10 August 2009

Chicago Mart

I'm at Market in Chicago this week. Just a quick trip, as it's a small, niche-y show. Apparel, fashion accessories, handbags, jewelry. I came to see what the vendors are doing for Fall/Holiday '09 and Resort '10. {Still can't get used to saying '10. The last time people could say that of the current year, photography still happened under a little black sheet attached to the end of the camera. I think.}

Every time I drive to Chicago, I wonder why I don't do it more often. Just a six and a half hour trip from my hometown, it goes by quickly...

Dashboard confessions.

and doesn't get hairy until you get right into the city.

Don't worry. The lane of traffic I was sitting in was at a complete standstill when I took this photo.

Some of you will remember my love affair with Chicago. Since by popular demand we seem to be always adding more apparel, personal accessories, and jewelry, now I have another reason to come here:

Stylemax is a small-ish but truly on-trend order-writing circuit for the trade, all on one floor of this gigantesque building:

The Merchandise Mart was the world's biggest office building before the Pentagon was built. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Certain floors of the Merchandise Mart itself are open to the public and feature design-forward showrooms {gaspworthy kitchens, etc.}.

View of the Mart in daylight. That's it on the left with the million windows. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

A little closer up. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

I shopped the show for four hours yesterday, then came back my hotel and ordered room service:

Beautiful Caprese Salad. I've been craving Buffalo Mozzarella {I like to say it "Boof-alo," like Giada does} for weeks and was so glad to see this on the menu.

But back to the show.
An apparel show is decidedly different from a home and gift show. I was relieved to at one point step into a booth where I didn't feel underdressed in my burnout tee shirt {slubs and striations and all}, vintage wash jeans, and flip flops. And I told the similarly tee shirted reps so! I have to remember that I dress to reflect my store's aesthetic {casual with special, bohemian, luxe touches} and my own style, and that does not mean black slacks, a ruffly blouse, and kitten heels! Apparel buyers just have a different vibe to them than gift show buyers. At one point today, I actually overheard a woman say, "That is SO yum-yum." I also found it interesting how buyers {other retailers} would sit down in chairs in the middle of the booth space and the reps would pull looks for them and hang them up on racks, like a mini fashion show in the middle of the Mart. Then the buyers, with legs crossed and pen touching their chin, would go down the line and say, "Uh-huh. No. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. NO, NO, NO." One rep also surprised me by saying, "Let me know if you want me to throw anything on." Oh. Some of them will model, too.

I also learned a new industry word and it applies to how I buy apparel for THE BLISSFUL: "item-y." I heard it five times before I asked one rep about it. "Item-y." Refers to garments that do not need to be sold or merchandised as a collection. Think un-matchy stores like Anthropologie who show various designers together instead of stores that sell collections that must be shown together to make sense. {Putting your own outfit together vs. buying a total look off the rack.} Item-y means each piece can stand alone as its own little statement and is great for stores like mine who don't sell apparel collections. {In my store, you're likely to find knitted capes or PJs mixed in with candles, Moroccan wine glasses, and little notebooks.} I like the word so much I'm going to start using it. Item-y.

I feel a little guilty that I'm not out there enjoying the city today {in 95 degree heat}. Chicago has so much to offer in the way of boutique shopping, food, and entertainment, not to mention taking in the amazing architecture everywhere. Some of my retail mentors-from-afar are located here. But I don't think I'll be making it into their stores this week. There's too much to see at this show and my time here is brief.

View from my hotel room window.

Right now, I'm going to make a cup of coffee and read through my notes from yesterday, crossing out anything that doesn't wow me in retrospect. Today the order writing begins.

Oh, one quick thing: our Blogging for Bliss Book Giveaway entry deadline is approaching. You still have until 10 PM on Thursday the 13th to enter. Click here to enter.



McMaster and Storm said...


love the new word item-y oh, how fun!
thanks for giving us a peek behind the scenes.

kara + darcy

pam q said...

Really enjoyed your account of the apparel show! Brought back lots of memories of my trips to market in Billings, Montana---only on a much smaller scale than Chicago, of course. Billings is a general market, but very heavy on apparel and I would trapse around in my t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes watching the reps hang the clothing on the racks and the perfectly dressed buyers make up their minds so fast my poor little head would spin. It always took me an eon to pick out the few sweaters and "item-y" things for my little shop.

I always got a kick out of seeing Mother-of-the-Bride and prom gowns displayed on the wild gold hangers...wow!

Thanks for the memories and I hope your buying trip was a huge success!


Kara & Darcy--

Wish you girls were here with me. Some of the decisions might have been a little easier. :)

Pam Q--

Your description of what you saw at the Billings show completely resonates with me. I have no idea how some buyers can decide so quickly. I labor over almost every buying decision, to the point where I think I had some reps toe-tapping.

audrey said...

You took me down memory lane. I used to buy at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago every year back when I managed a store. It was a nightmare for the legs, but sitting down in a great Chicago restaurant in the evening to go over my notes from the day made it all worthwhile. What a great city! Beautiful photos, Abby.
Thanks for sharing.

Hi! I'm Kirsten... said...

Oh Chicago how I LOVE thee! It is my favorite city in the US and I am VERY stoked to be going there again in September! What fun that you have to go there on business. A blessing truly!