Thursday, June 23, 2005

Retail Review

A couple of days ago, I read an interesting article in The Age which reviewed three new Melbourne shopping precincts: the GPO, QV and the revamped Melbourne Central. It was all the more interesting because shops don't really get reviewed in the general press like fashion shows, art installations, theatre or even architecture, although I would argue that retail combines elements of all these. Jonathan Green's piece nicely evokes the way shopping centres are designed to move shoppers through space, to generate affective responses that will stimulate purchases, and to mirror the CBD's older, laneway-based retail environment. Here he is, for example, on Melbourne Central:
The spaces are enclosed and intimate, a warren of laneways, lofts and balconied atriums spreading in a fair replica of organic old-city chaos from the cleared central circle that surrounds the cone-topped atrium and the brick battlements of the Coop shot factory tower.

Somewhere around here, we'll find no fewer than nine mobile phone retailers, 32 female fashion specialists, 12 for men and everything in between all set in a crazy, vibrant clutter that screams pace, pace, pace. The signage seizes you at the Lonsdale Street entrance — "Scooter", "Grab", "Sushi Sushi" — and propels you deeper into the increasingly complex innards through a bombardment of sound as well as scent and vision, each shop pumping out its own particular notion of aural ambience at volume.


Onwards ever onwards. There are multiple entry points, from Elizabeth Street through a fragrant series of sidewalk eateries; from Latrobe, Swanston and, of course, from below, through the centre's own proprietary branded station on the City Loop. The redevelopment has closed in formerly open spaces and redrawn the massive footprint to enclose laneways that ape the intricate retail lacework of Flinders Lane and Little Collins Street.

For the last few months, I've been wanting to take Footpath Zeitgeist "live" by actually photographing street style in Melbourne rather than relying on other people's photos. I've been holding out for a decent digital camera and the money to buy it with. Suddenly becoming a full-time freelancer hasn't helped matters.

But one of the things I plan to do when I get my camera is institute a regular review of retail store merchandising and promotion. The Retail Review section will analyse store window and retail interior design using aesthetic, trend-based and more general cultural criteria. I will also critically review catalogues, particularly hybrid "magalogues" like Furst Publishing's STU, which is a General Pants house magazine.

I think that much of the time, these things are seen as peripheral promotional devices, and as such they're not worth reviewing. But they perform a crucial mediating role between a retail store and the people on the street. Street style can be influenced by a window display or a smart catalogue, even if people can't afford or would never buy the clothes in the store.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Every jaunty pussy needs a tomcat

On Tuesday we were discussing names for the male equivalent of Jaunty Pussy. We arrived at one that I found extremely satisfactory, but of course I can't remember it now. Suggestions in comments are more than welcome. But today, I was perusing a feature on dandies at, the online home of US Vogue, where a variety of jaunty pussies cavorted in photographic and painted form before my eyes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you David Hockney!

Moreover, I bring you the rock star of bespoke tailoring, Duncan Quinn!

Any man who's into hot pink is All Right By Me. (Says she wearing her pink jaunty-pussy bow with pink and black striped over-the-knee socks.) There is also a wonderfully camp picture on the website of Duncan sitting in an armchair, surrounded by tousle-haired male models, with a fluffy white dog on his lap. He even has his own Duncan Quinn Signature Cocktail, the French 75:
A LARGE measure of English gin
A generous splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice
A swirl of syrop de sucre

Shake over ice
Pour to fill 2/3 of a flute and top with fine champagne
Miaow, baby!