Richard Chai Saw Me In My Underwear, And Other Shopping Tales

Have you ever shopped at a store when the designer’s there? Because this is a thing I have done! A few times! And while it’s kind of cool, it’s also so awkward.

The first time it happened to me, I was caught totally off-guard. I had popped into the Crangi Family Project on a lazy afternoon in hopes of securing myself a nut and bolt cuff. I asked the sales associate if there were any smalls in stock, and she said they didn’t exist. I told her that I had seen both small and large options on their website. She finally found me the small cuff, but even that was too big (I have child-sized wrists).

At this point, a dude who I at first pegged as part of the visual team (having interned in a visual merchandising department for two summers, I was familiar with the cuffed jeans/cool boots/eccentric facial hair/smattering of tats look) came out from behind a curtain carrying a ladder. Ignoring this, the saleslady asked me if I was into any of the other pieces, and we chatted a bit about the collection. Have I mentioned the store is the size of a closet? Because it is. Anyway, the bearded guy offered to squeeze the bracelet smaller, so I handed it to him. And it hit me — this is Philip Crangi. Shit. The bracelet still didn’t fit even after Philip’s impressive squeezing job, and I left empty handed and slightly embarrassed.

A few months later I attended a preview of Richard Chai‘s sample sale at the Soho Grand because my job is awesome like that. I assumed I would check out the offerings, tweet details to Styleite’s followers, and do a little shopping of my own. Of course, the first person I saw when I arrived was Richard himself. The preview was intimate, which meant Richard was hanging out with some of his impossibly cool-looking friends while a few other lucky guests (myself included) perused the racks. I should have interviewed him right then and there, but I was so flustered and he was hanging out with his pals, so I decided to check out the clothes first.

I’m a fairly discreet shopper, but I was paranoid Richard would be ultra-perceptive, knowing if I was dismissing a design or scoffing at a price in my head. Crazy, I know, whatever. It was oddly stressful. After finding a few great pieces, I asked a girl who was working the sale where the dressing rooms were. In true sample sale form, there were none. I found a secluded corner of the room and scurried behind a rack to try on a few dresses, a couple tops and a skirt. But then a group of people crowded near the rack! Richard was one of them. So, yes, I’m pretty sure Richard Chai saw me in my underwear. My face remained flushed for the remainder of the evening.

Last week, this whole “shopping with the designer there” thing happened yet again. This time I was prepared. But it wasn’t because this had now happened to me twice before, it was because I was covering a shopping event at Alexander Wang‘s store with Justin. The details were explicit: come shop with Alex at his boutique. Important note: I love his stuff. A lot. His balloon shorts are a staple of my wardrobe, my favorite t-shirt bears his tag, and I bring my Millie satchel everywhere.

But I just couldn’t get myself to shop at the event. This is partly because most of my best A-Wang finds came to me via sample sales and The Outnet. This is partly because I felt so weird knowing he could be watching my every move! Of course, he wouldn’t have batted a lash. He was too busy chatting with model types, taking interviews, and playing with his adorable niece. But still! I felt awkward just thinking about it! Instead, I admired all of the pretty things and sipped champagne. No purchases for me.

So, yes, this is a thing I’ve thought about a lot recently. Is this type of situation as awkward for designers as it is for customers? I tried to put myself in their shoes. The closest equivalent I can think of is someone reading something I wrote right in front of me. This has happened to me before! And it’s so awkward! But it’s also kind of cool. Actually, it’s really cool. But that doesn’t mean I want Richard Chai to see me in my underwear ever again.

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