Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What a Refreshing Change

Pop by the fashion corner ‘’Gaudi’’ on Level 1 of Isetan Orchard, and you will experience a most pleasant and refreshing change of shopping scene.

You will be served most cheerfully and enthusiastically by Josephine.

I was there on Saturday, purely by chance. I had seen a poster saying, ‘’Gaudi jeans’’ and decided to check it out, thinking it must be a new Spanish brand.

It turned out to be street wear from Italy. Cute printed and beaded T-shirts, blouses and tunics, and pretty skirts and pants.

Josephine was bubbling with excitement, bustling about and running to and fro the changing room, bringing me and recommending clothes, and suggesting ways to match them. And telling me how she bought several pieces for herself, and how comfortable they are. Her exuberance was infectious.

‘’Here, this is beautiful, and goes well with this,’’ she would say. ‘’Let me help you…’’ and she started tucking in the shirt – ‘’oh sorry hope you don’t mind I touch you.’’

‘’This blouse is j-u-s-t a lee-ee-tle bit tight for your shoulders, but that’s because you have beautiful shoulders…. But it’s the only size left – we have three pieces – I took one, my partner took the other and now there’s only one left for you.’’ She touched my chest and said, ‘’maybe if you wear a different bra…actually no one will really notice… try stretching your arms, and do this, this and this’’ she said, stretching her arms. ‘’But it’s so beautiful and you look great in it…’’

And she offered a lot of suggestions about after care – ‘’it’s easy, just hand wash and turn it over when you iron the parts with the beads, ‘’ she said, gesturing wildly. ‘’And I really like you in these blue pants – it’s a bit loose at the top – why don’t you try the smaller size – but the legs look so good on you for this size…’’

‘’And these gold pants – it’s also a bit loose, oh pity I don’t have a smaller one … maybe you can put a belt…’’ and voila – she just created a really cool look with my shirt, pants and belt ensemble.

I have never looked so slim! I never imagined that a pair of baggy pants with pockets and gathers all over could actually be soooo slimming! ‘’These pants are good, they make your back rounder…’’she said as she lightly touched my bum. (She probably felt I was too flat – compared to her own voluptuousness.)

‘’I want to see you in this lovely silk skirt – try it for me.’’ She went on. Then, midway, she said with a grimace, ‘’I must go to the toilet … I can’t hold it anymore… you wait for me, OK…’’

I have not seen a salesperson so genuinely friendly and sincere, even funny, especially to a first time customer. When she came back from the toilet, another customer, rather brusque and curt, came by.

Poor Josephine tried to serve her as much as she could. She offered alternative designs, alternative pieces, suggested different ways of styling the clothes, but the woman simply cut her off and said, ‘’no, I already said… and I want what she is wearing (pointing to the pants I was trying).’’

‘’But that’s the last piece and she is taking it… wait, here is another piece that is similar…’’ But Miss Curt would not even look at it, even though it was quite gorgeous. While she pouted and tried on something in the fitting room, Josephine lamented, ‘’tsk, it’s a pity I don’t have the size for her.’’

After all the trying and resisting the temptation to get more, I asked her if I could reserve the pieces I selected and come back the next day to make the purchase, as I did not have my Isetan card with me (which entitles me to some discounts).

She readily agreed and assured me she would put my selection aside, ‘’I will pack it for you and no one will touch it, don’t worry.’’ She did not even try to take down my contact number.

The next day I went back to pick up my items and she greeted me like an old friend, admiring the rings, shorts and shoes I was wearing. ‘’Your shoes go well with the gold pants you bought too – see!’’ she held up the much coveted pants. ‘’Some customers asked me for this pair and I said no, it’s sold, ha ha, ‘’ she continued.

Her partner was equally friendly and even said, ‘’you have a free gift, and for buying so many items from us, you get to choose any T-shirt you want from here. What type of T-shirts do you like?’’

And they started talking animatedly between the two about which T-shirt to recommend.

“Oh sorry… yes, look around – which one do you like? How about this yellow one – to go with your beautiful shorts?’’ asked Josephine. Her partner added, ‘’how about this one – it’s so soft and comfortable and I love it very much myself – we have it in white or black…’’

‘’Try both – and see which one you like best’’, they both urged.

If I was the ‘’greedy sort’’ I would probably have picked the white long-sleeved one since it costs almost $90. But I picked the short sleeved $69 yellow one, as it’s more practical. Can I have it one size bigger? “It’s my shoulders again,’’ I said.

‘’Oh of course – I have your size’’ and she disappeared for a long time. She came out saying sorry – apparently they could not find it after so much digging and discussions between themselves – and asked if I would take a green one instead of the yellow. Her partner offered to search further, while we both said I could settle for the green one.

Both thanked me warmly for my purchases as Josephine led me to the cashiers, while chatting all the time. She told me that while the cut, fabric and styling is done in Italy, the beads and embroidery were done in Indonesia – to keep the cost down – ‘’no one wants to do this kind of detail work in Italy and it’s so expensive!’’

She told the cashier to wrap each piece individually in a paper bag. This is truly European (or Italian?) style – the cashier took time to pack each piece - all six of them (while another customer patiently waited behind me) – and finally putting all in one huge bag, making the whole purchase so ‘’grand’’, each piece being individually wrapped. Elsewhere, they would have been simply rolled up and dumped into one smaller bag.

Finally, she thanked me profusely again, adding, ‘’I hope you enjoy your clothes and bring your friends here,’’ gave me a big smile and blew me a kiss.

No filling in of ‘’forms’’ for ‘’mailing list’’, no writing down of contact numbers so that they could send me spam sms, just very jolly service, and helpful counsel regarding the purchases, much hi-energy gesturing, a bit of ‘’disorganisation’’ and a lot of Italian flourish.

I suppose by now you can guess that Josephine and her partner are Italians.


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