but perfect in every way. If you ever spot one (L, please), make sure to tell me! Or even better, buy it and sell it to me. You can overcharge me, I won't mind. I'm a philanthropist that way.

I was in Pand 13 about two weeks ago, on my search for the perfect tartan blouse. Sadly I didn't find anything of the sort - they had tartan, beautiful interpretations even, but not in the right cut and shape. This is a serieus con (disadvantage? synoniem?) of going shopping with something in mind. I'm trying to shop more thoughtful, with certain looks and combinations in mind. You know, like fashion magazines are always telling you to do, inspired by Françaises and their 5 pieces per season-rule (I've never in my life met a Française who actually lives by this rule. Have you?) The thing is, when I go shopping with a clear goal, I always end up disappointed, because nothing looked even remotely to what I was looking for. Or worse, I did find what I wanted, but my size completely sold out. Cue for a cranky mood, need for hot chocolate and the urge to watch Gilmore Girls in bed. Woe and disaster.

I'll tell you what Pand 13 did have: some salespeople with a hell of an attitude. I was greeted by a twentysomething upon entering. She was nice enough, but seemed busy doing nothing, wandering from here to there, not really assisting anyone. Made me think of a bee that tries to get out of a room, but keeps on bumping against the window. Someone else was helping a few women who were trying on stuff. It was saturday and relatively busy. When I got to the second part of the store (they recently expanded) however, two older shop assistants were just standing there, gossiping. They hushed up when I came in and started whispering while I browsed through the clothes. I hesitantly smiled to one of them, wary of their sour faces. The kind of face you would expect on an old librarian when you bring back your overdue books, you know? Stern, with an air of dissapproval. The smile I got back could have easily frozen a middle sized equatorial country. I can still hear the theeth clappering. It was ice age, baby. Scrat would NOT have put up with this.

I don't need any handholding when I shop, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate a basic level of politeness. I didn't feel like putting up with their Evil Eye (and even if I did, I would be cheaper off watching some Lord of the Rings), so I picked up my acorn and left. I've been to Pand 13 many times before, and sometimes the staff is nice and sympathetic, sometimes they're, well, not. I suppose they don't get the easiest public, though, lots of bon chic bon genre, so maybe that explains some of it. It's strange though, because the staff in Tara Jarmon is always excessively nice, even though I've never bought anything there. Same boss, different HR? Weird.

To sum it all up:

- not the steadiest level of service
- a bit of a conservative selection, but pretty clothing: ranging from classic basics (LBD's) to romantic stuff (lots of silk and chiffon) to young and colourful.
- targeted to women in their twenties/thirties (Paule Ka, See by Chloé, ...)
- not the cheapest: it'll be hard to find anything under 50 euros here, but if you've got the dough, you'll find some excellent pieces to spend it on.

(Picture courtesy of http://www.afashiongirl.be/)

Monday, October 24, 2011

You never really know a city

The coolest thing about cities is the endless discovery options. I love the countryside (I've had my fair share of catching grashoppers and digging ponds), but someday I'd like to live in a city where you can easily go to a different bar or restaurant every day of the year, year after year, without reruns. I'd probably be overwhelmed by the choice and end up staying in every night, watching Twilight twice a week to connect with my angsty inner self (just the first one though, the others suck*), but still!

Brussels it's cool, but it's not up there with Berlin, Paris or London. I don't want to pretend I know Brussels through and through - I don't, really, there's neighbourhoods I've never even walked in. I do think I know the Dansaert area pretty well, however. I went to high school there, met up with friends many a time for drinks, eating and random stupidities and now I work just around the corner. And yet, even though I drank my first cosmopolitan (and many after that) in a great bar in the Rue des Chartreux/Kartuizersstraat, I somehow managed to completely neglect a cuter than cute store right at the end of it.

I'm talking about Valérie Berckmans' shop in the Rue Van Artevelde/Arteveldestraat, which I only discovered because the window display caught my eye when I accidentally got off the bus there. It's simple, minimalistic and colourful at the same time. This photo from Zone02 paints a clear picture:

The white cabinet you see is chock-full of shoes and accessories like gloves, buttons and clutches by Michael Guérisse O'Leary. The clutches especially were remarkable - colourful and refined, handmade apparently, but really not that expensive. 85 euros I think? Still a lot of money to most people, but considering the quality, it's a bargain. The buttons were nice, too, with original designs. They were priced between 4-12 euros.

As for the clothes, they feel like a grown up version of the Who's That Girl-style. Less crazy patterns, but the same casual retro feel. Simple, clear cuts; nice materials. They all felt very natural, my guess is you won't find anything too synthetic here. The prices were a bit steep, but some items were on sale and the discounts were great. Definitely inspiration material, even for those who can't afford it. By the way, you have to ring the bell to get in. Sounds a little snobby, but the owner is really nice and helpful, from what I witnessed. And for those who don't really care for Brussels or never get around to it: when I checked the website, I noticed that Twiggy in Gent, which I blogged about here, sells Valérie Berckmans' clothing as well.

Didn't buy anything but I'll probably go back for some buttons - they make the perfect little gift!

*(Okay, the first one sucks too, but you've got to give me something!)