I got it from the New York Times article. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/27/fashion/27DRES.html
Unabashed Wal-Mart Shopper Speaks By CATHY HORYN 'm almost embarrassed to admit I buy my clothes at Wal-Mart. Not because of the radioactive scorn attached to the company, the world's largest "” 2,600 stores, $219 billion a year in revenue, slayer of mom-and-pop operations everywhere "” or even because, golly, Ned, it looks as if I won't make the International Best-Dressed List now. I'm embarrassed because such an admission sounds like fashion editor jive. Every week, about half the population of this country goes to Wal-Mart. That's about 100 million people. A fashion designer who thinks he has made it because he has a corner at Bergdorf Goodman, who enjoys the esteem of a few New York editors and socialites, wouldn't even graze the consciousness of a Wal-Mart shopper. Wal-Mart is too big for such an earnest accomplishment. "Wal-Mart makes you insane," said a visitor at one of a dozen Web sites that explore and condemn the behemoth's "everyday low price" aesthetic. Yet, insane or not, more people buy their clothes at Wal-Mart than at any store in the world "” about $25 billion in clothes and accessories. I started shopping at Wal-Mart six years ago, when I lived in Washington and would drive out beyond the Beltway to Virginia, where a couple of Wal-Marts were planted along the freeway. I didn't believe then, and I do not believe now, that I was encountering an "evil empire" (to quote from another Web site) but rather a profoundly Southern institution, with all its foibles, mannerisms and aromas. Wal-Mart smelled to me of the South, or what I remembered of the South from the years when I lived in the Tidewater. Cigarettes and roasted peanuts and aftershave. "I don't believe a big showy lifestyle is appropriate for anywhere," is how the store's founder, Sam Walton, once summed up its atmosphere. That was another thing that struck me. Here I was, in Washington and later New York, writing about a world of people, designers and celebrities who were constantly knocking themselves out to get attention. And Wal-Mart wasn't trying to impress anybody. It didn't care about any of that old business. The first hint I had that Wal-Mart was actually on to fashion, and absorbing what was happening on the runways, was a pair of black nylon sandals I bought in 1997. I found them in Asheville, N.C., on the way to pick up my son at summer camp. They had big silver O-rings on the sides, Velcro closures and corrugated rubber soles. Two years later, I had them on in Paris, at a Balenciaga show. "Are those Gucci?" Allen Questrom, who was then the chief executive officer of Barneys, asked me. "No, Wal-Mart." I smiled. "Nine ninety-nine." Then one day in the fall of 2001, I was at 550 Seventh Avenue, visiting a big-name American designer. He looked me up and down: the black Prada motorcycle boots, the pleated miniskirt, the moss-green fleece top embroidered with tiny flowers and edged with white blanket stitching. His eyes stopped on the top. "Is that Marc Jacobs?" he said. "No, it's Wal-Mart." I found the $13 fleece top at my local Wal-Mart, in Fishkill, N.Y., and like everything I've bought there "” peasant blouses, Western-style shirts in floral prints with pearlized snaps, all my summer shorts and an orange tank top emblazoned with a sequined pineapple (a bit of a miss but ChloÃ©-like, don't you think?) "” the garment had no famous brand name. Two of the biggest women's brands at Wal-Mart are Faded Glory and No Boundaries, a junior label, which the company started about seven years ago, said Barbara Bakalic, the brand's manager at Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. It's this label that I now look for on my weekly scavenger hunts through Wal-Mart. I say that because no Wal-Mart store is really set up for a sophisticated fashion shopper. It does not promote clothes under the E-Z rubric of cheap chic, the way Target or Kohl's does. Nor does Wal-Mart abound in knowledgeable sales help or even many mirrors to see how things might look. You have to work to find something great amid the stretch pants and bloated sweaters "” and in a way, of course, that's part of the reward, the game. Last week, in Fishkill, when I had almost given up and was ready to slink out with my shampoo, I found a brown No Boundaries stretch top with a ruffle drizzling down the V-neck and a pair of jeans. The pants, made of two-inch-wide strips of washed corduroy, denim and a blue lace print, looked vintage. And, plainly, like those of Dolce & Gabbana or Marni. The cost was $17.98; the shirt, nine bucks more. I wore the outfit with a pair of Celine platforms, which at $420 would seem to explode the whole thing. But all right. Last Thursday, at the Kingston, N.Y., Wal-Mart, I found a red corduroy shirt bearing the new Olsen label, Mary-Kate and Ashley. The shirt was left fashionably unfinished at the hem, and it cost $14.98. Back in the game. "People are cross-shopping," Celia Clancy, a senior vice president for women and children's apparel at Wal-Mart, told me last Thursday in a conference call from Bentonville, joined by Ms. Bakalic and Claire Watts, a senior vice president for product development. They're going to DKNY and Old Navy and stores like Barneys, Ms. Clancy said. "But our primary customer is not you or me," she went on. "It's the guts of this country." This struck me, and maybe you, as a prim slap, a reminder that what matters in New York is not necessarily what matters to the rest of the country. Yet if Bentonville is not Paris, neither is it shut off from what's happening. In recent years, many of Wal-Mart's suppliers have moved into the area to respond more keenly to the retailer, and Ms. Clancy and Ms. Watts make regular trips to Europe to check out stores and PremiÃ¨re Vision, the fabric fair in Paris, for the latest trends. It's no accident that Wal-Mart concisely addresses the fall looks "” low-rise pants, denim dresses with lace-up necklines, those bohemian touches of patchwork. In the last five years, the company has made a concerted effort to offer more fashion, at the lowest price and has given special attention to fit. Every garment that Wal-Mart sells is sent to Bentonville to be fitted by technicians, Ms. Watts said. This month, Consumer Reports named Wal-Mart Faded Glory jeans the best-fitting denim brand on the market. But as the conversation returned to fashion and the fact that Wal-Mart, in its own quirky way, seemed to be in sync with what the magazines are showing for fall, Ms. Clancy hastily interjected, "We're not going upscale." She praised Target and Kohl's for their creative marketing but said, "We're trying to do what we do at Wal-Mart better." Referring to my comment about jumbled merchandise and a dearth of mirrors, she added, "We know that our presentation is an opportunity, as we say in Bentonville, and we're working on that." I don't want Wal-Mart to change, though it ought to be more socially responsive to growing concerns about child labor in the countries where many of its products, including apparel, are made. But there are enough companies scampering after the upscale consumer "” and without Wal-Mart's finesse or understanding of just how big this country is. Frankly, I don't put much store in the fact that I find cool things at Wal-Mart. I have the means and the access through my travels to buy whatever pleases me. That's the source of my regard for Wal-Mart. It knows this. And it doesn't care what I think.