Prague is facing an invasion—of the textile sort. In the past year, quite a few names from the fashion world have entered the growing Czech market, including Swedish brand Skank, international urban fashion brand DADA, Swedish chain Kappahl known for its line of eco-clothing, the world premiere of Tesco-owned F&F brand (located in the Palladium), and VAN GRAAF, a subsidiary of Peek & Cloppenburg.
This doesn’t include the high end names like Cartier or Roberto Coin that recently sashayed their way into the glitzy fashion parade that is Pařížská Street, or Armani Jeans that opened its first store in the country at the Centrum Chodov just last month.
Far from the days of fashion a la Kotva, Prague’s citizens have an increasing number of choices when it comes to filling out their wardrobe. To be sure, the second-hand shops are firmly in place for those seeking out the retro or dramatic looks, but chain stores around the city are offering a wide variety of men’s, women’s and children’s fashion at very affordable prices—thereby commanding a good deal of attention.
Prague native Lucie Turon, 29, is okay with the styles of chain store giants like Zara and Mango, which are “more classy and you don’t really know when somebody wears it, but you notice that it is nice material, and has a cool and chic style. I do have a personal problem with H&M. It’s kind of cheesy. Same goes for New Yorker. Unfortunately, tacky things are more economical, and products of an obviously better quality are more expensive. It’s a pity that there is not so much choice for small budget stores with clothes of a cool design.”
David Szendzielarz is general manager of FashionDays.cz, the country’s first invite-only fashion club online, and from his experience in the fashion world, he believes that chain stores like H&M and Zara are filling in a major gap in the Czech market.
“Before these, you had a few department stores selling overpriced and poorly made clothes. I think that rather than change the styles of people, they have helped answer demand for styles. I think that Czechs are much less slaves to fashion than most other western European countries, and Czechs are happy to shop around in various different stores to choose items to suit their individual styles and tastes,” he remarks.
But how individual can you be when shopping at a chain store that offers the same items around the city and around the world? While chain stores have made unique fashion affordable, some people would contend that clothing from a chain store can never be truly unique.
“People in Prague are definitely influenced by these chains,” Turon points out. “It lacks the imagination and creativity of mixing and creating some outfit on your own. People seem to be wearing the same product, the same way as people in a magazine. It just doesn’t feel right, no individuality.”
Rather than spend hours scavenging through random piles of various items a second hand shop (which are certainly abundant in the city), Czech shoppers can more easily pop into the nearest mall and pick out exactly what they need in just a few minutes. Or better yet, they can simply order it online at the store’s website from the comfort of their own home or office.
In fact, that’s just one of the perks of FashionDays.cz. Members of the club have access to 50 to 70 percent off retail prices on many brand names currently not available in the country, and also on local designers, including Horsefeathers, Represent and Timo.
“We are bringing catwalk fashion brands to the masses. I really think we are blurring the borders between ‘those that can’ and ‘those that can’t’. However, I must say that Czech customers are not like some of our customers further east who like outré, heavily branded clothing. Czechs buy subtle, toned-down items which are branded, but not blatantly so,” Szendzielarz explains.