By Stephanie Vizi
Who: Jessica Alba channels a few key summer trends as she runs daytime errands. We love that she kept her look casual with denim but dressed it up by opting for a striking fuchsia colour and heels. She balanced the daring colour by untucking and rolling up the sleeves of her patterned, collared blouse.
A while ago while explaining what the ?G? in L/G meant to an American tourist (?Grand? Oh yeah, you Canadians speak French too, EH?? he replied with an elbow jab) a coworker then came up to me to say that some male customers are discouraged from purchasing smaller sizes because the French translation is “petit.”
Of course, no guy wants to be petit or else they?ll be shunned by society and catapulted into Tampon Island. Thinking that this was pure nonsense I was surprised by the number of guys who are insulted whenever I suggest an extra-small or that they try some of the kids? clothing.
Alright, it?s time to put away that stupid male-chauvinist, retail way of thinking (especially when you?re buying a pink and purple striped shirt or one with embroidered flowers, yeesh). For one thing, it?s counter productive. Wearing a shirt that?s too big doesn?t say tough, it says, ?Five-year-old boy trying on daddy?s work clothes.? Wearing a shirt that fits, regardless of what size it says on the tags, gives a cleaner cut, professional image that really says, ?Grown-up.?
On a side note, women (and some men) of the world: stop being so hung up on what size you are. I don?t care if you?re a size 6 in one store but you?re a size 8 here. It fits well, it looks good, buy the damn jeans. Don?t be a slave to some random number that isn?t even consistent among stores.
Anyways, this is where it?s advantageous to be a man or woman that?s smaller in stature: the ability to enjoy the adult AND kid?s departments. Sometimes a men?s size extra small is still too big for me so I head towards the kid?s department where the shirts are cut shorter in length.
Whenever I wear a sweater or a t-shirt from the kids? department, people would always come up to me and ask where I got it. That?s another bonus. It?s so easy to pinpoint where everybody got their clothes these days (or have I just been wandering the mall during my lunch break too much lately?). As strange as it sounds, kids? departments and stores are still unknown to most people. They sound surprised whenever I say that I got it from the boy?s section because it doesn?t have pictures of Spiderman.
Designers have caught on that kids are maturing faster and want to look like their twenty-something ?teen? idols. As a result, girls now have low-rise bootcut and flare jeans, sequined shrugs and basically anything that ?People Magazine? spotted Sarah Jessica Parker wearing in the past years. For guys, it?s about blazers, polos and t-shirts that surprisingly have much better designs than their adult counterparts.
Children?s lines have managed to be innovative and cute with their designs (cartoon graphics, unusual colours and patterns) but nevertheless remain plain and simple (one or two stripes, unique but still wearable designs and colours). On the other hand, adult lines have fallen victim with the need to be trendy. Result? Fugly bo-ho chic everywhere. Frumpy ballet slippers overflowing sale racks. Wacky tacky, circus-appropriate woven shirts for men. The horror continues on to the next season.
Before you think to yourself, ?I?m not four feet tall and weigh fifty pounds,? you should see just how big these children?s sizes go. At the Gap, for example, an XL in boys is like an extra-small in adult (and the kid sizes go up to XXL!).
Also remember that children?s clothing has no PST and are generally less expensive than the adult clothes. So the next time you?re shopping, don?t hesitate to stop by at the children?s section to fight off little Susie for that last lavender cardigan.
Clothing retailer Gap Inc. has rounded up a string of big-name celebrities to command a mega marketing campaign this fall. Starting in September, star singers including Alanis Morissette, Keith Urban, and Michelle Williams will be urging you to fall into the Gap when they appear in the company?s ?Favourites? advertising campaign.
For this promotion, what?s old is new again: the Gap?s new TV ads will feature each artist performing a cover of a favourite song. Of course, each singer will also be modelling a pair of Gap jeans at the same time.
Morissette will cover Seal?s ?Crazy? while fellow pop-rock chicks Liz Phair and Joss Stone, will take on Irving Berlin’s “Check to Cheek” and the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” respectively.
Meanwhile, country superstar Urban will give his version of Billy Thorpe’s “Most People I Know Think I’m Crazy,” and Williams, of Destiny?s Child fame, will sing the Al Green classic “Let’s Stay Together.” This year?s breakout R&B sensation John Legend will be doing the Isley Brothers’ “Hello It’s Me,” while singer-songwriter Jason Mraz tackles Bob Marley’s “One Love.” Finally, Incubus’ Brandon Boyd will channel Elvis Costello with his hit, “Alison.”
