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Excuses, Excuses

It took me eight months. I had surgery; I stood frozen in time. I kept procrastinating. For this condition, one of my friends of the past even took a special medication to unfreeze her writer’s block to allow her to finish her doctorate. Maybe my next blog will be written in a blissful delirium.)

I kept reading about the most successful blogs. I realised, the most successful blogs were the blogs about how to write a successful blog. It kept me frozen for even longer.

And here I am my reader, in front of you. I came undone. I longed to write this blog for a very long time. In my previous blogs, I tried to protect you, from the gentle hands of the brands seduction. I tried to explain to you, that the trends/brands and what you are wearing should not define you. You define them, and you create your style.

But, who am I to tell you this? A hopeless fashion romantic? A believer in the miracles of individual operators and independent fashion brands? Well, I decided to write about the Rulers of the fashion world, about the brands. They also need to come undone).

Does It Matter Where It Is Made?




Look at today’s woman and what do you see? The clothes which are more or less anonymous, the shoes which are more or less signature(less). Only her bag tells her story, her reality, her fantasy, her dreams.

From 1990-s, most of the fashion magazines were saying – “if you could not afford the new look every year, you can always update it with a new bag.” The new bags are being discussed now at the fashion weeks with the same intensity as Donald Trumps’ ascendancy to the presidency (God Forbid!).

Lots of luxury handbags are made in China. Top brands, brands that we carry. Brands that would vehemently deny that their bags are made in China. According to Dana Thomas, the author of the book “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre” during her visit to the factory producing those luxury bags in Chinese Province of Guangdong, she was sworn to secrecy about the names of the brands she saw and witnessed being manufactured. “Each brand makes the manufacturer sign confidentiality agreement. In turn, the manufacturer does not let the competition know which other brands he is also producing.”

The “brand’s team” is led to a separate part of the factory where only their “Made in France” bags are manufactured. “It is as complicated as keeping a slew of mistresses,” – Tomas says.

Most of the brands won’t admit to the “Made in China” truth. In reality, the luxury brands cannot openly move their production to China without damaging their image. The labour costs for manufacturing luxury goods are steadily rising in Europe. There are two solutions: to increase the prices and face not so happy shareholders and the customers or to move the production elsewhere where production would be cheaper.

Few of the brands would admit to their not so Paris romantic manufacturing roots. But even the purists of the luxury brands should understand that most of the hardware, primarily the locks, might come now from China (Guangzhou). The zipper might have the passport of Japan. The embroidery might be made in India or Northern China. The leather could come from Italy or “worse”, from Korea. We are citizens of the global village; our rooftops are touching each other.

Due to the labelling laws in Europe, the “Made In China” sticker has had an easy workaround. Imagine the bag produced in China, par the handle. Then this bag travels to Italy. On arrival of the bag, the Italian made handle is attached. Voila, it suddenly becomes legitimately “Made In Italy” bag. To continue the story, sometimes the tops of the shoes are made in China, and then the Italian made soles are attached to them in Italy to “elevate” those shoes to the Italian made level, so to speak.

But again, why is it so important that the brands are made where they claim to be made?

Firstly, the honesty factor is paramount for the consumer. When the consumer spends the equivalent of his/her monthly salary, on the branded item, it is imperative the brand treats the customer with the same respect.

Secondly, the consumers of the logos/brands are also buying into the history of the house, into the images of Audrey Hepburn, clad in Givenchy and carrying her forever Louis Vuitton bag. They are buying into austerity and purity of Miuccia Prada, not realising that Prada bags have been manufactured in China since 2005. Better than, they are manufactured in even cheaper “Made In Vietnam” factories now. They are buying into Donna Karan image of luxurious New Yorker, not realising that the luxury New York is now made in China.

Thirdly, when the cost to produce the item becomes lower when it is “Made in China”, so should the price of the final product, should it not? Not so. Dana Thomas mentions in her book after her visit to the factory in Guangdong finished; she travelled that night back to Hong Kong. The end of the journey and the end of the day took her to Harvey Nichols for a couple of drinks with her friends. In Harvey Nichols, that night, Thomas saw the same bag she spotted in the factory with a hefty price tag of $1200. This bag cost only $120 for the luxury brand to manufacture at that secret Guangdong location.

The lower are the costs, the bigger are the profits, the larger could become the volume of production. Our non-suspecting logo/brands consumers are no longer investing into the images of Audrey Hepburn or romanticism of the brand; they invest in a mass market luxury reality. Why is it still luxury? Because of the price tag? Because of the marketing? Because the brand consumers will still be following the brand, until the death do they part?

During the last three years, the sales of Louis Vuitton canvas bags fell dramatically in China. The Chinese started to call them “the bags for the secretaries.” Their appetite shifted towards more discreet and label-less bags from the other brands.

Louis Vuitton Canvas Bag

My chosen menu of today is LVMH, Hermes, Lanvin and the outsiders such as Fung Brands. I am going to tell you all about how “Where Is It Made” works for each of them.



In reality, there are about ten biggest fashion corporations in the world. They make our lives impossible with day/night dreaming and longing. They force us to judge of who is who around us and even further, to make our life choices. If anything, we can blame the brands for our own partner’s choices.

For more than a century, the luxury fashion business, was, in reality, a conglomerate of family companies which produced beautiful items from the finest fabrics and materials. It was a niche business for the creme de la crema of the society. From the late 1980-s, business magnates started to invest in the fashion business and began to buy up these companies with the purpose to turn them into billion-dollar global brands producing millions of logo-embellished items for the middle market. The executives labeled this rollout the “democratisation” of luxury. The creme de la crema of the society descended to the middle class. And there is nothing wrong with it.





Let’s Talk About LVMH


LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE is better known as LVMH. It is a French multinational luxury goods conglomerate, headquartered in Paris, France. Since Louis Vuitton family story had come to an end in 1987, we cannot not mention it here.

Louis Vuitton had been the maker and supplier of luggage to the rich and famous for more than 100 years. In 1987, the company emerged together with Moet Hennessy, thus creating the world biggest conglomerate Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH). The 1980s were extremely successful years for Louis Vuitton. The marketing of the Vuitton name was extensive, and the brand was promoted in a very smart way.  In 1983, Louis Vuitton became the preliminaries sponsor of the America’s Cup. Three years later, the company created the Louis Vuitton Foundation for opera and music. 

Henry Racamier was the husband of Gaston Vuitton’s daughter Odile. He took over management of the company in 1977. Under Racamier management, the company started acquisitions of the companies with a reputation for top-notch quality. It purchased a major interest in haute couture house of  Givenchy and the champagne producer of Veuve Cliquot. Louis Vuitton’s acquisition philosophy was “to treat the brands with kid gloves”. It was respectful, it was discreet, it was never- ever greedy, nor it was aggressive. Since June 1987 and the $4 billion mergers with Moet-Hennessy, (company, specialising in the production of champagne, spirits, wines, and perfumes), Louis Vuitton expanded its investments in the luxury business. Louis Vuitton also allowed a narrow escape for Moet-Hennessy from the impending threat of takeover. The tandem respected the autonomy of each company.


“Never Set The Wolf To Guard The Sheep.”


The happy marriage became unhappy only after a few months. The underlying issues were the size of Moet-Hennessy (three times bigger than Louis Vuitton). The size of Louis Vuitton shares shrank to a pitiful 17%.

Racamier was led to believe that Moet-Hennessy was trying to take over Louis Vuitton. Racamier needed an independent mediator to end the war and start productive peace. This person was the young property developer and financial engineer Bernard Arnault

By that time, in 1984, Arnault had already bought the Financière Agache, a luxury goods company, which was in control of Boussac. Since Boussac owned Christian Dior, and the department store Le Bon Marché, Arnault also became a CEO of Christian Dior and Le Bon Marche in a matter of days. Young property developer/engineer/independent mediator, he certainly, was not.

Hoping to stay within LVMH with the help of Arnault, Racamier soon saw, however, that Arnault had ambitions of his own.  The French bank Lazard Freres and the British liquor giant Guinness PLC came handy. Arnault secured for himself a staggering 45 percent controlling interest in LVMH stock.

An 18-month legal battle started between Racamier and Arnault. During this battle, even Chevalier stepped down, becoming just another fish in the catch. Nothing helped: not even Louis Vuitton’s strong performance, accounting for 32 percent of LVMH sales Racamier could not continue fighting since he did not have the support of Moet and Hennessy family against Arnault. Arnault, eventually, weeded out Vuitton’s top executives and began to bring together his fragmented luxury empire. In line with the Arabic saying, “if the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”


LVMH Acquisitions

In 2013, LVMH released a fantastic video on the brands acquisitions


The Diagram of Acquisitions by LVMH.

Does it make the company the biggest elephant with the biggest appetite? Yes and no. Not many brands suffered as a result of those acquisitions. Hermes and their non-acquisition are a different story. R.M Williams should have felt they found a gold mine when acquired by LVMH…

The only major shareholder of LVMH is now Groupe Arnault. It is the family holding company of Bernard Arnault. The group controls 47.64% of LVMH’s stock,  (42.36% through Christian Dior and 5.28% directly). The group holds  63.66% of the voting rights (59.01% by Dior and 4.65% directly).  LVMH also has 66% of the drinks division, Moët Hennessy, with the remaining 34% owned by Diageo.

For a major shareholder like Bernard Arnault would it be easy to walk away from the stock exchange altogether? Not difficult, I would think since he would not need to sell the shares to himself. His dependence on the share price would be marginal.

In March 2015, Forbes estimated Arnault’s wealth to be $37 billion. As for the last year Arnault was the 13th richest person in the world and the richest in France.

Arnault promoted decisions towards decentralising of the group’s brands. I never saw a joint advertising of any of LVMH brands, except, on one occasion, the advertising of Beluti shoes and Krug champagne.


LVMH World Hehemony


Among all the brands LVMH owns, the oldest of the LVMH brands is the wine producer Château d’Yquem, which dates its origins back to 1593.
Berluti-Krug Advertising
Berluti-Krug Advertising

Where is it made?

In 2012, LVMH launched the project called The Journées Particulières.

LVMH showcased the incredible “diversity of métiers and savoir-faire within LVMH Houses across the world.” (From LVMH News). The first two editions met tremendous success. Beautiful Haussmann lofts, beautiful workshops, the places, where the magic happens. If I were an LVMH customer, I would be entranced.


Journees Particulairies


But the truth is somewhat different. In 2004, at the luxury conference in Hong Kong, Bertrand Arnault categorically denied any possibility of LVMH brands produced in China. The same year, Celine moved production of its bags to China. A brown leather tag inside its Macadam bags said:
the design belonged in Paris”, but the “proud production” happened in China with the high attention to quality and detail.

It is also not surprising that since the acquisition, the following brands of LVMH at least partly moved their production to outside of France/Italy/USA:

  1. Kenzo
  2. Loewe
  3. Donna Karan and DKNY
  4. Mark Jacobs
  5. Givenchy





Why would Arnault allow this? He could certainly afford the brands to be made where they truthfully belong. The answer is never simple. In my opinion, (and I would love to interview Monsieur Arnault one day), he never came from one of LVMH brands heritage background, not even from Christian Dior’s heritage(his first catch). Arnault looks at the brands and their acquisitions as the means to his success. If it does not require a heritage based production, so be it. If it does at the same time, require more marketing expenses to persuade the customer, that is indeed a heritage based production, so be it, too. It is nothing wrong with success, and it is nothing wrong with somebody being successful. The model works perfectly well. At the same time, if I were an LVMH customer, I would appreciate the Monsieur Arnault’s honesty.

