Wearing kicking-it-at-the-farmers’-market attire, I wandered into several of Aspen’s high-end fashion boutiques, focusing mostly on the big European brands. My goal was to see what sort of experience these stores offered a fairly standard-issue local.
Just how significant a footprint do the fashion boutiques have? We took the time to find out for this issue’s At Altitude department, where we’ve plotted on a map all of the stores in a four-square-block area that sell fashion or jewelry as their principal offerings (see page 46). By our count, there are more than ninety—ninety!—such boutiques. One has been here since 1969 (Pitkin County Dry Goods), but many have arrived in the past few years.
I had been into Prada, Fendi, Dior, and a fair share of the others before, and my recent autumn experiment reaffirmed a consistent trait of the international fashion houses: there’s a hushed quality to them, as if no one wants to wake up the dresses. In terms of the attentiveness I might inspire, I figured that by being male I had one strike against me, since most of the shops I entered didn’t cater to my gender. But I often had a grade-A attractor with me: my absurdly cute, sweetly sleeping, occasionally smiling nine- to eleven-week-old son, whom I was strolling around town.
Usually, but not always, I received some degree of acknowledgment—ranging from a chilly hello to a big, genuine smile—and was then left to browse. But I always asked questions, usually inquiring about what was the closest product to a signature item each store carried. I learned about classic handbag patterns at Valentino and trademark lace at Dolce & Gabbana.
Occasionally, I felt barely tolerated; other times I received thoughtful answers that kicked off nice conversations. Most interesting among them was hearing the Anna Trzebinski boutique’s fascinating story, first from manager Sallie, who gave me the friendliest reception I received at any store, then a week later from the Kenyan designer herself. (And it’s not every day that you can walk into a boutique in Aspen and get a smart dissertation on African politics, but that’s precisely what happened when I met Anna Trzebinski.)
If my unscientific test taught me anything, it was that my attempts to interact with the stores ultimately became interactions with people—and that there are salespeople who are friendly and helpful by nature, and there are those who are not. I found that Aspen still has a majority of the former, though after walking into my fifth boutique in a row, I began to long for a less formal retail experience.
There was, however, a constant in my exchanges with the staffs at Aspen’s fashion boutiques: the sight of a really cute newborn elicited smiles from nearly all of them. There’s no fashion accessory like a perfect little face.
Editor in Chief