Tag Archives: Topshop

I *Heart* NYC and Phillip Lim Too

It isn’t official yet but it might as well be—I’m leaving New York City!

While my three years here is hardly a twinkling of time compared to most New Yorkers, I’m as heartbroken as anyone to be leaving. An embarrassing amount of tears were shed! (A startling first for someone who’s moved 17 times and lived in nine different cities.) The reasons for the move are at once complex and uninteresting. Far more exciting is this: starting sometime in July, I’ll be dividing my time between San Francisco and Urbana-Champaign, between the boyf and the co-blogger/confidante sister, writing and revising my manuscripts (yes, plural)! Working in the same town—indeed, same house—as Mimi, bodes well for our productivity on the academic writing and blog posting fronts. So look forward to more frequent posting—I know, promises, promises.

With my days in New York City numbered, everything I do is saturated with an uneven mix of sadness, appreciation, and nostalgia (I remember the first time ____; oh my god, is this the last time ____?; oooh, I love ____!) It’s because of this relentless internal monologue and the incredibly gorgeous weather that I splurged a bit today at the Phillip Lim sample sale in the Garment District. Something about clear warm days, pop-up sales, and the possibility of detecting one-off dresses among the racks and piles of haphazardly strewn clothes and aggressively proprietary women shoppers in various stages of disrobement (no fitting rooms at sample sales) for 50-70% off makes me sooo happy!

Partnered with my good friend Thuy Linh, whose sample sale shopping technique—and there is a technique—is one of the most finely honed there is, I nabbed these two dresses. For $230 each, they’re a little pricier than most sample sale dresses but still a great bargain compared to Lim’s store prices. I was also happy to see only one Almond colored Double Fan Pleated dress there. I happened upon this particular dress at the 3.1 store in Soho last Fall during an especially productive shopping trip with Mimi and her lady love Fiona. (Photos of this dress will no doubt be posted after June 20 when I make an honest man of the boyf.) Instead, the sample sale racks were full of the other bedazzled and yet somehow less dazzling version of this dress. Still, the women who tried it on looked great and got me so excited to finally wear mine soonish.

Of all the things I love the most about New York City, sample sales rank highest. (I much prefer the smaller individual designer sales to the huge multi-designer sales [à la Billion Dollar Babes or the overrated Barneys Warehouse sale]). I love that New Yorkers, men and women alike, not only adore fashion but scrutinize it as well. It’s not unusual to hear casual debates about independent and luxury designers, the political economy of fast fashion vs. slow fashion, the practicality of harem pants, cuts, drapes, etc. I love that fashion is not simply a part of the economic life of the city but its cultural life as well (numerous museum and gallery exhibitions are dedicated to fashion). I love that my neighborhood is always teeming with people whose dress is uptown conventional as well as those whose styles rise to the level of sartorial stuntsmanship (see Fashion Sprung). And I love that even the most misanthropic New Yorkers will queue up as quickly for a fashion event (the line snaking down Broome Street the cold April morning Topshop finally opened remains newsworthy) as they would for a street food vendor (the Dessert Truck is always busy no matter how low the mercury drops) or for Magnolia cupcakes. Sigh.

Until I make my way back here, I’ll have to be satisfied with reading the many many (many) fashion and style blogs based in New York City, writing about it, guest lecturing on it (see Fall Fashion Forecast), and of course shopping my closet.


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Policing Fashion in New York

In New York magazine’s Spring Fashion issue, there are six feature stories on clothes, designers, and models including a story on a group of tenderfoot but fresh-faced white male models (“Fashion Week’s handsome rookies”), an interview with style icon Kate Moss on her clothing line at the much-anticipated and much delayed opening of TopShop in downtown Manhattan (recent reports have doors opening in April 2009), and a recession-minded article with an increasingly familiar theme, “Everything Here is Under $100”). In addition, there is the usual array of designer label advertisements and celebrity spokesmodels: Posh and Becks for Emporio Armani, Katie Holmes for Miu Miu, Gwyneth Paltrow for Tod’s, as well as an anonymous sea of puerile, well-heeled, ivory-faced Gothamites slinging everything from Marc Jacobs handbags to cocktails to lifestyles.

Jessica Lustig’s article, “The Fashion Thief,” was the only feature story or advertisement in the Fashion Issue that featured a person of color, any color. Lustig follows Kevahn Thorpe, an African American young man from Queensbridge Houses project in Queens, New York, as he is arrested and rearrested for shoplifting from high-end Manhattan shops like Prada, Bergdorf, Barneys, and Saks.

There’s a lot about this article that’s unsettling. For instance, Kevahn’s love of fashion is pathologized and made irrational (he’s a “fashion fanatic . . . for whom jail was not too steep a price to pay”) as if coveting fashion in New York City is at all unusual. Moreover, Kevahn’s “crafting” (his preferred term for shoplifting) is anything but irrational. Part of the “crafting” for Kevahn is his careful study of fashion labels, their histories, designers, and floor arrangements. Also, repeated mentions of his single black mom and hardscrabble life in Queens reifies tired “culture of poverty” theories from the 1970s and 1980s that blamed black mothers, specifically, and black families, generally, for all the problems of the “underclass” rather than, say, systems of institutionalized racism and uneven distributions of material and social resources, power, and wealth that privileged middle and upper-class whites. But most disquieting for me about this article is its inclusion in New York‘s Fashion Issue during Spring Fashion Week. While all the white models, celebrities, and socialites who crowd the pages of this and so many other magazines are implicitly citizens of the fashion world – their unquestioned rights to fashion’s material objects and its privileges substantiate this – the lone trespasser is a black man who is repeatedly surveilled and forcibly removed out of this world’s borders. His claims to fashion, self-fashioning, and self-actualization are publicly denounced by the headline which identifies him as a “fashion thief” but also by the numerous, mostly anonymous, readers of the article whose online comments against him rise to the level of vitriol.

The racial logic of this article is not unlike those found in other magazines – some of which have been mentioned in this blog (see Oops, Background Color, Redux, and Background Color, Redux II). African Americans as well as other racial groups, when they’re featured at all in fashion and style magazines, are routinely figured as abject, subordinate, or illegitimate bodies that serve to highlight the true white subjects of fashion.

Kevahn catalogued all that he stole on MySpace, adding his own fashion credits and commentary.

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Chloe Sees Red over Topshop’s Yellow Dress

Should there be any doubt as to which direction fashion’s democratic impulses flow, one need only consider See By Chloé’s recent legal victory over Topshop to know that our inalienable “right” to fashion (to paraphrase Sarah Jessica Parker) has its limits and certainly does not extend to Chloé’s yellow over-all dress (on sale now for $205 at Net-a-Porter.com, http://www.net-a-porter.com/product/19187) which they argue the British mass market retailer copied from their cruise collection (and sold for about $70).

For this misstep, Topshop agreed to pay the Paris house £12,000 (roughly $24,000) in damages and legal costs and destroy the remaining 2,000 dresses (744 dresses were already sold).

I have to admit that I find this a curious decision for an industry that is constantly recycling, referencing, reinscribing, and reworking fashions from other cultures, eras, and social groups.

I wonder how much the Harajuku street kids will get from their settlement against Gwen Stefani . . .

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