Moet Chandon produced in China
LVMH Chandon winery processing plant in Yongning County in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

In Summary

I will never drink Chandon coming from China, or, for that matter, from any other of the countries outside France. I will never buy into the mass luxury market, champagnes, wines, and Belvedere excluding. LVMH won’t suffer as a result. The elephant of LVMH will survive no matter what. The “bag for the secretaries” might give way to a more luxurious bag, or might be deleted from Louis Vuitton production altogether. LVMH is the most successful fashion/retail company in the world. It sells the embellished aristocratic heritage to the masses. It sells the dreams of luxury to the middle class. That is LVMH formula for success.

Let’s Talk About Hermes

“A business generating nothing but profits is poor indeed.” –  Pierre Alexis Dumas, President of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès.

I must admit, I love Hermes. Thus, I have slammed the first nail in the coffin of my label-less religion.
I love Hermes for the different reasons. Not the least of them is the behaviour of the company in the times of the Second World War. It is blemishless, to say the least.

“We don’t have a policy of image; we have a policy of product.” – Former Hermes CEO Jean-Louis Dumas. With this leitmotif, the company has existed for almost 200 years. I don’t want to go into the brand history. It is well-known to my readers, and it is still “in the family”. I wished to underpin just another success story and “Where Is It Made.” in Hermes case.

Hyundai/Hermes Collaboration


LVMH BID – The War of Handbags


It Stays in The Family (Courtesy of Renauldon R.B. Press)

Hermes is the 10th most successful fashion company in the world, nine rows behind LVMH. The two companies, however, cannot be more different. To be fair, there is a similarity which might have started almost 200 years ago when both businesses were born. It lies in the production of objects associated with travel.

LVMH had started buying up Hermès shares in 2002, using the hedge funds who don’t want to disclose their purchases. After this had come to light in Oct. 2010, Arnault maintained that his intentions toward Hermès were “friendly,” but Hermès again saw Arnault as the wolf entering the role of a babysitter for their sheep. Then-CEO Patrick Thomas at the time said: “If you want to seduce a beautiful woman you don’t start raping her from behind.” In his interview in 2011 to WSJ, Thomas also made not so politically correct point about the two companies religious differences: The family(Hermes) is Protestant, and Protestants have a very different approach to money than the Catholics”.

In 2011, the 6th generation of Hermès founder Thierry Hermès finally got together and formed a holding company. They called it H51 in a genuine spirit of the Cold War, I believe. The company held 50.2% of the shares locked up for the next 20 years.

Though H51 stopped any takeover attempt by LVMH, the courts were abuzz with the “war of handbags” activity until 2014. Then the president of Paris’s Tribunal de Commerce brokered a deal. LVMH would distribute its Hermès stake to its shareholders before the end of the year. Since Arnault has had quite various business holdings within LVMH, Christian Dior needed to be involved. Bernard Arnault was left with a roughly 8.5% stake in Hermès. Arnault (LVMH) was not allowed to buy any more of Hermes shares for another 20 years. Regardless of this Dumas were not selling any of the family shares for that period.
As in the Russian proverb, the status quo allowed “for the wolves to be sated and for the sheep to stay intact.” For the next 20 years.

Where is it Made?

In a world of the luxury handbags made in China, Hermès still employs the great artisans in France, who make each of its famous Kellys and Birkins, individually, by hand. While most of its competitors buy rolls of pre-made fabric from China to print their silk scarves, Hermès weaves its fabric in Lyon from silk raised on its farm in the mountains of Brazil. While most of the Hermes competitors license perfume creation to the monster large laboratories that also make air fresheners, detergent scents, and food flavouring, Hermès has an in-house nose (Jean-Claude Elena) who meticulously creates each new perfume in his lab near Grasse, South of France. This attention to detail and dedication to integrity has given Hermes a license of trust by the customer.

Making A Birkin

Hermès controls the production of 80% of the products it sells, using few carefully selected sub-contractors only in segments for which it lacks expertise, as in ready to wear (France or Italy), Watches (Swiss). Hermès still hand-produces in France most of its products maintaining its traditions and using the craftsmanship of its employees. It takes approximately 15 hours to produce Kelly or Birkin handbag.

Hermès does not market the Birkin at all. Instead, the company relies on the bag’s “exclusivity and prestige”, on the celebrities wearing the bag. In fact, Hermes does not have a marketing department. If the world knew how many bags came out from Hermes oven every year, the lights of excitement would likely dim. The only fact Hermès wants us to know about the bag’s availability is that you probably can’t get one.

By the sources, Victoria Beckham owns 100 Birkin bags. No wonder, the waiting list is so long

The Secret of Success

Hermes is the It luxury brand in the world. The highest attention to detail in manufacturing, craftsmanship, brand exclusivity and family values – all of these contribute to the core of Hermes. The group is also a unique example of a successful premium business model. Its share price has been multiplied by 60 since 1993 and unlike other luxury brands, the group proved resilient during the crisis returning superior returns to its shareholders, who for 73% of them are heirs of the founding family. Hermes has always remained acutely desirable while being committed to the tradition of “making things the way the grandfathers of our grandfathers did.” At Hermès, any workable premium solution relies solely on mystique. After all, selling a commodity boils down ultimately to one thing: price versus the margin. Selling the beautiful objects that people already accumulated from so many other luxury brands? The objects which people don’t need but still desire? Like this cotton beach towel? It will make them poorer by $1,000. It is, I imagine, what Hermes would think, a small price to pay to belong.

Beach Towel by Hermes 700 Euro
In examining Hermès’ ownership structure, FORBES states, that at least five family members now belong on the global billionaires’ list. Combined fortune for Dumas’ family now tops $25 billion–more than the Rockefellers, the Mellons and the Fords.

In Summary

In my view – I am a half way Hermes customer. I would never buy a Birkin or a Kelly. It is an inconspicuous mass luxury. Inconspicuous(as in no logos), but recognisable, mass market luxury nevertheless.
I love Hermes scarves, though, I think, they are worth collecting.
I love and love Hermes cooperation with the Parisian Designer Pierre Hardy. I also love Hermes ready-to-wear silly conservative clothes.
Hermes, however, is still playing cat and mouse with the customer. Why their prices are so high? Because they can! They can charge us, the gullible devotees. Their marketing is based on the fairy tale of exclusivity and very limited numbers. Hermes is a the quintessential “Hard To Get Bride” of the fashion world. At least, their heart is in the right place – they are remarkably honest about “Where Is It Made”.

Herms RTW Spring 2016


hermes Pierre Hardy
Pierre Hardy Hermes Bag



What Happens When The New World Buys The Old World

Does the world collapse? Does Almighty send ten plagues to punish offenders? Not really. In fact, it already happened.


Lanvin Packaging One-Blue-Shoe-Box-3When Taiwanese entrepreneur Wang Shaw first bought Lanvin in 2001, she was considered a pioneer. Lanvin is the oldest French Fashion house, dating back to 1905, with Jeanne Lanvin as a founder. She started making clothes for her daughter, Marie-Blanche de Polignac. The clothes were a big success and instantly came in demand by the circle of wealthy people for their children. After the children’s clothes success, Jeanne Lanvin continued as a designer for the grown ups. She became one of the most influential French designers during the 1920-1940s. After Jeanne Lanvin’s death, the house ownership went to her daughter. Marie-Blanche de Polignac was childless when she died in 1958, and the ownership of the House of Lanvin since went as a result, to a cousin, Yves Lanvin.

The ownership of the house changed hands from Squibb USA to Britain Middle Bank, then to Orcofi (Vuitton Family) and later to L’Oreal. During this period, the factory managed to stay in Nanterre where all perfumes (“My Sin” since 1924 and “Arpege” since 1927) were made and bottled. The real decline started since 1995 when L’Oreal took over ownership of the house. L’Oreal would appoint any available of the CEOs to be the head of Lanvin from the array of circulating CEO’s under its vast umbrella.

In August 2001, when Lanvin, the oldest French fashion house was still in operation, it was taken private again by investor group Harmonie S.A., headed by Mrs. Shaw-Lan Wang, a Taiwanese media magnate. I honestly think she did it for good luck because of the pure coincidence of the names. Come October 2001, and Alber Elbaz was appointed the Lanvin artistic director for all activities, including interiors. In 2006, he introduced the new packaging for the fashion house, featuring a forget-me-not flower color. In accordance to Suzy Menkes, it was Lanvin’s favorite shade which Madame Lanvin saw in the fresco “Fra Angelico.”

Fra Angelico
Fresco by Fra Angelico


The injection of Vitamin C (C, being capital) helped the brand enormously. It also helped that in May 2009 when Michelle Obama was photographed wearing a popular line of Lanvin’s sneakers while volunteering at the food bank. The sneakers were retailed at $540. On September 2, 2010, it was announced by H&M that Lanvin would be their guest designer collaboration for the Winter 2010 collection. On November 20, 2013, Lanvin became the official producer of Arsenal FC, a London-based football club.

On October 28, 2015, Lanvin announced that Elbaz was no longer at the company. According to Elbaz, his removal was “the decision of the company’s majority shareholder.” In accordance to me, he is primed to become The Designer of Christian Dior. It would be only politically correct for the company associated in the past with the Nazis and John Galliano to hire a Jewish, Israeli-born Elbaz. From one hand, in accordance to Charles De Gaulle. “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”. From another hand, “who knows?”

Where is it made?

Lanvin is made where it is supposed to be made – in France. The perfumes still come from Nanterre. Lanvin financials moved from red to black in 2008 for the first time in decades. Lanvin profits reached 15.3 million Euros in 2013. They fell immediately after Elbaz departure. They are still is in the black. Lanvin would still stay afloat with the firm hand managing it and under the guardianship of the Taiwanese owner. They will never move their production to China since the heritage is too important for Mrs. Shaw-Lan Wang.

First Heritage Brands and the Others.


One of Valentino’s Intricate Dresses

Since Madame Wang made her first brave step, many non-European investors have followed the suite, spending hundreds of millions on the established European luxury houses in need of a makeover and a cash injection. They are Fang Brothers (Pringle of Scotland)Singaporean magnate Christina Ong (Mulberry) and Megha Mittal (Escada), Qatar Luxury Group (Valentino, Le Tanneur and Cie), Kazakh-born Goga Ashkenazi (aka Vionnet).

In 2011, William and Victor Fung of Fung Group (owner of global sourcing giant Li & Fung) joined their ranks, forming First Heritage Brands, a subsidiary of Fung Investments with the sole purpose of investing in European luxury brands to develop their international potential, especially in China. LVMH veteran Jean-Marc Loubier became the First Heritage Brands “Hunter”. He managed the acquisition of the French shoemaker Robert Clergerie, as well as Delvaux, the oldest luxury leather goods manufacturer in the world, both in 2011. The following year, the firm added ready-to-wear brand Sonia Rykiel to its portfolio, relaunching the label with a new artistic director and opening stores for company’s contemporary line, Sonia By Sonia Rykiel.

