Shopping Style in Reverse

You know that feeling when you walk into a room and someone gives your outfit the once over; there are women skilled at casting an eye from head to toe in a nanosecond without so much as tilting their head. I have a relative with that skill. It’s irksome.

Well, you can get that very same feeling in stores all over the city, as I did this week when I set out to sell some long neglected pieces of clothing. For anyone not familiar with the concept, there are stores staffed with skinny, twenty-something hipsters that will pick over your gently-worn clothes, trawling for current styles or hot labels.

For what they deign to keep, the seller gets a percentage of the price tag they will resell it at, or can take a bigger percentage in credit to spend in the store. For instance, Beacon’s Closet, with locations in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Park Slope, will pay exactly 35% cash, or 55% store credit, of the price tag that they in turn put on your clothes and accessories. Unlike a consignment shop, where you have to wait for your items to be sold, stores like Beacon’s give you cash or a credit voucher on the spot. It’s a great way, albeit potentially demoralizing, to get something back for clothes that you don’t wear anymore, but are that little bit too good for the donation bin.

Beacon’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange are the two where I have tried my luck in the past. And that’s where I traipsed this week, bulging bag in hand. Like many things in fashion, it’s a lottery. I’ve sold armloads of H&M and Forever 21 tees and tunics, while  Dolce & Gabbana dresses and even up-and-coming Asian designers were rejected at the same time. It’s a crap shoot to predict what they are looking for on any given day.

So I hit Buffalo Exchange in the East Village first. They were pretty full-up, the girl said, but after some back and forth they decided on a Clu  jersey and cotton bubble dress, which I had actually bought a couple of seasons earlier at rival store. The staff at Buffalo Exchange are friendly and pleasant. Even when the girl rips through your fashion history in seconds, she does so nicely.

Which takes me to my next stop, Beacon’s Closet on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. I have a love-hate relationship with this place. As annoyed as I am most times I sell things there, I keep going back. I feel like I almost have their formula down; there is certain “look” in everything they accept and then resell, and it’s generally not a look I dabble in. This particular day I did well though, selling a Tim O’Connor halter neck top with ruffles down the front, a very 80s black Betsey Johnson tiered skirt, a sequined skirt I bought a decade ago and never wore and a nude leather pencil skirt by the Australian brand David Lawrence. Curiously, both stores rejected a Paul and Joe silk slip dress. That one’s too good for the scrap heap and came home with me.

So, was it worth the schlepping a bag on the subway and enduring the judgments of girls barely beyond their teens? Sure. And what’s more, I didn’t feel bad acquiring a couple of new things with the earnings. A blue and white striped knit blazer-style cardigan from A.Cheng in Park Slope and the Kenneth Jay Lane diamante embellished leather cuff from Outnet, which I have had my eye on for ages.

New Purchase

Outnet, by the way, is offering free shipping though May 19 to everyone who signed up for their $1 sale, as a way of apologizing for the craziness of the online birthday fiasco.

Now, my drawers are tidy. I have a couple of new pieces and my wallet is a little better padded. Not bad for a week’s work.

ANZAC Biscuits To The Rescue

Every now and again I find I have overstepped the mark and promised to do something I probably shouldn’t, mainly because I am ill-equipped to fulfill the promise with aplomb. Well, I promised my daughter I would come to her school to bake something – one of those promises you don’t expect to come home to roost anytime soon – but of course, I am on the schedule to bake cookies next week.

I love to cook and am decent at it, but baking is not my thing. It is too precise for my dash-of-this, pinch-of-that methods; not to mention that the idea of baking publicly with a gang of over-zealous four-and five-year old helpers and only a toaster oven at my disposal, actually makes me nervous.

So, aware of my shortcomings, I did a trial run with daughter and her friend this week. We made ANZAC biscuits to mark ANZAC Day on April 25, an Australia-New Zealand holiday that recognizes the soldiers who landed at Gallipoli during World War One. The biscuits, or cookies to Americans, were also called Soldier’s biscuits, because they were baked by wives and mothers concerned that their boys abroad weren’t getting the nutrition they needed to fight a war. The  absence of eggs in any true blue ANZAC biscuit recipe meant they would stay fresh during the long sea journey.

ANZAC Biscuit Trial Run
ANZAC biscuits are traditional and a favorite among Aussies – and so easy to make that I may even pull-off my misguided attempt to make my daughter proud of her mummy cooking in class. Here’s the recipe I remember from growing up in Australia; there are many variations but basically it’s a combination of rolled oats, flour, sugar and coconut with  butter, golden syrup (which you can get easily in New York at Fairway and most well-stocked supermarkets), bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water.


