Tired with American Apparel? Look Overseas!

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We were inspired to write this blog post after we asked the Men’s Health Magazine fashion director whether he knew the British retailer River Island. They are rumored to open in NYC next year. Much to our surprise, he claimed that he did not know about them. But he liked what he saw. If you are fed-up with the apparel offerings in this country, check out some options below. Most have very reasonable shipping prices to the states and with one exception (Collette), their price-points will not break the bank account (even after the currency conversion).

France

Collette: A retailer frequented by the likes of Howard Schultz. Known for its unique offerings that will make you go into some serious debt.

Japan

Uniqlo: The Japanese clothing firm set to invade America. Often compared to Gap. Launches an e-commerce this fall for the U.S.

Spain

Zara: You may be living in a dark hole if you have not heard of the fast-fashion giant.

Desigual: Spain’s version of Urban Outfitters.

United Kingdom

Asos: This online retailer needs no introduction. They stock hundreds of brands besides their own.

House of Fraser: British version of Nordstroms.

Marks & Spencers: The nations favorite department store.

Next: Popular high-street chain known for trendy looks.

Reiss: Think Calvin Klein, but more sophisticated.

River Island: A cross between Urban Outiftters and Zara.

Credit: M&S

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Ah, But Underneath

Since 2003, McDonald’s has been on a mission to win back customers. It has spruced up its dowdy stores, expanded a predictable menu, and delivered a catchy ad campaign –  parapapapa. The result? Shares are hovering at an all-time high – during a period when the global economy is flirting with the possibility of another recession.

But the start of 2012 has not gone well for the Illinois-based company. A botched social media campaign ended up with the hashtag McFail. And this week, McDonald’s announced it would remove ammonium hydroxide or “pink slime” from its recipes in the U.S. It’s a victory for the company’s critics and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who lobbied for its removal.

Oliver has praised the U.K-arm of McDonald’s which uses free-range eggs and organic dairy in some items.  The U.K. business operates on a different business model than it’s U.S. counterpart. Come to think of it, most countries where McDonald’s does business operate on a different platform. Japan. India. Germany. Australia. NPR wrote a perfect and so aptly titled piece – “Why McDonald’s In France Doesn’t Feel Like Fast Food.” Gee golly, I wonder why? Well, ladies and gentlemen, the key element between markets are the consumers and their expectations.

As Americans, we tend to play catch-up with the rest of the world on some critical issues. But society is often a reflection of itself and what we expect. For the last decade, our standards have been in the gutter when it comes to food quality. We want food to be fast and cheap – no questions asked. Didn’t I say no questions? I said no questions. Period. But slow change is arriving in the form of fast-casual restaurants. The quintessential example of fast-casual is Chipotle. Fast-casual eateries offer better food and a more pleasant dining experience than fast-food, but are cheaper than full-fledged restaurants. This segment of the dining industry has grown at an astronomical rate. We can thank Chipotle for making us Yanks aspire to eating better quality food and thus offer to you this quote by CEO Steve Ells via Fast Casual – “The food culture in Europe is based on local, sustainable and artisanal foods, which are all core values of Chipotle and we have been instrumental in bringing this kind of thinking to fast food in the U.S.”

Photo Credit: Thaddeus Briner/Architectural Outfit