Where is it Made

Delvaux Bag Le Brillant (From 1958)

remember when Delvaux was in financial trouble before the acquisition, everybody was wondering if their production would move to Vietnam since their then CEO Francois Schwennicke moved to live in Vietnam. Belgium was indignant – how could the “Hermes of Nothern Europe” be produced in Asia? But nobody raised a finger in Belgium to help the national icon. When Hong Kong-based, First Heritage Brands acquired Delvaux in 2011, Belgium was indignant once again. Belgium journalists were sure all Delvaux bags would now come from China. Not so. Delvaux is still produced at the factory in Arsenal, almost in the centre of Brussels. Robert Clergerie is still manufactured in Italy and France, only Sonia by Sonia is produced in China. I have a niggling feeling it was already produced there before the acquisition.

60% of Mulberry is still produced in the UK, with 40% of production outsourced to Turkey and China (the same factories Givenchy are using). Valentino is still made in Italy since Qatar Foundation invested in their factories too. Pringle of Scotland is not so lucky – it should be renamed as Pringle of China. Pringle of Scotland still holds a royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth II might not be aware it is Made in China.

According to Jean-Marc Loubier: “We are looking at companies with idiosyncrasies, product and know-how that haven’t been so well [leveraged] in the last 20 years, but have something to say in the future. We want to make them global.
Our analysis is that we are experiencing the second wave of the development of luxury consumption after its world massification. The early but important actors with their powerful and huge brands will stay and develop, but there is an interesting space and need for a new offer.”

In my opinion and in general, the newcomers care much more about the brand heritage; they still have a point to prove to themselves, to the whole world. Li & Fung are the main suppliers to the Walmart. First Heritage Brands are the world away from Wallmart. The New World Buyers keep their names hidden behind the brands they acquire.


Made in China, my reader, means what it means – made in China – it could be an excellent quality product, it could be a product of a Chinese designer of an excellent quality and beauty, it might be your sought after luxury product-pretend also made in China. The three stories are those of luxury. It is up to you to decide whether:

  1. You don’t care where your brand comes from as long as it is your brand of desire. God forbid you to see a photocopy (a fake) of the object of your desire.
  2. You don’t care how much you pay for the brand as long as it is made where it claims to be made, as long it is so exclusive that you won’t be able to spot it in the vicinity of 100 metres from you. Further afield, your bag uniqueness is not guaranteed.
  3. You don’t care whether it is a brand recognised by everybody, you care that you and your chosen brand make a unique tandem of class and style. In most of the cases, it will be produced in their birthplace.
  4. Just remember there is nobody there to judge you on your choices.

A Bientot

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Day 5. Dublin-Galway-Dublin


So, as it was decided by my brand new Irish friends, the day before, at Max’s restaurant, that I “needed” to go to Galway. Only ‘2.5’ hours drive. Since visiting Ireland twice afterwards, and since visiting Armenia 4 times, I know now, that the definition of time for my beloved nations is a bit skewed, to say the least.

I was in deep pain the night before, but being a responsible person, I did not take any painkillers and did not take them with me. The car I hired, was an innocent Nissan Micra with an automatic gearbox, GPS, and no air-conditioning. They explained to me that I was plain lucky to get an automatic in Europe. According to the car rentals, “the air-con should be on my next wish list, but it never gets hot in Ireland”. Why on Earth, Europeans, make it hard for themselves all the time?

Irish Village Spring
Irish Village Spring

The drive to Galway took me 3.5 hours, only because I tried to fight with the navigation system in order to pass the most picturesque Irish villages…Mind you, I always fight with the navigation system, only to discover it is right after all…

When going through the villages, I thought, why are they so beautiful, clean, taken care of? Why in Russia are they so neglected? Oh, well, where do we start?

When I finally arrived to Galway, I thought – wow!!! Is it what people say in their blogs all the time? But honestly, it was wow!!!I saw a medieval, bright, non-English looking town, something which would be born out of the marriage of Belgium and Spain.

A little bit of history 🙂

Galway Main Street
Galway Main Street

Galway is the second largest county in Ireland. Physically, it is divided into two distinct parts; the eastern two thirds are flat, with many small lakes and rivers, while the western part of the county includes the area known as Connemara, with its rocky bogs, fjords, and magnificent mountains. The west of the county has the largest remaining Irish-speaking population of any county in Ireland.

The town of Galway was first recorded in 1124 when a fort was built there. However, the town was founded in the 13th century. In 1170-71 the English invaded eastern Ireland and in 1232 a baron named Richard de Burgh took this area and created a town. After 1270 walls were built around Galway.

In 1396 Galway was granted a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). Galway was made a royal borough. For centuries, Galway was ruled by 14 families, known as “the tribes” of Galway. The mayor and the leading citizens usually came from these 14 families. They were the Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, Darcy, Deane, French, Font, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerrett families.

In the Middle Ages Galway was an important port. The main import was wine. Exports included wool, skins and leather. The leading citizens of Galway were definitely English in their manners and customs. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the English kings gradually lost control of Ireland, except for Dublin and the surrounding Pale. However, to a large extent, Galway was an island of ‘Englishness’.

St Nicholas Church Galway
St Nicholas Church, Galway

The Church of St Nicholas was built in 1320 after Franciscan friars arrived in Galway in 1296. (Friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach).

Lynch window inside the Church commemorates James Lynch Fitzstephen who, it is said, hanged his own son for murder in 1493.

Lynch Castle, Galway
Lynch Castle, Galway

The Spanish Arch (called Spanish, due to the Spanish merchant ships docked in the quays there) was built in 1584, and Lynch’s Castle, the mansion, was built around 1600. Browne Doorway is all that remains of the merchant’s house built in the early 17th century.

Spanish Arch, Galway
Spanish Arch, Galway

At the beginning of the 19th century the population of Galway was about 5,000, but it actually fell during the 19th century. The whole region suffered severely in the potato famine of 1845-49 and there was a considerable loss of population.

During the 20th century Galway was revived. By 1950 it had about 21,000 inhabitants. Galway was still a busy port. Exports included farm produce, wool and marble. Industries in Galway in the 20th century included iron, milling, furniture making and hat making.

At the end of the century modern industries such as engineering, IT and electronics began to replace the traditional industries in Galway.

In recent years Galway has undergone an economic boom and the population has grown rapidly. Today the population of Galway is 78,000…

Coloured Houses of Galway
Coloured Houses of Galway

I did not have much time in Galway, but I went to see the Church of St Nicholas, walked along the river, where I noticed many coloured doors and thought, that the drunken husbands needed those doors anywhere in the world.

It is a very smart “husband capturing” invention. Imagine, your drunken treasure stumbles in the night through somebody else’s door and the story suddenly unfolds to the depth of the unknown. He could be lost there forever!!! He could stumble 3 years later through your doorway once again! No need to imagine, the door trapping worked wonders.

I negotiated little tiny medieval streets in the city centre. I went to buy Aran sweaters and scarves… I went to McDonald and was served there by the speaking perfect Russian Latvian girl.  I did not even flinch – my heart was healed by then fully and completely, and I had nothing against anybody speaking Russian to me…I also made few purchases in Demora boutique, where I met the lovely owner Diedre Morahan. We also exchanged our very valuable opinions on fashion industry and retail industry…

Demora Boutique, Galway
Demora Boutique, Galway
Giants Causeway
Giants Causeway

It was time to drive back. I could not go to Giants Causeway, (you can see America from there)), to Carrick-a-Rede rope Bridge (not for the faint hearted), to the Old Bushmills Distillery – the oldest Whiskey Distillery in the world (since 1608)…To miss the latter one was unimaginable for me, but I had very valid reasons – I needed to go back…

And only then, my fun and games began!!!) Remember Nissan Micra, the air-conditioning or the lack of it? It was a combination of three factors – +32 Celsius, white nights and the navigation system, which I faithfully obeyed at the time.

Motorways Map of Ireland
Map, Ireland, Motorways

Naturally, it ordered me to take the highway (M6). My little bug had to drive with the speed limit of 120km per hour for the mighty 154 km…Feeling hot, tired, sleepy with no “Stop, Revive, Survive” detours along the road, – I …fell asleep at the wheel. The next thing I remember, was a huge thump, smell of the tyres burning and the smoke coming out from the car. I hit a concrete barrier along the road… Completely awake, I managed to drive the car for another 10 metres, before I jumped out with my bag and the sling…I assessed the damage – as much as a non-mechanic could do. The tyre was burned irrevocably, the “left wing” of the car was gone and the car was not drivable. I found the spare tyre inside the car, and that was the end of me. I stared at it as with the expression, as we say in Russian “Like a sheep at the new gate”. Imagine the flock of sheep coming home and seeing a new gate?

Sheep Staring/New Gate
Sheep Staring at the New Gate

Well, I needed to stop somebody to help me to change the tyre. 8pm, blinding sun and the trucks flying by with a speed of light. None of them was stopping. I thought – what about the kindness, openheartedness and friendliness of the Irish people? Just before I demoted the whole nation from Category A to Category Z, a sleek Mercedes stopped abruptly in front of me. The driver looked Richard Gere 20 years ago, but I was no Julia Richards just at that very moment. No tall boots, no long legs, no saucer size eyes and no lips to land a helicopter on…I was Rosa, myself, but also scared and frantic on the top of being Rosa, myself. My Irish Richard Gere gave me a diamond smile (good dentists in Ireland) and changed the tyre like it was a normal thing to do when one wears a Zegna suit and a tailored shirt…He also told me that nobody could drive faster than his/her guardian angel could fly. A catchy phrase, but so true to the core, indeed…I could not help, but notice, that my guardian angel’s car had an air conditioner.

Richard Gere/American Gigolo
Richard Gere/American Gigolo

On my spare tyre I drove back to Dublin with the speed of 80km per hour and tried not to pay much attention to the rowdy truck drivers honking at my snail speed and at my grieving car.

When the staff in Dylan saw my car, my sling, my xanax free state, they treated me with the dinner on the house, with the wine and you name it, what on the house too. The amok survival feeling gave way to the waterfall of tears. I was so happy to be alive…

Day 6. Dublin – KLM – Moscow

KLM Crew
Friendly KLM Crew


The morning was quite a non-event. I went shopping for antique Victorian jewellery, bought an amazing chain with a pendant for an amazing price, which would have made London antique sellers to become colour green with envy…

Antique Jewellery Shops. Dublin
Antique Jewellery Shops. Dublin

Lingus was really difficult to negotiate with a sling – I think, Irish survival skills and the history of the nation, toughened the service to the point of disregarding people with the slings and the crutches…

No shopping and really bad food for the connection corner of Schiphol (Amsterdam to Moscow). Stupid really, because the Russians are huge spenders in every corner on the planet with the cash register…Had to eat  bad food, thinking loudly “I am fat anyway”, and thinking quietly that the bad food makes you fat anyway.

Boarded a plane taking me to Moscow. Was so ready. My sling and my injuries were taken care of with lots of champagne and lots of beautiful Dutch smiles. By midnight, when we crossed into Russian territory, the pilot of the business class cabin appeared with the pancakes, generously served with nutella and condensed milk. The stewardess told us (to all of the 6 business class survivors) that this pilot loved to do it, because he loved Russia. At this stage I was not surprised with anything. I was not even questioning who was flying the plane at the time.I loved Russia too…I was so ready to land with my healed heart and a very sore shoulder…

Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport

The Aftermath

Days later I called my rabbi and told him the story. He also told me, there was, apparently, a spiritual belt between Jerusalem and Ireland. It explained everything. What else would have propped me up to the heavens and lowered me kindly to the Planet Earth? Would be either the spiritual belt or my Guardian Angel.

