Archive for the ‘Lauren’ Category


Reflecting on Global Brand Tracking and Culture Codes

June 9, 2010

The past three weeks have flow by, it feels like just yesterday that I landed in London and began my adventure. I have seen so many sights, walked so many miles, and slept…well not that much. This experience has taught me a lot about ethnography, culture, and advertising. Within my sector there were several patterns which emerged in both the UK and Prague. I think the one pattern that stood out the most to me was that both countries had a much lower emphasis on brands. While big name brands were in fact present, I felt as though the consumers in both the UK and Czech Republic were not as concerned about where they were buying their clothes and what it said about them. Fashion did not resonate as a status symbol in Europe as much as I feel fashion and status go together in the states. In the UK we saw how fashion represented the individual and connected this ideal to Gin Martini. People used their clothes as a form of self expression, while big labels were popular, people bought clothing at these stores because they liked the product, how it looked, and how it was a reflection of their personality. In Prague we saw how Czechs were more concerned with functionality of a product and how it would benefit them. Czechs didn’t care about buying a brand because of what it would say about their status, they wanted a product that had longevity, and multiple uses. Another pattern I saw as far as shopping habits and consumer behavior is that consumers in both the UK and Prague were more prone to go shopping alone or with one other person. I think in the US, shopping is a much more social experience where groups of people will go shopping together and be more interactive about shopping. Finally I think one other very important pattern that emerged was price consciousness. I think in America, going back to buying a product for the brand, we are more inclined to spend 20+ dollars on a simple t-shirt when we know that we can get the same thing somewhere else for only $6, we’d rather have something that’s branded versus something generic. In the UK, I feel like people may be willing to spend top dollar but I think it has more to do with the quality over the brand itself. People in the UK will spend money if it means better quality however if there is a cheaper alternative they’d rather buy that instead. In Prague consumers are very price sensitive therefore they want the most “bang for their buck.” Czechs do not have the disposable income to splurge on major labels just for the sake of have brand name items. Czechs are going to buy clothes that are functional and practical for their daily lives. They will only spend the extra money on expensive brands if they can see the direct benefit and longevity that will come from the purchase. While the level of price consciousness varied, I feel to some degree price played a factor in purchasing decisions for fashion.

This was my first time outside of the country and while I’ve interacted with people from other countries back in the states, it is a totally different experience to interact with other cultures in their country. You get to observe and learn first hand about how other cultures go about their day to day lives. Even in the United Kingdom as an English speaking country there were cultural differences. Since we were studying fashion, I noticed differences in shopping habits the most. However I also noticed differences in eating out, alcohol consumption, dancing, and transportation among other things as well. I really didn’t know what to expect when I first started reading Culture Codes on my flight to London. After reading the book though I was actually excited to begin doing my own ethnography and finding my own Culture Codes. I learned through this experience to look at the bigger picture but to also use all of my senses to understand all of its elements. In the beginning I had a difficult time really understanding the process of the codes and applying them to my observations. Overtime I realized that I really had to immerse myself in the culture in order to pinpoint the code. London was a huge learning process coming up with my own culture code, and then collaborating with my group to come up with a culture code that really fit the UK. I think in the end our code of “Gin Martini” was a close fit to the shopping habits in the UK.

In Prague, I got to try out the codes with a fresh perspective on a new culture. The Czech Republic was a completely different experience from the UK. Not only was the language different but the attitudes and customs of the culture were very different from what I’m use to. I found it fascinating that many of the people we met in Prague all said that the Czechs do not show emotion and divulged their feelings as much as Americans and other cultures. Another cultural difference I particularly snuggled with was not putting my foot on a seat while sitting. After learning that it was very disrespectful to put your feet on anything meant to be sat upon I really had to try to not do so because I often sit with one foot tucked up on my chair. Back in the states you really wouldn’t be criticized for sitting in that way unless you were in a upscale or professional setting. In terms of fashion, Czechs were a bit easier to understand when it can to a culture code.  Perhaps it was because we had been working on our ethnographic skills for a few weeks once we got there but I feel as though an understanding of the culture’s shopping habits and attitudes were much more apparent. Functionality seemed like an obvious choice because it was a word that encompassed everything we had seen. In Prague my group and myself learned how a culture code doesn’t need to be a metaphor to be successful. Sometime a culture code is just a word that sums up the overall sector for that culture.

