There are two categories of sartorial shoppers: ones that shop online and ones that shop in bricks and mortar stores. I fall smack bang in the middle of that venn diagram; often finding myself browsing e-stores to then confirm my choice IRL after I’ve had a chance to try before I buy. And yet this year, myself and the rest of the global population have had to adjust our usual techniques to rely solely on the digital-sphere to obtain new garms. Clearly, there are bigger tragedies happening in the world (not that this level of inconvenience can even be described by that noun) but it’s another reminder that the planet’s current state is still that of a disaster movie, even when sometimes it doesn’t feel so.

Shopping is a sensorial experience, and it’s the absence of speech, touch and smell that separates the digital from the physical. I miss chatting to sales assistants about where the chosen piece will be worn – whether they care or not, it happens – and the harsh and/or pleasant truths my friends will share about how it fits. I miss being able to distinguish the craft and quality of a piece in a matter of seconds by a simple stroke. And I miss being hit by an instantly uplifting scent as you walk through the door. As you can tell, I’m a sucker for a concept store, and it’s the sterile nature of online shopping that has swayed me more into the opposite direction.

Some more goodies that are on my wishlist

With most activities that started with ‘virtual’, It’ll be likely that I will politely decline the invitation – why burgeon more Zoom fatigue? – and yet I was more than intrigued by Vince’s virtual shopping appointments. Having started in the second lockdown, Vince’s Zoom sessions give their customer base the experience of shopping within their stores, but in their homes. The virtual shopping appointments are a perfect blend of our online and in-person shopping experiences,” shares the brand’s creative director, Caroline Belhumeur. “We offer a very personalised shopping experience to our clients from the comfort of their homes or wherever they may be, with delivery made to Londoners within 24 hours of their purchase. It is a convenient way to take our clients through the collection while helping with styling options.”

With there possibly being a digital solution to my pandemic-caused problem, I quickly booked an appointment and in the next few days was virtually greeted by Joanna, the store manager at the Draycott Avenue location. Joanna started the session by asking me what I was looking (aka. a new knit and bottom combo) and what colour palettes and fits do I prefer. After explaining my predilection for anything oversized and of earthy tones – wildly out of the box, I know – she selected a handful of styles that I struggled to reduce to just one of each. She was happy to answer my bombardment of questions: which as a 5ft9 woman mainly consisted of Joanna showing me where the clothes would sit on her assistant who was similar(-ish) in height. After picking my choices and organising the delivery and payment during the call, I even got the instant gratification that shopping in person gives: receiving my goodies within a few hours – therefore, almost instantly. Those familiar with the brand will know that it is one you can trust; I wasn't met with any disappointments upon delivery as they aren't ones to false advertise their products. All in all, it was a truly pain-free process.

Yes, it did lack the atmospheric scent that’s been catered to get you in the mood to buy – but you could effectively DIY this by lighting a candle at home – and the sense of touch, but that light-hearted act of communicating, especially so with a stranger that isn’t the guy in the corner-shop, satisfied my need for pre-pandemic normality as close as is possible in this socially-distanced world. “It keeps us connected to our clients,” shares Senior Vice President Craig Samuelson. “We have received very positive responses. It has allowed us to get to know their needs and preferences better, and we think it has been a fun experience for them.” It’s a service that he mentions will continue “indefinitely”, much like many of the ever-changing pandemic restrictions, but it does show how brands are starting to expand on the traditional ways of selling. “Retail will certainly evolve; likely to be very different from what we have known pre-COVID, at least for the short term,” reflects Belhumeur. “It will be a positive evolution, blending a range of new digital approaches with in-person experiences. We have all experienced the restrictions of the lockdowns; it is clearer than ever that human interaction via a variety of formats is a critical need.” I couldn’t have said that last sentence better myself. 

You can book a virtual shopping appointment over the phone with an associate, details of which can be found here

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