Few months later, I had a complicated surgery on my shoulder performed by the grandson of the Father of Space Research Sergei Korolev, Andrey Korolev, the chief orthopaedic surgeon of Moscow. The spiritual belt magnetism continued.

Since then, I travelled to Ireland twice…I went on the famous Literary Pub Crawl, I went to see the “Lord of The Dance” with the legendary Michael Flatley. I found out why the Irish flag had Orange, Green and White colours. Not because the Red colour was bleached out by the sun:)

I visited, however, another Ireland. The magic of “anything happens” simply disappeared. I think, it was for the better, was not it?…

Michael Flatley. Lord of the Dance
Michael Flatley. Lord of the Dance


, , ,

I would guess, that 80% of Australians visited Ireland. At least, anybody, who has Irish roots.
I can assure you that everybody discovers their own Ireland. I can assure you, it stays in your heart forever.

Day 1

Moscow – Dublin. Thursday
I went to Ireland from Moscow to heal my wounded heart (very long story)). To be as far from Moscow in Europe as possible… Just for me, the aviation authorities created a route, which took 7.5 hours flying time from Moscow to Dublin. Connecting via Amsterdam (KLM + Lingus), I arrived to Dublin at 10pm.

Dylan Hotel

My beautiful Dylan Hotel was just in the middle of the city, and I could not think of anything better than to toast my arrival with a small champagne bottle from the bar. My healing started on a high note – Vivaldi was playing Primavera in my head. Life started anew. Bugger the broken heart. On this note I fell asleep and slept like a newborn baby, even better, I would say.

Dylan Hotel Bedroom
Day 1. Dublin. Friday

I woke up at 10am in the morning, missed my breakfast and went to take a bath.
I was feeling thin, luxurious and beautiful.
I will spare all the intimate details, but, in short, while I tried to reach the rule the bath buttons with my left arm, I performed a split on the marble floor. I could never perform a split, not even when my parents unsuccessfully pushed me for the world championship in artistic gymnastics)…
I was bruised, scratched all over and sore. To cut the story short, I decided this little accident should not to take over my life and my trip. The hotel gave me all the gauze and disinfectants they had in their storage room.
I hobbled a bit, then took it in my stride and commenced my shopping. Grafton Street, in a capsule, is a little High street and is peppered with the shops like H&M, Mark and Spencer, Mango and the others, with the welcome exception of Brown Thomas, the best department store in Ireland.

Grafton Street Dublin

Second floor in Brown Thomas is dedicated to the Irish designers, where I chose overalls by Mary Grant (still wear them) and the bag by Pauric Sweeney (a famous prodigal son of Ireland) and a very famous bag designer in the world).

I went upstairs to the rooftop café to have the best bangers and mash, and suddenly, everything around me became quite blurred in one moment. At that moment I was taken to the emergency and was diagnosed with quite severe trauma in my poor left shoulder. At least I collapsed after my shopping was finished. And once back in a saddle, equipped with not so fashionable, and lets be honest, ugly, blue, hospital grade sling, I was still determined to live up to my planned schedule.

The opening of a new restaurant at Brown Thomas, Grafton Street. 10.05.1961
That night I went to the Abbey Theatre to watch a play (Bookworms) about an unfortunate Book Club meeting which ended up like Polanski Movie “Carnage”, but in a funnier, Irish way.

Abbey Theatre 1904

I was driven back to the hotel, by the most melancholic taxi driver, who managed to scare me with many stories about the damaged left shoulders of the other people.
Dinner/tapas in my Dylan hotel – Dylan Bar, the handsomest Irish man was playing on the piano under a dangerous degree of intoxication. The songs were by Sinatra, the twang was recognizably Irish, I was in heaven mix of the painkillers, Italian wine and the crowd much more alive and lets say, less snobbish than in Sydney…Met a lovely couple from Northern Ireland, discussed potato famine, and forever admirable Princess Diana.

Dylan Hotel Room

Bruised and confused back to bed – no reading before sleep…

Day 3. Dublin. Saturday.

In the morning, wearing blue Akira dress, remotely matching my sling, I started my excursion around Dublin and Derby.

Blue Akira DressShoulder Sling

I was driven in the limousine by the 10 years older driver/guide, who unashamedly flirted with me. Painkillers, champagne, and feeling beautiful in the eyes of an older Irish flirt, dulled my senses and dimmed my memory. The only vividly remembered part of the rich Irish history was an explanation behind cheerfully painted doors in Dublin. Are you ready for this? The reason behind cheerfully painted doors was for the drunken Irish husbands to determine which house was theirs in the dark of the night. No more and no less

He drove me to Curragh Racecourse, in the county of Kildare.The name “Curragh” comes from the Irish (Gaeilge) word Cuirreach, meaning “racecourse”. The first recorded race on the plain took place in 1727, but it was used for races before then. The first Derby was held in 1866, and in 1868 the Curragh was officially declared a horse racing and training facility by act of parliament.  We also went to see the rich and famous houses, including those of U2(s)…

Ladies Kildare racesthe hourse who won

That night I went to see Arcadia by Tom Stoppard at the Gate Theater. Arcadia is a dazzling comedy of mystery and love, with all the qualities of a gripping literary detective story. Must say that Dublin theatre performances are superb and a lot of Londoners travel to Dublin to see them.

Arcadia Gate Theatre
That night I had dinner at Chez Max, a very traditional French restaurant, where I had the most beautiful foie gras cooked on the bed of an apple puree and served with pommes frites…(No Peta readers please()

Needless to say that 10 minutes into the meal, I was invited over to share a bottle of champagne with a family celebrating their father’s birthday. They could not stand a sight of a single woman having dinner on her own on Saturday night. Of course, the conversation veered into the history/religion/politics. Potato Famine and the history of suffering and the abuse copped from England all mixed up with a certain admiration for the Queen and Princess Diana.

Over the course of this lively conversation we all decided that I needed to hire a car and go on Monday to Galway. Just like this. Never drove in Ireland, but what the heck?



Day 4. Dublin. Sunday

Forget the guides, and the slings, I threw away my sling with the wild abandon of the feminists of the 60-s, throwing away their bras. I also took a double decker bus around Dublin. Discovered, the audio guide had all the languages. The driver offered me one in Russian before I even opened my mouth.
It was a day spoiler (just for a bit). Got off at the Grounds of the Trinity College. It was so beautiful that even I, who suffer from the adult version of ADD), stayed there for a few hours.

A little bit of history:

Trinity College was founded after the Reformation, in 1592, on the site of the confiscated Priory of All Hallows. For centuries, Trinity College was owned by the Protestant Church. Free education was offered to Catholics, provided they accepted the Protestant faith. True to the Russian saying, “The only free thing in life is the cheese in the mousetrap”.
As a legacy of this condition, until 1966 Catholics, who wished to study at Trinity had to obtain a dispensation from their bishop or face excommunication. Despite it’s 16th-century foundation, most of the buildings standing today, were constructed in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Trinity’s grounds cover 47 acres.


Trinity College is most famous, though, for it’s splendid library. The Long Room houses Ireland’s largest collection of books and manuscripts; it’s principal treasure is the Book of Kells, generally considered to be the most striking manuscript ever produced in the Anglo-Saxon world and one of the great masterpieces of early Christian art.
The Books of Kells is a beautifully illuminated version of the Christian Gospels dating from the 9th century. It was once thought to be lost — the Vikings looted the book in 1007 for its jewelled cover but ultimately left the manuscript behind.
In the 12th century, Guardius Cambensis declared that the book was made by an angel’s hand in answer to a prayer of St. Bridget. Scholars think, instead that the Book of Kells originated on the island of Iona off Scotland’s coast, where followers of St. Colomba lived until the island came under siege in the early to mid-9th century. They fled to Kells, County Meath, taking the book with them.

The Old Library
The most famous page shows monogram, (symbol of Christ). The most famous students of Trinity include the likes of Francis Bacon, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Moore, Oscar Wilde, Jawaharlal Nehru to name the few…

Oscar Wilde


Jawaharlal Nehru
Graduates from the Trinity College


After Trinity College, off to the Whiskey Factory excursion (Old Jameson Distillery). Love my whiskey, travelled to Scotland and loved Scottish Whiskey, but the Irish one seduced me with its soft and velvety and very elegant taste. Wait until I write about Scotland, maybe I will change my tune)
The Old Jameson Distillery is located on the original site of Jameson Distillery in Bow Street in Dublin. This distillery, founded in 1780, was Ireland’s most famous distillery for nearly 200 years, until its closure in 1971, when distilling of Jameson Irish Whiskey was transferred to the Midleton Distillery. For many years the Bow Street Distillery lay abandoned, but today, once again, it is a hub of activity, welcoming visitors from all over the world.

Old-Jameson-Distillery1The Old Jameson Distillery has recreated, on a smaller scale, the old distillery, and although no distilling actually takes place here, it is an excellent way to understand the how and why of whiskey. Every step of the distilling process has been recreated, from malting and storing barley, to mashing and fermentation, to distilling and maturation. The tour ends with a complimentary glass of Jameson for everyone and for a lucky selected few, a comparative whiskey tasting which compares and explains the differences between Jameson Irish whiskey, Scotch and Bourbon whiskies. After which, I thought, Bourbon – never!!!

There is a very good restaurant on site, the 3rd Still, The menu is both diverse and contemporary, the atmosphere relaxed and friendly and it offers a bird’s eye view into the bustling lobby below. In fact, if you peer over the balcony of the 3rd Still, you can see into the original foundations of The Jameson Old Distillery which were purpose-built to bear the formidable weight of the enormous whiskey vats.
Back to the Hotel, That’s where I ended my day feeling happy, but with suspiciously throbbing shoulder
To be continued with the Day 4 and 5…Trust me, it is worth waiting for..


Life offers to us the chores and also little things we enjoy. Shopping is one of those little things. It is up to us to make it a chore, a source of anxiety or of a marital discord.

But…there are circumstances, when this little joy could be killed by the background noise of the relationships and “its complicated”☺ matters. I would only try make an attempt to generalise what I know, the cultures I am familiar with. Generalisation assumes a bias of error, lets say, of 20%. Generalisation assumes offence, which is not intentional here, but nevertheless, an offence, for which, I apologise.

I only tried to write on behalf of the married and single women because I have been both…I only tried to write on behalf of two cultures I know. It took me the whole month to wrap it up in a non-emotional, non biased☺ form and shape… Without a further ado…I will try to describe the shopping habits in Russia and Australia. Generally, there are ways we shop and they could be categorised as

1) Couples shopping – married (first wife), de-facto

a) Russia: Generally, Russian men could be stingy but they would be  embarrassed to admit to it. Usually, during husband/wife shopping, the  stronger part would whisper to the wife, of how difficult the life is, and that  he might lose his job tomorrow, that they (the family), would not be able to  go on holidays in Turkey, that the mortgage payments would be made  impossible because of this single shopping bag, that life would stop and  sun would never shine again.


b) Australia: Generally, Australian men would tightly hold their wives’ hands when passing the shops. Some would think it is out love, some would think it is out of control☺ Sometimes, the wife is “allowed” to enter the shop on her own, without a wallet… 5 minutes after inspecting the goods she would come back with a line –“ I will come back when I am on my own.”

