Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tocca Sample Sale, Spring 2014

It's been a while since I went to a sample sale--the last one being Tocca's Winter 2013. With a baby and a career, shopping has taken a backseat. Not just because I can't justify running around after a sometimes messy toddler in certain clothes, but because I just don't have the time.

I found it for Tocca (squeezing minutes out of my precious work time) because I love the brand--ever since I discovered Lyell around 2006, Emma Fletcher's dresses, tops, coats, jackets and knitwear have been among my favourites. Many of her pieces have enduring value and I was pleased when Tocca took her on in 2011 and then opened up their West Village boutique. Why it shuttered, I have no idea, but ever since, it's been really difficult to find her clothes. Tocca's website sells a selection but some of the nicer pieces aren't available there and there are very few online stockists--shopbop has it but only select pieces in the smaller sizes. Last December, I went to my very first Tocca sample sale far out on the West side. I hadn't been able to make earlier ones due to pregnancy, breast feeding and even being out of the US. I was pleased to buy three pieces (two black linen/silk blend tops with lace trim and a wool blend open jacket/shirt). I was frustrated then as the line runs small and the smaller sizes (0, 2 and 4) were filled with wondrous items but the 8s and particularly my size 10 rack featured few items, most of them dull, and some of them cut so small that the average size 6 may have just about fit into them.

I went to the friends and family portion of the sale with Caroline today. Not only were the 0, 2 and 4 racks bulging, again with pieces not available anywhere else that I'd have snapped up--loose silk tops and dresses in interesting prints, sweet blouses, lovely black dresses--but the 8 and 10 racks were beyond pitiful. Very limited stock and most of the great pieces were not represented. I ended up with a jacket I'd liked online ($100 down from $575) so that was a good deal, but it was painful to watch tiny-framed women trying on arm fulls of clothing that I'd have loved to buy but were not available above a size 4 (given the way Tocca cuts, that's really a 2).

I asked at the check out why the small sizes--even the 6 selection was pretty miserable--to be told that retailers only want these sizes. I presume that's wrong--especially when one of the major Tocca stockists told me she wanted the larger sizes, that those were in high demand, but the brand didn't make them. I also recalled the assistant in the W. Village boutique telling me that many customers requested size 12s or at least a size 10 cut more true to size.

I know I'm not the tiny girl I used to be. I know youth and thinness are prized in our society, but I'm appalled that a woman-helmed brand can't accommodate people over a small size 4. Granted the huge amount of very small sized clothing may have reaffirmed my belief that these sizes don't sell (Tocca's own website always shows the size 10s selling out first, in the items that are actually made this big, even though that may be because just one was made). But speaking to their staff it seems that the brand has just focused on the very smallest end of the market. As a loyal customer of too many years standing, it makes me feel alienated, angry and frustrated in equal measure. Granted I now have the cash to spend on other things or to save for greater goals (like a second baby), but something feels wrong. First world problems, perhaps, but hardly good for most women's body image.

Certainly, I think I might take some of the money I saved and spend it at Madewell or & Other Stories.  Or some other retailer that makes plenty of clothing I can buy in my size.

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