This trip has been an amazing experience. As a newbie to international travel, I think this class was the perfect way to dive into other cultures. If I had gone to the UK, Prague, or any other country on a leisure trip for my first international trip I don’t think I would have taken the time to observe and appreciate the cultural differences as much. This class was fantastic because it allowed me to do all the touristy sight-seeing aspects of a European adventure, but I was also able to learn about my future industry by visiting agencies and learn a new skill of doing ethnographic research. Ethnography was a great tool to use when studying another culture because it requires total immersion. I think by immersing yourself in a culture is the best way to learn about them. I took full advantage of this by doing some of my own exploration on my own going to place I want to see and taking sights in on my own. Sometimes when traveling with other people you can get rushed with other schedules and agendas and miss out on certain aspects of a country. I also felt that eating the food from the local region and trying new foods is another important part to understanding a culture. I feel that food tells a lot about a culture from the spices, to preparation, to the ingredients used. It can inform you about the economy, the local agriculture, religion, and climate. In London I found it fascinating that the UK really doesn’t have much of their own cuisine apart from fish and chips and typical pub food. I loved how London turned out to be such a melting pot of foods from Indian, to Japanese, to Turkish and Italian. I had never tried Indian or Turkish food before and embraced the opportunity. In the Czech Republic I was excited to try some authentic Czech food. Pork and Dumplings, Goulash, Wild Boar, and even a new spin on a “cheeseburger” were all new experiences. In my future travels I will be much more in tuned to the local people and how they interact because of this trip. I have learned, experienced, and gained an appreciation for other cultures after going on this trip.


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Group Cultural Code for Czech Republic

June 4, 2010

We started our group cultural code from puppets, goulash, cartoons, etc. Rather than figuring out the cultural code with metaphor, in the end, we came to functionality.

The functionality in fashion world is rooted in Czech people’s daily lives two decades ago. Before the revolution in 1989, under the rule of Communism, people dressed according to clothes’ practicality. Communism supports the core value of “being equal” and everything should be cheap. In other words, brands and to be good-looking are not their most important concerns during clothes purchasing, because everyone should dress according to what they need and where they work.

Men's Overall

For example, men rarely wore T-shirt and jacket in the past. However, they usually just wore overall, which is easier for them to work in the factory or farm. Also, for women, they often wore scarves, which helps to prevent dirts during working. So, before the revolution, on the one hand, Czech people didn’t have a lot of choices for clothes. On the other hand, their mindset and the culture indicated them to dress functionally and practically.

With the twenty-one years development till now, people have gained a lot of freedom for purchasing clothes and other fashion products. But it’s hard for them to change their shopping habits and mindsets immediately, especially for old generations. Most Czech people still live in small towns. It’s not that convenient to reach a lot of international brands. Also, according to the average income in Czech, a large number of people can’t really afford them. So they are loyal to local brands, markets and independent shops and functionality is still the key factor they will take into account during purchasing. In some sense, international fashion brands are just a symbolism of free market after revolution.

Everyone we’ve talked to has stressed the divide between the old generation and the new generation. Not only do these two groups of Czech people have different memories of the change in the country, but they have vastly different perceptions on fashion and shopping. The older generation is very traditional. They are loyal to local markets and shops. They don’t see the need to change their habits and don’t have an enormous desire to buy expensive fashion. The younger generation, however, is slowly but surely adapting to the new shopping experience. Hypermarkets and mega-malls are attracting more and more people as the younger Czech generation is becoming more interested in name-brand clothing. Young girls enjoy getting together with their friends and going shopping for a day, while the older generation still prefers shopping in local markets by their homes.

Sitting outside of Tesco, Lisa noticed something that contributed specifically to the culture code we chose. The Czech consumer’s process of leaving the Tesco was pretty unique. As many people exited the store, they immediately reorganized their purchases, and analyzed everything they had bought that day. We thought this routine action was really interesting because Czech people spend so much time choosing products pre-purchase, and now they were still analyzing those purchases even after they had been made. The shoppers would come out, look at their receipt, and refer back to the things that they bought one by one. One older man even stopped, took his glasses out of his case, looked over his receipt for about ten minutes, took them off, put them in the case, and then carried on with his day. This man probably brought those glasses along with him for exactly that purpose, which means that he does it every time he goes shopping. From these observations, we came up with the subject of Czechs as very price sensitive and interested in quality. Czech people will only buy something if the product’s inherent value is worth just as much, if not more, than the price that they are paying. It’s not that Czechs won’t pay a lot of money for something, but when they do, they will be sure that what they are buying is worth every crown it costs. As we learned through conversation with some of the staff at Garp, once a year, there is a huge sale for designer labels that Czech fashion magazines create special issues for. In these magazines are coupons for these sales. Czech consumers interesting in buying high-end brands will often wait all year for this sales period because it is when they will get the best deal.

