The Shopping Critic

I’ve always wanted to be a food critic.  I’m not sure what it is, maybe it’s because I consider myself to have good taste and a love for food.  Not to mention if you read my post about Chanel you know that I’m wildly passionate about my opinions (especially burritos).  Passion, I believe, is essential to the critic – after all you not only need a well-educated and discerning palate but you must have an opinion.  I mean, Tom Colicchio doesn’t just say that those spices are correct, he will talk about how delicious, what a perfect combination of texture or use words like pairings, just the right amount of acidity to describe food.  Of course, he may also even say that the dish was a total disaster.  Those are some passionate words.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’m not nearly as experienced or adventurous when it comes to food as I would like to think.   There are just some items that I’ve never tasted and there are some items that I have no taste for, which means I really wouldn’t have a good opinion.  Take for instance lamb – don’t like it, can’t do it, have tried it several times and just can’t get over the gamey taste – gyros are totally lost on me.  Also, I’ve never had a tartar of anything and frankly, I don’t really want to.  I just don’t know that I could actually put a bite of tartar in my mouth.  I’m sure it’s great, but it’s just not for me.  After this careful analysis, I realized that my career as a food critic would be short-lived.  I’m pretty sure most successful food critics don’t get away with saying, “uhm, I didn’t really care for the lamb.  It was kinda gamey.  Do you happen to have some burritos on the menu?”

So how does this even relate to fashion or style?  I may not have a variety of food experiences, but I can definitely say that I’ve had quite an array of shopping experiences under my belt.  My experience ranges from backroom shopping in the streets of Beijing, market haggling in remote places of South America, garage sale and Craigslist finds, to the greatest luxury experiences both online and in person.  I can say that when it comes to a shopping experience, I’m willing to try any location with any type of merchandise.  I may need a de-containment chamber after entering a store, but I’m not afraid to try it out.  I love finding the best places to shop for anything – really anything – doesn’t have to be fashion.  I do have my favorites for staple items, but I’m always on the lookout for a good find, a nook with a great product.  For example, when I became a mom, I realized that often the prices at , Wal-Mart are much cheaper than Toys R Us and even sometimes even slightly cheaper than Target.  Of course you have to ask yourself, is it worth it to make the trek to Wal-Mart to get that prized toy, at a slightly lower cost, maybe?  That’s an individual decision.  Just like, is it worth it to traverse the city, into a not so great neighborhood for the best taco/burger/bbq/whatever you’ve ever had, maybe?

I like to think that my eye has been tuned to what makes a great retail location from years of professional retail experience as well as my shopping habit.  Much like the restaurant, it’s not just the products being sold, though that is certainly the main idea, a great place also consists of great staff, price points, visual display, and attention to detail; otherwise known as product, people, price, presentation and particulars.   So while I can’t be a food critic, I can certainly be a self-proclaimed shopping critic, right?

Let’s begin, with the most recent shopping excursion:  Anthropologie.  We went to Anthropologie this past weekend to pick up some alphabet cards to decorate my daughter’s room.  Entering the store was like having a great meal.  I had a hard time focusing on just picking one item because everything looked so great and I definitely wanted dessert.  So here’s my critique.

Product – I think that the visual effects in this store elicits my love for the product.  I don’t always love the product just for the products sake.  Sometimes I love the product because someone displayed it in such a way that makes me love the product.  I have to say that there are some items in that store that taken out of context and surroundings would be greeted with disgust and to name a few comments: “seriously, what was the buying team thinking, who wears this, and there is no way.”  I have to say that on average, my favorite products in this store are the jackets – they are so unique.  Every jacket I have purchased from this store has always made me feel like I just purchased a one of a kind item.  Today was no exception – the jacket in the display window was to die for.  So what if it was a mustard color – it was amazing.  Not only did I want the jacket, but I also wanted to buy the whole outfit.  Kudos, jacket buyer and visual display person for knowing how to pair these products.

My other favorite products thought somewhat limited but are still worth checking out are the smart children’s products.  I have purchase some of the most beautifully crafted toys and books here.  Today was no exception, they had a book called The Three Little Pigs  An Architectural Tale.  It’s not to say your can’t find this book anywhere else, but if you are out and about looking for a little inspiration or a little something new for your wardrobe or home, it’s nice to know you can also pick up something wonderful for that special kiddo in your life.

People – Nothing outstanding to report.   Staff can vary depending on the geographical location.  In Southlake, the people were not overwhelming or underwhelming, but we were there for a short time and for a specific reason.  I didn’t really give much time or thought to the people.

Price – This really depends on what you compare it to.  Are the items cheaper than what you might find at Forever 21?  No.  Are the majority of the items priced appropriately – ie, are they priced for the material, craftsmanship and brand.  I would say yes – the majority – not all of the items are worth the price though – like a basic tank, might make more sense to buy elsewhere.  The thing I love about this store is that you can always find some great deals in their clearance section.  Unlike most clearance sections, the area at the Southlake store was pretty well-kept for a Sunday afternoon making it so much easier to search for a good find.

Presentation – The visual merchandising gets me every time.  The window displays are not extravagant, but the collection of clothing that is presented is amazing.  The way the product is styled is what makes me want to shop at Anthropologie.  It’s not that I would buy that floral print blouse or high-waisted, asymmetrical skirt and mustard jacket had they been displayed on their own, but the way it was styled inspired me.  You could liken it to the way food is presented on a plate – the color combinations, the placement often makes the food more appealing, even look tastier.  This is definitely the case with the visual displays throughout the store.  Upon entering the store, you get the sense that you are entering a creative space where the possibilities are endless.  The kitchen decor nook reminds you that you do love to cook and entertain or makes you wish you did.  The clothing styles will draw you in and give you the courage to pick up that off-color piece to liven up your typically all black wardrobe.  Or this place could even simply serve as an inspiration to get ideas on how to revamp your existing wardrobe without buying a thing.  Whatever it is, the visual presentation in the store is exquisite.

Particulars – I think that for this store, the little details they put into visually merchandising everything whether for sale or not is really key.  In this instance, I know I’ve gone on about the product styling and such, but the details show in their choice of point of sale area – smoothed concrete with wood trim – rough, modern, deconstructed – similar to their products.  The little area they had set up with a tea set was in the middle of the store, but also completely belonged there.  Not only did it serve as a display fixture for kitchen items, books, stationary products and decor, but it created this magical world within the store that had me thinking of outdoor entertainment and tea parties with my daughter.

Overall Score: A.  I would not only venture into this store again for inspiration, but might seriously consider saving up for one of those great jackets.  Not to mention because the items have a unique feel, it makes for a great gift giving shop – the holidays are just around the corner.

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