From September 1 to 17, fans who want to hear more of the performances can pick up a special eight-track CD available at Gap stores and Gap.com. Each of the songs, along with a director’s cut of the commercial and behind-the-scenes footage, will be distributed as a free gift to customers making purchases of $60 or more, while supplies last.
This promotion will be an appropriate tie-in to another Gap marketing campaign that partners up the fashion giant with Apple iTunes next month. From August 8 to 31, a simple trip to a Gap fitting room will score customers free music. All Gap wants you to do is to try on any pair of its new jean fits and you?ll score a complimentary song from Apple?s iTunes music store.
“Do you know where I can get some Armani jeans?” asked a customer in his British accent, “and is there a place that has more expensive stores?”
“What didn’t you like about the jeans you tried on?” I replied. “You said they looked alright and they fit well.”
He shrugged and said, “I don’t like Gap jeans.”
I gave him subway directions to Yorkville, Toronto’s upscale shopping district. It’s equivalent to New York’s Fifth Avenue or Paris’ Champs Elysees where a pair of pants equals a down payment on a house.
When they left I whispered to a coworker, “I hope he gets snobbed to death.”
It’s odd how these people who feel above those who spent less than $100 on their outfit are in turn, looked down upon by the very same bargain hunters.
Whenever I walk through Yorkville I sometimes feel superior to these victims of marketing and avid readers of “Teen People.” I’ll think with a smirk on my face, “I know that these designer clothes are made in the same factory as my $40 jeans and I know better than to let Brad Pitt or Justin Timberlake dictate to me what to wear.”
But on a subconscious level I did once wonder what it’ll be like to wear a Lacoste polo or a pair of Seven jeans. Will people see the little crocodile logo and think that I appreciate the finer things in life? Will I be more attractive? Will I get more respect?
Yes the words, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?” is going through my mind too as I’m writing this but I’m sure at one time or another we’ve all wanted the brand name rather than the no name.
A few months ago I was ready to whip out $100 for a Fred Perry polo at Harry Rosen. Page 194 of the September 2004 issue of “Cargo” (a lesser version of “GQ”). The model, looking through the shelves of a library, is sporting a preppy, British student motif and by the looks of the women in the following pages, it’s not only his book that’s going to be checked out.
Anyways when I walked into Harry Rosen, I looked at the polo for a minute and then left the store sans Freddy Perry. Why? Aside from my sister’s voice in my head yelling, “Why the **** did you waste $100 on a ******* shirt?” there was something else that made the fashion spread evaporate from my thoughts.
From where I was standing I could see through the store window where a bunch of high school students were standing, surrounded with more shopping bags than the “Queer Eye” guys at a Cavalli outlet. On three of the boys, I could make out distinct Fred Perry logos.
They’re not hopping around London; they’re skipping school and hanging out at the mall. They’re not charming the bangers and mash out of women; they’re shopping with other guys. And they sure as hell aren’t gaining my respect.
Then it occurred to me. Does a real lad really give a damn about what brand his clothes are? Am I stupid enough to think that I’ll suddenly live the life in the magazine by wearing a stupid shirt? I was. Perhaps I should return to reality and stop trying to mimic a contrived lifestyle brought to you by a team of professional stylists and one hell of a Photoshop-per.
The words, “Why the hell do you want to look like a school kid from Britain? You’re from Toronto!” also occurred in my mind. I was doing the same thing that Ashlee Simpson was doing to the punk lifestyle: thinking that if you wear the clothes, you’re automatically living that lifestyle. You know something’s wrong when you can draw parallels to Ass, err, Ashlee.
I don’t solely blame this designer label-obsessed mentality on the fashion industry. Hell, if they want to price a t-shirt at $300 and bring back parachute pants go ahead. It doesn’t mean I have to comply with their fashion dos and don’ts. Rather I blame the na?ve individual (like my prior self) who imitates the store mannequins shirt by shirt, unable to differentiate themselves from the brand or realize that no one gives a crap about how much their outfit costs.
“Why would someone pay $100 for a t-shirt?” a friend once asked.
“So that they could say that they paid $100 for a t-shirt,” I replied.
Later that day I tossed that September 2004 issue of “Cargo” into the recycling bin and let out sigh of relief after saving $100. So what did I learn? In the end society is, and forever will be, shallow and materialistic so brands are here to stay. On the other hand, being loyal to designer brands will open the doors to being called a “tool” or a “brand whore.” Bottom line? Keep that $100 in your bank account but if you must insist on purchasing the occasional designer garment then do it. The keyword is “occasional” because no one likes to be called a whore.
