You know how, when you do something you haven’t done in a really long time — like eating an entire ice cream sundae after temporarily giving up sweets, or scrolling through Instagram after a digital detox, or smelling your mom’s neck after weeks apart — and it somehow feels better than it did before?
That’s how I feel about shopping in stores ever since visiting the new MANGO location in Soho to style and shoot three looks with clothes from their fall collection for Man Repeller. I arrived early to settle in, and it took me all of two seconds before I started browsing the racks. Being able to actually touch the clothes, to run my thumb down the seam of a blue velvet blazer, to brush my cheek against the collar of a mohair jacket, to grab a pair of corduroy pants by the waist and stretch them gently between my fingers, felt like such a special treat — almost indulgent. I realized I hadn’t shopped in an actual store in months.
Another unexpected delight came courtesy of all the outfit ideas that suddenly started popping up in my brain like fresh kernels while I was standing in front of the clothes. Even though I had already looked at most of the current collection online, there was something about physically interacting with it that made me rethink everything I had planned for the shoot.
I started improvising as soon as the model arrived — adding a belt, removing a coat, draping a sweater like the one I saw artfully arranged on a mannequin. It was as if I was standing in the middle of an expansive closet with limitless options and combinations to experiment with (which is essentially what a really good store is, now that I think about it).
My friends and I went back a few days later. I had told them about this new thing called “a store” and they were intrigued. We emerged two hours and four shopping bags later. I couldn’t help but compare the social enjoyment of the experience to the relatively solitary pursuit of perusing clothes online. I know I will continue to shop online out of laziness (because who doesn’t love eyeballing shoes from the comfort of bed?), but I’m also inclined to make retail shopping a more regular thing.
People have been saying retail is dead or dying for years, but I disagree. It’s not dying, it’s evolving. Case in point: MANGO is rolling out a new in-store technology in fitting room mirrors wherein customers can scan the barcode of a particular item they’re trying on and request a different size on the spot. I tested it out myself and essentially felt like I was shopping on Mars in 2040.
Speaking of different sizes, it was deeply comforting to have the option of trying on multiple sizes at once without worrying about stuff like credit card limits or return shipping. There was a particular blouse that I tried on in a bigger-than-my-usual size on a whim, and I realized the extra inches around my shoulder made it hang just slightly better on my frame. I never would have ordered that size if I were shopping online.
My friends poked their heads out from their respective curtains to affirm my choice, which is another point in favor of retail shopping: the fitting room Greek chorus. Sometimes it’s a chorus of friends, other times it’s perfect strangers, but there is almost always someone who will look over at you while you’re examining a dress or a skirt or a pair of pants in the hallway mirror and nod their head in approval, or ask if you saw that it also comes in burgundy.
Frankly the only thing that would have improved the experience is a bottle of wine, and maybe a cheeseboard, but that’s what pockets are for, right?
Photos by Edith Young.