Why this American goes overseas to buy
I am definitely pro-American. I like to support those closest to home, to support our American economy. I not only WANT to do it, I feel that, to a large extent, it is my duty to do so.
Like many Americans, I am all too familiar with the statistics and the devastating impact the loss of manufacturing jobs has had in this country.
Yes, I know that manufacturing supports over 18 million jobs in the U.S. Yes, I know that, while the numbers have dwindled, 9 percent of the American workforce is still directly employed in manufacturing. Yes, I too was stunned into silence by that ABC News Made in America program that showed an American family struggling to find products for their home and daily lives that were made in the U.S. We need more products that are made right here in the good ole US of A!
And yet, twice a year, I make overseas buying trips to Italy, Spain and France.
There, I buy the most exquisite and special children’s clothing I can find. I buy these clothes for the clients who frequent my Bronxville, NY, store – Fierson’s - and my two websites, Fiersons.com and Designersbestforkids.com, (the latter for my higher-end lines).
So, why despite my pro-American stance, am I compelled to make these semi-annual pilgrimages overseas?
It may SOUND glamorous and fun, but, trust me when I tell you, it’s not. It is work, and it is exhausting on both a physical and emotional level. It’s long days of endless trolling through booths and showrooms. Long hours spent examining goods that are generally average, while seeking out the few pieces that are truly exceptional.
It is hours of trying to estimate profit margins based on a changing Euro and indeterminable duty and shipping costs. It is a constant reviewing and editing of the selections you've already made, once you've found that second holiday dress that is even MORE spectacular than the first one you thought was “the one,” until you saw the second.
Jet lag is your constant companion as there is no time for R&R upon arrival; you are whisked right to the shows after landing. Usually a six-day trip, each day is crammed to the gills with endless hours perusing overcrowded stalls and inspecting thousands of garments, trying to find the items that will set you above and apart.
While there may be time for a late night meal of exquisitely rendered pasta (how DO the Italians make even the simplest pasta dish so incredibly good?), there is time for little else. There will be no soaking up of the culture and country. Michelangelo’s David, the treasures of the Louvre, a Spanish bullfight will all have to wait for another trip. On THIS trip it’s off to the countryside to review a few designs at the factory.
So why bother? Why, precisely, do I go overseas to buy?
In short, I go for the quality. Quality that is, for the moment at least, hard to find on American soil.
In Europe, I can find a quality and style of garment that is distinctive in design and construction and will set me apart from the competition.
In general, the styles are more genteel, less brash, less ‘in your face.’ The European sensibility is one that inherently knows that less, really IS more. The children in Europe are not dressed in a dizzying array of tutus and twirly-swirly multi-colored garments. The dresses are not too long, the boys pants are not too baggy. Girls are not in spaghetti strap dresses, and boys WILL actually wear shirts with collars.
The clothing is more sedate, classier. There seems to be less embellishment. More substance.
Even when there IS embellishment - bows, beads and the like- it is somehow done in a way that enhances the garment rather than cheapens it. The Italian’s are the only ones I’ve found who can add a series of disparate elements to a skirt set and pull it off. It doesn’t look like it’s too much; it merely looks hip and fresh.
With the French, the squirrel buttons or bows and pearls adorning a baby’s outfit, appear whimsical, not cheesy.
Whether trendy or classic, many of the European styles I come across are spot on. Both fashion forward and classic styles are impeccable in terms of design AND execution.
Speaking of execution, I also go buying overseas because I find the fabrics and construction superior to what I see in the States. The Italian wools are softer, the cottons crisper, the tailoring more expert. The simplicity of the Spanish lines would not work nearly as well were it not for their beautiful piques and hand-embroideries.
I also buy overseas because I don’t necessarily want to have what every other store in the country has. I want to seek out the different, the unique. With 65 years in business, Fierson’s is a destination store. I want to keep it that way. My clients come to my store and shop my websites because they know that I make the extra effort and take the extra time to seek out and buy things that are exceptional and not found everywhere.
While they can go to the big box store for their cereals and paper towels, and they can shop the department stores for their ‘made in china’ Ralph Lauren play clothes, they come to me for that unique baby gift or exceptional clothes for their own children that they just can’t find everywhere.
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