Sometimes the women would just fly in and come out with – “I have a table waiting (at the café)”; “my hairdresser’s appointment is in 5 minutes” (I know perfectly well, that this particular hairdresser could wait for another 10 minutes). The best excuse I ever heard was – “I left my 1 year old at home – he is there by himself!” I did not know whether to call a  police, or just let it go as the best invented excuse ever☺. I took a second  option.:)

As much as Sydney is a champion of excuses, it is, at the same time, a champion of expenses. To afford a decent rent or a mortgage in Sydney, a couple or a single person would have to earn 100k per year. There would be no dreams of going to Turkey with the expenses like this. I tend to agree with the husbands, – only if they did  not whisper – “How many shoes, bags, dresses, would one person need?” In my opinion, it is a very wrong thing to say to your wife…

Well, well well, after all of the  obstacles tackled, and the the holy of the holiest is reached in the form and a shape of a cash register,– the husbandless (for 1 hour) wife would say, – “Please do not wrap it, I will put it in the boot of my car/in my bag and will  bring it home unnoticed”. Sadly, I have been there, and I have done this. There are beautiful exceptions, though in every  culture… I noticed, that most Asian Australians would usually shop together and the husband would help to choose the clothes for his wife. He would insist on buying more than she would choose. Do they buy more than the others? I think, the result is still the same, but the backdrop of the  marriage is different…


2) Couples shopping – second marriage

For all cultures, however, when the couple is in their second marriage, at least one of the partners learns the mistakes of the first marriage, one of the partners will mellow, and will become more generous towards the other half, and will finally realise that not everything should be about control. Hard lesson though…


3) Shopping with the mistress

a) Russia

Generally, Russian men could be stingy, but they would be extremely embarrassed to admit to it at the presence of a mistress. They would not be able to tell a mistress that they might lose their job tomorrow, that this long awaited business trip to Paris would not happen, that the diamond ring in Place Vendome would be lonely without its rightful owner. In most circumstances, mistresses have their own credit card. In most circumstances, Moscow shop managers have separate files for the wives and the mistresses. God forbid them to have the wires crossed over ever…


b) Australia

In Australia we are much more moralistic than in Russia…I am sure, affairs do happen, but the blatant shopping in the same city?!!! Never…, but let me think…:)

4) Shopping overseas with your better half.

a) Russia

Generally, Russian men are very generous when overseas. The credit card payments are far away, Bacchus is pouring champagne even for breakfast, lots of mistakes could happen, but restraint is not one of them…

b) Australia

When we go overseas, we are all penny pinching, wives including. The savings on Chanel bags are heavily outweighed by the price of the tickets… Sightseeing, excursions thats where we are generous – we need  it, we live so far away…En plus we are a very curious nation…


5) Shopping overseas with your sinful half

a) Russia

The sky would be the limit. There are no immediate family in the vicinity of 5000 km, the phone is not working properly, the time difference and the roaming charges allow only for 5 minutes calls to immediate family. The diamond ring in Place Vendome finally claims its rightful owner.

b) Australia

We are led to believe it does not happen ☺

6) Shopping with your girlfriends – the same for all the cultures

Usually, young and unruly girlfriends culture is no Sex in the City. Beware when shopping with the friends. Will they tell you the truth? Maybe…If its an ugly straightforward truth. None of us could be Natalia Vodianova, therefore, the truth is almost always not pleasant. The truth gets better by the age. We soften up and become kinder to each other.


7) Single women shopping on their own;

a) Young women working hard and still living with their parents.

Usually they are very generous to themselves, life is young and good, there is always somebody to prop them up without any judgement passed;

b) Women working hard and living on their own.

The lesson learnt is very hard – when living away from the parents, expenses become exponential, she would become very careful with the money and with her spending habits.

c) Single and successful women.

The spending is limitless. There is no control from anyside. She has lost weight, she has joined the gym. Every time she tries on things she thinks about sending her selfie to her ex…☺ Does she? Maybe not, she just found her main object of desire, – herself.


That was my weak attempt to generalise our shopping behaviour. It does not matter whether the country has more of the feminist history, than the other (Russia has had women working in the mines, women performing brain surgeries, women-famous mathematicians for the last 120 years). The question of co-dependable spending is quite complicated. I had a young Saudi Arabian woman in the shop, who shooed her husband out and told him to get some coffee and wait for her outside. He was smiling. Go figure! I think the answer still lies in the areas of control, quantity of money, and wisdom to know that money is not the solution to all the problems, …but the true love is.



Suburban Mega Malls could be coming to your neighbourhood.


I think, I became addicted to the Current Affair on Channel 9, or, rather, when I hear the word “shopping”, while having my first glass of wine (two is the limit)), when Current Affair is on, my ears strain, like the ears of a wolf, hearing the bleating of the sheep in a distance. My eyes start seeing red, and as far as my muscles are concerned, they are ready to run a marathon.

The program starts – the head of AMP shopping, the editor of “Shop till you Drop” Magazine, together with all the shopping experts from Australia assure us that huge mega malls would be the future of Australia. Soon, we might have skating rinks inside these shopping mega malls and swimming pools and whatever we can imagine to make us to spend a day or two there… well, the prototype would be Dubai and Durban.

Those experts also mention, that the best international brands like Uniqlo and H&M would be joining forces to become part of those new developments. The prices would be low and affordable. Images of Zara, Chanel, Gucci, H&M and Uniqlo are filling the screen to confirm the variety. The narrator of the story cheerfully says, that one could buy the best quality things in Uniclo for negligent prices, and get the whole evening outfit in H&M for 100 dollars. Australian consumer would finally have an access to the best brands on the planet.

I am getting confused – and I did not even finish my first glass of wine:

Are Chanel or Gucci going to drop their prices to match those of H&M and Uniqlo to become low and affordable? Or Chanel and Gucci are not going to be part of those mega malls?

Since when, Uniqlo and H&M became the best quality international brands? My cashmere sweater from Uniqlo lasted me exactly two days, before it started to peel. In my opinion, it is a disposable fashion, not comparable with the quality of the best international brands…

Who is the judge of what are the best brands for Australia to have an access to?

As a matter of interest:

Is LOWE coming to Australia?Is COS coming to Australia?Is Chantal Thomas, coming to Australia, perhaps?

Are Petit Bateau, Roberto Verino, “The Other Stories”, Dries Van Notten, Martin Margiela, Rick Owens, Hussein Chalayan, Kenzo, Goyard, Pomellato constitute the part of the best brands invasion?


No, of course not. High Street Fashion is coming to Australia and, please, don’t tell us, they are the best brands in the world.

The program also mentions, that the best restaurants and the best food imaginable would be present in the future malls. From my own experience and my own knowledge, four hatted restaurants left Westfield Sydney shopping centre, since this centre opened its doors in 2010. I would confidently say that none of those restaurants would be brave enough to repeat the shopping mall experience.

Since Westfield is going to follow AMP in its giant mall construction race – new Miranda Shopping Centre, I have only one question? How do we know where we are in those malls without going simply mad?  Are we in Miranda? Macquarie? Bondi Junction? Why do we need the repetition of a much of a muchness?

Why don’t the best shopping destinations in the world have those giant malls?

Why none of the mega malls are present in New York, Seoul, Paris, Moscow, Berlin, Madrid, Tokyo, Milan, Rome, London?

Because they are soooo yesterday…

I understand the bit about Durban and Dubai. It is almost nothing to do there, outside of those malls (I hope I am forgiven).

But why Sydney, with its beautiful blue skies, with its three days of rain and its three days of cold weather per year, why Sydney deserves this mega mall invasion? Why not to support what we have, and try not to lose what we tried to build for many generations?  Why should we lose historical Transvaal Avenue in Double Bay with its little white cosy houses/shops (120 years old) like Belinda, Marni, Mihal Negrin, newly born Timaginarium…

Why should we lose Macleay Street with Becker and Minty and Macleay on Manning and Grandiflora in Potts Point?

Why should we lose Darling Street, veering through Rozelle and Balmain? It has so many shops and cafes of beautiful variety? Is Mosman destined to die? Does William Street in Paddington have its use by date?


Please understand, I am not against giant shopping malls, designed for people living in remote areas. I am against the giant shopping malls, so close to what we call Sydney CBD.

I am against the shopping malls, which negate individuality, and promote uniformity.

I am against the shopping malls, which push local unique operators out of business.

There is always another way to do it – for example, there is another shopping centre in Sydney, designed by Japanese architects in Central Park, Ultimo – it is functional, compact, and it is simply nice.

None of the local traders suffered as Central Park shopping mall appearance…

Uniformity is USSR – I don’t want to go back there luxury or no luxury…

Well, it seems that my affair with the Current Affair is not finished yet.

To be continued…)


The 24th of June, 7pm, Current Affair,  Channel Nine: “The Shopping Revolution Heading Down Under”.

I am not a Current Affair viewer, but what the heck? The title intrigued me, since I am also waiting for the shopping revolution in Australia.


The anchor announced, that Sephora was coming to Australia and their prices were going to match US prices. Then two commentators from the “Choice” and “Shop Till You Drop” magazines, informed us of how excited they were that Sephora was coming to Australia with the US prices. They also told us that Australian consumers were paying “Australia Tax” as a definition for inflated Australian prices for imported goods. At that moment I did realise once and forever why I was not an avid viewer of “Current Affair”. The program is mostly one-sided. In this case, in particular, not one retailer was given a voice to explain what is really happening with Australian prices.

“Australia Tax” in reality is 10% transportation cost + 30% taxes and duties at the time the goods are cleared from the customs. On the top of this come the wages, including the penalty rates, when a sales assistant is paid 50$ per hour on a public holiday. On the top of this top, comes the rent, where Sydney is only behind the 5th Avenue to foot the bill.

At the time our shop was closing in the most expensive rental enclave of Westfield Sydney, we had a customer, who was at the same time, also closing her unique bookshop. She said a catchy phrase that our fellow Australians would not be happy until the last Australian owned shop is closed. Of course it was an exaggeration, but at the time, we were closing. Lisa Ho, Kirilly Johnston, Bettina Liano, Colette Dinnigan, Ksubi, you name it were shutting their businesses down…Quintessential Australian retailers and designers employing hundreds and thousands of people…

Why are US prices so cheap? US prices are cheaper even than European prices for European goods, because of the sheer volume of the goods purchased and imported into the country. US import taxes are significantly lower.

In US they don’t pay GST at the border. US prices are also cheaper, because they don’t pay penalty rates to their stuff and apart from NY, their rents are much cheaper too.  It costs much more to operate a business in Australia that in US. The economy of the bigger scale -300 million in USA versus 22 million in Australia is proven to carry cheaper costs. In general, Australian prices for clothes and cosmetics are 60% higher than US prices for the same goods.

How can Sephora in Australia match US prices? With 1400 shops on the planet, with LVMH, the owner of the company, I can only guess, it can afford to subsidise its first seasons in Australia. But it is nothing to do with “Australia Tax”. It will only make competition with my beloved Mecca unfair and unjust.

