Midnight Pearls 3

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beyond Retro

Beyond Retro went beyond ALL my expectations! I've had numerous Swedish friends advice me to stop into this one of a kind boutique in Stockholm. Of course I HAD to see what all the hype was about. What I discovered is that Beyond Retro...is indeed BEYOND retro...they DEFINE Vintage Clothing. They have set the bar for consignment of vintage clothing. They have an unbelievably exhausted collection of every decade...in ONE store. I stood there in awe asking myself, "HOW and WHO was able to track down these pieces?" Their website says it best:
Our large-scale stores are packed full of thousands of one-of-a-kind vintage garments, handpicked from all over the globe, and spanning the decades from the 1900s through to the 1990s. With a century’s worth of vintage clothing to rifle through, you’re guaranteed to find a bargain!

Our eclectic and talented staff - made up of vintage clothing historians, performers, illustrators, designers and musicians - make Beyond Retro a creative hub which attracts fabulous individuals from all walks of life!
The store seems to have no end too, it's HUGE! My only complaint was the price - it was a bit out of my personal price range, but it's like buying an antique...a piece of history...so I guess I can validate that! I will forever now associate "vintage" with Beyond Retro. You just gave to experience this store for yourself. I really appreciate stores that push me beyond my comfort zone with style and fashion. I confess that I'm NOT retro enough for the majority of the pieces. BUT the store pushed me to an edge, to consider how these COULD become practical possibilities. That's when I started having fun...

Friday, June 4, 2010

IC Companys

Reading that Tiger of Sweden was bought by the Danish IC Companys perked my interest a bit. Turns out IC Companys owns:
Peak Performance
Tiger of Sweden
Part Two
By Malene Birger
Saint Tropez
Soaked in Luxury
Designers Remix Collection by Charlotte Eskildsen

Here's what the website says is their mission: "IC Companys offers a solid base for brands to grow and expand from. All brands must have international potential. Each brand must establish a clear brand identity and earn money in the long term. We work within the fashion industry." Their vision: "We want to offer brands unique possibilities to grow through talented people, professional support functoins and financial strength."

My questions always bring questions...like how is a group like this even formed? What's the history? They formed in 2001 by the merger of Carli Gry International A/S and InWear Group A/S. Together, this company ranks as one of the largest clothing companies in Northern Europe. They have 2,200 employees with sales companies in 11 countries including: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, UK, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Poland, and Canada. The brands are sold to 11,000 distributors in more than 40 countries.

Tiger of Sweden: An Art Gallery of Fashion

Tiger of Sweden is by far Sweden's most beautiful contribution to the world of fashion. I was so excited to find a flagship store in Stockholm! After doing some quick research, I was shocked to learn that the store actually started in 1903 by the tailors Markus Schwarmann and Hjalmar Nordström. The original focus was tailoring menswear. The label that is known today didn't start until the early 1990s. Their goal has been to design modern and attractive suits for the young inner-city working crowd. In 2003 the label was sold to a Danish company. Their longstanding history is nothing compared to how impressive their collection is. It was as if I were standing in an art gallery. Beautiful pieces and quality craftsmanship! I did not allow myself to try anything on, for this would have been too cruel given Tiger is a bit out of my price range!

For those obsessed, check out their blog!


Acne. No, this Swedish Jean company wasn't obsessed with prepubescent teens, but rather "Ambition to Create Novel Expressions." A clever name actually.

So of course in Stockholm I had to locate these famous jeans! Acne was founded in 1996 and in 1997 began distributing their jeans to stores within Scandinavia. In 2003 they opened their first concept store and no have about 10 stores located in Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, Australia, France and the United States.

They don't advertise or publish anything in magazines - instead they have their own fashion magazine that comes out twice a year called Acne Paper. Their selection of jeans is impressive to say the least and I admire the way they live up to their name!

Yes, this is real.

I couldn't resist. Oddly enough, it's not full of clothes you might define as "skanky." (I was a bit nervous searching "skank clothing store" on google!) They actually sell street-wear with a Jamaican flavor. One website described Skank as "a world where design and expression go hand in hand, and where creativity has a rebellious streak." Come to find out - Skank is Swedish born and bred! Their lead designer is Tomas Björkén and they are centered in Stockholm!

