Sep 20, 2019 | By Athena Chen
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Some years ago, I worked at Marie Claire, and every six months I’d board a plane for New York and commence a month on the road for the biannual catwalk shows (this is not an article about catwalk shows, bear with me).
The joy of those trips was largely due to the shopping pilgrimages they afforded. The shows themselves, while beautiful and creatively stimulating, were also a confidence-crushing, four-week slog as one failed to measure up to standards of: a) beauty (versus the models, obviously), b) body (again, versus the models), c) style (versus what everyone else in attendance was wearing) and d) career (versus where everyone else in attendance was sitting).
Oh, but the shopping. J Crew. Barneys. Saks. Anthropologie, with its gorgeous prints and amazing homewear that you just couldn’t get anywhere else. I once managed to carry back six black glass champagne flutes and a heavy, cut-glass jewellery box that I’d picked up in the gorgeous SoHo store and didn’t break a single one.
And the drugstores! Friends would send their requests months in advance for Maybelline mascaras or Neutrogena cleansers.
That was then. Now Anthro is everywhere. Everything, in fact, is everywhere. On my many trips to the WGSN office in NYC I take carry-on only and no-one’s asked me to buy anything from CVS or Walgreens in ages. Until last month that is.
Packing my bag on a Sunday evening for a flight the next morning, one of my stepsons asked if I could bring him back some WarHeads.
You may have heard of WarHeads; I hadn’t. You may have tried WarHeads; I hadn’t. (I have now and don’t recommend the experience.)
Turns out Duane Reade doesn’t stock them. Neither does Target, although I did fill a basket with graham crackers and marshmallow fluff to aid the tooth-rotting experience I was now intent on bringing home.
Finally, a member of my team sent me in the direction of Party City, which is my new favourite shop in the world. Not only does it stock WarHeads, but every piece of colour-coordinated tat one could possible want for a, well, party.
I have subsequently found an ‘American Candy’ store on Oxford Street in London where, for the approximate price of a return trip to the States, one can pick up a comparatively small bag of WarHeads (Party City tends to sell everything in volume), but that’s not really the point.
In an age of the ubiquitous brand and the ubiquitous product, certain companies are thinking more strategically about which countries to sell certain lines in.
Or are just sticking to selling where they are, rather than risk the potential pitfalls of international expansion.
My beloved Flower Beauty – Drew Barrymore’s brilliant and affordable makeup line – might have a small range now available via superdrug.com in the UK, but I’ll make the pilgrimage to Ulta when I’m stateside to pick and choose from the full product line. Even Unilever, with its unrivalled distribution powers, has chosen to only sell its much media-lauded ApotheCARE Essentials line in America, despite the fact it was actually formulated in the UK (I’m trying to get to the bottom of that decision, having read so many reviews heralding the impact its rosehip oil, geranium and aloe vera shampoo has on fine hair).
And I think they’re all onto something – even if it’s accident over strategy. We prize experience over product today, which makes product production all the more tricky. But if tracking down that product becomes part of the experience, two boxes are ticked in one. It’s not quite the same tactic as limiting stock of a particular piece to ensure sellout success, but rather taking the joy of hunting down something you can’t find close to home writ large on an international level.
It just might mean I need to invest in a larger suitcase.
Product of the Week
Despite lengthy research into setting sprays for my recent Balearic wedding, in the end the thought of fixing makeup to my face was just too gross. Enter instead the amazing Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Setting Powder. I’ve retired all my other powders since returning home and bought this in two more shades for when the tan fades.
Destination of the Week
To my favourite place in the world, Formentera, for the aforementioned wedding. Months and months of Google searches and hours poring over travel magazines went into the hunt for a villa that would fit all 13 of our tiny little wedding party, plus have a pool big enough for everyone to jump in after the ‘I dos’. We nervously booked Somnis de Formentera just before Christmas and prayed the internet images hadn’t been Photoshopped too extensively. Turns out, they didn’t do it justice. Evenings were spent working out how many kidneys we needed to sell to buy it ourselves.
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