At the same time I am happy for Australian consumers.  Most probably I will shop at Sephora with gusto and delight.

I cannot, however, help, but notice the changing shopping landscape of Australia. It is becoming a land of numerous Zara(s), TopShop(s), mass luxury brands you can find anywhere in the world. Add Sephora(s) and H&M to the mix – we could as well be in anonymous country in anonymous city inside anonymous shopping centre. Soon, our consumers wont have a choice, but to shop online to feel unique, or to pay for another “Australia Tax “– the ticket to fly to USA and Europe to do the shopping.  I only pray for Mecca and many other unique Australian shops to stay and be alive for its fresh and beautiful choices. I also pray for the Government of Australia to make smart decisions for retail sector, as this industry is drowning into obscurity with the speed of light…

As for the Current Affair, I have to take a break from watching it for a little while…


When I got the invitation to Taipei in Style Fashion Week I was over the moon. Taiwan for me, was always the land of electronics, nano technology, but fashion?

Taiwanese fashion was a complete enigma.

It was not something, which would come easily to my mind.

From what I learnt in history – I also imagined the island of Taiwan in permanent state of uncertainty and resistance to Chinese rule. Maybe, but when 2 planes landed from Shanghai and Beijing at the same time in Taipei airport? When there is one plane per hour flying from Hong Kong? I started to have serious doubts.

Fear, resistance – no! Uncertainty of the status quo, – maybe…

We arrived very late in the night and we did not see the city – it simply looked ordinary. In the morning,  we did not have an opportunity to see it again – we walked for what felt like eternity in the sauna of the local weather. Mild spring of +40 degrees and humidity of 100%, made my asthma come back sneezing and wheezing, until the miracle of Ventolin came with Chinese language instructions.

Taipei Fashion Week for the first time invited international buyers and it was held in the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.

This location has transformed through history since 1937 as the “Taiwan Sōtokufu Tobacco Monopoly Bureau” during the Japanese colonial time, and after restoration, it was taken over by the Taiwan Monopoly Bureau and renamed the “Taiwanese Provincial Tobacco and Alcohol Monopoly Bureau Songshan Plant”.
The concept of an “industrial village” was employed during the initial development of the Songshan Tobacco Factory, and besides the production line, the benefits and needs of the plant’s employees were also taken into consideration for the design of the site. With its large open spaces and courtyards, the site was a pioneering design for industrial plants at that time.
Its architectural style belongs to the genre of “Japanese Early Modernism”, with emphasis placed on horizontal lines, simple classic shapes, and refined workmanship.  Since nobody told us about the most beautiful surroundings of the Fashion week, I assumed it was a school, which could not be further from the truth.

Well, back to the Fashion week.  As the potential buyers/bloggers we had to give a survey of 20 booths. As every new Fashion week it had one big handicap – the prices were unjustified. Most of the shoes and accessories were produced in Mainland China, most of the styles were last season. It was quite disappointing.

The shows were very long and sometimes were accompanied by the famous Taiwanese singer starting and finishing the show. The styles were not very original, the quality of the garments were not at the top of the quality chain ((. In general, I thought Taipei in Style fashion week was a budding rose, which will become beautiful in time.


We made lots of trips to the city, to see what the shopping was about. The architectural style of Taipei is very similar to one of Tokyo (with the exception of Taipei 101, the tallest building in Asia). Many of the shops, as usual, were packed inside the shopping malls, with the standard structure of food in the basement, cosmetics and jewellery on the ground floor and the fashion starting from the 1st floor.

The fashion shopping is more about ecologically friendly materials and less fashion, more save the planet, style, so to speak.  Fashion shopping is simply not very fashionable. Maybe there is a similarity to Sydney, where people do not care how they are dressed and the shops are a reflection of this? Even Japanese Takashimaya did not have an eye catcher. It was based solely on Taiwanese products, without one line of Issey Miyake (huge disappointment for meJ).

HTCs, the native Taiwanese mobile, electronics, multilingual bookshops were very impressive. I bought some skin care, which was solely nature based – I will give you my verdict later. I am sure it will be excellent.

If you ask me whether I want to attend Taipei in Style again, I would definitely say yes. I remember how Seoul Fashion week evolved from something simple and not very sophisticated to one of the most sophisticated fashion weeks in the world. I am sure, that Taipei in Style will evolve too.


Merci was created in March 2009, in the heart of the historic Haut-Marais district. The founders, Bernard and Marie-France Cohen, realised that Paris lacked a place which brought together the best in fashion, design, household goods, and friendly eating options.

First time I visited Merci to meet its owner Madam Marie France Cohen.

I heard about the new Concept Store, cooler than Colette and “more inventive” than L’Eclaireur. We met to discuss the charity I was running at the time The Sound World Australia – thesoundworld.org. We were helping deaf disadvantaged Armenian kids, now we are concentrating on the other countries.

Madame Marie France Cohen just sold her very successful children’s clothes business Bon Point. Her husband and herself started something absolutely different – a project, based on charity (all profits of Merci are going to charity) and most of the garments were produced in a ethical way. The lucky recipient country is Madagascar in most cases. Marie France and I had almost Sydney breakfast in Merci library (rarity in Paris), – soft poached eggs, sourdough bread, salted butter, endless cups of tea. No vegemite. No coffee in France. No good coffee in France.  When we finished, Marie France paid (in her own shop!!!)

We exchanged our ideas, said our goodbyes and rushed – I was dying to see the shop. The library itself is a beautiful corner with lots of books, café and bottomless chairs and sofas where you can fall asleep and wake up and leaf through the books again.

The shop is very beautiful in its industrial presentation and I know now that from Isabel Marant they “progressed” to more luxurious YSL and Stella MacCartney. I felt I had to buy something and I bought Annik Goutal perfume not available in Sydney. I left it on the counter and forgot it there. In two days it was un-retrievable. I had to show my credit card statements, which I could not even print in my hotel. Well, I thought, it was my double charity and so be it.

Whenever I am in Paris, Merci is waiting for me, either for favourite breakfast, for little things which would not eliminate the Earth in 1000 years, even for the hope that my bottle of Annik Goutal is still waiting for me on the counter.


The term conspicuous consumption was first introduced by an economist Thorstein Veblen.

Writing in the much poorer world of 1899, Veblen argued that people spent lavishly on visible goods to prove that they were prosperous. “The motive is emulation—the stimulus of an invidious comparison which prompts us to outdo those with whom we are in the habit of classing ourselves,” he wrote. Along these lines, the economists hypothesized that visible consumption lets individuals show strangers they aren’t poor. Since strangers tend to lump people together by race, the lower your racial group’s income, the more valuable it is to demonstrate your personal buying power.

So this research has implications beyond race. It ought to apply to any peer group perceived by strangers. It suggests why emerging economies like Russia and China, despite their low average incomes, were such hot luxury markets of yesterday and today. Rich people in poor places want to show off their wealth. And their less affluent counterparts feel pressure to fake it, at least in public. Nobody wants the stigma of being thought poor. Veblen was right.

What is happening to conspicuous consumption in China now?

It is somewhat ironic that so many stores sell authentic luxury brands in a country, that many consider to be the largest manufacturer of knockoffs of those same luxury brands. Yet.s the obsession with luxury brands is real; in fact, China is the driver of growth for many global luxury brands.

Over the long-term, luxury consumption in China will likely continue to follow two paths, one hewn by the early adopters—the mature, seasoned shoppers—and another by the emerging newcomer. The seasoned shoppers will look to reflect their individuality, knowledge, and class through less conspicuous heritage and niche brands that impress those “in the know,” yet do not raise red flags in public. Anti-corruption laws adopted in 2012 fuelled a rapid and more widespread move towards less ostentatious luxury items. The consumers become more ‘discerning’ as they look for niche brands. Indeed this is already occurring amongst more sophisticated customers in emerging markets.

The stage of new wealth, where opulent displays of wealth and logos are commonplace, may be replaced quickly with a stage where consumers are less concerned about whether their peers recognise their material possessions, as they become confident with their own knowledge about luxury.

The normally upbeat world of luxury goods, buoyed by Chinese demand, has been a little more sober and serious in recent months as slowing earnings at fashion houses and watch ateliers make as many headlines as their latest collections.

Pessimists felt slightly vindicated late last year when Burberry shocked the markets halfway into the financial year with news that it expected 2013 sales and profits to slow and come in below expectations.

Hermès also gave everyone the jitters when it announced that its first-quarter growth in 2013 was the lowest since 2009, the height of the recession. The company’s 10.3 per cent sales growth for the first three months of this year, driven in part by the popularity of Birkin bags in the mainland, was unexpected and it only partially masked the 5 per cent sales decline in its watch division.

The biggest luxury conglomerates, from LVMH to Kering (which owns labels such as Gucci and Balenciaga), Richemont and the Swatch Group (which owns Omega and Breguet, among others) all reported significant slowdown.

After years of double-digit growth, luxury brands now realise Chinese demand is finite. Some hope the downturn is just a blip. The more proactive companies, though, see the beginnings of a trend and are preparing themselves for the impact.

This is particularly the case when it comes to fashion. As a result, brands with a small retail footprint in mainland China have benefitted, as more sophisticated, affluent consumers have turned to brands that attract less scrutiny among colleagues and the general public. Yesterday’s Louis Vuitton lover is today’s Alexander Wang aficionado.

The emergence of the concept stores

Once the land of ubiquitous Louis Vuitton bags, China is now a place where the wealthy are undergoing a shift in fashion sense, moving away from the big brands of yesteryear and toward niche designers, snapping up clothes and accessories from a growing crop of concept stores and boutiques that speak to the individual among the masses.

Mostly nestled in the twisting, narrow lanes of the hutongs of the city’s ancient Gulou district, concept stores such as Hong Kong’s INK Beijing, the most recent addition to a small but growing number of high-end multi-brand concept and design stores that includes Wuhao I.T. and 10 Corso Como Shanghai,are offering customers unique, quality brands from China around the globe, and a new shopping experience that emphasizes original designs and ideas, tailored to individual tastes.

There is a certain Chinese consumer that has become disinterested and disillusioned in China’s soulless mall culture and is seeking something more unique

This shift in the consumer tastes of the wealthy, from LV to niche brands, began about three years ago, and began changing in earnest about a year and a half ago, says Shaun Rein, founder of the Shanghai-based Chinese luxury market research group, China Market Research. “It’s less about bling and more about experiencing something,” he says. A trend, he says, that is at least somewhat linked to Beijing’s heavy pollution last winter and growing health concerns.

“I know it sounds crazy,” says Rein. “But a lot of customers told us ‘who cares what I buy if the water and air is going to kill us?’ So at this level, they are really starting to think about what’s important in life. And who they are, and how they are going to express themselves.”

This, compounded by president Xi Jinping’s continued crackdown on corruption, means that brands that signify conspicuous consumption and gift-giving, such as LV or Omega are likely going to see rough times ahead, he says. “It means brands can’t … just be high-priced and showy,” he says. “They have to start targeting more individual consumers.”

It looks like the heavily labelled Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags, may have some competition in the Chinese market. As the more sophisticatedyounger generation are looking for products and brands that are distinct, different and understated.The wealthy older generation Chinese consumers are looking to stay away from flashy luxury items, and prefer something more subtle and discreet. So how does that shift the Chinese fashion and luxury market?

