Monday, February 22, 2016

No Holds Barred: When Fashion (is) History

When Fashion (is) History
By Blair Sabol, photographs by Patrick Halbe

It has been said, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping." That doesn’t seem to be happening of late. Retail has taken a hit. Walmart is closing more than 250 stores. In my town (Phoenix/Scottsdale) Macy's and Barneys are shutting their doors. Our malls are morgues. Yes, online shopping is ruling, but it is different.

No one cares about “Fashion Week” or even “70% off” sales (J.Crew has been doing that at a loss for the last four months). It has been said that “Couture” clothing has been reportedly gaining “more interest.” More interest for whom? Most people have given up reading Vogue and Bazaar for the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Instagram has become the most popular pictorial spread in place of newspaper “street fashion” reporting, and personally I would rather watch Fox Businesses’ “Varney & Co.” then E!'s “Fashion Police.” I guess we are getting more concerned about economic “bottom lines” and less about bare-bottomed hemlines.
Over the past three months “The Empire” Fashion Diva “Cookie Lyons” (Taraji Henson) has appeared on at least six magazines covers and won a Golden Globe, which means her influence is now so overexposed we no longer care about her or the show.
Here’s what isn’t over; Aretha Franklin singing Carol King’s “Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center Honors dressed in her own floor length fur coat and carrying a glitter clutch bag. She tore the house up when she dropped the bag on the piano and dumped the fur coat on the stage spreading her ample bare arms while belting her finale. Elton John said “When I’m 75, I want to be like her with a fur coat like that – coming in with a clutch bag and then throwing my coat on the floor. Now that says it all.” Indeed, it did and it didn’t come with the name of a designer or the help of a Hollywood stylist.
The BIG moment!
Nor did quarterback Cam Newton require help when he stopped the presses pre-Super Bowl wearing his own $875 Versace Zebra leggings. It took no time to list that look as “Cam Pants” on the Internet and the style was sold out in 5 minutes.
Two weeks ago Vintage Fashionista Barbie made news with a new body type. Barbie used to be a fashion icon for girls – I always thought with her double decker blonde hair, big boobs and pouty mouth she was vaguely pornographic. Now she is being promoted with a more “curvy” body with a bigger “rack” and an ass like Kim Kardashian. Who knows if the merchandising shift will make 11-year-old girls accept their own body types. Nowadays I know very few girls playing with Barbie. They are all on their Instagram accounts. To me the only real Barbie “news” would be if she transgendered into Ken. Show me THAT doll, and then we can talk!
The "curvy" doll is meant to reflect a more "realistic" idea body image for young people. Thank you Kim!
So if Fashion and Fashion Shopping is over, where are we going to spend and escape (other than Amazon and Top Shop’s “click to buy” buttons)? After all, we still want the “liftoff” of sashaying down aisles and rack shopping. My financial advisor (who is now my “stylist”) told me that when the economy starts to quiver – people run to commodities. Restaurants in particular are making a comeback. Safeway is jammed of late. Look at McDonalds move of offering all-day breakfast menu of sausage and eggs. My local “McDrive Thru” is jammed daily. Who knew this would become such a “scene?” Ronald McDonald is no longer the sad sack homeless bum of a year ago. He has made a roaring iconic comeback!
Don't call it a comeback!
But the most popular “go-to” locale in my town is Costco. It always was! But now, it has replaced every store as the royalty of retail. The parking lot is filled with BMWs and Bentleys at all hours. Everyone gets their cheap gas, car wash and best hot dogs at this ultimate one-stop shopping headquarters.
Beemers in the parking lot.
Best price on gas in the Phoenix valley.
The Car wash.
Popular Costco hot dog deal.
Club members rave about the rotisserie chicken, the double 24-pack toilet tissue, and the high-end wine selection, all at bargain rates. Not to mention the Judith Ripka rings, best-selling books, Calvin Klein underwear, Michael Kors sweaters, and that one “I-didn’t-know-I-wanted-but-who-can-pass-it-up-at-this-price” impulse purchase that always ends up in your cart. Costco has beaten Target and Walmart, and even Bed Bath & Beyond.
Costco's famous rotisserie chicken.
Exceptional high end wine collection.
The water aisle.
One of Costco's many organic products.
An abundance of New York Times Best Sellers.
Crowds pack our Costco knowing they can find the newest items at the best price. And it changes daily! The aisles are now stocked with everything from organic Kale and blueberries (Costco has beaten out Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s as the largest organic grocer in the United States) to Olay Regenerist Cream, to 10-pound blocks of butter. Costco is an amusement park of shopping “Discovery,” while Walmart’s aisles feel depressing and stuck with the same stock. My problem is finding the closet space big enough to house their giant bottles of olive oil and 20-pound boxes of Tide. How much ketchup do I really need? It is a hoarder's paradise, and stocking up in tough times makes us feel good and “prepared.” Prepared and stocked for what is the question. They are today's “shopping experience.”
Dependable bulk selection.
Especially useful for teepeeing. For when you need that gallon of Olive Oil.
One other local success shopping scene story has to do with drive-thru coffee. Now, who would dare go up against Starbucks? But some people are trying. There is Death Wish Coffee from upstate New York majoring in its simple “strongest coffee in the world” and developing a huge fan base of “freezing cold truckers and heavy metal rockers.” They even won an advertising spot in the recent Super Bowl pushing their “line backer strong Super Bowl/Buffalo tough” taste and style. Brutal!