It was interesting to understand Czech’s without knowing the language, but we used our resources with the English-speaking people at the agencies we visited and our assistant Honsa. Through our discussions with those people we realized a huge difference in American culture and Czech culture when it comes to brands. In the suburban America we know well it is common for people to buy a North Face just to buy a North Face. When it comes to Czech culture they care more about the price, quality and functions a jacket would perform for them. If it happens that North Face fits all the things they are looking for then so be it, but brand is not a primary part of their choices.

Czech people dress for the specific occasion they will be in. First and foremost, the weather condition and the amount of time they will be outside affects what they’re going to wear. Comfortable shoes are necessary if the walk to work is a long one. They’ll put on a coat if it’s cold, and not worry about whether or not it 100% matches their ensemble. Men don’t wear nice jackets, blazers, or shirts unless they’re going to a wedding, funeral, or other dressy occasion. Since many Czech people own cottages for weekend excursions, mountaineering clothing stores are very popular. Therefore, the ridiculously expensive pieces of clothing that don’t really serve a purpose are disregarded. This might be why there are not a lot of fashion ads. The Czech people don’t need to purchase the clothing, so they won’t appreciate the ad. They dress for a very specific, functional purpose.

Another one of the major points we observed was that practicality if very important to Czechs. Practicality goes hand in had with functionality because Czechs want to purchase clothing that is not only functional in the sense that it works best for them but also what they buy and where they shop needs to be practical and convenient for them as well. Clothes that make day-to-day life easier and comfortable are essential, since walking and public transportation are popular in the Czech Republic, residents are going to want clothes and shoes that are comfortable for walking and traveling. It doesn’t make sense for Czechs to wear some of the trends that may be popular in other parts of the world because they are not practical for them.

However, just because the Czechs may not be following all the latest cutting edge fashions and trends, it doesn’t mean that they are not concerned with how they look. Czechs still want to look good and look put together. While we observed that Czechs walking down the street may not have been as chic and sophisticated as the trend setters in London, they still looked like they thought about what they put on in the morning. The main point to take away about Czechs and looking good is that they go about looking stylish in a different way than other cultures. Czechs are not going to follow trends that are not practical and functional in their day-to-day lives activities. Also they are not going to splurge on trends that are overly expensive either because spending a large portion of their income is not practical either. Czechs are concerned with being practical in their clothing choices but also concerned with looking and feeling good about what they wear.

Overall, our cultural code for fashion in Czech is functionality. In some sense, the role of functionality also explains why there is almost no fashion advertising in Czech Republic. In this small market, for Czech people, fashion doesn’t stands for brands, but functions.


Where the locals go…not Parizka Street

June 4, 2010

Over the past week in Prague I have noticed a lot about Czech culture and their views of fashion and shopping. After visiting the Palladium I began to realize that fashion is not a priority for Czechs and they do not see the value or necessity in the high priced brands and labels. For Czechs, shopping and fashion is not about individuality like we saw in London nor is it about status or trends. Czechs seem to feel that fashion is more or less just another item that is purchased as needed. Brands are not as important and a lot of this has to do with history and current economic situation the country has. Because the average Czech only makes around 15-20 thousand US dollars a year a brand like H&M would be considered extremely expensive for the average citizen. Therefore its surprising that there is a street like Parizka Street in the heart of Prague. The street is lined with couture and high fashion labels along with fine dining and salons. Louis Vuitton, Prada, Lacoste, Burbury, and Hemes were among the brands here. However walking down the street and walking through stores I came to realize that this street was not here for local Czechs, but more so for tourists. I heard and saw very few Czech people on the street and in the shops, even the employees of the shops were not all Czech. Many of them sounded like they were from France or the UK, or Germany. The shoppers in the stores were two types of people primarily. The first type were those who looked like they belonged in the shops and could afford to drop 13,000 Kc ($6,000 USD) on a handbag or mini dress. The other half were tourists and people that are simply passing through dreaming of buying something from one of the stores. The stores defiantly had a sophistication about them that other shops and streets lack. The landscaping down the street was well manicured, the shops looked modern and updated but still retained Prague’s old world charm. Even the cars lining the street matched the primary group of shoppers. Maserati’s and Mercedes were parks along the way or zoomed by quickly with roaring engines. The interiors of the stores played top 40 tunes or classy elevator music the employees wore tuxedos or chic black dresses. The furniture and lighting was all luxurious and plush with soft and rich fabrics. The stores were not packed with clothing either. The racks were sparsely distributed and held only a few garments. Clearly Parizka Street was not targeting the average Czech. While I’m sure Czechs would love to shop here, but the clothes are just not practical or functional for their lifestyles. The couture fashions are all about showing off and displaying one’s wealth. The Czechs are a humble culture and do not like to show off their wealth in obvious ways. For most Czechs life isn’t about the clothes they wear or the car they drive. The fact that the average Czech cannot afford couture is part of the reason why they don’t shop on Parizka but the fact that the products are not functional is another reason why you won’t find many locals on Parizka Street.