Consumers don’t want to be seen as just the ‘new rich’, they want to display that they have taste and they want a product that is different, something that will make them feel special. Just as Western brands have made their move into the Chinese market, concept stores are now slowly making a move into the market. But we are not talking about just any concept store, most of these boutiques are combining design with exclusive and unique fashion brands and a limited inventory, so merchandise can change faster and new products can hit the store more frequently. These types of high-end, and exclusive multi-brand shops, already have a history in Europe, and North America, and in China, it is a trend that is only getting started. One of the biggest signs pointing to an acceptance of concept stores in China, is the opening of 10 Corso Como, The idea of the shop is to join culture and commerce and to blend art, music, design, and fashion into one shop. The Shanghai store certainly did not disappoint, with a consistent flow of new emerging designers and offering a mix of fashion, design and art to create a destination shopping experience. The shop is designed by the world-renowned painter, sculptor and concept artist, Kris Ruhs. So just a trip inside of the store is a must.

Why the shift to concept stores and niche brands?

So, why the rise and shift in consumer preferences? Simple, Chinese consumers are becoming more educated, well-traveled and with the recent political crackdown on gift-giving and banning of advertising on luxury products, they are shifting away from flashy luxury gifts. There are more conspicuous consumers that are out on the prowl to find a different way to flaunt a luxury item and to express themselves through fashion. A new emergence of sophistication is shifting the landscape in China and individualism is also becoming a big priority.

An Appreciation for Emerging Designers

Not only are some of the most distinct and exclusive designers moving into concept stores, but emerging luxury brands and niche brands are quickly becoming the Chinese consumer’s preference. These ‘so called’ niche brands are entering the market and being well-accepted by the local Chinese consumer. So what exactly is a niche brand? Well, it is certainly a brand that is on the smaller scale, not well-distributed and not well-known in the mainstream. A niche brand will have one strong focal point and will focus on their biggest core strength, and that is what the end-consumer will appreciate and come back to. Results seem to show that retail sales year over year have increased by 12.4% in 2013, while Luxury sales may have slightly decreased, consumption is still on the rise in China but have decreased slightly year over year due to political factors and the availability of e-commerce platforms in China.Chinese consumers have increasing access to new brands, trends and the next big emerging designerjust by browsing the e-commerce platforms that are now available in China. This new exposure is bringing awareness to young Chinese consumers, which is just one factor aiding to the growth of niche brands and the experience of shopping in a concept store.


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To rephrase Geoff Whitlam Dismissal speech – “Long Live Cara&Co but we wish all the best to Westfield”

During 2.5 years we got again in the best 5 concept stores in the world and well, our restaurant, something we did not have in Moscow got a very prestigious Gault Millau award – 3 hats
Its nothing more to say, but to show you the beauty of Cara&Co Sydney. See you in New York
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I must admit I am biased – 10 Corso Como is my favourite concept store (after Cara & Co, of course). In my opinion its one of the most beautiful and organic.

First time we went to Corso Como it was in 2006. It was an OK concept store where somehow I felt obliged to buy one of the Prada “Polo” shirts, which became instantly small on the highest points of my chest. It always happens 5 minutes after the purchase. The shop was not so special, the collection was mostly Prada, café was very good.

To be specific, any good Italian food in Italy washed down with a good Italian wine consumed al fresco style is immaculate.

What struck me as the most beautiful part of this one storey old and new building, was Libreria , not the Library, as it had been introduced into Russian. It is a bookshop in Italian. It sold mostly coffee table books and lots of books about fashion and art. It was in the most beautiful conservatory style corridor building, where the light was eternal and the books were tastefully presented.

Historically 10 Corso Como is a shopping and dining complex in Milan, Italy. It combines outlets that show and sell works of art, fashion, music, design, cuisine and culture. It was founded in1990 in Milan, Italy, by gallery owner and a publisher Carla Sozzani.. Is it enough to create the most famous concept store in the world? Lets see. Carla Sozzani was editor-in-chief for some of Italian Vogue’s special issues..

Sozzani left Italian Vogue in 1986 and was appointed by Alexander Liberman as the American Vogue‘s editor-at-large for Italy.

Sozzani launched Italian Elle in 1987. As editor in chief, Sozzani worked with photographers Steven MeiselNick KnightPeter LindberghJuergen Teller and the illustrators Mats Gustafson and Francis Berthoud.[6]

In 1989 Sozzani met American artist Kris Ruhs, beginning a collaboration in both their lives and work.

Sozzani has had an enormous influence in the world of fashion. What she started as the first concept store in the world was a combination of impeccable taste and the status in the fashion world. We haven’t visited Milan for a hefty three years – we arrived there for negotiations with Pomellato. They said that, 10 Corso Como was not going so well in Milan, and suddenly it was like an explosion  – Samsung Group, its Fashion subdivision Chiel, invested in 10 Corso Como, Seoul.  We were present at the opening of 10 Corso Como in Seoul and yes, we finally felt – it came, what Carla deserved and that would be her future, not on the shaky European GFC infected ground.

When we attended Fashion weeks in Seoul everybody was saying, look, 10 Corso Como is losing money and only because of the daughter of the President of Samsung it was kept alive. Gossips are the worst type of propaganda, gossips in the fashion world are worse than poison.

Not only 10 Cosro Como prospered in Seoul, it opened three shops of different varieties, luxury, 10 Corso Como in Cheogdam, 10 Corso Como in Avenuel (my favourite – the books selection is immaculate), and discount 10 Corso Como in Garosugil.

Amid the cruellest gossips when we were buying Delvaux or Antonio Marras in Paris, 10 Corso Como teams from Seoul arrived in numbers of 5 for each buy. It could not be that bad)). It made me happy.

10 Corso Como Shanghai (2000 square metres) opened on 14 September 2013 at 1717 Nanjing West Road at Wheelock Square.

The logo for 10  Corso Como and all consecutive store designs were created by American Artist Kris Ruths.

One thing I completely forgot!

In 2002, 10 Corso Como opened in Tokyo in partnership with Comme des Garçons, designed by Rei Kawakubo and Kris Ruhs, which makes it related to Dover Street Market.

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I’m one of those people who can’t live without shopping. Even after becoming a professional shopper (and not that long ago, either – only 7 years back) I still naively hoped that I might be able to kick this habit that is so bad for one’s wallet. But nothing of the sort. Do drug dealers ever go off drugs? Are there any owners of cigarette companies who aren’t smokers? The jury’s still out on those two, but with shopping it’s actually not quite all so bad. When you’re out shopping that highly elusive feel-good hormone, dopamine is produced. Nobody’s measured the actual quantity, but I reckon that it compares only to your first kiss. At least, that’s how it is with me…

What does it mean to go shopping on your travels? When you’re travelling you’re less inhibited about parting with money and buying clothes as you completely forget about the inner landscape of your wardrobe (oh, how convenient!) and what’s to be found there. You stick all your purchases on your credit card, meaning that you don’t actually have to pay until later. The Euro or the dollar begins to sound like your own currency, which only resurfaces when you see the prices converted back into it on your bank statements. Husbands are off their guard and afraid of looking stingy when they’re abroad. In short, there are plenty of reasons why shopping should be enjoyable. So how do you find your way around once you’re inside a shop? How do you go about shopping so as not just to take advantage of the sales, but to get something unique and give your wardrobe a proper makeover?

As far as handbooks go, I’m very keen on the Luxe pocket city guides published in Hong-Kong. They speak with the voice of the characters out of ‘Sex and the City’ and their discernment and recommendations are spot-on. There’s just one problem – the guides that have so far been produced in this series, are mostly about the cities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Having racked my brains on what to do, I decided to start from the recent basics. Chloe Sadchev, one of the most famous fashion bloggers in the world wrote an article for www.dualshow.com. In August 2013. The site does not exist anymore.

Chloe Sadchev does.

She choose 5 best concept stores in the world:

1. Dover Street Market, London

2. 10 Corso Como (Milan, Shanghai, Seoul)

3. Cara&Co (Sydney, Moscow)

4. Opening Ceremony (New York)



What is really a concept store – they have been breeding like rabbits since start-nineties, and anything now, starting from one designer store, or one philosophy store or one simply store is called a concept store. Not so fast….

In late 1990s some European retail traders developed the idea of tailoring a shop towards a lifestyle theme, in the form of “concept stores”, which specialised in cross selling without using separate departments and separate tills. One of the first] concept stores was 10 Corso Como in Milan, Italy followed by Colette[ in Paris and Quartier 206[7][8] in Berlin. Several well-known American chains such as Urban Outfitters, Australian chain Billabong and, though less common, Lord & Taylor adapted to the concept store trend after 2000. In a peculiar way concept store is what slow food is to 30 minutes dinner preparation. Its slow shopping, the customers can linger for hours without being harassed by the loud music with the rhythm “Buy, Buy, Buy now!!! Or Run Away” They are not harassed by the sales people, pushing the customer to buy, but are very happy to explain, to teach, because its so much to look at, and they know you will come back.

And now we can start

Dover Street Market :

I have been to London many times, and for many reasons did not visit Dover Street Market. Either its position was too obscure for me or it was too obscure for the taxi driver.

I remember, it was the beginning of the middle of September 2008. London was sunny and friendly. GFC started to scream from the Internet, from all TV stations, it caused me indigestion and a huge credit card bill. Rouble and Aussie fell to the bottom of the food chain. When flying to London from Moscow on BA I took a glass of champagne for eternal bravery, came to Mr Gorbachev sitting in the first row and thanked him for “letting my people go”(we left USSR as refugees in 1988). He was a bit surprised, but I guess worse things happened to him before. In another words, everything was so unpredictable, that the visit to Dover Street Market was inevitable.

Let me start from only two bad things. First was the smell, the shop smelt with cheap café food. I also did not like the layout – 6 floors with very small landings/rooms, similar to the size of the Soviet apartment. Everything else was black/white perfect. In short, I was not in awe of the layout, I was in awe of the collection.

Piloted by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons fame, this place is cutting-edge and super-cool. A minimalist, functional interior – steel beams, brick walls. All of the designers displaying their wares are encouraged to adapt the space to suit their collection, which means that the interior is often as dynamic as the range of clothing. The designs on display won’t be for everyone – this is high fashion, not high street fashion – but even if you’re not there to buy, walking around this construction-site-come-shopping-centre is a rare treat. The shop sells understated luxury, what we call nowadays “non-conspicuous” luxury Don’t be fooled by the ‘market’ name tag – prices here aren’t exactly cheap and any attempt to haggle them down will result in a few raised well-plucked eyebrows. I wish Sydney retailers would be able to do the same exercise with their eyebrows…Maybe they are not so well plucked.