Dutch Bros. Creed.
But in the West it has become Dutch Bros. – started in 1992 in Oregon by the dairy farmer Boersma Brothers (Dane and Travis) and is now franchised in Arizona, California, Colorado and Idaho. It is the country’s largest privately owned drive-thru coffee store. And might be coming to a neighborhood near you.

The amazing story here is about the “Dutch Bros. Creed” – they started as a simple espresso pushcart – and now every coffee drink is roasted by hand and pulled ristretto style. The Boersma Brothers came across “The Optimist Creed” – an anonymous oath and adopted it as their own brand and philosophy and pumped it into their employees. It more than works!

Whenever you pull through a Dutch Bros. window, it is a “party” – every employee is enthusiastic and playful and the music is loud and the coffee is unbelievable – but the attraction is the young staff of spirited genuinely optimistic kids. Dutch Bros. prides itself in being a customer service crowd pleaser in every location.

Jim Thompson has been the head franchisee in Arizona and is now the most successful market of the entire brand. He started in 2006 (leaving a 35-year career as a car salesman) and now at the age of 71 he is having a ball opening up Dutch Bros. all over the valley (15 so far).
Dutch Bros. Franchisee Jim Thompson.
“The secret is in our service, our energy, and our quality. We don’t advertise. We market by volunteering in community charities and schools, tons of free coffee (giving back to the community), and punch card giveaways.”

Jim explains, “We are a coffee culture. We seek out people who represent our culture, and they love what they do. This often seems less of a job, and more of a family. We have people outside to meet you who send your order in on an iPad. So, by the time you pull up to the window, you are greeted by another smiling face, and your drink is ready and perfect. These kids just get to be themselves.”
Jim at the Dutch Bros. warehouse.
The Dutch Bros. staff are famous for being young, edgy, attractive, and personable. No “Shtick.” And SERVICE! They have it down. Smoothies, as well as teas, Italian sodas, and their own brand of “energy” drinks can be “infused” with flavors. Their espresso drinks are cheaper and richer than Starbucks (no fake ingredients either) and not as acidic. Dutch Bros. popularity is all word of mouth. Total grass roots approach, which has been remarkably successful. “Our core values are Service, Quality, and Speed, and our Creed is everything." Jim is kind of the “Bernie Sanders” of coffee.

The Dutch Bros. staff could be considered a “cult” with their infamous enthusiasm. Everybody I know wants to work as a Dutch Bros. “Bro-ista.” I just want to have some of what they are all drinking to stay so upbeat. Anyway you look at it, Dutch Bros. has become a real popular “shopping experience” worth waiting for in a fast moving line.
Jasmine, Austin, and Matt — Dutch Bros. "Bro-istas." Dutch Bros. first-timer with photographer Patrick Halbe.
So, here we are; now fashion and shopping is about food and survival at a price. Not about inflated handbags, shoes and watches. A month ago designer genius André Courrèges died at 92. Women’s Wear Daily called him “Le Corbusier of Paris Couture.” In 1965 he invented the mini skirt and white go-go boots. He was a civil engineer, a fighter pilot and a natural sportsman. Now he is a major part of real fashion history.

He said in his later years that "The world’s creativity stopped in 1970. If they want to create anything new, they have to go back to 1970 Courrèges.” That says it all ... now and forever.

But I bet Courrèges would have loved Costco and a Dutch Bros. “Annihilator.”
Girl in White Boots by Wayne Thiebaud, 1966. This portrait is of an 18-year-old ME wearing a Courrèges dress.
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