I don’t harbor any nostalgia for communism, but I can’t deny the influence it had on my relationship with fashion.
Imagine Romania, circa 1980’s: rationed food, rationed gas, rationed hot and cold water, car curfews on Sundays, two hours of TV a day, freezing-cold apartments and exactly one “house of fashion” in each major city.
Although “Casa Modei” was only a pretentious tailor shop located in an elegant Main Street building, it gave status to its customers. In a society that demanded uniformity, where everyone drove the same type of car and lived in similar apartments, some of us saw fashion as a rare opportunity to be different.
Being well dressed required connections (to stores or factories producing for the West), a good eye and creativity. Having relatives who lived “Outside”, was also an advantage. Lucky for me, I had an uncle who not only lived in New York, but was also gay. He was impossibly stylish and very generous. He understood how to mix high end luxury pieces (that he would send me) with whatever I could get my hands on there, so he sent me trendy bags, designer sunglasses, jeans, designer jackets, cashmere sweaters (unheard of in Romania) and beautiful accessories. That was my first lesson in combining splurge/steal clothing.
While we wouldn’t want to recreate the conditions under which I developed my fashion sensibilities, I am happy to share with you important takeaways:
ALL YOUR CLOTHES SHOULD MAKE YOU HAPPY.
I had more than one dress as a teenager, but I can count them all on one hand. Most of them had the same story of origin. I designed it and found the right fabric and Grandma sewed it on her manual Singer Sewing Machine. My dresses were made with love and they made me happy. Like the one I wore to my first boyfriend’s birthday party. It was there I discovered that I wasn’t his only “girlfriend” invited to the party, but that doesn’t mar my fond memories for the floral, flounce hem, spaghetti strapped midi dress that saved the day for me.
NO MONEY? NO PROBLEM. YOUR CREATIVITY WILL KICK IN.
We didn’t have money, and most certainly we didn’t have Instagram to tell us how to look. We had to create, improvise, learn skills and take fashion risks.
Like making my prom dress from a dreamy Christian Dior nightgown sent to my mom by my uncle. A very feminine white gauzy cotton 1970s peasant style nightgown got an easy makeover with the help of an elastic waistband and a shirred hem. The result was a long and flowy bohemian number. I had such a good time dancing the night away in it, that I was able to let go of any ill-will I could have harbored against Courtney Love for getting credited for starting the lingerie dress trend in the nineties.
BUY QUALITY OR YOU’LL PAY TOO MUCH.
As I said, overspending was discouraged. At one point the food was so scarce that if someone was discovered with food rations (sugar, flower, oil) larger than a month’s supply, she could go to jail for six months. So I learned to recognize high quality clothing. Natural fabrics, metal zippers, buttons, good thread, and finished seams are all indicators of a quality item that was made to last, not just to be sold. There was a saying back then, “I am too poor to buy cheap stuff,” but its meaning is timeless and universal. So much so, I’m going to make it my personal mission to bring that expression back. (And while I’m at it, I’m also going to get the word out about Courtney Love taking credit for my idea!)
I miss those days of fashion freedom when the creative process was just as important as the end result. It’s a great lesson in the power of the human spirit and how adversity forces people to look for alternative pathways. I suppose it’s fitting this week to give thanks for all the experiences that life brings to us, because we never know where they might lead to. (Or what outfits we might get out of the situation.)
Posted by Mirela Gluck at 08:47 AM
bargain news , Our Views and Opinions |
Fashion wants to be taken seriously and I want people to take it as seriously as I do. Psychologists consider it a mere capitalist manipulation of the masses. Economists think of it as “the opposite of rational”. I disagree with all of them. I believe those who don’t take fashion seriously are misunderstanding what fashion truly is. However, I have my own doubts about fashion’s ability (or inability) to send a cohesive message to the world about its credo. There are inconsistencies not only in what we understand fashion to be; is it the product or is it the change? There are also inconsistencies in what fashion stands for. Perhaps this is why it is so misunderstood. Here are just few of the fashion inconsistencies that trouble me:
FASHION’S TERMINOLOGY IS SO MISLEADING.
