Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
You young'uns may not remember, but there was a time when items from other parts of the country and the world had a certain cachet because you had to go there to get them. A stash of See's lollipops was evidence of a recent trip to California. That Black Dog T-shirt? Either you or someone you knew had spent some time on Martha's Vineyard.
Now, almost any major clothing brand we want is just a mouse-click away. However, some remain tantalizingly out of reach on these shores.
For me, it's an Italian clothing brand and store called Ethic—a favorite of mine since I lived in Rome about nine years ago. Italian retail (and Italians) tend to be very trend-driven, and when every store in the city seemed to be carrying the same three colors and styles, Ethic always had something different. In fact their brand statement says outright that "the idea is to create a new way of dressing, to dress to please oneself." It always struck me as a very American-style brand—with Italian fit and styling, of course.
I still have a red winter coat I bought there, and I hang on to two pairs of pants that are unwearable—one that I literally wore holes in (I keep thinking I'll have a seamstress copy them) and another, really amazing pair made of a blue fabric with a little red woven into it, which I can't fit into anymore and probably never will again (porca miseria!). Ethic doesn't do e-commerce; this could be a business decision, or just an illustration of how in general Italy lags way behind the rest of the developed world in the convenience of online shopping. (I think people there still have to pay their utility bills at the post office.)
As for other hard-to-get brands, several guy friends mentioned the Japanese design shop Muji for clothes, especially the T-shirts. There's a Muji store in New York and of course there's a U.S. site, but one friend claims the T-shirts are cut differently here from how they are in Japan.
But as much as I sigh wistfully over the pictures on Ethic's site, I actually find it comforting that everyone can't just have everything they want at the click of a mouse.