Tesco to Tesco

June 3, 2010

Usually when I go to a grocery store or target back in the States I’m there to buy food, cosmetics, sometimes clothes, or maybe a movie. Typically I go to the store find what I need and leave. I’m pretty oblivious to what other shoppers are doing and not really interested in why they are there or what they are shopping for. So when we went to Tesco in the UK and Prague to do ethnography I really had to stretch myself and do something I had never done before. While in the UK ethnography was still a new concept to me and I think I still looked at the people through a more American lens and focused too much on the visual aspects of what I saw. After a bit more experience however in London, Manchester, and Prague, I began to understand better how ethnography requires all the senses and requires you to look beyond what you would normally see to the things you may typically ignore.

In the UK’s Tesco I walked in and immediately felt like I was back in Milwaukee at a Pick n’ Save. My experience walking around and observing there was rather uneventful because I just brushed off the store as a normal grocery store and assumed that the shoppers were just like American shoppers. I took the time to walk down the aisles and look at the brands and the shoppers and what they were doing, but I think at this Tesco I was focusing too much on the bigger picture and not on the little details. Focusing and relying too much on visual really hindered my ability to see all the details that would have really made my experience there a lot richer.

In Prague however I had a bit more of an understanding of ethnography. Also, by having an activity that forced me to limit my visual observations allowed me to really tune into my other senses. In the Czech Tesco, our mission was to spend 30 minutes and record 30 things using our senses about the store, products, and people. Only half could be using sight. I began downstairs in the grocery area. I think smell and hearing were the two senses I utilized the most in this department because of all the smells from the food, but also the sounds coming from the customers and workers shopping, stocking, and checking out. I took the time to walk around and touch different produce, packages, and displays. Each aisle I walked down I breathed deeply to try and smell everything in the vicinity. I also stopped to listen to feet pattering across the floor, conversations in other languages, and cardboard ripping as stockers disassembled boxes and crates. Moving onto visual, I noticed that shoppers took their time in the Tesco to compare prices and inspect packaging and products and the majority of shoppers using carts or baskets had shopping lists. Also I feel like shoppers were not “perusing” but had a good idea of where they were going and what they needed. I spent the last half of my 30 minutes upstairs in the clothing, cosmetics, toys, sporting goods, and electronics. I thought the contrast between floors was insane. The lower level felt like a typical grocery store, while upstairs felt like a K-Mart or Wal-Mart. One of the first things I noticed about the consumer upstairs was that there were far more women upstairs than downstairs. The upper floor even smelled like a Wal-Mart with its mix of rubber scent from bike tires and sports equipment, the synthetic leathers and plastics from some of the apparel, and topped off with heavily scented cheap perfumes and lotions near cosmetics. I walked around the clothing department and noticed how the clothes not only looked like they could be in a discount retailer in the states but felt like clothes in a Wal-Mart too. The cottons were rougher and not soft like higher end garments and the jeans were stiffer and not a quality heavy denim. Everything about the products’ scent, feel and look fit in with the store’s concept.

My shopping experience as an ethnographer was so much better in Prague than in the UK. I had a better understanding of how to observe people and really see the whole picture.