Beauty defined?

All of these advertisements for these major stores involve beautiful women in bikinis. What message does this send to buyers? What does this say about women? Who is their target audience? Most importantly, how is beauty being defined?

The Tshirt that says it all...

This sums up my blog completely. Cubus read my mind.

The rockstar shades are my newest addition thanks to Gina Tricot!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Carrie On

Regardless of the location, a fashion blog is not complete without the mentioning of Sex and the City. Since I'm in Sweden, I'm not getting all dolled up for the premier. I remember when the first movie came out. I was in Santa Cruz, California. Everyone was decked to the nines, swarming the movie theater downtown. I remember friends saying, "I'm going to watch it just for the fashion!"

Sarah Jessica Parker has shaped fashion. Carrie's opening line of the movie Sex and the City is "Every year, twenty-something women come to New York searching for two Ls: Labels and Love."

One of my sweet (and smokin' hot)friends, Marian Jordan, and author of "Sex and the City: Uncovered" said it best on her recent blog post:
Although I’m pretty sure the screenwriter had no intention of writing a profound statement about the state of women’s souls, regardless of his intention, he nailed it. Young women today are indeed on a search, at times a desperate search, for labels and love. Trust me, I know from personal experience.
Forget about Dior, Channel, or Prada, women are anxiously pursuing a bigger label than any of these names, one that defines them, tells them who they are, and what they are worth. This label is not found on the latest must-have handbag or pair of designer jeans, the label that women are really searching for is one that covers their hearts and reads “Loveable,” “Treasured” and “Adored.”
And let’s be honest, women are flat-out looking for a love… one that makes them feel whole, accepted and complete. This quest for love transcends dating relationships, friendships and even marriage, because even when all of these are present, there is still an ache, emptiness, and a hole in the soul that isn’t filled. So, the search continues…
My first book, Sex and the City Uncovered, is all about this search. The search each one of us makes for “labels and love” and uncovers the solution to our quest by pointing us to a life defined by and filled by the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Since Sex and the City Uncovered was first published in 2007, I have spoken to thousands of young women across the nation at Redeemed Girl Ministries’ Girls’ Night Out events. At these events, I tell my story of “looking for love in all the wrong places,” and how I, too, bought into the allure of the Sex and the City lifestyle, only to find more heartbreak, shame, and emptiness as a result.

I HIGHLY recommend Marian's book - I've read it a few times now and given it to dozens of women. She raises a great question that even I must continually ask myself. What and where does my love for fashion stem from? We all know that phrase, "therapy shopping." It's been a BAD day, and many of us medicate with shopping. In some ways we treat shopping and labels as if they were gods. That might sound crazy. But we look to them to meet needs, to make us feel better, to bring confidence and beauty, to impress others. We look to labels to satisfy. But do they REALLY satisfy. Why am I still unsatisfied a week later, with a closet full of clothes? Why is it that I NEVER HAVE ENOUGH? Trends are always changing, and it's an endless cycle of wants and needs. If taken too far, this search for satisfaction is exhausting. When are we at peace, and the search is over?

I agree 100% with Marian in her book. We were created to worship - we WILL worship. Is what we're worshiping really delivering? I believe we were created beautifully by God to worship Him, a beautiful God. Sadly, we can agree we fall short of worshiping God - we go to other things to find satisfaction, joy, peace, that ultimately can only be met by our Creator. We become a slave to what we worship. I've had to learn that it's not the labels I worship as I'm shopping - but the beautiful creation of fashion that points to an EVEN MORE beautiful God. To me, fashion is a reflection of the beauty of God. Fashion doesn't receive the glory - the ultimate Designer does. Life is worship for me. As I stand astounded by the beauty of a pair of heels - it points me to God. Call it crazy, but it's a greater purpose, meaning, and fulfillment that shoes, bags, and dresses can NEVER fully deliver.

My rant is over. Go watch the movie. Better yet, read Marian's book "Sex and the City: Uncovered."

The Varner Group

So I recently discovered that Cubus was bought in the 80s by "The Varner Group" aka Varner-Gruppen. Who are they and what do they own.

