gone shopping

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If you follow me on IG you probably know I was in the US (California, to be exact) for a couple of whirlwind weeks with my family, enjoying the awesomeness LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas (sigh) and the Grand Canyon has to offer. I'll return to that in future posts, but in this post I wanted to talk about the shopping I did, because well, I haven't shopped like this in a while.

What I bought (clothing):
- A pair of jeans from Vince at their outlet store at Las Vegas North Premium Outlet
- A pair of secondhand Levi's 505s (the modernised version with a tapered leg)
- A polar bear print tote from Kate Spade at Las Vegas North Premium Outlet
- A pair of gingham print mules from Sam Edelman at Nordstrom
- A pair of glasses from Gucci at Las Vegas North Premium Outlet
- A Mickey Mouse T-shirt at Disney California Adventure Park
- A T-shirt from LACMA

Other stuff:
- Sunscreen and snacks from Trader Joe's (mostly as souvenirs but some for myself)
- The "Grape Soda" pin from "Up" from Disney California Adventure Park
- The "Chip" mug from "Beauty and the Beast" from Disney California Adventure Park
- A bunch of fridge magnets and iron-on badges
- Various children's books (for friends' kids)
- A watercolour of whales at a street fair on Abbot Kinney in LA

How quickly the unintentional shopping moratorium ended once I hit the US. I hardly tried on stuff, but when I did, I bought them, including some items I later felt I could have walked away from, chiefly the Sam Edelman shoes, the Kate Spade tote and the Mickey Mouse and LACMA T-shirts. So yeah, that's most of the stuff.

I was particularly free with my money at Disney - they're very good at what they do in terms of putting cute things your way. And I had such a good time (getting my mum and aunt to ride on a roller-coaster will stay with me for the rest of my life) that buying a T-shirt seemed like such a small gesture to remember the day by.

I'm not sure why I bought the LACMA T-shirt - perhaps it being my last day, I felt like using up the US dollars I had already changed for the trip. Plus it was cute.

Likewise, the Kate Spade tote and Sam Edelman shoes were simply... cute - once I picked them up, I wanted to walk out of the shop with them. And it was easy to give in when they'd been marked down so drastically.

Cute as all these things are, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have missed them if I had passed on them. But well, let's just enjoy them so they don't go to waste.

The question floating in my head while shopping in the US was: "Why would anyone pay full price for anything when there's so much good stuff on sale?" I thought Neiman Marcus' Last Call and Nordstrom Racked would be full of nonsense that no one wanted, but there were plenty of quality pieces that would make lovely additions to any wardrobe (I didn't buy anything though). Las Vegas North Premium Outlets was also pretty fun to shop. My Vince jeans were reduced from US$275 to US$55. My mother found a beautiful dress from Elie Tahari which she plans to wear for my younger sister's wedding next year, at great discount. My sister found a gorgeous, classic silk blouse from Rag & Bone that was of much better quality than a similar Cuyana piece she tried at their SFO showroom.

I've always been willing to pay a premium for quality, but in the US this doesn't seem necessary, because it's so easy for a consumer to get quality at discount prices - I could have bought myself a whole new wardrobe of classic pieces from Vince at their outlet, from outerwear to shoes, at 30-70% off (and mostly if not all made in the US).

I wonder how sustainable this is in the long run from a business point of view, even as I appreciate how easy on my wallet it all is. It makes so much harder to make the point that good things are worth a premium, because it's impossible to go back to paying more for stuff when you know they get discounted eventually. It makes you lazy about sourcing for secondhand things too, because you can get new things so easily. And it made me sad to think that we're producing enough unwanted stuff to fill miles and miles of shops.

Maybe it's good I don't live in that kind of shopping environment; I might be buying way more stuff to fill my wardrobe.

(You might be asking why someone who says she doesn't want to shop so much visited so many clothing stores while on holiday. The short answer is that I'm travelling with family members who did want to shop for things we don't find so easily back home.)

Meanwhile, I feel zero regret at buying the jeans and the glasses. Well, admittedly, I might not have bought the 505s had I come across the Vince ones first - both pairs have a very similar fit but the 505s are a smidgen shorter and so I prefer the Vince ones.