  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 3/4 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water


  1. Mix oats, flour, sugar and coconut together.
  2. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the syrup and butter together. Mix the soda and the boiling water and add to the melted butter and syrup.
  3. Add butter mixture to the dry ingredients. Drop by teaspoons on greased cookie sheets (or baking paper).
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 18 to 20 minutes.

Light Relief

It’s been a busy week. A stressful week even, but I finally got some light relief when I stumbled upon, which has plenty of hilarious fodder. is a collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers. It lists tales of amusing and sometimes unbelievable conversations between designers and their clients; from their bizarre requests and odd quirks to out-of-the box demands. The conversations are unedited, and oh so relatable.

One of my favorites, which had my husband and I chuckling from our laptops was the client seeking a “deeply spiritual” design for a website, including crosses and perhaps some images of Saints thrown in for good measure. When the designer declares he or she is an atheist, the client eventually decides it cannot work with someone in league with the devil. You kind of have to read the conversation to appreciate its humor.

If you need some light relief or have dealt with some hellish clients, check it out.

Outnet’s $1 Birthday Sale Leaves Partygoers Wanting

I had my game plan. I set my sights on one dress, a Manoush tiered silk gown I’ve had my eye on for months, and a Kenneth Jay Lane leather cuff, but neither item was included in the much-hyped Outnet 1st birthday sale that was over in a  flash this morning.

Like thousands of fashion lovers, I cleared my Friday schedule to be ready for the email from, the discount offshoot of high-end online retailer,  that would provide the top secret time of the $1 sale. Instead, when I wandered downstairs this morning to make lunches for my children and get them up and ready for school, the email alert flashed and lo and behold just before 7am, the sale was on.

Fast and furious I logged in and filtered for my size only to find a paltry selection; two pages of clothes that I didn’t care for.  For those who’ve asked, the only noteworthy things left at that stage were studded Mary Janes and a Stella McCartney Taffeta jacket that, at a stretch, I may have bought for a buck. The jewelry flashed SOLD OUT, and the handbags, which I would happily have settled for, were long gone. A Sold Out sign abounded by 7.25am, and the next time I checked, the sale was closed.

What a fizzer. It was a great concept. Who doesn’t want a designer piece for just a dollar? But like so many of these recent pop-up stores, Liberty of London for Target  which sold out a day early and the current Zac Posen for Target  24-hour sale come to mind,  or even the snatch and grab for  Stella McCartney children’s clothes at the Gap, the attempt to give everyone a chance to participate leaves most people wanting.

I was one of the lucky shoppers who could actually sign-in to the Outnet site this morning, but there are many, many people who’ve complained that the site crashed or it took them hours to log-in, only to find the sale closed by then. There are gripes galore on Twitter today, calling the sale a bust, a hoax, a joke; a couple of tweeters commented that it was like getting an invitation to a fabulous party and then having the bouncer not let you in!

Not surprisingly, the Zac Posen for Target pop-up sales party, which started 11pm last night and runs until 11pm tonight, was another bloodbath.  I didn’t go after hearing from a friend that racks were bare by 11.25pm. I’m not so enamored of the range that I have to have something right now, but perhaps I’ll take my chances to peruse what’s left when it hits Target. com on April 25.

The moral of all this?  Maybe with the proliferation of social media – Twitter and Facebook, in particular, where loads of people have shared their Outnet frustrations – and guerrilla advertising, have elevated even the world of pop-up stores and deep discounting to heights beyond the average consumer.

Now, even designing or discounting for the masses have become exclusive.

Shop Spring At Callalilai On Atlantic

Ok, so you missed out a designer bargain at Outnet’s 1st birthday sale, which incidentally sold out in a matter of minutes, and you’re bummed that Japanese department store Takashimaya is closing its flagship Fifth Avenue store – all is not lost. For fashion and Japanese style combined, one of my favorite shops Callalilai   on Atlantic Ave. is hosting a shopping party this Saturday to celebrate the arrival of the spring women’s collection from its Japanese brand Aoyama Itchome.

Besides loads of gorgeous, printed tunics and dresses there will be a tasting of French aperitif Lillet, as well as a DIY jewelry making crash course with designers from Haknik and Liria Shop. DJ Tabu will provide some rhythmic beats to shop to.

