When There’s Money to Burn: Pièce Unique (Brussels)
A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
How on point Coco was even then. Bless her fashion forward, dearly departed heart.
What woman doesn’t want to be dressed to kill and feel comfortably fabulous at the same time? There’s something concupiscent about being zipped into a dress that fits perfectly and hugs each curve, bending and bowing as if it were made, by the designer, just for you. There’s something sumptuous about slipping cashmere or wool or linen or silk (or any other natural fabric really) over your head and have it sit just so on your frame. There’s something so utterly thrilling about finding an item of clothing that flatters your skin tone, is tailored with precision and accentuates all of your perfection, while also camouflaging any of those niggling shortcomings we love to hate.
I enjoy shopping and it becomes a rigorous affair when there is something I’m itching to get my hands on. I make a list well in advance, assess my options and can go for hours pounding pavement without respite. No food. No rest stops. Just a bottle of water in hand and the conviction that if I do not find what I’m looking for today, well forget it. I can’t be bothered to hunt for days on end.
I’m a sucker for a good deal just like any other hot blooded woman and will squeal with delight when I find something beautifully tailored for 50-70% off the original price. I also have become quite adept at selecting places and have a routine whereby I enter a boutique, tune into the music, plug into the staff vibe and sift through multiple racks with my eyes before deciding almost immediately (well, at least under 60 seconds) whether I’ll spend a minute more of my time there.
It’s a skill. It’s a blessed, blessed gift.
Due to my intolerance for clothes that fall apart after 3-5 washes and those that fit poorly due to my dizzying height (there’s nothing more annoying than trying on pants/jeans with a supposed “extra long rise” that wind up looking like a pair of badly made capris) I’m happy to pay a bit more in order to find something that makes me feel fabulous and will go to extra lengths to find such items. As Marilyn Monroe said “give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” To that equation I would add a coat, handbag and pants. With such armour a woman can take the world by storm.
It may have been October but summer had fallen over Brussels when I set out with my travel buddy with a list in hand of a dozen vintage shops around the city. We spent six hours pounding pavement and scoured rack after rack with my “winter 2012 must haves” in mind.
Pièce Unique was the first place on our list and after spending an hour browsing, chatting and slapping down a fair chunk of my hard earned cash there, I could have easily called it a day.
Yes, it was that good.
Located on Rue Franz Merjay 167/169 in the hip and happening district of Ixelles, Pièce Unique is a second hand designer boutique run by a Brussels-based Parisian. Nathalie is not only impeccably dressed and charming in temperament but she has one hell of an eye for designer goods and her store is stocked with nothing but the best.
*Ahem*: at heavily discounted rates.
With an elegant and cultured approach, Nathalie has cultivated a boutique that draws in the Brusselois jet-set, fashion forward youth and an impressive array of international clientele who peruse the racks lined with treasure upon treasure. Brands include iconic labels like Chanel, Burberry and Diane von Furstenberg, contemporary designers like Issa and Rochas, the French powerhouses of Isabel Marant and Sonia Rykiel, and Belgian favourites like Demeulemeester, Dries and Vandevorst. Trust me, there is something for everyone. In addition to key wardrobe staples, Pièce Unique is home to an impressive array of designer accessories–from the Chanel 2.55 handbag to a Jil Sander tote (I eyed that bad boy up for a good 10 minutes)–along with an abundance of artfully arranged shoes, belts, jewelry and scarves.
There are pieces from designers’ previous collections and there are true vintage finds (I’m talking to you Ferragamo pea coat from the 70s) one of which I snapped up sans doute. Come on, what woman doesn’t feel empowered by a wintry wool cape with a hood that costs 40-70% below its retail value?
In all, some of the items you’ll come across have been lovingly worn, while others have never seen the light of day. Regardless of their history, each pièce has been cleaned and carefully cared for so they can hang at attention and wait for someone to give them a new lease on life. Should you step into Nathalie’s Pièce Unique you will truly understand where the adage “one [wo]man’s trash is another’s treasure” comes from, and why fashion will always change, but style endures.
Indeed, Mme. Chanel. Indeed.