Czech’n out fashion in Prague

June 1, 2010

Prague is a beautifully, historic, city unlike any other city I have ever traveled. I love the architecture, the castles and the cobblestones that give Prague its old world charm. While the town has remained rooted in tradition and Czech heritage, the fashions and retail stores in Prague have progressed with the centuries to bring Prague’s shopping scene to the 21st century. However while Prague may offer all the modern stores and big name brands the people of Prague and the Czech Republic are not as focused on fashion as a priority when it comes to spending their money. Walking the streets in Prague and looking at shop owners in Old Town and some of the streets away from the city center, I got the impression that fashion and clothing was more of a necessity that was purchased on a need basis versus an item that was something to splurge on. Most of the Czech people are dressed in a very basic way that doesn’t look high end or branded. The clothing that the typical Prague person wears looks like its comes from an independent store that is owned by local families. I think this could potentially be because some Czech may still not be use to the idea of the new variety in choices of brands and stores since gaining their independence in 1989. Not only that, but in one of our presentations we found out that the average Prague citizen does not make a lot of money, or at least in comparison to the average American. Therefore Czechs are much more price conscious than people from other European countries, specifically people in London come to mind. These thoughts were confirmed after shopping around several popular retail locations around the city.

Palladium (Old Town)

The Palladium is a 200+ store shopping mall located on the outskirts of Old Town. I have to say that visually when I walked into the mall I felt visually both the interior and shoppers in the mall did not reflect the majority of the people walking the streets outside. The Palladium is an extremely modern 4 floor megamall that offers international brands such as H&M, Levis, and Puma as well as other popular names like TopShop, Diesel, and ESpirit. I felt as though I had been transported back to the States and in a semi-upscale mall in Chicago. The shopping experience was very American with loud popular American music pulsating from the entrances. I also noticed that some of the stores that sold fragrances that the stores smelled like their fragrance just like an Abercrombie or other other high end retailer does in the States. One observation I made instantly however in regards to the actual consumers in the Palladium was that they were mostly tourists in H&M alone I heard Chinese, French, Indian, Spanish, English ( including British, Australian, and American accents) as well as Czech. Most of the Czech people I noticed were younger but were very selective in their purchases and even items to try on. Most customers would only try on one or two things and then perhaps buy one of the items. Looking at the checkout line was fascinating. I noticed the majority of people were buying one item either a  single article of clothing or small accessory. I also noticed that consumers under the age of 25 always paid in cash and if they were over 25 more the 30-50 category they always used a credit card. Perhaps this could be because younger Czech students and teens don’t work and maybe help out with a family business while the older consumers have an income and therefore have the means to have a credit card. Otherwise they may be parents or tourists who find credit cards more convenient while traveling. H&M was not nearly as busy as the ones back home or in London either and I think a large part of this has to do with the income level of most Czechs, while H&M is pretty inexpensive, it is still more expensive than other smallers shops because it is located in a touristy area and carriers a big name.

I also visited TopShop at the Palladium which was a completely different experience from the one I had in London. The first difference I noticed is that the store was completely empty except for myself and maybe 4 others. In London every TopShop I entered regardless of the time of day was packed with locals and tourists shopping and trying on stacks of clothing. TopShop in Prague reflects the cultural norm that not only are name brands not necessary, but fashion is also not a high priority for local citizens. The prices in TopShop are too high for the average person in Prague and therefore it is not going to be as packed as the stores in London where people can afford and value cutting edge fashion.

I think the Palladium may be intimidating to locals of the older generation who grew up without these choices available to them with fashion. Going from 1 brand, style, and store to 200+ brands and stores in 1 building in just 20 years is a huge change for this developing country. While the younger generation appears to be adapting well and working to incorporate modern brands and stores into their lifestyles I think my first impression upon Czech culture when it comes to fashion and shopping is that they value good prices that are affordable and follow tradition over the modern, high fashions and major labels that are popular in London and the US. I felt almost as though I time traveled back 10 to 15 years to the early 1990’s when I walk around most of the streets in Prague because a lot of their trends and choices in products would have been popular in the states back then and I see older styles still available in smaller shops in Prague as well. Up next I’ll describe my experiences and observations shopping at both Parizka Street and Tesco located in Prague, but until then “Czech out” this photo of Prague’s Palladium.



Group Culture Code Wrap-Up of the UK

June 1, 2010

Yiting: Mixture

The mixture of fashion world in UK reflects its variety of products, brands, shopping environments, consumers’ different attitudes toward fashion, as well as their shopping and consumption habits. British people are quite comfortable to embrace various trends and styles in fashion. Even though they might not like all of them, they choose to embrace them rather than judge. So in some sense, it is the openness of the embracing in fashion that make British people to dress and do shopping more confidently. Moreover, they enjoy the re-designing their own pieces with out-of-dated fabrics and accessories.