Thanks to my "trusted" friend Wiki - I was able to learn that The Varner Group is "the largest actor in the textile retailing trade in Norway." They own Bik Bok, Carlings, Cubus, Dressmann, Solo, Urban, Vivikes, Wearhouse, and WOW. The group has more than 1,100 stores located throughout Scandinavia, the Batlic Countries, Germany, and Poland. All of the stores are operated without franchising...I'm no business major, but I understand that to mean the Varner family is doing ok! (Net of $7 million!)

The Varner Group is like the Gap. The Gap Company owns Gap, Baby Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta. Another example would be Williams-Sonoma, Inc. They own all Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, PBTeen, and Pottery Barn kids stores.

Bottom line, The Varner Group is making bank.

CUBUS and the difficulty of learning new stores

One of the most fun things about this adventure is learning about each of the stores - what do they sell, how do they market, and most importantly WHO is their audience. For example, let's play word association. When I say Abercrombie, one thinks high school. When I say Talbots, I think MOM. When I say Urban Outfitters, I ask how long do I have to shop...we forget that we just KNOW the character of our stores in America. I don't have that luxury in Sweden, but it's so fun to LEARN the character! Let me put it another way. As a size zero, there's embarrassment that occurs when you realize somehow you've ventured off into the plus size section of a department store. I'm working from scratch here trying to learn the stores - and it's a bit more challenging than it seems!

Cubus through me off. Their is a disconnect between the image depicted on the website and what's going down in the store. The website has models that looks to be in the 20-30 age bracket, however the store screams teeny-bopper. I almost wasn't convinced I had the right website! As I was perusing the store, it appeared there wasn't much to offer - but the way the clothes are worn on the website - TOTALLY different. I was disappointed that items I REALLY liked on the website were definitely NOT in the store! (I wouldn't have missed them!)

I did score a sweet ruffled one shoulder tank that was only 3$!!! I decided that I was losing money by NOT purchasing something so cute and dirt cheap! Such a steal!

If any Swedes would like to chime in on the target audience of Cubus - I welcome any and all thoughts!

Here's some info I learned from their website:
Cubus is a large chain in Scandinavia reaching Norway, Sweden, Poland, Latvia, and Germany. Their mission is "to promote fashionable, high quality clothes at reasonable prices." Cubus has actually only been in Sweden since 2004 but originally started in 1966 in Sandnes. Headquarters are now located in Oslo. They are currently owned by the Varner Group...which I'm planning on researching who and what this group is! Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mango: a worthy investment.

So today I got word that MQ was having a day only 20% off sale on all their Mango items. What's funny is that last week I tried on half the store, but not too many outfits by Mango. I've decided that Mango is the BEST thing MQ has going on. I was forced to focus on this designer, and turns out I sadly overlooked some great stuff! Mango is now a fav.

Oh - AND I noticed that one of the ruffle stitching was coming out - and that added another 10% off! I've been saving since February and am a woman on a budget - every dollar off counts! I'm convinced this is a worthy investment!

This really was a purchase - and how funny that I didn't snap any photos of it on!

check out www.mangoshop.com for more of Mango!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

MQ Fashion

MQ is another sought after store here in Sweden. As I was browsing around and taking in this store, I immediately noticed the difference in clientèle. The crowd shopping is a bit older than what you would find at H&M or Gina Tricot. Something else I noticed is that the store caries name brands. It didn't hit me until now that H&M, Forever 21, even Target for that matter only carry their line with the occasional guest designer making an appearance. (I think Jimmy Choo has created a line for this season at H&M...brilliant marketing.) So because MQ carries name brands, the prices were higher, but not outrageous by ANY means. Here's who they carry:

365 Sunshine
Bjorn Borg
Calvin Klein
Fred Perry
Lyle & Scott
Maison Scotch
New Balance
Peak Performance
Scotch and Soda

So brands are what set MQ apart to some degree. I did notice that the store had trendy items, but scaled back and a little more conservative, less edgy when compared to other Swedish stores. (Think Ann Taylor - she embraces a trend but doesn't go ALL OUT with it...my personal opinion...) But the clothing here is QUALITY. You can wear it more than once without it disintegrating after one wash.