About the Vince jeans - if you can afford them, or find them on sale or secondhand, BUY THEM. If you've been craving actual 100% cotton denim, not indigo-dyed stretchy cotton pretenders, the Vince ones are the real deal, and they're the closest match to my CBK dream jeans I've ever found - the high-rise cropped straight style that always looks chic. They are still available on the Vince website, but in limited sizes and well, not for US$55.

I should point out that while the Vince ones have a better finish than the Levi's (and made in America), the latter are also good quality, made using less water, and retail for a fraction of the price of the Vince ones.

I wanted a new pair of alternate glasses after losing my last pair (very long story), because the best-made pairs can go irreversibly out of shape in a few years from daily wear. Alternating is the best way to prolong the lifespan of a beloved pair, as is the case with shoes. I don't have a photo of my new ones as they're currently at the optician being fitted out with my prescription, but they look like this.

What have you bought lately? What were the keepers, and which could you have done without after all?

Comments

sovannary fun said…
Great post and I'm so glad you had a great time in the golden coast :) To be fair with your US consumérisme observation it's true that outlets and other second hand or even third hand shops sell designer sometimes of great conditions and high qualities but the issues comes from the experience of shopping isn't quite exacting as shopping at the boutiques or fancy department stores and as you may already know for most Americans shopping is an activity and a way to hang out. When I first moved to the US I used to have similar thoughts but later found my closet exploding mainly on impulse shopping. I recall asking myself it's not because I can afford that I should buy more. And more doesn't mean better but I think I know what you mean. I think you are lucky to have your family to go shopping with as myself when I go on travels I rarely have any chance to buy anything sadly or luckily bit certain on this but there are times where I'd love to take some time to check out some new shops and be able to buy something like a souvenir or a tee shirt like yours that has memnometabek moments printed on it. I hope to meet you soon though as I'm planning on moving to Seoul :)
AJG said…
It sounds like this does not apply to the Vince store (since you found the same jeans online), but many outlet stores in the US now produce clothing specifically for their outlet stores. They are cheaper, but not as good quality as their regular line. However, people get the brand name on their clothing. It used to be outlets were the overstock (like Nordstrom Rack), or things with minor imperfections, but no longer for many companies.
lin said…
sovannary fun: moving to seoul sounds exciting, and yes, if you ever come by Singapore, we should meet up! i agree the experience of shopping at outlets isn't always as fun but i think they're great when you have a specific goal in mind

AJG: yeah i've heard about this which is why we didn't bother with a lot of shops (J Crew, Polo, Coach, etc) for that reason, although I made an exception for the Kate Spade polar bears. My fave shops to browse in were Vince, Theory, Tahari (beautiful and jackets coats to see, though not to buy) and surprisingly the Marc Jacobs store which had such a great selection of clothing.
Pret a Porter P said…
The US consumer has been conditioned to wait for sales. We want things to be faster, cheaper, and cheaper and want top notch service too.

AJG is correct that stores, especially chain stores, produce merchandise specifically for outlets. In fact, it is even its own brand. The price point is lower than in main line but not necessarily poor quality--just at a different price point.

There are things i bought that I didn't die over, but I have them so I may as well enjoy them. I hope you had a nice trip to the US.
MC Bontemps said…
Sounds like a good time was had by all - the US is a really good destination for a family holiday. 2 things when shopping there which reminded this foreigner of how truly exotic the country is : being repeatedly offered a credit card on the spot despite saying I wasn't local and seeing guns for sale a couple of aisles down from the detergents at Walmart.

On the sustainability of retail discounts, here are a couple more aspects to consider : first, outlet stores operate with lower costs than full-service boutiques and department stores (no need for expensive downtown real estate, generous returns and price-matching policies etc) and therefore have savings to pass on to customers.

Second, production costs are typically 25 - 45% of revenue for fashion/ luxury brands, inclusive of the effects of discounting. Good things may be worth a premium, but it is also a good thing to have a choice to pay 3x production costs in a full-service store, or 0.5x at a discount outlet.

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