Besides, as an island country in Europe, in UK, the mixed culture originated from the immigrants and tourists from different cultures drives brands in fashion industry to mix the British vintage styles with the modern trends, which plays a vital role in reaching more audiences.  Moreover, in UK, there’s a wide choices of shopping environment, including high-end department store, middle-level stores and flea market. Especially, the flea market provides more opportunities for the communication between salesperson and consumers about products and brands.

Lauren: Individuality

My culture code for the UK is individuality. While there were drastic differences between Manchester and London in styles, trends, and shopping habits I felt that both cultures placed a heavy weight on the individual  and being true to who you are. In London people followed the trends but added their own twists to the trends. They weren’t afraid to mix it up and try something new and different. Also people stayed true to themselves regardless of class. People that could afford nice things would defiantly splurge and buy high end designers and brands. Even those in the lower and middle class stayed true to themselves. You didn’t see any lower cost brands trying to emulate higher end brands. The stores themselves also stayed true to what they were and were all very individual and unique. Each store gave the shopper an individual shopping experience different from other stores and brands. I think in both London and Manchester individuality was an important quality to the people, fashions, and stores.

Suz: Confidence

If I could describe UK Fashion in one word I would pick confidence. There is a vibrant blend of colors and styles represented in London fashion.  I saw confidence in women 40+ shopping in the same stores I like to shop in, and from what I gathered by the numbers, shopping for themselves.

There was a confidence in the pieces that people chose to put together.  As mixed as they may have been, they always looked great because they wore their outfits with confidence.  I have never seen a guy with a zip up hoodie under a blazer…but it looked great.

The other strong notion of confidence i saw was in terms of body.  There was a sense of beauty within each person because I saw people rocking outfits that showed off their curves.  There was a comfort with their own bodies that you don’t normally see and it made them even more beautiful.

There were subtle hints towards the fact that people chose their outfits because they liked what they were wearing…and if they were the only people that agreed with it, it was ok.  I’m not saying people were poorly dressed because that is exact opposite of what we saw in London.

We saw a warped sophistication, with a twist of their own style, and with that I say Londoners are a confident bunch.
Lisa: Contrast

My individual culture code for UK fashion was contrast. The two most common types of contrast were between mixing old vintage with new and mixing different prints and textures of fabrics together. One way that the Brits differ from consumers in the US is that they have a lot less room to put their “stuff”. Accessories are a great way to tie two contrasting pieces together, and they play a huge role in UK fashion. It is not a part of UK culture to accumulate huge amounts of clothing generally, or large amounts of anything for that matter. Think about the amount of money people spend hiring organizers for their closets or buying storage units for their extra things; this is not a phenomenon that typically exists in the UK. For example, instead of buying a whole new spring wardrobe, someone from the UK would go out shopping looking for a few newer, trendy things that would go with something that they already have in an interesting way, or maybe that person would go to a thrift store looking for these pieces.

Here are a few examples I found of contrasts in UK fashoion:

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“That is the key of this collection, being yourself. Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live. ” – Gianni Versace

Jeannie: Embracing and Loving the Unique

London was a great place to observe styles and trends because almost everyone had their own distinct style. While there were some patterns, I noticed that everyone had their own spin on the idea. Uniqueness is key. The mannequins in the store windows featured layers and mixtures of clothing, the stores themselves had wide varieties of trends, and I never saw an outfit repeated twice. Even if someone was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, they would add a piece of flair (brightly colored shoes, an interesting necklace, a colorful bag, etc) to spice up the outfit. Shoppers only carried a few items around with them and purchased what was true to their style because they were comfortable and true to their own unique fashion sense. They didn’t shop in large, busy groups – they were calm, collected, and accustomed to shopping for pieces that they wanted. London shoppers embrace not only their own unique style, but also everyone else’s.

Group Culture Code: Gin Martini

After brainstorming and bouncing ideas around, our group decided that the culture code for fashion in UK was Gin Martini. We were inspired by our visit to Vinopolis. We learned about Bombay Sapphire Gin and how London Gin, mixology, and bar tending were such a huge part of London’s culture and history. Therefore, we believe that Martini is the perfect cultural code to reflect fashion in the UK for several reasons.

The stores, consumers’ shopping behaviors and attitudes towards products, and the dressing styles in UK possess Martini’s most important features: the versatility, variety and uniqueness. A Martini can be customized and made in a million different ways but always begins with the basics of gin, vermouth, and shake or stir in some ice.