The Aoyama Itchome line is designed by Japan native Hogo Natsuwa, who lives in Paris. The cross-cultural influence gives the clothes a great esthetic, more sophisticated than boho but still floaty and artistic.

Callalilai is asking that people RSVP by today at They’ve pledged a 15% discount off your entire purchase during event too, so what’s not to like.

The shopping party will be held Saturday, April 17, from 2pm to 6pm. Callalilai Atlantic is at 296 Atlantic Avenue @ Smith Street, 718.875.1790.

Ready, Set … It’s Outnet’s $1 Birthday Bash

I feel like I am going into battle. I have read the strategies over and over; I have cleared my schedule to be near my weapon – computer – through the day. Now I, along with potentially thousands of other faceless fashion warriors, wait., the discount arm of high-end, online retailer, celebrates its first birthday tomorrow and will reward followers with a party sale. Everything in the sale is $1 – yep, that’s a buck, a single dollar for an item that could retail for at least several hundred dollars, if you shop right.

The catch is, Outnet won’t reveal what time the sale begins or what clothes and accessories will be offered until sometime this Friday. All we do know, as we hit refresh on our email accounts,  is that we can buy just one, single item for a dollar.

Flying Solo

Now, I’ve followed since it began. I haven’t bought much but only because I waver too much. I contemplate whether I really need a Rick Owens leather jacket, even if it is 60 percent off, or a Manoush tiered silk evening gown for a mere $220, slashed 65 percent. I stop myself buying for the sake of buying.

But I can vouch for the great selection of designers – from Givenchy and Oscar de la Renta to Sass & Bide and Alexander McQueen – and the often crazy price tags. While most things are reduced by 40 to 60 percent, some random days prices will be cut as much as 80 percent. I’ve missed out on many a Malene Birger frock – one of my personal favorites – in these fast-paced sales. And sexy Louboutin heels don’t even hit the ground before the SOLD OUT banners flash.

I’m predicting the $1 sale will be brutal; worse than my memories of even the most harrowing Barney’s Warehouse sales where I saw otherwise composed women trample thousand dollar dresses, ripping them off hangers and shedding their own clothes with abandon to try things on.

It will be worse even than one of those Target pop-up sales, where hordes of hungry shoppers crush through the doors to grab a Zac Posen tuxedo jacket or a Liberty of London sundress.

It will be worse because we, the shoppers, will be flying solo, victims of our own competitive streaks; trolling the website to stake out coveted items, then going in for the kill, credit cards at the ready.

Flying Off Shelves

This is one time I wish I were an odd size. I daresay size 10 shoes will be a lot easier to find than a predictable 7.5, and anything in the 2 to 4 dress size will likely fly off the virtual shelves. All the thin, hungry women will surely be skipping lunch for this event.

But if you too have signed up to take part in the birthday celebration sale, heed’s advice. Shop smart and like all good fashion hounds, come prepared. Know your sizes and filter the available items accordingly rather than scrolling through  a bunch of wrong sized clothes, as gorgeous as they may be. And finally, move fast. Whatever is in your shopping cart isn’t yours until you press all the buttons, so don’t do as I do, and contemplate. Just Go!’s first birthday sale will be held sometime this Friday, April 16.

Takashimaya NY To Close

Another wonderful New York destination, for me at least, is shutting up shop;  Takashimaya, the NY arm of the Japanese department store will close its doors and sell the Fifth Avenue building it resides in come June, according to a notice posted on the company’s website.

This is a jewel box of a store, diminutive and beautifully merchandised, from the floral arrangements it sells, to the Tea Box restaurant downstairs, and the pricey women’s clothes and jewelry. It’s a place I love to wander around and imagine shopping in, but sadly, could rarely bring myself to part with that much cash, which no doubt is one of the reasons it is going under.

The announcement to shutter the store, a Fifth Avenue destination since it opened in 1993, comes after the company’s plans to merge with another Japanese retailer H2O Retailing Corp. fell through. It’s no secret that a flailing global economy has hurt retailers and stunted expansion plans from the US to Japan and beyond, as sales drop and consumers  shun boutiques in favor of bigger, supposedly safer brands.

While Takashimaya’s online sales ceased earlier this month, the store will operate as normal pre-June, according to the website, though of course shoppers are already rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of a fire sale. As much as I hate to see this store close, I will likely be one to take advantage of deep discounts, or at least to have tea one last time and ogle some of the city’s most glorious floral arrangements.

Takashimaya New York  is at 693 Fifth Ave., between East 54th and 55th Streets.

