I went to the mall today. I don’t like malls. I find them claustrophobic, and predictable. Same store chains. Same food outlets. People everywhere. Even worse at Christmas time. Special sales every two weeks (then why call them “special”?)
|Beam my up, Scotty!
I stay away from malls as much as I can. When I need clothes, I shop online. Here in Seattle, most malls are indoor malls. I am sure you can figure out why. When malls are outdoors, umbrellas are available for shoppers to use. Try that in Paris, and Pouf! The umbrellas would be gone in less than a day. Ah, Paris.
|Such a treat when those yellow thingies are not needed!|
Over the last thirty years, I have lived in several American cities. In the 1980s, as a wide-eyed international college student in Atlanta, Ga., I was fascinated to see my roommates dress up just to go to the mall. The [big] hair. The make up. These Southern girls went all out to visit the Gap and Banana Republic (Remember the safari-themed and travel clothing at Banana Republic?)
Fast forward a few years. Big culture shock when I moved to the Pacific Northwest in the late 1990s. In fleece country, things are more laid-back. One of the most respected local clothing brand is Eddie Bauer. ‘Nuff said.
A favorite movie of mine – even if most people did not seem to enjoy it much when it came out in the 1990s – Scenes from a Mall, with Woody Allen and Bette Midler. As an affluent L.A. businessman, Woody sports a ridiculous ponytail and carries around a surf board. The story is set in a crowded shopping mall at Christmas time. The neurotic husband and wife, who are hosting their 16th wedding anniversary that evening, are supposed to run errands. Instead, they bicker, separate, reunite, at the mall, in the course of one day. It is a funny, chatty movie, but it also offers a harsh look at the American lifestyle. Malls have never looked quite the same to me since. And I always crack a smile when I spot a sushi restaurant at the local shopping center (watch the show to know why…)
|“Rats. We need to get more sushi!”|
Many teen movies take place in malls. Clueless, with the lovely Alicia Silverstone, is one of them. Cher, her character, makes consumerism look elegant and cool. When I go to the mall, I see Cher Mini-Me’s everywhere I turn. No more padded shoulders. No more high-waisted jeans. Yet, here they are. Cher Wannabes. Shopping with Mom, or with their best friends.
|Nice job, Cher.|
|“Let’s go shopping: I have nothing to wear!”|
Today, I had a few hours to kill. The weather was decent (It has been a beautiful summer in Seattle, folks.) I took a long walk with the dog and decided I wanted to spend more time outdoors. So I went to the mall. Logique, non?
It is called University Village. It is an urban mall: You know you have left suburbia and are somewhere in Seattle when you park your car. That makes it ok in my book. The University of Washington and the Husky Stadium are minutes away. But I am not a college student anymore, and I don’t care for football (I know, the horror!) This means I can focus on the many boutiques welcoming an eclectic crowd of Seattleites, suburbanites, and out-of-town visitors. I must say there is something special about University Village. It does not feel claustrophobic. It is pretty. And there are a handful of interesting boutiques, and among the many national chains (yawn!) a few local retailers.
First, I walked through the lovely Ravenna Gardens.
|That chair has my name on it!|
The website makes it clear: The store caters to the urban gardener. I aspire to become an urban gardener one day. In fact, I could move into Ravenna Gardens right now. I even spotted a really cool place for my bed, tucked away behind small statues, inspirational signs and a babbling fountain. Ah, quel pied! Heaven, quoi!
|A creative display of Fermob garden furniture (Made in France, bien sûr!)|
|Urban gardeners spend less time weeding than suburban gardeners.
As a result, they have more time to meditate…
When I left Ravenna Gardens, I felt refreshed, relaxed, and ready for some shopping. Most stores I passed on the way did not inspire me. J. Crew (or the art of charging a year’s worth of [American] college tuition for camo clothing you could find for a few dollars at the local army surplus store.) Lucy, and fancy Lulu Lemon (or the art of making the average woman look and feel fit in fancy yoga wear, even if her daily exercise routine is limited to stepping in and out of the shower.) Ann Taylor. Banana Republic. Tiffany’s (but the only women staring at the window displays are not named Audrey and wear LuluLemon lycra pants.) And so on.
Finally, I stepped into a larger store, a place with potential. It is more than a store. It is an experience. There is French music playing in the background (Brigitte Bardot, no less!) There are comfortable spaces where customers (“guests”) linger.
|They call this a fitting room… It looks better than most people’s living rooms!|
|Stop by for a minute, an hour, or a lifetime…|
Mesdames et Messieurs, bienvenue chez Anthropologie!
I just know that chain has an interesting story. If you have heard it, feel free to share it in the comment section! It must be the French native in me that responds to the aesthetics appeal of the colorful, surprising store. Creative displays and props. Unique merchandise (or so it seems…) Anyone can find a little something at Anthropologie.
Pardon? — Ah, oui, I know. Ridiculous prices. Very true. Well, you can always look (or even touch,) and then go home – as I did – with a fragrant candle. Or a cabinet door knob. Anthropologie has the most interesting cabinet door knobs I have seen in any hardware store. And at $10 a pop, most people save up for a year to equip their entire kitchen. There’s fabulous clothing, bien sûr. I guarantee you will feel unique wearing one of their pieces.
There are books (and the Anthropologie buyer has excellent taste, if I may say so myself…)
|I spotted Jane Austen and Emilie Brontoe classics…
perfectly coordinated with notebooks and soap bars…
|Yes, you have read this book at least 50 times.
It is really the SAME book. They just keep changing the author’s name and title!
There is colorful kitchen ware…
To sum up, Anthropologie is so good, so pretty and so clever, that they even make the most mundane chores look irresistible!
|Sexy brooms and dish towels, by Anthropologie|
|I might start baking if someone gets me one of these…|
I am positive even my favorite Ann Taintor characters would approve…
I will be honest. I spent at least an hour chez Anthropologie. That is how long it took to check out every rack of clothing, every knick-knack, smell every candle, close my mouth again every time my jaw dropped when I looked at a price tag, and finally check out with my little gift.
So maybe I do like the American mall after all. Un petit peu.
All photos by French Girl in Seattle.
Do not re-use without permission.
Thank you to my friends at Ravenna Gardens and Anthropologie
for providing inspiration for this week’s story.
Thank you Anne Taintor. You never fail to make me smile.
|Urban Gardener wisdom
chez Ravenna Gardens