11 November 2012

LIFE: Gone Shopping

SARONNO, Italy – So it’s over. American has decided. I can stop biting my fingernails and all those undecided voters who kept us on the edge of our seats wondering which way they were going to go can continue to wonder who they are going to vote for, but now nobody cares.  We moved on without them. I moved on too. Finally pulled myself away from 24/7 political coverage to go into Milan for a little retail therapy. Obama wins, I celebrate.
 Milan's Rinascente Department Store
For as long as I’ve lived in Milan, some 15 years or so, I have done most of my clothes shopping at the only department store in downtown Milan, The Rinascente. Having grown up on department store shopping, I find it a lot easier to go to a store where the selection is substantial rather than a small boutique with limited space and limited choice. 

But while I was glued to my computer watching political pundits duke it out, the Rinascente was in the throes of a make-over. I knew it was happening because sections of floors have been closed off for quite a while now, shrouded behind large opaque  sheets of plastic.  The first floor to complete its makeover was the third floor. They used to sell sportswear on that floor but now they sell shoes, everybody’s shoes, even brands I used to buy in the USA. 
 Lunch at Rinascente, Milano
Of course the shoes from the USA – although in reality I think the shoes I’m thinking of come from Spain – now cost six times what they cost in the States. It’s probably because of the lure of the exotic foreign brands – Nine West . That’s a pretty exotic brand, don’t you think?  There were actually very few Italian shoe brands available – actually I can’t think of even one, which is surprising since Italian shoes are really, really nice and people come to Italy from all over the world to buy them.

I realize Rinacente’s marketing plan isn’t aimed at people like me, people who live here and have regular lives. It’s aimed at tourists, and evidently they think tourists want to throw in a little Christian Dior or Yves St. Laurent along with their thousand euros worth of Versace sparkle dresses.  
Zara for the Young and Young at Heart
I always found this division of markets to be a problem here in Italy. There are no middle of the road brands, it’s either designer or market stall stuff. Benetton used to be a reasonable middle of the road brand, but now they are more market stall, as are Zara, a Spanish brand, and H&G.  Throw away clothes in tiny sizes for tiny preadolescent people, not people like me.  Those of us who don’t want to spend $200 on a pair of casual pants to wear grocery shopping are simply out of luck.

Rinascente used to carry a couple of store brands that were good quality and reasonably priced, by Italian standards at least. For me, I figure $100 is enough to spend on a pair of pants to go grocery shopping in. But desperate times calls for desperate measures, so  I walked out of Rinascente and into Banana Republic and guess what, I found a pair of pants that I like and they only cost 84 euros – or about $100. And they fit. And the cashier was from California.
 That's the Bag I Carried Home
As much as I prefer to support Italian brands and things made in Italy, simply because it’s better for the economy I live in, I’ve thrown in the towel. My new Banana Republic pants were made in Indonesia or somewhere In that part of the world from wool that comes from an unnamed source, and so be it. I tried. More than that I cannot do.
So today I’m going shoe shopping.  Wish me luck.

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