For example, the fashion market in London could be compared to a martini up with any added flavor such as a pom-pom martini, choco-tini, blueberry martini, etc. These martinis are specialized and have some added flare to a classic drink. Just as Londoners try to add their own spin to classic looks and trends. Martini is a very trendy drink and people in London were all pretty trendy and cutting edge with their looks. Not only were the people trendy, but the stores were trendy as well. The stores are like the glass of martini, creative, changeable and various. Martini is trying to find the best fit glass to reflect and strengthen its personality, which is the same with the shopping environment in UK. The cheaper vintage stores also aimed to be “the place to be.”

With Manchester on the other hand, one could say it is more of a dirty gin martini on the rocks. This drink is the same basic cocktail without the extra garnishes, flavors, and fancy glass. This drink looks pretty generic and yet when you taste it, there is a powerful kick with the potent olive juice. Manchester is a working-class city. The people, fashions, and stores there are like dirty gin martini as well. They are nearly as upscale and trendy as those in London. People prefer to buy what is comfortable and what they like and keep it traditional.  However what the fashion lacks, they made up for it with spunky personalities and sense of humor. Ever the stores in Manchester are not what they appear to be. For instance, Affleck’s Palace looks like a big warehouse. But once you are inside the store, you will have an impressive memory of the unexpected interior and shopping experience there because of its uniqueness with vintage, goth, and trendy clothing along with eclectic accessories and gifts.

More generally, the experience of shopping in London is very similar to the experience of enjoying a martini. Going out for a martini is a calm and sophisticated social experience where a person can enjoy the company of their friends. It is a special event and a memorable one as well. Londoners go shopping for the social experience.


The Classic Battle of North vs. South

May 27, 2010

Call it hometown pride if you like, but I was surprised to find out that there is a battle of the North and South brewing in the UK. In London, we heard about how the Scots and English were feuding, but apparently the English have a bit of a battle going on within their own country. In northern England and Manchester the locals had an openly harsh opinion of their southern neighbors in London. People of Manchester referred to themselves as the “real British people” and the backbone of the country. The feuding of the two regions reminded me not only of the North vs. South in the States as a whole, but also of the rivalry in the city of Chicago and the state of Wisconsin when it comes to sports. For example, Northern Chicago residents are typically Cubs fans, and Southern residents are very passionate about the White Sox. The fans have a long history of bitter rivalry, however at the end of the day, both the North and the South can agree that the Milwaukee Brewers are their ultimate enemy. And in this case, the Milwaukee Brewers and Wisconsin are the Scottish. What does the rivalry between London and Manchester (North and South) have to do with fashion?  After spending about two days in Manchester, I was able to draw some similarities as well as vast differences between the two cities when it comes to their cultural understanding and view of fashion.

As stated in an earlier post, in London, everyone is always well put together. Londoners are confident in who they are and value individualism. They enjoy mixing vintage, timeless fashion with cutting edge trends and styles of the modern day. For Londoners fashion is a form of self expression that allows them to be who they want to be and tell others who they are. Londoners like to follow trends but like to let people know that they still have their own point of view and don’t need to look like everyone else to be accepted in the city. London is culturally diverse, pack with residents and tourist of all different ethnicity’s which perhaps also contribute to the variety in style. Think about it, with so many cultures packed into the city, it’s only natural for Londoners to pick up on styles and tastes of other countries and blend them into their lives to make a style that is so culturally blended it becomes a cornucopia of trends that are undefinable by any one culture. Londoners in the South liked to be unique and trendsetters in their own way. Londoner’s want to look like they are ready to go out on the town with a sophisticated, put together look. However, they stay true to who they are and don’t try to emulate who they wish they were.

