The high-end fashion store

As a fashion student, a visit to a high-end store can be very educational and is one of the easiest ways to enjoy primary access to designer brands. You will get amazing inspiration and become informed about lots of different aspects of the fashion industry. This blog will give you some tips about what to focus on during your next trip.


The look and feel of a designer store

When visiting a flagship designer store, the first thing you will notice when entering is that the whole store is styled in keeping with the overall brand identity. The look and feel of the store represents the ultimate vision of the designer and every single aspect is designed to promote that vision.

  • Listen to the music that's playing and note the atmosphere it creates
  • Pay attention to the colours of the walls, artwork, wall hangings and any ornaments
  • Note the look of the hangers, swing tags, tissue paper and store carrier bags

Many stores feature bespoke architecture and custom-made shop fittings. On a recent trip to London, highlights included the Wedgewood decorative plasterwork on the walls in the Gucci store, the Francis Bacon painting in the basement of Simone Rocha's store and the Victoria Beckham zigzag rails, designed specifically so that the dresses could hang at an equal distance from each other.


The finer details of garment construction

A great way to train your eye to spot a high-end sewing finish is to physically study the clothes. Have a look inside and outside the garment and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How are the seams finished? (e.g. have they been French seamed, over locked, rolled hem or raw edged?)
  • Are there bias bindings?
  • Are there any unusual finishings not normally associated with a particular fabric?
  • What fabrics are being used for the outer shell?
  • What fabrics are being used for the inner shell or lining?

When looking at any embellishments, ask yourself:

  • Are the embellishments sewn on or glued on?
  • Are they removable for cleaning purposes? (e.g. snap fasteners on an ostrich feather trim)

Finally, keep note of other details such as the types of zips used, unusual closures, etc.


Collection buying

It's very informative to research an entire catwalk collection online and compare them to what exists in store. Ask yourself if the store has omitted any items and consider the reasons for this (e.g. store budget, practicality, climate, client preferences). Often, more intimate boutiques will order a small number of key pieces that are in keeping with the style of their customer base. Notice the tones of color and garment styles bought from the collection - has the buyer ordered a variation on one print or shape, or a more eclectic mix?

On a visit to the Milan high-end department store, Rinascente, I noticed how the Dolce & Gabbana pieces in stock that season were sleeveless and very flamboyant. In contrast, the same collection stocked in Brown Thomas, Dublin had sleeved garments and longer hemlines. This illustrates how each city can tailor their collection for their typical customer.

You will often discover that there are show-stopper pieces used in a collection that are generally unavailable in any store. Typically, only one sample of this garment is produced to be used in magazine editorials, advertising, or perhaps even worn by a celebrity to showcase the collection.


Enjoy your research

Visiting a flagship designer store or a department store is like going to your own fashion gallery - they are free to enter, can be a wonderful source of inspiration for your own designs and can help you to think about the endless fashion possibilities which exist.

Things to remember:

  • It's best to go into each store on your own or in pairs, but not in a group. Be as respectful as possible and do not stay too long at any one rail.
  • Gently browse while mentally taking in the information, as opposed to writing anything down - do not take photographs. Early on a weekday is a much better time to visit than on a busy weekend.
  • Dress respectfully but don't feel intimidated, you have every right to enter the shop and browse. Most staff are pleasant and are probably open to one or two casual questions about a particular collection you love, as long as they're not kept from working.

Please let us know how you get on with your next research visit. Happy shopping! 

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Written by: Carmel Conerney

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