Sin City or A Lament for Brussels' Fashion Retail.

I've noticed a strange trend after myself - saving posts as drafts and never finishing nor publishing them - a negative one. So I've decided while sunbathing at the open window that it is time to stuff the content of previously unfinished abrupt thought of draft posts into a coherent one.
Well first of all I was planning to moan and to groan about the situation in Brussels retail, and mainly fashion retail, and it's not that I'm being negative (as usual) but I came to a city without any initiative but with a lot of potential in 2008 and saw it growing into a capital of the most daring fashion initiative in a matter of a couple of years. Select stores and fashion boutiques popped up like mushrooms after the rain and made this city (finally) one of the coolest fashion destinations in central Europe. "Forget Berlin - come to Brussels!" - so I thought and so I lived and breathed this city's potential...

Now the year 2012 has been a rollercoaster ride for some - endless road works, rotten weather, economic crisis and (importantly!) diversion of customers' interests -

 take any of that and you're fucked... take all of that and you're in Brussels!

Welcome to the city which will rather spend 150 euros on a dinner and grow a belly that doesn't fit into a pair of designer trousers, making a perfect excuse for not buying one, where everyone owns the latest iPhone and iPad and rushes into a store elbowing eachother the moment the new model comes out - 700 euros down, how much more to go? Or how much further? Off to the sea coast where you own an apartment or to Spain where you own a house or to, erm, Berlin where you just spent a couple of hundreds of euros on drugs and beer? The grass is always greener on the other side than in Brussels and we spend our last euro cents trying to get out. And then with last remaining dough we act like snobs and go shopping at COS with a thought: "I'll never buy anything in fucking H&M because I'm so much better now!"
A crowd, a mass, a herd that doesn't know (neither want to know, and that is worse) that Dries Van Noten is not a brand abbreviation for some factory in Bangladesh, thinking that  Mr. Zadig and Mr. Voltaire are doing a great job personally designing their exclusive clothing line.
Oh but 2012 is so passé! We are in 2013 now with all the consequences: Sandrina Fasoli, MAPP., Menage a Deux, Own, Mieke Cosyn, Charlotte aux Pommes, debuted by Cristophe Coppens bankruptcy - all going and gone. Annemie Verbeke is closing her stores worldwide and Les Presieuses have gone from three stores to only one. Rumors about Nicolas Woit? - you tell me. This year has been harsh on everyone without exception, and the only way to meet your budgets and outgrow them is to become a slave for your customer - we cannot do the Opening Ceremony trick anymore (hide in the backoffice and watch customers snatch the season's key pieces off the rails like hot cakes) - we have to be out there with our upmost fashion enthusiasm and honest advice and knowledgeable opinion to show those sparse customers that even if we are the sole survivors we are believers that fashion can turn hearts and make this world a better place!
...or at least a better dressed place! That is already good enough.
But in five years time Brussels has gone from bloom to the gloom and unfortunately plans on staying there, because all we've got is the lousy M.A.D. that is all about brand coaching and fashion communication, yet they'd rather see others do the job and simply put M.A.D on the flyer just oh-so-casually misspelling the other's name because it has always been easier to joggle with someone else's money than to do any effort or listen to the advice of those people who have risen the centre from the ashes. But Brussels seems to despise its history and live today and now and not care about tomorrow.
I feel like some sort of a crusader or even a mercenary - a foreign soldier who picks up the Brussels fashion flag and holds it up in the air - sky high -  for it may never touch the ground.
Our cause is holy - and I call out for all the retailers to alert and alarm the customer about the pseudo-luxury or pseudo-green brands, teach them to tell the difference between a French chain and an independent  designer, teach them to see to the origin of the product and beware that the beloved COS is produced at the same factory as much hated H&M and not succumb to the twisted marketing campaigns. We have to breathe the potential back into this city and welcome the buyers and independent designer brands  - not chains. I am ready to do so as  a customer and even more so as a retailer, knowing that unfortunately Elle Belgique will never share this post and M.A.D will be just, erm, mad at me for mixing their doubtful activities with dirt. But I want other retailers and customers to join me - not be proud or fussy, no! - just have enough patience and guts (yes, it takes guts!) to educate the differences between the successful marketing and real product, to show people where their money really goes to - local designer support or abuse of an Argentinian family. I believe that good conscience is where the true difference lies  - not in who's the most colourful or worldwide exclusive, but in one's knowledge and attentive comprehension of customer's needs. Knowing the tricks of trade, of course, having eye for detail, naturally... not contradicting, but informing! That's all I'm up to.


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