I had never been to Manchester before, and I had expected it to be basically London only farther North. Upon our arrival however I couldn’t help but notice how much more industrial the city was. Manchester was smaller, less modern, and dirtier. My first impression of fashion however was at the train station where I saw a massive woman body builder looking woman who was built like a linebacker. She was wearing leather leggings, a spandex black t-shirt with army boots and had a scarlet red mohawk and looked about 45 years old. What kind of city was this?! Luckily I quickly realized there are exceptions in every city for the norm of fashion. We went on a walking tour of Manchester early Wednesday morning with our tour guide who while put together, was much more traditionally dressed than some of the men seen in London. While our guide was put together and dressed sharply, there were no surprises. Classic suit with button up shirt and matching tie, and a pair of classic wingtip shoes to finish the look. In London, he would have maybe had a bit more of a modern flair with some funky shoes, vintage shirt, or crazy hat or watch. However while his outfit may be lacking spunk, his attitude was not. Our tour guide was sassy, with witty jokes and comments.  On the tour we had a chance to explore the different corners of Manchester, while also observing the local residents. One of the first things I noticed was that the guide was not alone in his more traditional, laid back attire. Mancunians were much more subdued, wearing jeans, t-shirts, even sweatpants out and about day or night. Our guide informed us on the background of Manchester being the more industrial, working class society in comparison to London. This explains why perhaps most of the residents did not seem to be dressed up as much as Londoners. In order to compensate for not having as much disposable income to spend on expensive clothes, Mancunians wear vintage clothes which are less expensive yet still make a statement. On the tour we visited several different areas that meet the needs of different consumers.

Affleck’s Palace

Affleck’s is located near China Town in Manchester and is actually the name of a building that houses several smaller independent designers and stores such as No Angel and Space Hop which have a vintage and gothic style. Affleck’s was not overly packed with shoppers and when I spoke with one of the shop workers they said they have a rather loyal consumer base that comes in. Affleck’s did a great job of building making the store fit the consumer. The shoppers that were in there (apart from some tourists) all dressed very uniquely in a hodgepodge way that was very eclectic. The store was set up uniquely as well with multi-colored walls and really no clear cut organization of where one shop ends, and another begins. The smell of the building was also very vintage it smelled musty like my grandmother’s basement mixed with potpourri. The shoppers of the store seemed at home and comfortable in the store where they knew everyone. Affleck’s wasn’t just a place to shop for vintage looks, it was a place to meet up with friends and talk.


I had no idea what a Primarx was before Manchester. I had seen a few Primarx bags around London, but didn’t actually go in one until Manchester. All I have to say is SEARS. Primarx screams SEARS from the white floors and walls, to simple to the point signs in bold fonts giving the price and basic item description. The bright sterile fluorescent lighting and scent of synthetic fabrics and leathers wafted throughout the store. Also the store was packed with shoppers like back in the states on Black Friday. At first I thought they were all tourists buying the 1 pound sunglasses and 5 pound dresses but as I walked around and listened nearly every shopper sounded like they were from Britain. Once again this low budget shop was packed with locals who needed to shop on a budget. On huge difference I noticed in Primarx was that it had a lot of young teen shoppers in it and for the first time, in groups larger than 2 or 3. Primarx is an ideal shopping spot for teens to go to after school with their babysitting money or allowance to pick up a new top at a low price. However, like London, there was a large amount of young women shopping with their mothers and talking about clothes and seeking the other’s opinion. Primarx was one of the first places I saw more people shopping together than alone. I think this may have something to do with the affordability and universal appeal it has. Primarx offers consumers a little bit of everything and in a generic way where shoppers of all ages can find something they may like or need. Primarx was a popular place for families as well because of the cheap clothing and large selection. Just like SEARS, people in Manchester know that Primarx will offer them the selection they want for their wardrobe at the low cost they need.

New Cathedral Street

New Cathedral Street is located in the newer up-and-coming area of Manchester than was completely rebuilt after the IRA bombing. Along this street are all the high end and big name brands such as Louis Vuitton, Ugg, Lactose, and Harvey Nichols. This is not only the most modern part of Manchester, but the most expensive. Even though Manchester is a more of a working class city, there are still residents who can either a) actually can afford to buy more expensive brands or b) save up to splurge on high end brands once in a while to complement a look from a cheaper store. However When I walked around this area, I saw more tourists here than in any other part of the city. Much of the older parts of the city were much quieter with a few locals here and there but Cathedral seemed like the hub for tourists.

Manchester and London shared some similarities such as the quest for individuality and a sense of confidence in staying true to who you are. Where they differed was that Londoners tended to be able to splurge a bit more on clothes and looks with a bit more cutting edge flair while mixing in vintage looks. Manchester on the other hand, had to be more creative in being unique. Mancunians buy a lot of vintage, with more traditional basics that are of a lower cost. While high end retailers and brands are present in Manchester, they are not the first choice in shopping among locals. Mancunians don’t want to be like those “southern city-slicker Londoners,” they want to retain the identity of Manchester and still think of themselves as “the real British.”


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