Speak Out boutique

accessories and objects of Art


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Financial Times August 2004 .

A once-a-year shopping experience

Though French filmmakerEric Rohmer would never admit it, there are other things that flourish in holiday destinations besides steamy flings. And unlike the latter, "summer-edition" boutiques aren't nearly as short-lived - you can always come back next year.
Indeed, people do, according to Heidi Gosman, one of the co-owners of Heidi Klein's poolside cabana at the Hôtel Le Beauvallon in Saint-Tropez, open summertime only. "The feedback we get is that a lot of our clients are from nearby Italy or Monaco. They don't mind driving along the coastline every season to have a nice time at the hotel, but also to shop at us."
The store's characteristic look, with its bamboo shutters and palm trees, is all about the lazy and carefree feeling of being "by the poolside" - important when you are shopping for a bikini, and significantly more effective than a changing room back home where, says Gosman, you'll probably feel miserable. "You haven't been naked for a whole winter, you are pasty and you feel shy about yourself," she explains, adding a bathing suit is "an emotional buy" because you don't want to ruin the anticipation of a break in a dream destination. Thus the decision to take the usual suspects they stock - swimwear by Tomas Maier, Eres, Missoni and Damaris and beachwear by Allegra Hicks and Melissa Odabash among others - to the resort itself.
Of course, in the Saint-Tropez store, the stock is "sexier, smaller and more revealing," as Gosman says. But the main difference is the mood. "There is an easier feeling; women are already tanned, in their bikinis and flip-flops, and willing to try on new things."
Just as relaxed is the ambience at Juliet Ford's "Summertime" boutique at the French island of Ile de Ré with its long, silvery beaches washed by the Atlantic, pine forests, sand dunes and dreamy shellfish restaurants. "People go to the beach in the morning and in the evening they come here and do their shopping," Ford says. She describes it as "a mini general trading bazaar" that includes Helen Kaminsky baskets and hats, candles by the French textile and interior designer Manuel Canovas, Emma Bridgewater and Nicholas Moss pottery, hats and woollen bedspreads by Ireland's Studio Donegal, tweed hats by Mizen, and tea sets and tables from the antique markets of England.
Although most of the stock is brought over from Ireland and the UK, the shop has been a part of the very traditional French way of life since it opened in the summer of 1982. Ford says her customers tend to be chic Parisians who "have their second homes here" and want to furnish them with those objects because "people appreciate having something that is handmade". It's the opposite of buying a tacky souvenir from a tourist shop that you will hide next year. "'We think of you all year round,' my clients tell me when they buy something here," Ford says.
"People come in to the shop, they feel comfortable, talk about their children, we know people's history. Being casual, that's the most important thing about a shop," says Ford.
Jewellery designer Elena Votsi also believes that a relaxed atmosphere is what gets people going. "Even if we are closed, people can give us a call and we can sort out something for them," she says of her shop in the port of the tranquil Greek island of Hydra, where shopping is just one aspect of the whole summer experience. "People can come in and see, not just necessarily to buy something." But most of the time they do.
Her best-sellers include her rings made with 18-carat gold and semi-precious stones, like
aquamarine, amethyst and coral. On holiday, time-rich, people are also "more spontaneous in their choices," says Votsi.
And once you discover a hidden shop, "it's like finding a small treasure," says Christina Stamatakou, owner of the boutique "Speak Out", also in Hydra.
She says "shopping [here] is not a chore as it is in a big city. I wanted something unique and different, something that's not commercial. All designers I stock are up-and-coming Greek designers. In Hydra,there are a lot of artistic things going on, so it's an opportunity for them to show their work."
Not that "clients wait until they go on holiday to do their primary shopping. They have already got what they want," as Gosman puts it. But what they do buy is that "little extra", that memory, be it a pair of earrings, a kaftan, or even a tea set. For just as the sunset and the views are one part of the whole experience, so is shopping.