Before (well, and after) I entered the illustrious world of HR, I was in Retail. I started off with a job at the Body Shop in college, and soon enough was promoted to Assistant Manager. I stayed there for a few years, before heading off to ICF to become an HR Assistant. After ICF, I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do. I toyed around with a couple of ideas - even went back to The Body Shop to be a manager there.
One day I was working at the Body Shop and a woman came in to shop. I was working alone on a Sunday, so we got to chatting. Turns out she was the District Manager for Bebe, and she was hiring. So, I became the Co-Manager of the Georgetown Bebe, and began my apparel retail career. I loved working at Bebe. I had a great group of coworkers, and we became pretty good friends. I was in my mid 20s, so I could still pull off most of those clothes - and oh man, does your style change when you work at a clothing store. I was itty-bitty, and I wore things like bell-bottom jeans with the legs slit up to the knee. This was also the era of jeans with no back pockets. I still have one pair, my favorite pair of jeans really. They are about a size 00, and they are almost falling apart. I keep them, for..shit, I don't know. But keep them I do.
I gave away most of the other Bebe gear. Its horribly out of fashion now, and shows the wear of a DC summer spent on your feet all day...ewww.
After about a year and a half at Bebe, I got recruited away for an awesome job - General Manager of the new Zara in Georgetown. I had to go to New York for 6 months for training...gosh darn, haha. I had the life, man. I had a paid for hotel room in the Theatre District and a nice salary, not that I needed it, because I also had a per diem of $128 a day. For food. That I got whether I spent it or not - no reimbursements here. Which, sure, if I tried to eat at the Times Square restaurants I would have plowed through pretty quick..but I didn't. I lived on Starbucks and Sbarro. I worked at the Herald Square Zara and I learned New York well. I had the trains down, I gave tourists directions, I spent my days off - every single day off - in Soho, when I wasn't popping on the Acela to come home for a bit. It was, in short, awesome. I was essentially living in New York for free. I did things like go shopping at the Times Square Virgin Mega Store and oh HEY, Marc Ronson is spinning in the DJ booth right now. I went to Broadway shows, I got my hair done at the Frederick Fekkai salon above Chanel on 5th. I shopped at What Comes Around and Kirna Zabete. I dropped nice chunks of change on gifts for my boyfriend at Supreme (where I ran into the Olsen twins - random). I got real real used to this particular New York state of mind =)
A little about New York - there is nothing, no nothing, quite like the first time you walk out of Penn Station and experience the city as someone who..kind of...lives there. Nothing. I was there for some New York events - the blackout - the game 7 win of the ALCS against the Red Sox (i was bitter, but we got them next year).
There was also the not-so memorable time that the manager of the Herald Square store took us all out to dinner. Now, I know, taking a group of 15 out to dinner in the city is not exactly cheap...but she took us to the Red Lobster..in Times Square. Of all the places to eat in New York, I was like...seriously? Can we go downtown? Talk about wasting your money. Have you ever eaten in Times Square? This one time I went to TGIF and a French Dip and a beer was $40. Eh, she was from Newark, what are ya gonna do?
I had lots of disposable income, and I spent a fair amount at the store I worked at. So I got to know Zara clothes and quality. The first season I worked there was the one that Zara was ripping off Marc Jacobs who was ripping of Courreges. Excuse me, not ripping off, paying tribute to. Zara was actually just ripping off, its what they do =) It was also the first season that over the knee boots started becoming acceptable for non-hookers. Well, at least in New York.
I think that was also the first time that I realized that DC does lag behind New York in fashion trends. Every time I came home, my outfits were a little more out there. I was wearing stuff that wouldn't become mainstream for another year. A little lesson there. God, I miss New York, haha.
All this to say that I was introduced to Zara in a pretty in-depth manner. I learned about the whens whys hows, etc. I was responsible for the buying. It was pretty cool. I ended up leaving retail to go back into HR with Booz Allen, leading me on my path to my current job - which is awesome. But a small part of me misses the world of retail.
A few months ago Zara opened an online US store. I was kind of in heaven. Everything thing I buy from there, I love. Its unique, its on trend, its good quality, and I get mad complements. Having worked there, too - I know which items are the standards, season to season, basics - and frankly not as good quality - and I know which are the standouts of that particular season, and therefore generally a bit higher quality. I just bought another Zara piece last week, and I'm wearing it today, and I love it.
Shoes: Ann Taylor
Watch: Timex Weekender