The shows presented at fashion weeks in New York, Milan, and Paris are considered prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) but some designers use these opportunities to display only their creative skills as a marketing ploy for their brands. In other words, they use these shows to debut collections that serve more as an art form making a statement, rather than clothing that’s truly “prêt-à-porter.” I know it’s hard to shock anyone on the streets of New York City, but I believe my jaw might drop at the sight of anyone wearing this.
FASHION SAYS ONE THING, BUT THEN DOES THE EXACT OPPOSITE.
Fashion magazines—self-declared progressive voices that are supposed to promote change and empower women—seem to be completely gaga these days over a prince charming fairytale and EVERY SINGLE OUTFIT that Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex wears. Isn’t that just a little hypocritical? How exactly are these magazines empowering girls? I am not joining the ranks of those saying Meghan Markle was a bad feminist for giving up her job to pursue this marriage. I am only saying that the fashion industry is not doing her, or us women, any favors diminishing powerful women into nothing more than fashion influencers. I understand their motivation to also sell products featured within their pages, but I wish they’d quit pretending they are doing it to save us.
FASHION IS SPELLBOUND BY STREETWEAR.
I personally don’t understand what streetwear’s superpower is. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s taken over luxury fashion and that even chic preppy grandpa Ralph Lauren has not been safe from its influence. Virgil Abloh of Off-White fame and more recently named artistic director at Louis Vuitton men’s wear collection said, “Streetwear is what is worn on the street and it’s how real people wear clothes, sneakers with a dress, a hoodie—it’s mixing genres.” If the purpose is to democratize fashion, I am even more confused; how many people who flaunt “streetwear” on a daily basis can actually afford a rather simple looking blue anorak for $1390? If they can, I certainly don’t live on the right street.
I love fashion and I think the time has come for fashion to be taken seriously. It is economically and culturally significant and much can be learned by studying it through many different lenses. I believe there is truth to fashion’s lack of sense of humor, but if fashion wants people to quit laughing, then it’s time for fashion to address the emperor’s new clothes… season after season after season.
What do you think?
Posted by Mirela Gluck at 09:37 AM
bargain news , Our Views and Opinions |
Most of us are sample sale aficionados because we can’t afford to pay retail prices. Some of us are because we love the thrill of finding a good bargain. But the rise of ethical consumerism has introduced yet another motive to keep us on our toes (while hunting for the perfect pair of heels): sample sales and luxury consignment sites save the planet.
Ethical consumerism, ethical fashion, fair trade fashion, and sustainable fashion have all become ubiquitous in the world of fashion—but many brands also incorrectly use them interchangeably. It seems everyone from your BFF to your favorite brand is going green. I agree that “green is the new black” when it comes to fashion and shopping.
We strongly encourage you to go green but it’s impossible to do that properly if you don’t have a solid understanding of what “green” truly means. And considering that it’s becoming more and more trendy, you have to make sure you’re discerning enough to be able to separate the truly green from the, well, aqua.
We are concerned that articles like this one that proclaim things like, “The luxury resale market is expected to soar with the rise of mindful consumerism,” put too much emphasis on the “help the planet” factor and not enough on the “consignors can make a substantial buck on their used goods” factor. The article might simplify the reason why second-life merchandise thrives, but that doesn’t mean it is completely wrong. Our planet is better off with us purchasing less new merchandise.
Brands are under pressure to score large profits and be sustainable simultaneously—and some are willing to do that at whatever cost… including taking advantage of naive consumers who don’t really understand what “sustainable” means. This practice even has its own name: greenwashing. Please, don’t be that consumer who falls victim to this deceiving marketing strategy—be immune to greenwashing and brainwashing alike!
Understand the difference between ethical, fair trade, and sustainable fashion.
We couldn’t find better definitions than the ones provided in People Tree by founder and CEO Safia Minney. So yeah, click that link… or check out our twitter version (tight character limit) of these definitions:
- Fair Trade Fashion is defined as fashion created by a Fair Trade Certified Group with the goal of empowering marginalised people.
- Sustainable Fashion is a product that is made with environmentally-friendly standards.
- Ethical Fashion is a broader term that can encompass fair trade and sustainable fashion but is not always explicit. Ethical fashion has no distinct set of rules, practices, or governing body.
- Fair Trade Fashion may also incorporate sustainable practice, including the use of organic cotton.
