THERE’S IKEA, H&M and A Man Called Ove, the best-selling “feel good” novel by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman. And don’t forget hygge, the trendy yet unpronounceable Scandinavian word that covers comfort in food, furnishings and clothes.
COS, which has taken over the Benetton store at the corner of Wisconsin and M, NW, wears an air of paranoia entirely suited to today’s DC. No photos please! Any questions go to PR.
One manager, who told us nearly nothing, gave his first name only, and looked nervous about it, so we’ll keep it to ourselves. More forthcoming was a black-clad cool salesman who was too excited about the wares to zip it. Another manager, forehead scrunched into worry lines, asked if the salesman had given his name and when we said no, she said “good. We need clearance from PR.” We just smiled and admitted our disobedience.
The space is dazzling, with large windows, bleached floors and minimalist displays —a few of each item hang from racks with signs telling you to just ask if you don’t see your size or color.
Men’s and women’s clothing are arranged on three levels; for now, kid stuff is only available online or in the brand’s Los Angeles location. There are suits, dresses, shoes and accessories, with the highest price point a suit for $295 and the lowest, $9 for a pair of sparkle socks. The lines are clean and classic, many of the styles are comfortably oversized, at least for women. The menswear runs more to the schoolboy chic look of Thom Browne, on a budget.
Sophisticated garb at an affordable price point.
We stopped a 40-something browser in the men’s department, a neat dresser in a down vest and thick rimmed black hipster glasses. It was “cool,” he said in thickly accented English. “We don’t have this in Russia.”
The colors for spring are traditional: navy, black, white and gray, with pops of candy orange. I’m told, though this is apparently top secret, that the colors change with the seasons.
For summer, a totally unforgiving but smashing black maillot is a mere $49.
A brilliant orange bikini that should suit your inner Ursula Andress—remember the white one she wore in Dr. No?— is $35 for the top, $25 for the bottom. A diving knife is not included.
Several tops are in bold black-and-white stripes, good for playing pirate or Piaf. One dangled from a hanger in the hand of Jane Rodman, who’s 72 and visiting from Toronto. She raved about the store, “I like the simple lines and the beautiful colors,” she said, admiring her find. ‘My daughter-in-law will be proud of me.”
Around the corner, across from Georgetown Park, is & Other Stories, where you can arrive in your PJs and depart dressed and made-up for a night of clubbing—and snap up a pair of copper-framed sunglasses to hide your blood-shot eyes the morning after.
The huge industrial warehouse-styled space has everything from makeup to shoes and jewelry. Though it skews a bit jeune fille, there are finds. Particularly fetching, for those with slim hips, are ballet pink, wide-leg pants, with pockets ($95) for your Ginger Rogers’ moments. Pair these with a matching pink sweater, or a contrasting one in black ($55), or be slinky in a pink cami trimmed with black lace ($55).
Add tough chic lace-up black leather boots with lethal heels and toes, or pad about in slippers as soft as gloves, with the backs broken down flat, as if you’ve been schlumping about in something a mite too small. The shop’s so new the prices don’t all include U.S. dollars—if you’re adept at exchange rates, they’re 79 Euros or 790 krona.
I’d wrap up the look with a gorgeous navy trench with a bath wrap belt— of indeterminate price and fabric, though I’d guess rayon again. It’s effortlessly slinky and looking like it cost far more than it does, whatever that is.
A large makeup department sells house-brand cosmetics, including the glitteriest gold nail polish we’ve ever seen for $9 and a gold body oil for $29. Also, a selection of body washes, scrubs and lotions make a last-minute gift shopper’s life easy. Shimmery socks ($12 for 3 pair) and inexpensive jewelry are placed strategically around the store. Impulse purchases encouraged.
Gardener Cavanaugh also likes to dig for shopping deals.
Editor’s note: In case you didn’t think H&M had diversified enough, a recent announcement reports that the company will launch yet another offspring, Arket. According to the L.A. Times, the new brand will offer clothing in the same price range as COS and will concentrate on classics like peacoats, trench coats and striped sweaters. The first stores will open in big European cities.