Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fashionista on a Budget: She Does a Little Comparison Shopping

This evening, for entertainment, I went to Target. Now, I have not been to Target in a while, nor have I shopped seriously at Target in several years, but I wanted to check out what was new in "Design for All."

One of the reasons I like Target is that it has this design for all mission. It isn't "Design Within Reach," which is just the Sharper Image of the early twenty-first century. Instead it really believes that the masses might like good design, instead of make-do design. I have several artifacts of this experiment, including my Michael Graves paper shredder, Michael Graves can opener, Michael Graves vegetable peeler, and Michael Graves surge protectors. All of these everyday objects are useful, comfortable, and pleasing to the eye (Calderoj's brother even complimented the surge protectors). Even as I write, form and function are making beautiful music together in my utility drawer.

While all of the aforementioned products have stood the test of time, I have not been impressed by the durability of clothing on offer at Target. I learned about this problem a few years ago when I noticed that Target has cute clothing for cheap. This was shortly after Isaac Mizrahi made Target cool. I bought some items. The shirts ripped at the seams, the sweaters pilled. The knitwear shrunk in the wash. Not only was the durability bad, but the form, while pleasing to the eye, was not so pleasing to the body. Jackets puckered and were strangely sized. I realized that in clothing you really do get what you pay for. Target clothes retail mostly for below $25 per item.

Is the idea that the buyer will wear it once and then throw it away? This never seemed to be the case with Geranimals, which is how I started out wearing Target clothes. Though my mother does consider shopping a raison d'etre, thirty years ago she was, nevertheless, practical, so I don't think she would have bought us stuff that would fall apart. But there is a difference in quality in women's apparel from Target and, say apparel by Stella McCartney. Target clothes don't last the week. Stella designs clothes so your daughter can wear them as vintage decades from now.

But Stella McCartney and Target do have something in common. That thing is Pleather. Neither one of them uses the word. Instead, both prefer to make the word "patent" into a noun, as in "Patent Ombre Handbag." And both of them market products made from "faux suede." I'm not sure about this, but weren't earlier incarnations of faux suede called Naugahyde and Ultrasuede, respectively?

I am not looking down on these retailers. No. I have several pieces by excellent designers that use faux fur.* Indeed, SM uses faux skins and fur because she is a vegetarian and wishes to translate her eating choices into her design aesthetic, which I applaud. The interesting thing is that when you buy a Stella boot in faux suede, you pay 100 times more than you would to buy a Target boot in faux suede.

So when I went to Target, I decided to check out the difference. I tried on a Stella boot yesterday. This evening, I tried on a Target ballet flat. I had to go up a size in both. Pleather must not stretch as well as its natural, cruel counterpart.

*My Rebecca Taylor faux leopard jacket is one of my favorite pieces. Calderoj thinks it makes me look like a streetwalker. This fall I'm going to wear it with a black pashmina scarf and gloves and jeans for a casual look. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

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