Shopping in other cities (or, preferably, other countries) is so much more fun than shopping where you live, don't you think? Instead of seeing the same old tired T-shirts and handbags you've been noticing at every store in your tired old town, everything is fresh and new, even magical. "If only I had that blouse, my whole life would be better." (At least that is what you think if the store's marketing plan has been successful.)
I went to Paris with my cousin last spring, her first visit there, and as we were planning our week she asked me what was the big deal about Paris shopping. Apparently everyone she knew had excitedly mentioned it to her, and she had a hard time imagining what could be that great about it, how it could be all that different from home. Well, after two minutes in our first department store, she looked at me with wide eyes, saying, "It's all different clothes, even the colors are different. Everything is so cute!" A kind of shopping mania descended upon us, and even though the store was closing in half an hour we managed to emerge at the end of the frenzy with several bags apiece, giddy with the thrill of acquisition. "I finally understand what people mean by a shopper's high," she said as we staggered back onto the street.
But I digress.
A San Francisco friend had told me about CandyStore on 16th St. in the Mission District when I admired the beautiful abstract silver ring she got there, and in the interest of keeping things simple and my spending down, I vowed not to venture into any other store during our recent San Francisco visit. Unfortunately this resolution didn't really help me, as I ended up liking it so much I went there two days in a row and bought, well, a lot.
What was so special about it? Let's start with the window. Notice how the colors of the striped dress (Talla, if you're curious; she apparently has studio space behind the shop) are perfectly picked up by the teal shoes, pink lamp, and that funky tree painting. How did they do that? Was the painting custom-designed for the window display, or was it all just retail kismet? However it happened, it worked on me.
The space itself is one of those classic San Francisco storefronts (it previously housed the Mimi Barr store), big and light with high ceilings. There's not tons of merchandise, but what's there is carefully selected (I predict Lucky magazine will call it either "well edited" or "lovingly curated," if they haven't already), and as a reviewer on the site Yelp describes it, it is an "eclectic but coherant mix" of new and vintage clothing and home stuff, with a strong emphasis on indie designers.
I noticed our friend Lisa's Good on Paper line is represented there; this proves they have nice taste.
The other thing about shopping in other cities is not having to worry that everyone else will be wearing the same thing as you, or will even just know where you got it. Not that I care all that much - it's certainly not going to stop me from buying something I like - but there's something kind of uncomfortable about wearing a great new dress to a party and all the other women there saying, "Oh, you're wearing the dress from the Candy Store window." (Yes, reader, I bought the dress. And was not a little influenced by my friend Natalie, she of impeccable style, who admired it as we walked by the window the previous night.)
There's a subtle but significant difference between noticing an appealing item of clothing another woman is wearing, and noticing it because you recognize it from Banana Republic. I don't know why it matters but it does. I read somewhere that while American women freely share information about their favorite clothing sources, French women never reveal their shopping secrets. It's strictly don't ask don't tell, so to speak.
I'd choose my generous American girlfriends any day, but the French ladies are still probably onto something.