- Fair Trade Fashion are sometimes grouped under “Sustainable Fashion” when the production is considered “sustainable” to communities in providing livelihoods.
If you’re going to buy new items, then make sure they check off as many of the above boxes as possible, or whichever boxes are most important to you. However, this can be a challenge getting this information out of brands…
So an alternative would be even further simplifying this process by buying at sample sales and consignment stores. Why? Because even if they don’t check the boxes, they’re at the very least: not new. That means you save them from being destroyed at the expense of Mother Earth. It appears that extending the life of a product instead of always conflating “new” with “better,” plus creating a culture around that idea might be a sensible thing to do… for now.
Happy green shopping!
Posted by Staff Writer at 01:27 AM
Our Views and Opinions |
We had just re-launched The Stylish City with a new, more functional design (yes… again!) when we got the alert that Racked had published their final post. Their short farewell note sent us to their newly launched The Goods by Vox for stories about what people buy and why. In all honesty, Racked stepped away from sample sales coverage a couple of years back when they hired a new editor-in-chief. She decided to focus her resources on turning the website’s spotlight on fashion news and features. You can’t blame her, but you also can’t blame me—sample sale queen—for being sad. I was suddenly worrying: was that a sign that there is no hope to have a sustainable business model in this sample sale publishing space?
While bloggers with real rent-paying-jobs or understanding husbands (guilty as charged) can afford to cover NYC sample sales, it is hardly a business model to be envied. Do you remember DailyCandy? NBC closed them down unceremoniously due to decreased traffic. Even the beloved Mizhattan and the mizterious miss (or miz?) behind it has bowed out. Why? (Reveal yourself to me regardless because I want to meet you!)
What are the factors affecting this sample sale space that make it so difficult for websites about sample sales to survive? Sample sales are thriving, after all. Here is the good news about our beloved sample sales:
- Sample sale events have evolved from showing a limited number of real factory sample sales in the 90s to mostly selling excess inventory today. Let’s call a spade a spade” sample sales are overstock sales with large inventories.
- People love the thrill of scoring a bargain, so the public interest for sample sales has increased, despite the significant difficulties physical retail is facing. Brands took notice and turned it into a lifeline for them, and an opportunity for aspirational and budget shoppers.
- Sample sale events are organized these days. Some brands open up their showrooms so you can meet the designer (this happened to me at a Rachel Roy sample sale!).
- Most brands have stopped keeping the sample sale information secret, and they gladly share it with outlets that will publish it for free.
And yet companies like DailyCandy, Racked, and Mizhattan have all had to call it quits despite all of this good news. The question remains: WHY? Here’s the bad news that we suspect may be contributing to the potential demise of the sites who spread the word about sample sales:
- Prices of samples sales have increased as prices on overstock inventory cannot be as low as those of real samples. Ask anyone who works in the accounting department and they will explain to you why. Also, hiring an external company like 260 Sample Sale to host the sample sale, which has proven to be quite successful, comes at a cost. That leaves little room for other expenses like… advertisement.
- Sample Sales tend to be cyclical While website traffic is high during the months of April-May and October-November, “sample sale season” it decreases significantly during “off season” months.
- Companies like 260 Sample Sale do their own dissemination of news through their customer list. They organize most NYC sample sales and are very transparent with products, prices, and even images. That doesn’t leave much room for a site like Racked to bring in newsworthy articles.
- It appears to be easy to copy large amounts of information from one site to another, which makes business tough. A competitor once asked me if I would agree to willingly give them access to my database or if they would have to “scrape” my site for that information without my approval. Yikes.
- High end brands continue to host “by invitation only” sample sales for their customers. Others prefer to burn merchandise worth millions of dollars than discount it. Um, really, Burberry?
- There is very little money to be made in advertising products at the end of life cycle. Companies push new products, but have little interest in investing more money in overstock items. It’s sad they don’t understand it’s a great opportunity to let aspirational shoppers become ambassadors for their brand.
Needless to say, we understand, Racked. And let this be our farewell letter to you. You will be missed and we are sad to see you go the same way DailyCandy and Mizhattan went. The Stylish City is still here… for now. But hopefully, for much longer…
Posted by Mirela Gluck at 02:12 PM
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