See you in Milan, Shanghai, Seoul

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In South Korea there are 16 public holidays scattered throughout the calendar year but everyone has just one week’s entitlement of annual leave. The per capita income of the population of Korea has recently started to overtake that of Japan. Koreans don’t get to call a place their own until around the time they retire – in Seoul property is even more expensive than in Tokyo or Sydney. Have you guessed what I’m driving at? If you’ve got cash to spare, you’re in no hurry to become a mortgage slave and you can’t take a proper holiday lasting at least a month, then what’s left to do? The answer’s simple – you go shopping. I’ve never had to queue to get into a shopping centre before – not even when the new Westfield opened in Sydney – but I did at the entrance to a Shinsegae mall. At three in the afternoon on a normal Saturday. And now, let’s get down to brass tacks…

There’s shopping in Seoul to suit all tastes and budgets, even if the latter is measured in loose change. And if that really is the case then head for the so-called night market known as Doota-Dongdaemun Market for cheap shopping on a grand scale. This market is spread across eight floors, including some subterranean ones. But though the goods on offer might be cheap and even if the designers are students of design rather than household names, they’re anything but run-of-the-mill.

The children’s floor is worth a special look. As you watch people buying children’s clothing by the kilo at prices not to be found anywhere else on this planet, it’s hard not to feel sharp pangs for a child – or, at a push, a grandchild – of your own. You’ll be in raptures at the abundance of colours and the wealth of fantasy. The contrast with the drabness of the clothes that I wore during my own childhood in the Soviet Union brings tears to my eyes. Mind you, to be blunt about it children’s clothing in Australia isn’t exactly hot on quality or good looks either. But at this market you’ll find both in spades.

Shifting up a rung on the shopping ladder to shopping malls, I have to say that this is the most popular form of shopping not just in Seoul, but throughout Asia-Pacific and Australia, to say nothing of the USA or Canada. Once you get pulled into this world of shopping, then that’s it – there’s no way back! It’s impossible to resist the lure of the crowds, the 15-percent discounts and the euphoria that comes from being a consumer.

There are four ‘brands’ of shopping malls – or rather, shopping cities – in Seoul: Hyundai, Lotte, Shinsegae and Galleria. In each of these shopping cities there are Duty Free sections, where you can register your purchase as tax-exempt at the till, rather than having to run the gauntlet of bureaucracy to get your money back. For Japanese who are flying in (they account for the lion’s share of visiting shoppers) or Koreans who are flying out Duty Free cities have been built not far from Incheon airport.

You can easily find your way around all the shopping centres with your eyes closed – on the ground floor at street level make sure you don’t miss the Korean-made skincare products for facials. They’re really cheap, really good quality and really effective. When you make a purchase you get showered with presents. The best known brands are Isa Knox, Ohui and Hera. They’re not quite up to the standard of Botox, but they’ll iron out your wrinkles for at least half a day. And they certainly are up to the standard of the most expensive and most heavily hyped European brands. You can breeze through the clothing departments on the other floors, apart from the third or fourth floor, where Korean brands such as System, Time, Mine and Kuho are to be found, the last of which belongs to Samsung. The first three of these brands are fairly classical in style, but spiced up and with a flare to the cut that is peculiarly Korean – bolder geometry and less of the zaniness to be found in Japan. Kuho is based on almost the same principles, but is a shade wackier. Top quality and incredibly varied materials are used – for instance, a dress might be made from the thinnest sheepskin combined with cashmere or knitwear.

But if you’re a fan of brands that are household names then hold back before you splash out in one of the downtown shopping malls. I’ll let you in on a little secret: twenty kilometres outside Seoul that is an entire outlet city, where they’ve got absolutely everything, even the really big names, only from last season and sometimes at a tenth of the price. They’ve even got the brands that never appear in the sales or on discount. The city is called Chelsea and it’s owned by Shinsegae, who back in 1929 opened the first department store in Korea. They’re old hands at this game.

And now for the holiest of holies – the boutiques and the discount stores. There’s a boutique for enlightenment – all Koreans love it and it’s called Boon The Shop. It’s located in Cheongdam-dong (Seoul’s equivalent of Potts Point in Sydney – the property prices are off the top of the scale) and it is owned by Shinsegae, which means that there are also franchises of Boon in their chain of shopping centres. Why do I say that it’s for enlightenment? The way the space inside is used is beautiful, but very unusual. There’s the now slightly wearisome combination of wood, glass and metal. The prices are astronomical, which can’t be explained by the customs duties – the brands aren’t Korean and you’d find them in any other major city. But the service is amazing – they’ll accompany you to the lift and bow to you at great length when seeing you out.

On the lower floor of this boutique there’s an exhibition space, empty except for a sculpture in the vein of Rodin’s ‘Thinker’. There’s a slightly unappealing smell of fried food coming from the neighbouring cafe.

A stone’s throw from Boon The Shop there are two more shops that are worth a visit: Koon, which is grungier and cheaper, and Gallery Mui – beautiful design and good, decent brands.

Walk another 500 meters and, as you come out onto one of the main streets of the local answer to Potts Point, you’ll come across a cousin of Milan’s Corso Como 10. This concept store has exactly the same name but is owned by Samsung, while the design comes from Prada, who tried and tested the formula. This shop is run by the favourite daughter of Samsung’s C.E.O. and while it has yet to turn a profit, it’s already made its mark on the retail map of Seoul as it was the first concept store in the city. The design of its Milan counterpart is undoubtedly more interesting, but you have to give its creators their due as the choice of brands, the merchandising and everything else has been done to the highest standards. There are never any sales in this shop, but take heart – on Garosugil Street in Sinsa-dong there is an outlet store for Corso Como 10 where you can indulge yourself to your heart’s content. The street itself, each side lined with closely spaced gingko trees, looks like it could be somewhere in Europe. There are loads of restaurants, bars and interesting shops of kinds of different stripes to be found there. Go and spend a few hours hanging out there and browsing, you won’t regret it.

And just what could there be to regret, in any case? Take your time, because you’ll always find an excuse to go back to Seoul. The people, the service, the Koreans’ sense of humour and their good nature will stick in your memory, as will their unique culture, historically isolated from the rest of the world, and their ability to create something beautiful from the most unexpected forms and textures. It’s not for nothing that in 2010 Seoul was made a UNESCO City of Design.

I almost forgot – you can and will need to take a break from shopping in yet another place brought to you by Samsung – the Samsung Museum of Modern Art…


tumblr_n0jnqjmrrs1tsozpto2_12801-300x225No offense Dubai and Singapore, but there are cities where you might as well be blindfolded when you go shopping. You wake up in your hotel room and step out of the lobby into a kingdom of marble, air conditioning and identical-looking shops. It’s all very predictable and convenient for, say, a weary businessman who knows that there’s no way his special lady is going to turn down a Tiffany ring or a Gucci bag. It’s a fail-safe option.

You can do exactly the same in Florence and hide yourself away in the airport duty free-style shops on the Via de’ Tornabuoni. But you can also go shopping for really unusual things in a city which is famous and interesting for all sorts of reasons. Above all, Florence is famous for its jewellery, leather goods and top quality paper. During the Renaissance something called a ‘bottega’ appeared. The word translates as ‘workshop’, although the English word isn’t an exact fit, as in workshops like these the master craftsman (the maestro) would create a masterpiece and his apprentices would then imitate it. So it’s very difficult to tell apart the original masterpiece and things that are copies of it, but by no means fakes. Everything has always been and always will be of the highest quality.

The realm of jewellery is to be found on the Ponte Vecchio. This bridge was originally built in 1177 and was then rebuilt in 1345. Ever since then there have been shops, boutiques and stalls on it. A point of interest is that this is where the word ‘bankrupt’ originates from. When traders couldn’t pay their rent soldiers would come along and break up their counter – or ‘banco’. That would ruin the counter – it would become ‘rotto’, which gives us ‘bancorotto’ and from which in turn we derive the English word ‘bankrupt’. Another point of interest is that originally all the traders on the bridge were butchers, until the Medici family (and you have to see their point) got fed up with having to look all the time at the blood pouring off it into the Arno and that was how jewellers came to take up residence there. When you’re walking across the bridge with your guy then you can tell straight away that men really did arrive on Earth from Mars and that we women are from Venus… A man’s eyes will glaze over, he’s got the frightened look of someone who knows he’s been cornered. Any woman who at that point was taken in for a dope test would come out positive, without a shade of a doubt. By the time you get to the middle of the bridge you’ll both have got your breath back and by that point it’s obvious that there is nowhere else where you can see so much beautiful jewellery, the work of true artists, anywhere else…

It’s said that we have the Medici family to thank for Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and for leather caskets made without a single stitch. Catherine de’ Medici brought her dowry and valuables with her in boxes and caskets such as these when she arrived in France to marry the future Henry II. Her future husband was so impressed by them that he ordered a number for himself. All the nobles of France followed suit and the lasting fame of the Florentine leather workers was assured.

In the 1930s the Scuola del Cuoio, the only school in Italy for training leather workers, was set up in the monastery of Santa Croce. Back then there were orphans who lived and were raised in the monastery and the school was supposed to teach them the trade and give them a start in life. But these days it’s a school for high-flying leather workers. You can call in and take a look at the students and masters at work. In the labyrinth of the numerous backstreets around the monastery you can pick up some of Florence’s leather wares – something traditional, in the line of what so impressed Henry II, or something up to the minute.

Marbled paper arrived in Florence in the 16th century. It was probably invented in China, then appeared in the Middle East in the 15th century and finally in Florence following the Battle of Lepanto. It attained widespread popularity in the city in the 18th century. Initially this paper was just used to decorate books and it was only later that it was used for printing. The ‘Il Papiro’ chain, which sells marbled paper, has achieved worldwide renown, but think twice before checking out any of their stores – in the historic centre you’ll find a huge number of tiny boutiques selling marbled goods which aren’t quite so high-end and without the corresponding price tag. You can’t finish your historical shopping spree until you’ve been to one of the oldest pharmacies in the world – Santa Maria Novella, founded by Dominican monks in 1221.
In a small garden in the courtyard behind the pharmacy the monks once grew herbs to make medicines, balms and ointments, mainly for the monastery’s own infirmary. In 1612 the ruler of Florence gave permission for the Dominicans to open a little chemist’s shop, whose fame spread throughout all of Europe. It may have had something to do with the fact that the formulas for many of the creams and balms was based on remedies invented especially for Catherine de’ Medici back in the 16th century.

The origin of eau de Cologne is also related to the history of this pharmacy. In fact the substance was originally Catherine’s own perfume, which she took with her to France before her marriage to the king. Originally that was what this perfume was called – ‘the queen’s aroma’. Then, in 1709 the Italian Giovanni Maria Farina took up residence in Cologne, rediscovered the recipe and began to mass-produce it. He named the perfume ‘eau de Cologne’ in honour of the city, forgetting that it was still being produced in his homeland under a completely different name as it had been for ages. And three centuries later we think we have problems legally protecting registered trademarks…

Once you’ve taken the two to three days that you need to explore the city’s history and do a bit of historical shopping I strongly recommend that you pay a visit to a very beautiful shop called PNP. There are two of them in Florence and the one on the Via del Proconsolo is the newer and the more handsome of the pair. It has an unusual looking interior with a glass floor through which you can look down at the medieval remains of what is either columns or something turned up in an archaeological dig. Their lines of clothing is equally unusual, so exclusive that they’re not to be found anywhere else in Italy, and the staff are really friendly, as are the successful owners. You can take a seat in the bar, relax after an overdose of history, take your other half off the leash and leave him in the trusty care of the salespersons. You won’t regret it.

Florence is the kind of place where embarking on a shopping trip means embarking on an excursion into its history. And PNP is no exception – make it your aim to find out what’s under the glass floor beneath you.