What does Barneys have to do with Asiatica?
News recently that Barneys has declared bankruptcy (again) is no surprise. “Luxury Fashion” is in trouble. Why is this? Too much debt, soaring rents, too much expansion, similar clothing — if not the same clothing — is available online, second-hand, rentable, at other stores, somewhere soon on sale. Too frequently stores offer indifferent customer service, untrained sales help, too large or too limited a selection of sizes, shapes, fabrics. The “retail experience” is not pleasurable, inspiring or productive. Rather it is often indifferent, intimidating and inflexible as to its offerings.
I am a professional shopper. I look for inspiration, even exhilaration, in retail environments of all kinds. I expect either an aesthetic point of view in an edited group of merchandise or the widest possible exposure to one or another kind of merchandise. I want the presentation to be pleasurable, intelligent and informed help to be available — and all this in a friendly and thoughtful environment.
Supplying these conditions requires imagination, invention, confidence and money. The items sold need to include something I need, want or admire. Tsutaya book stores in Tokyo are one example of a comprehensive experience; The Row in Los Angeles is another. One is comprehensive, the other, exclusive. DeVera, Paula Rubenstein and Eataly all offer my kind of shopping pleasure in New York City. Dover Street Market offers an exciting and fluidly entertaining opportunity. New experiences are being sought by browsing consumers, but selling something is necessary or else the store will not survive.
Asiatica has not only “survived” for over 40 years, but lives on. What we offer can only be had on a small scale. We offer exclusive merchandise from clothes to dishes, furniture, jewelry, scarves and works of art. I do all the buying to suit my own taste. My aim is to find others on our “wavelength.” We make every garment in our own workshop in our own store. We do all our own selling, meeting every customer either in Kansas City or one of the dozen cities to which we travel with our wares. No one else has our clothing.
We are free of the unbearable pressures which larger retailers must bear — huge debt, the chase after short-lived trends and fads, competitive mark-downs, as well as the many steps between designer and final consumer.
Asiatica is a tiny business, but our customers and crew are loyal and happy, our merchandise is long-lived and valuable and our team is skilled. The culture has shifted. Online shopping is only one of the possible ways to find what you are seeking, but stimulating and pleasurable actual shopping experiences are available.
I urge you to support and applaud any retailer whose goods you love.