Tired with American Apparel? Look Overseas!


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).


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


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


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


Butterfly Effect: Itsu May Return to U.S.

As the summer approaches, two foreign dining establishments will have landed on the banks of the Potomac – ready to serve Asian cuisine. Yo! Sushi will have opened its first American outpost at Union Station while Wagamama will finally welcome guests on seventh street. Both concepts will be closely monitored by their owners. But another sushi chain called Itsu will also be monitoring the success of Yo! and Wagamama.

Founded in 1997 by Julian Metcalfe, Itsu is a thriving upmarket chain in the U.K. It came briefly to New-York City via a partnership that eventually didn’t work. Sites were shut down or later re-branded. But the popularity of Asian cuisine and international dining establishments in D.C could work in Itsu’s favor. “[We] may well open in the US in the next couple of years,” said an Itsu representative. “This time we will operate the stores ourselves to ensure they’re as good as the Itsu we have come to know and expect here in the UK.”

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

Pret A Manger (1155 F Street): Unveiled

One year and six months later, Pret A Manger opens its second location in the district. When asked what took so long to open another site; location and leasing rates were big factors, according  to manager Zin Aung. During the recession, leasing rates were falling across the nation, but remained flat in the district. And Pret’s second location was to be open seven days a week, thus finding the perfect spot was  important. Eventually, Pret settled on the corner space at 1155 F Street. The restaurant itself is spacious with tall ceilings and large bay windows.

Pret has been very well received in Penn Quarter. The company made a conservative estimate on the amount of business the location would pull in, but Aung indicated that initial sales have doubled those figures. But some customers have noted that prices are slightly higher when compared to the competition. I disagree with this notion. Why? My bill at Pret for a sandwich, an orange soda drink, and a packet of crisps was roughly ten bucks. I have paid the same amount and sometimes more at Panera Bread for those three items.

As for the future, the company is looking to expand in DC so stay tuned. Pret maybe opening near you.