29 May 2007

Burberry's bad case of displaycaseitis

Pleated khaki capris, a plaid-trimmed white polo and metallic Velcro sneakers.

A boxy short-sleeve navy knit sweater, plaid-trimmed A-line oatmeal skirt with mid-calf hem and square-toed block-heeled slides.

A light pink leather double-breasted trench, these bermuda cargo shorts pictured above and plaid-trimmed raffia wedges.

This is just the amuse bouche of what I've seen in the two years I've had the displeasure of commuting twice a day past Burberry's multiple window displays.

Like nearly every ConnAve clothing store - major chain and small boutique alike - Burberry suffers from the serious malady of displaycaseitis, which in layman's terms refers to the misguided selection and featuring of articles of clothing that are by any standard - not just mine but any standard - of good taste, their least flattering, least attractive, and most assured not only likely to drive customers away from the cash register but from the entrance as well.

On the several occasions I've walked through those heavy wooden art-deco doors on the corner of Connecticut and M (each time a pilgrimage to see my it'll-be-mine-one-day Sugar Daddy item), there have always been beautiful clothes - much more so than the ones I described above - there to greet me in-store. Fine-gauge lemon-yellow cashmere cap-sleeve sweaters with keyhole-backs carefully folded on a shiny cherry tabletop, gunmetal bell jackets with grosgrain-ribbon trimmed Peter Pan collars in an exactly-one-inch-apart series of cloth-covered hangers, and on one particularly special visit, draped on one of the white-faced mannequins coincidentally not visible at street-level, a beautiful Burberry Prorsurm gold mod dress straight from the runway that only a few months later Sienna Miller shortened, de-sleeved and paired with opaque black tights and vintage YSL platforms at the 2006 Costume Institute Gala.

That dress was on sale in DC in limited supply yet was "showcased" in a second-floor window on the M Street side most people aren't even aware exists.


I understand the majority of DC women are not going to purchase a dress like this and that the selection of display-case clothing is in large part dependant on the tastes of those who fatten the monthly commissions, but I also know, especially with a high-end store like Burberry, novelty and controlled amounts of catch-the-eye flash are just as important in increasing customer foot-traffic. Especially when that foot-traffic is likely to come from one-time visitors staying in the ritzy, right-next-door Mayflower Hotel.

If it were just Burberry that suffered from displaycaseitis, I might be able to look the other way. I'm not that store's target audience, anyway, so perhaps their marketing team knows a bit more about what does and doesn't help sell their clothes. But the thing is, it's not just Burberry. This head-scratching misstep afflicts every clothing store from Rizik's on the corner of ConnAve/K to the Ann Taylor a half-block down to Filene's Basement across the street to The Proper Topper on the edge of Dupont Circle -- all of these (and a few others from which I don't care to incur any unnecessary wrath) every single season choose to display the least attractive pieces from their inventory, and I just don't get it.

Being the meticulous girl I am, I've waited months to write about this phenomenon until I solicited enough objective data from friends of mine, all of whom have very different senses of style from my own and from one other, and none of whom knew my opinion on this matter until after they answered my intentionally nonchalant delivery of, "So...what do you think about the clothes in the window compared with those in the store?" query. Without exception, in every case, all of them put forth the same diagnosis I had. Even the men, all five of whom sharply criticized Burberry's collection of on-display suits, ties, shirts and pocket squares. "A brown suit with a brown and orange checked shirt and a beige pocket square? Who put this together, a middle school math teacher?" one commented without a hint of jest. My conclusions were further bolstered by the fact that we found no trace of displaycaseitis in the U Street neighborhood, in Georgetown, in all of Friendship Heights or in Old Town -- this isn't a contagious epidemic but rather a contained virus that is curiously thriving in a four block section of NW DC.

So what is it? Why are store owners and store managers in this part of town playing the opposite-game when it comes to choosing the clothes to grace their display cases season after season?

And of greater concern, is this poor taste not only responsible for maintaining but also feeding the sub-standard professional dress found on nearly every street corner at any point during the work day in the ConnAve/M St. corridor?

Shudder. I need a Cosi salad with extra pears.


intern in the city said...

I'm pretty sure the chains are beholden to corporate instructions on those windows. As for the privately-owned boutiques...there's no excuse.

I'm guessing Betsy Fisher is one of those stores you don't want to incur the wrath of? Man, they put some fugly stuff in their display. Every time I walk by, I just can't convince myself to go in. But then I saw you in an earlier post trying on some hot pieces.

In a roundabout way, what I'm saying is, is that I think you're right-on with your diagnosis.

dara said...

Betsy Fisher has the WORST clothes (and shoes) in their windows. It's like a color bomb went off in there every time I walk by. It's like there's no thought or theme at all!

But if you want a DVF without going all the way to Friendship Heights, that's your only choice. Plus the women are all really nice.

Anonymous said...

So true!

jessica said...

Betsy Fisher has DvF? Where the hell have I been? I've never been tempted to go in there. Always thought it was old woman resort wear.

sarahsouth said...

so hannie, sarah c. and i were rooming on 4th floor emery, unit 27, in kim and anniedi's (sp?) room!!!  i will somehow relate this to your post by mentioning that in their post-renovation-state, the rooms now have armoirs that could have contained your lovely freshman year wardrobe.  that's pretty much the extent of the work that was done, other than new ceilings, desks, and chairs. the bathroom still reeks of urine from 5 years ago... but not our pee, of course

Johanna said...

OMG! You went back to the scene of the crime, did you?

I don't know what I was thinking, skipping this past weekend's festivities. I usually live for reunions!

Ugh, that bathroom...but gotta love Brown for forcing 18 year olds to "just deal" with co-ed toilets.

Remember all the pints that were eaten in that dorm room? All the adult contemporary songs? All the Chinese and biology flashcards? And all the free bags of Jelly Belly jelly beans??

Oh the memories!

Please tell me Spike's Junkyard Dogs is still on Thayer...I could SO go for a cople of tofu dogs with onions and ketchup right about now.

sarahsouth said...

yup, spike's still there... i personally had to hit bagel gourmet and tealuxe (no good bagels and no bubble tea in east TN)... and of course i had my share of UFS catered food.
there's nothing like having a roommate to teach you that eating a pint of ice cream is a nutritious rather than gluttonous snack. we need to resurrect
B+J's coconut cream pie.