Growing up in Aldergrove, a small farming community on the outskirts of Greater Vancouver, was idyllic in many ways. I could ride horseback to school and had hectares of lawn to play tag on. But it was no place for a budding fashionista. Just as young Rebecca Bloomwood’s (from Confessions of a Shopaholic – not a must read by any stretch but a orgasmic must see for any fashionista who loves the thrill of the Visa swipe) shopping addiction was born when her cash savvy mother made her buy sensibly long-wearing school shoes instead of her longed-for bejewelled flats, my addiction was born in the dearth of clothing departments between the local SAAN and Otter Co-op. As soon as I was able to cajole someone into giving me an hour long ride downtown, I converted to the church of Robson Street and it’s cool stores became my drugs, my obsession, my nirvana.
Robsonstrasse, as it was marketed at the time, had a uniqueness all its own – chic boutiques with eclectic collections you couldn’t find anywhere else in town. It was Vancouver’s own version of Melrose Avenue, Canal Street, and the Champs d’Elysses. Long before Vancouver shoppers had Prada, Burberry and Michael Kors, we had Pandas, Chackas, and Parfait to remember a few. I remember buying a great nautical striped boatneck sweater from Panda in the late 80’s that is as close as I’ll ever get to Audrey Hepburn. I later discovered local designer Jacqueline Conoir at Parfait in the early 90’s and love the label to this day.
While I don’t think it was the intent of NAFTA, but over the last 20 years the US moved in and taken over Robson Street. Goodbye Alfred Sung, hello Banana Republic. Goodbye Parfait, hello BCBG Max Azria. Goodbye Vancouver individuality, hello Bebe and Guess and Zara. If you look down Robson Street today, you could just as well be in Anytown, USA. And as much as I love making a run for the border to buy the best that Target has to offer, I’m saddened that with Target’s purchase of Zellers in Canada, the homogenization of the North American shopping landscape is pretty well complete. No longer will I have to try and charm my way out of paying duty at the border. No longer will anyone shriek, “Where did you get those adorable flats?” because soon, Target will be EVERYWHERE.
Maybe I should take up a new addiction. Suggestions anyone?