JB’s Burger Opens on Smith

Provence en Boite’s newest spin-off a couple of doors down on Smith Street promises delicious burgers, hot dogs nestled in baguettes, salads and ice cream, sort of a laid back, faster food version of the bistro that moved into the neighborhood from Bay Ridge a few years ago.

Given the apparent success of Oaxaca Tacos nearby, which is also working on its own spin-off for 4th Ave., near Carroll Street, JB’s Burger should do a roaring trade too. Named for Executive Chef and co-owner Jean-Jacques Bernat, who with his wife Leslie Bernat, runs Provence en Boite, the newly opened JB’s Burger takes over the space once occupied by Patois, and most recently by La Petite Provence.

Here’s hoping the burger/hot dog formula works better than the couple’s short-lived La Petite Provence, which offered much the same fare as the restaurant proper but in the small-plate style sweeping New York.

With the sun shining at last, there’s been a crowd outside and a lot of buzz about the newest burger joint; my husband spied a burger on his way home one evening and commented that it “looked really good.” I’ll give it a try next time I’m in a burger-beer mood and report back.

JB’s Burger is at 255 Smith Street in Carroll Gardens; 718 254 0007.

Counting Down to Posen Pop-Up

Chic + Edgy: Snap-Tape Dress
Red Ruffles: My Pick

Brace yourselves; the next pop-up shopping extravaganza is almost here – bringing the glamour of  Zac Posen’s slick, sophisticated designs to Target in yet another high-end collaboration. This time though, it’ll be short and sweet.

Since New Yorkers apparently cannot wait for anything, there will be a mere 24-hour pop-up preview beginning 11pm April 15. The collection hits Target stores nationwide more than week later on April 25.

The speedy preview comes after the much-hyped four-day Liberty of London for Target pop-up store sold out a day early, leaving a lot of shoppers wanting and waiting for the supplies to land in-store and online.

The Manhattan-bred wonder boy’s collection is all priced below $200 and includes a long printed evening gown, lots of prom-ready party dresses, and bathing suits, including a snazzy black and gold number. The most pricey piece is a cherry red leather motorcycle jacket at $199.

A few things already caught my eye; a brocade tie dress in a floral print, a classic tuxedo jacket, a chic little blue snap-tape dress (pictured), which has a lot of edge, and my prediction for the big seller, a bright red ruffled tulle dress just made for a party (pictured). Some of the floral and polka-dot prints though take me right back to the Madonnaesque 80s; not to mention the Hawaiian print shirt and Bermuda shorts, which take me to the local Trader Joe’s, and not in a good way.

Adding to all the buzz about Posen’s latest Target collaboration – he did a range exclusively for Target Australia back in 2008 – aspiring film director Gia Coppola has teamed with all-girl band The Like to make a fun and flirty video promoting the new collection.

The pop-up shopping fest, which promises a party atmosphere with bands, including The Like, DJs and other surprises, runs from 11pm Thursday, April 15 until 11pm, Friday April 16 at 481 8th Avenue, at 34th Street.

Photos from the Target Lookbook courtesy of

Like It, Want It


I Like It Too!

I love graphic arts; probably something to do with my job at a graphic design magazine and writer’s thirst for the brief, catchy one-liner. Well, I discovered this Anthony Burrill print hanging on a friend’s wall at the weekend and wanted to take it home.

“I Like It. What Is It?” was exactly what I asked my host, several times, in fact, until he introduced me to Burrill, a UK-based designer whose work spans witty posters, to film and Internet projects. Trained at the Royal College of Art in London, Burrill has designed ad campaigns for London Underground, DIESEL and Nike, among others; and covers for The Economist and Wallpaper. He’s also produced interactive web-based work for bands such as Kraftwerk and Air, murals for Bloomberg and Priestman Goode, and designed the identity for KesselsKramer’s London base KK OUTLET.

But it’s his woodblock posters, each one signed in pencil, that I really fell for. Burrill uses traditional woodblock letterpress techniques to convey his message on 100% recycled paper.

His appreciation of simplicity comes across loud and clear in his trademark one-liners. He’s not saying anything particularly deep or cerebral, but the direct, uncomplicated style makes it something you want to repeat, or at very least hang over a desk someplace visible.  His limited edition prints – including one of the most well-known “Work Hard and Be Nice to People” – have become mantras for the design community and beyond.

The April  issue of Creative Review also features Burrill’s cover art. To see more of his work or to buy one of his woodblock prints, check out his website