Shopping: Are There Too Many Stores?

kate spade saturday

Just a few days after I wrote about visiting Kate Spade Saturday while in New York and my love for the brand, I found out that the PTB at Kate Spade had decided to close all Saturday stores and its website, as well as Jack Spade, the label for men. Of course, I was a bit pissed. Didn’t they see my blog post and pay attention to the fact that I love them?

Probably not, and it wouldn’t matter if they did. Saturday isn’t completely going away, it’s just being absorbed by the larger Kate Spade NY. What that means, I’m not really sure, except that there won’t be a separate Saturday.com website and all the stores will be closing.

kate spade saturday
Kate Spade Saturday, photo by Bex Walton/Flickr

Saturday isn’t the only retailer I like that’s shutting down this year. Gap, Inc. recently announced that it was closing down Piperlime, Jones New York, whose suiting I used to admire from afar as a college student, is completely shutting down, and C. Wonder, the brand created by Tory Burch’s ex recently went bankrupt (I actually didn’t like C. Wonder, I thought its clothing was poorly made).  On top of that, there’s the bankruptcies of many stores from my teen years, from Delia’s to DEB. Gap is not only shutting down Piperlime, it also recently got rid of the role of creative director, sending Rebekka Bay, who joined the company from Cos, out the door.

Is this normal? While it’s easy to understand why a place like DEB might have been overdue for a shutdown (my  mom says she shopped there, back in the day, and it was one of my go-to places for pleather pants as a teen), Saturday only launched in 2013. It was still opening stores near the end of 2014. I can’t remember a time, even during the recession, when so many clothing retailers shut down at once.

Buzzfeed tallies up the total number of clothing/accessories stores that have closed or are about to (more than 1,000) and comes to the conclusion that there are just too many in the US. Apparently, there’s 20 square feet of retail space for every person in the country. Which is a lot.

It might not only be that there are too many stores, but also that there are too many similar stores or too many stores that distract from the established brands. Since you can find mid-price range designers and fast fashion pieces pretty much anywhere, and there are loads of places that offer free shipping and returns, does Piperlime need to exist? Apparently not, as it made up just 1 percent of total business for its parent company. I shopped at Piperlime, but just as often, I would shop around for something I saw there at other stores, to see if I could get a better price for it. And usually, I did. On top of that, Piperlime never really developed a strong identity, the way other brands owned by Gap did. You think of casual wear and jeans when you think of Gap, workwear when you think of Banana Republic, but what does Piperlime bring to mind? Somewhat stylish clothes you can find anywhere? Doesn’t quite have a ring to it. . .

Saturday perhaps committed a worse sin, that of diluting its parent brand. Stuff from Kate Spade, whether it’s shoes, a bag or a dress, is spendy. In exchange for the high prices, people expect higher quality, which they get for the most part. Saturday’s prices were a bit more modest, and the quality was a bit lower, but still higher (both in terms of quality and price) than what you’d find at a Forever 21 or H&M. People expecting the higher quality of Kate Spade NY weren’t getting it from Saturday and people who were used to spending $20 on a dress weren’t about to drop $160 on one.

Still, diffusion lines aren’t uncommon in the fashion and retail industry and I’m not really sure why anyone would look at Saturday and expect it to be the same as Kate Spade NY. It’s obviously cheaper, so you’re clearly not going to get the same thing from it. I liked that it was cheaper and that it offered different styles than KSNY, which is often just a bit too preppy for my tastes. I was also happy with the quality of the clothing and bags I purchased, and I’m pretty picky about that.

There are winners and losers in retail and it seems that it’s getting a lot harder for a company to declare itself a winner, without selling clothing for practically nothing and without offering frequent discounts. Piperlime, Saturday and C. Wonder just couldn’t make it and Delia’s and DEB were just too outdated. It will be interesting to see what’s to become of the retail landscape as time goes on and people’s shopping habits continue to evolve.

 

Image from Bex Walton/Flickr

 

Shopping: A Stop at J. Crew

I know. I know. I just went on about how I purged my closet and got rid of stuff. What am I doing out shopping? Well, I was out and about, wandering around the city, when I decided to pop into J.Crew and take a look at their newest offerings. Buying anything at this point in time wasn’t really the plan.

Although at one stage in my life J.Crew pretty much the backbone of my wardrobe, I haven’t really purchased much from it in a while, as all the clothes either seem the same or fit me in a really strange way. I hoped that wouldn’t be the case today with the three things I tried on, but it was.

sleeveless_zip

First up: the sleeveless side-zip top.  From a distance, the shirt looks like it will be a good basic, made more exciting by the two zippers that run down either side. Up close, it’s another story.

Anyone watch Elementary, the CBS version of Sherlock Holmes with Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson? I’ve spent probably way too much time analyzing the costuming choices for her character. In the first two seasons, she wore a lot of loosely fitting outfits, flowy tops paired with little  skirts. Her look now is a bit more structured, but really that is the subject of another piece. Although the fabric of this top is a little stiff, it reminded me of an early Elementary era Dr. Watson, especially paired with a flippy mini skirt. Sadly, it was just too big all over. Then again, maybe I just needed a smaller size.

Zipped, unzipped
Zipped, unzipped

A feature I did like about the top was the two zippers on either side, which made it a tiny bit more interesting than a basic white top. But, even the zippers weren’t enough to save the ill-fitting top, which by the way, was also very thin and see-through, from the reject pile.

Tilly sweater and pleated skirt
Tilly sweater and pleated skirt

Perhaps the most disappointing thing I tried on during today’s visit was the metallic pleated midi skirt. Where to even begin with this one. Okay, let’s start with the positives. It fit, was a good length (guess I can wear skirts below the knee), and is one of my favorite skirt styles.