We all have that certain friend or family member who would always have an endless inventory of musings from working in a clothing store. Whether it’s idiotic customers, annoying coworkers or a splendiferous combination of the two our ears always anticipate the latest rambling from the often underappreciated occupation of a sales associate. Here are mine.
The “I’m God’s Gift to Women” Customer:
While a customer was in the fitting room, his friend and I were waiting outside. Moments later, the friend whispered in my ear, “Do you think Oriental girls have big (rhymes with mitts)?”
Bear in mind that this happened during my first week of work. Shocked and speechless, I sheepishly replied, “I’m not saying anything.” I then went over to the other side of the store to fold shirts as if Oprah’s Dream Bus was at my doorstep and I only had a minute to pack for a week in Chicago.
My managers didn’t know whether to react with disgust or laughter when I told them about the incident later that evening.
In another isolated case, a man (apparently possessed by the spirit of Tony Morano) strutted into the store telling me that he has a party to attend that night and had to buy an entire new outfit.
Although he was a very pleasant customer to deal with I couldn’t help but stifle a giggle at his “Saturday Night Fever” swagger and faux Brooklyn accent. Wearing a half-unbuttoned shirt that revealed a deep V of chest hair adorned with gold chains, his Sly Stallone demeanor purchased a complete outfit that would make him the most popular “playa” at the club, err, bar mitzvah.
The “I Know What You Bastards Are Up To” Customer:
Man: Are these jeans really $128?
Me: Yes. It’s because they’re limited edition.
Man: Limited to what?
Me: Not all the stores sell them and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Man: Well isn’t that unfair.
Me: Plus the quality of the fabric is better so it’s thicker, softer and more durable than the regular jeans.
Man: (Makes blah blah blah gesture with his hand complete with eye roll.)
My coworker paraphrased what was in my mind at the time perfectly.
“Actually we just write down random numbers on price tags?”
Sir, you asked the question and I’m giving you the answer. If you’re not going to buy the jeans then go away. But I have a feeling that you still want the jeans so you fool yourself into thinking that you have foiled the marketing ploys of a transnational corporation and thus feel as though the jeans are not worthy of your MENSA mind. I know what YOU are up to.
Me: You should check out our t-shirts. They’re two for $30 and the colours really match the shirt that you’re getting.
Man: Of course you think they match, you’re getting commission.
ATTENTION ALL CUSTOMERS. We’re not all snake-oil salesmen working on commission. Our store got rid of it a long time ago because it created competition among employees and they were one pair of sandblasted loose fit jeans away from strangling each other with $19.50 canvas belts. We get paid whether we sell 5 000 outfits or a single pair of defective boxers at half price. We (well, most of us anyways) actually care about your appearance and want to make you look good. Clothes in a clothing line obviously match each other so we naturally make recommendations.
The “I’ve Seen Better Stores Than This” Customer:
I can’t even count the number of times when a customer would ask if we have any shirts like Club Monaco or jeans like Diesel. When I show them what we have they nag that it’s not as good as the “better” brands. If you wanted a Club Monaco shirt, how exactly did The Gap pop into your mind?
A customer from Not-So-Jolly-Old-England complained that only The Gap in London had his sizes. Why didn’t you buy the damn jeans back home? It’s the same price and more importantly, why are you shopping at The Gap while visiting Toronto? Roots is two floors up.
The “Are There Any More Discounts?” Customer:
I’m all for bargain hunting and not paying retail price but sometimes its infuriating to have a customer who thinks that $19.99 is expensive for a woven shirt that used to cost $70.
Since this is the month for markdowns in all of the stores, I’d always get one or two customers who would come up to me and ask for a price check to see if it’s still $14.99 since the last five minutes I’ve checked. Repeat this process six or seven times and you’ll have the customer I dealt with yesterday. I was thinking to myself, “You better have a short-term memory problem.”
As for the regularly priced merchandise, I don’t know why people think that they can haggle, it’s not Chinatown. Yes, I’ve seen the undercover investigations that “Dateline” and “Primetime Thursday” did where the producer was able to get a discount at Macy’s but it’s not going to work here.
If the price is marked wrong, we’ll give you the lowest price. If the item is damaged, we’ll give you 20 per cent off. Other than that, don’t treat me like a car salesman where I’m desperate to sell you something in order to make my next paycheck (I’ll refer you back to the paragraph regarding commission).
There’s a lot more to write about so when I’m (again) absolutely stumped for ideas for a proper fashion column on a Thursday night, I’ll continue with parts two, three and four.
The next time you shop for clothes, remember to treat the sales associates with respect or else they’ll write about you and publish it on a web site.