Just finished watching the first episode of Keith Johnson’s “Man Shops Globe”. Aside from all the jealousy that most of the ladies in my decosphere are feeling. I had a bunch of musings and recollections that I thought I would share…
* As an ex-home manager/merchandiser for Anthropologie, I worked in three different stores. Including opening one from the ground up. Of the truck-loads of antiques that got delivered to the empty space, one piece sticks out in my mind- a massive french postal cabinet. A black finish, glass vitrine sliding glass doors, lots of little dividers and drawers, and cabinets on the bottom. We decided on the wall which it would live. Had the movers put it there, I calculated and slapped a $15,000 price tag on it and it instantly became a part of the store. For sale of course. Though I will never know if it ever finds a home- it’s true home is in it’s store. The shock and awe of seeing and placing that beautiful piece was really outstanding. It was like Snuffleupagus moving into Big Bird’s Nest. Aside from that- there were always so many different objets that the we the merchandisers had to try and work into the floor plan- those flower buckets on tonight’s show? (If they weren’t embedded in a table that is)- we would’ve probably laid them at jaunty angles full of straw and had mini latte bowls tumbling out or stacked them up into a tower and displayed fruit plates in the top. Those wine crates for 20 euros a piece from tonight’s show are standard Anthro fare, every store has a million. They retail for about $175. Perfect for stacking up soap. Seriously. Or dishes. Or monogrammed mugs. There were also the random pieces that kind of “lived” in the stock room. Shhh! Don’t tell. But some of the stuff is just awkward and doesn’t always look so hot (or haute) juxtaposed against ruffled skirts and Josef Frank upholstery…
* I also had access to the corporate pricing screens. Where you can see the actually unit costs, how many of them live inside each store, how many have sold etc. Very eye opening. The markup really is 200-300%. A lot even if you consider international and domestic transportation and any repairs or embellishments that occur. Not a shabby retail model. Anthro loyalists don’t realize how much stuff they recreate and produce themselves. The quality is terrible on most of it, which is why the price tags are really shameful. (Prior to Anthropologie I worked for William-Sonoma. We got highly educated on the manufacturing and production of even the most lowly plates and tools- only because they were proud of the quality and being able to justify to your customers what they were getting.) Anthropologie is all about aesthetics (as I type that I am thinking “but of course!” ). But really quality is a huge deal to me, which is why I buy so much used and vintage.
* The bureaus and cupboards were kind of a loss prevention nightmare. Lots of small spaces to store and hide ripped off security tags and stash empty Starbucks cups that shoppers were too asshole-ish to dispose of properly. As I watched the show I cringed at all the places shoplifters could affect a store’s bottom line and thus their management bonuses… One time, a pair of women came in and bought a high-dollar leather purse. A co-manager of mine commented to them that she hadn’t seen that purse in a while and she thought the purse had sold- “No!” one of them brightly replied- “we stashed it in the back of a drawer in one of the antiques until she could afford it!” Crazy.
* When I lived in Philadelphia (I was no longer with the company- my future had gotten brighter working for an interior design firm), I lived next door to Keith Johnson’s own home store called Bruges. I don’t know how much involvement he still has with the store, but it is where I got familiar with BoBo Intriguing Objects. Keith’s whole store was hitting the Belgian/bohemian reproduction furniture and decor and suzani tip WAY ahead of the curve. Lots of Assouline books and knick knacks from Roost (aka- lots of overlap from Anthro). Before it was even announced that Keith Johnson was doing “Man shops Globe”- I had been thinking about him and wondering what his thoughts were about Restoration Hardware partnering with BoBo for their new look.
* I am not a cheerleader for Anthropologie by any means- between working for the company for years at the store level and then knowing quite a few refugees and survivors of their corporate office culture – I have seen behind the curtain in Oz. Anthro creates a beautiful fantasy. Yellow brick roads and all- but once you see behind the curtain- you can’t go back… I know about the production issues of $100 bathmats made in Indian sweatshops, accessories designers who were forced by their management to poach designs directly from independent designers and also at the store level, having to personally throw away semiprecious stones and expensive jewelry that was broken and irreparable, and knife-slashing returned clothing so no one could re use it.
*Watching the show tonight was a little redeeming as I got to see behind the other curtain of the buying and selection of antiques to be reproduced or to be used as the “found objects” (Anthro-speak for antiques and oddities). I really did enjoy his chase, the pace of the show, how many times he called for SERGE!, Keiths’ discerning “eye” and quick decision making skills and of course the follow ups at the end. Of course that job is amazing- but I kind of know in my heart of hearts that I could do that job equally well. I am on my own personal Woman Shops Globe mission. Between Houston and my international travels I trust my own eye, my own quick thinking, my own instincts, and as I am glad for my experiences at Anthropologie, I think it is the culmination of all my adventures that has given me that confidence that I often ignore.
P.S. Does anyone else think it’s kinda weird that Keith and Glenn Sank have been “together” since they were 9 & 12 years old?