On to the negatives: the fabric was cheap and the construction left a lot to be desired. The website describes the fabric as a poly/viscose blend, but the tag on the skirt itself describes it as cotton/viscose. Which to believe? It doesn’t even matter. It’s knitted and has a decent drape, but it’s also coated in foil, which gives it a plastic-like feel. It looks like it’s trying (but not very hard) to pretend to be leather.

A closer peek at the fabric - inside and outside.
A closer peek at the fabric – inside and outside.

Here’s another big negative: there’s no lining in the skirt, as you can see in the picture above. They had a mannequin wearing the skirt in the store and as I walked by it, I could see the light shining through the hem. Pass.

The only thing I kind of liked that I tried on today was the Tilly Sweater, in olive green, shown with the midi skirt. It’s merino wool, which is my favorite type, very soft, and comes in a number of colors. It’s a bit cropped, and designed to hit at the hips, but on me, it hit just below the waist, making my torso look a little short. Maybe if it was offered in a tall size, it would work. I do like the feel of the fabric, which is saying something at this point.

Everyone’s style and tastes change over time. Maybe I’m just at the point in my life where J.Crew isn’t a good fit for me or where I just can’t make their clothing work. Or, maybe the brand just doesn’t interest me as much anymore and will need to fix up a few flaws (like unlined skirts) before it catches my eye again.

 

 

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Post (Clothing) Purge

I’m a month into following Marie Kondo’s KonMarie method, outlined in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. In a previous post, I discussed the process of sifting through my closet and dresser to decide what should stay and what should go. Now that all is pretty much said and done and I’ve cleared out a lot of things, not just from my wardrobe, but from my bookshelves, kitchen, and other areas, I have to say that I feel much lighter.

Clothings awaiting its fate.
Clothing awaiting its fate.

When it comes to clothing, there’s the stuff you wear, the stuff you don’t really like or wear, the stuff that doesn’t fit you, and the stuff that you still like but know you won’t wear because it’s not your style any more. Kondo’s right: all that needs to go. I knew it deep down, but it wasn’t until I read her book and started her method that I could accept it in practice.

Take that Marc by Marc Jacobs skirt that I mentioned in my last post, for example. I got it a year or so ago on final sale and wore it a few times. I liked the skirt, it was cute, but here’s the thing: it was really short and a bit tight, so I always felt really self conscious in it, even when wearing opaque tights. It also did that weird thing that skirts do when they’re too loose in the waist but tight in the hips and kept turning around. I’d leave the house with my skirt facing the right direction and get to my destination with my skirt on backwards.

But, still I kept it and I kept trying to make it work. For such a small skirt, it was taking up a lot of space in my brain. “Maybe I’ll wear that Marc Jacobs skirt today,” I’d think. I’d put it on and decide to wear something else. When it came time to do the purge, I picked up the skirt and realized it didn’t spark joy. It did the opposite; it was causing me a lot of stress.

In the book, Kondo notes that she’ll often go back over a few items with her clients, asking them if those items really spark joy. The clients usually admit that no, those items don’t spark  joy, and into the discard pile they go. While I didn’t have the help of a professional organizer, I did end up going back into my closet to re-examine some pieces that I was admittedly “meh” about – mostly a few dresses that still fit but that I just wasn’t excited about wearing or that weren’t as flattering on as they could be. Like the skirt, those few dresses were causing a bit of stress, as I knew I should wear them, but just didn’t want to.

So, what are the big lessons learned here? What do I now know that will  help me keep my closet from spiraling out of control again?

1. Stop buying things on final sale, especially online purchases. I got the Marc by Marc Jacobs skirt, and a lot of other things, on final sale, online. Buying online is always risky, since you don’t get to touch the item before purchase. The fabric could be very much not what you were expecting (a knit when you thought a woven, a blend when you were thinking the real deal, unlined, and so on), the color could be weird, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, the thing might not fit you. I’ve gotten skirts that were much too big, and a touch too small on final sale, and I was just stuck. So no more of that. If I’m getting it online and I can’t try it on or touch it first, I’m on going to take the risk.

2. I hate pants. I actually knew this already, but now that I have just two pairs of jeans and no trousers, it’s confirmed.

3. Stop buying crappy clothing. I’m actually pretty good about this already, but for awhile there, I was buying stuff at J.Crew Factory, which makes cheaper versions of the stuff at standard J.Crew. One of them was an unlined, cotton pencil skirt that looked really cute until static electricity made it bunch up and cling to my legs in a really really unflattering way, every time I wore it.

4. Return anything you can if you don’t really like it. I’ve gotten pretty good about returning things when I felt they were just “meh,” or didn’t fit properly (as long as they weren’t final sale), but for a while there, I wasn’t so great about it. Case in point: this Banana Republic Megan Draper dress. (picture on the top left). Yeah, it looks totally amazing on that model. On me, not so much. But I kept it, until the day I threw it in the wash and it shrunk in a really strange way.

5. No one’s opinion matters but my own. Seriously, the worst thing I can do is ask someone else what they think. They might give something I’m pretty sure I don’t like the thumbs up or they might hate something I love. The reason I kept that BR Megan Draper dress was because people told me it looked good on or that they liked it. Or, their argument might be that something doesn’t take up much space, so might as well keep it, which defeats the entire project.

In sum, I’ve probably wasted a lot of money on clothing that I ended up either just being lukewarm about or that I disliked. Going forward, I’m going to be a bit more careful about what I buy, so that I don’t have to waste brain space worrying about  my clothing  and so that I’m a lot less wasteful.

 

And, in case you were wondering what happened to the clothing I no longer want: most of it is being donated. A good portion of I’m going to try to sell to an online consignment shop called Twice. I’ll let you all know how that goes.

Waiting to go . . .
Waiting to go . . .