While I was away on vacation over the 4th of July holiday, the subject line “Sad but true” was buried among the hundreds of work emails I was avoiding. The sender was Metier, one of my favorite local boutiques.
I immediately forwarded the note to Jslow, who introduced me to Metier back in the day.
Over the years, Metier has helped me dress better and discover small, independent brands. Located on Sutter near Stockton, it sits on the outskirts of Union Square and is on my way to Muni and many places I go during the course of my day. They were always the first to support and carry designers like Rachel Comey and Zero + Maria Cornejo, and they introduced me to Isabel Marant years before anyone else knew who she was or what she would become. Metier is responsible for my Isabel Marant shoe addiction, and is where I bought my first date “Chili” boots, which resulted in me snagging the love of my life.
I had a sinking feeling that Metier was in trouble once Barney’s opened up, as Barney’s carried many of the same designers Metier carried, but could afford to stock a wider selection with lower prices. It’s the upscale version of Walmart putting a local dress shop out of business. The hard part is that while I loathe and don’t shop at Walmart, I like and shop at Barney’s. I am part of the problem here. I feel guilty.
Can’t we all co-exist? It’s getting harder and harder, especially in the world of fashion retailing.
Coincidentally, I just started reading “Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline. It’s a fascinating and depressing look at how fast and cheap fashion is hurting workers, destroying the environment and killing independent, local retailers. H&M, Forever 21 and Zara have all invaded Union Square (Uniqlo arrives in a few months) and sell quick, cheap and poor quality knock-offs of what independent designers spend years to research and create. Most people accept this as the new normal. The sad part is that there is nothing special about mass-produced garments that a million other people will have and that will fall apart before the next trend hits. The price of everything, including gas, education, healthcare, housing etc. has climbed throughout history, while the price of clothing is at an all-time low.
Another threat to independent local fashion retailers is the web. Metier didn’t begin to sell online until this past year. JSlow and I spend hours looking at clothes online and make a fair amount of purchases from the web; it’s just too easy and convenient. When you factor in the crappy economy, it’s a miracle many local retailers stay in business at all.
Unless more of us wake up and decide that spending a few extra dollars to support the superior quality and experience that our local fashion retailers provide is worth it, we are doomed to a life shopping at giant soul-less discounters both offline and on. A big part of the shopping experience, for me, is getting to know the shop owner or sales girl and discussing what designers’ new fall line is really ground-breaking, what jean wash is the freshest, who really nailed the lug sole trend, and whether the alligator clutch or suede cross-body bag is the best investment. I will miss doing that with Sheri and Trina and the other women of Metier.
Their last day is Saturday, July 21. If you live in San Francisco, do yourself a favor and stop by.