Navy Top, Bondelid ~ $28
(Very Ann Taylor-ish)

Middle: Denim Dress, "Ricky" ~ $71
(I really had to dig to find something this edgy)

Below: A more conservative denim dress, an idea of the majority style.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gina Tricot

Gina Tricot is where I will start. At some point we'll discuss the H&M phenomena that's changing the world, but for now this is where we begin. Before ever stepping foot on the holy fashion ground of Sweden - I made a promise to shop at "Gina Tricot." (Thanks L.Hendrix.) Who is Gina, what does she have to offer?

Gina Tricot is in fact born and bred Swedish company, with locations in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. On the list of most influential stores in Sweden, Gina Tricot pulls a second place behind H&M. It's affordable fast fashion.

Let me define "fast fashion." Fast fashion includes stores that have a high turnover in trends. These stores are always turning over merchandise. For example, say you discover a smokin' hot summer dress at Forever 21, but decide you'll give it 24 hours before commitment...you show up the next day and it's gone...like it never existed. This is what I mean by fast fashion. If you find it, buy it, or it's gone and you'll regret it.

Back to Gina. A family run business founded in 1997 with headquarters located in Boras, Sweden. (Boras is the leading textile city in Sweden.) Gina Tricot is said to be the fastest growing fashion chain in the Nordic region with over 120 local stores. Named after their basic collection of tops made of the soft, yet sturdy material "tricot."

Here is a look into what Gina has to offer here in Uppsala:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Fashion Survey!

So today I've been trying to figure out a clearer direction for this blog. I've decided to work on putting together a "survey" that would be a springboard to learning the fashion culture here. Here are some ideas I brainstormed today:

- What defines Swedish fashion?
- What do you think of American fashion?
- What's the biggest fashion fail for Swedes - something you wouldn't be caught dead wearing?
- Where is your favorite place to shop?
- How do you perceive people based on clothes - how do clothes define people in Sweden?
- Who do you get your fashion cues from? Magazines, internet, whatever's in the store?
- Do you feel pressure to live up to certain fashion standards?
- What role does image play in Swedish culture?
- What is beauty?
- Who defines beauty or what is beautiful?

My friends are really excited to use this survey with their Swedish friends - we'll see how it goes in the search for the essence of Swedish fashion!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bringing Form to Formless

A brilliant idea occurred today! As I meet new Swedish friends this summer - I want to intertwine this blog concept. How fun would it be to have Swedes take me shopping. If I'm in search of finding the essence of Swedish Fashion - then this makes sense as a great starting point. Goal #1. After all, I do live within walking distance of H&M. And to think, my husband can't say no...it's shopping for the glory of God.

This weekend I hope to start snapping some pics in our time off. I'm already noticing the "asymmetry" represented by lots of Swedes in their choice of dresses and skirts. It's a bit more sophisticated than the asymmetry i vaguely recall being popular when i was in High School.

I also fit right in with my cut off jean shorts over leggings...and to think that Americans laughed at me. I copied Kate Moss who must have copied Swedes.

One last thought - I was processing with a friend, explaining my deep love for sewing and making clothes. She made the connection that it's the process of bringing FORM to that which is FORMLESS. Genesis is all over this concept, God creating and forming the world, and ultimately US out of nothing, what was formless took on form. Sewing is worship. Another beautiful realization.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Swedish Swagger?

Some might read this and think it's vain. I would argue that it's quite the opposite. To me, fashion is art. My love for sewing and creating fashion has opened my eyes to an entirely fresh perspective on fashion. Fashion is creative. It's innovative. It's unique. It's identifying. It's beauty. It's collaboration. It's always changing. It is always defining. It is culture. Fashion is a reflection. It reflects all of these things, but goes even deeper. Fashion is a reflection of a beauty and creativity that can only be found in God. As I'm struck by the beauty of fashion, I'm pointed to the Creator. Fashion is worship...not the worship of the design itself, but the worship of the ultimate Designer.

My heart this summer is to worship with my eyes - to SEE the beauty of the Lord in a new and maybe even unique light. I have NO idea the direction this blog will take - but my hope is that ultimately I would experience God through my love of and for creating fashion.