Saturday, January 31, 2015

My First Taste of (Shocking) Cheap Shopping at Primark in Karlsruhe, Germany

I have just arrived home from Karlsruhe, Germany last night. I stayed there the whole week for work related stuff and I managed to add in some pleasure and sightseeing on my last day in town. Because it snowed (wet snow) on the last day, which was yesterday, I decided to spend the afternoon indoors and went shopping.

The beautiful former Post Office of Karlsruhe is now called Post Galerie, one of the impressive shopping malls in the city. Karlsruhe has several shopping malls and shopping streets but this stately building beckoned me to come inside. At the entrance lobby of the shopping centre is the big European clothing retail chain called Primark.


The former Post Office of Karlsruhe (Deutsche Bundespost) is now a shopping mall called Post Galerie on Kaiserstrasse.


This is what you see when you enter. The Irish-British Primark has a very good location in the shopping mall. The retailing 'cheap high fashion' powerhouse will soon expand to the US.

I knew Primark but only by name. The retail shop offers very cheap prices they say, however, I never really had any experience whatsoever because I have never shopped at Primark. Not until yesterday. The clothing company also has had its own share of unfortunate media publicity. The ongoing scandal of large fashion retail chains with the textile industry in Asia, particularly in Bangladesh, suggesting horrible sweatshop conditions and allegations of forced labour.

Well yesterday, I had my first ever fashion mainstream shopping shock in my life. I mean yes, I have heard of Primark mixing high fashion with cheap pricing in the mainstream fashion industry, but I have never really gotten the grip of its gravity until this visit in Karlsruhe. Whilst walking around the retail shop, I was in one of those—‘Where have I been all these years?!’ moments.

So naturally as a human being with functioning senses, I got carried away and bought a few stuff. When one is confronted with high fashion (they have classic design pieces) with prices this dirt cheap, one cannot help but fall into emotional buying. Two long sleeve blouses, two long sleeve vests, one dress, a pair of leather gloves, 3 pairs of stockings and a pair of soft slippers, all for just 68 Euros.

A LITTLE WARDROBE FOR JUST 68 EUROS!!!

I normally buy one blouse for 68 Euros. But instead, for 68 Euros I was able to buy a little wardrobe that could have cost me between 350-450 Euros. Is this insanity or please tell me what it is?

I love retail sales and I normally would be ecstatic to snag good items at very low prices. However, the stuff I bought at Primark were not on sale, they were tagged with normal prices. I don’t know really but the cheap pricing bothered me a bit, and I thought long and hard about it during the train ride back to the Netherlands.

Why is Primark so damn cheap?! I thought H&M was ridiculously cheap already, but Primark beats H&M for half the price. It is bordering ridiculousness or perhaps I just need to get used to having a giant fast-fashion retail chain selling long sleeve vests for 10 Euros?

So I went online and googled Primark. The retailing powerhouse gave a statement that their prices came from a combination of volume procurement strategy and the rigid management of their supply chain.

OK so they are good at what they do, but I cannot help calculate in my mind the whole supply chain’s tier of profit and loss, for Primark, for the manufacturers, for the raw material suppliers and for the labourers. Globalisation brought improvement and possibilities to many people and companies, but when you sell your stuff really cheap, it brings out questions into the spotlight as well. I am sure that someone at the end of the chain pays the price for it. One thing for sure, it is not the consumers such as you and me.

There is a difference as well between buying cheap clothing at markets in town. Most of the vendors are small time entrepreneurs doing their best at making a living. But when a large retail chain sells cheap clothing, it sends the whole textile-clothing industry into a different angle. Because large companies are backed up by rich investors and not some mom and pop type of shop owners. Because rich investors have the power to command and demand, at their beck and call. Because it is so easy to exploit, rather unintentionally and indirectly of course, the other end of the supply chain. Because there is what we call ethics that is the true sanity of humanity.

There must be a global fashion-textile producing intergovernmental regulatory body to facilitate and oversee compliance to safety on the workplace, setting pricing standards, human rights, fair compensation of labourers, etc... and its impact on the industry. The oil industry has OPEC and the sugar industry has ISO for example.

Anyway, this whole shopping spree at Primark yesterday left a bitter taste in my mouth. I will wear the clothes because I paid for it, but all this high fashion cheap pricing has opened a can of worms and made me think twice shopping at large cheap retail powerhouses.


Trams stopping on and passing through Kaiserstrasse in front of the Post Galerie.

Travel Period: January 2015
Destination: Karlsruhe (Baden-Wurttemberg), Germany

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: Van Gogh, Monet, Mondriaan, Picasso, Fashion, Furniture Design, Photography

I am reminded that my Museum Card which is valid for 1 year will soon expire. I bought this last year as a challenge to myself to discover more museums in the Netherlands.

The card costs about 54,95 Euros and even though I was successful in the ROI side of things, I still felt that I fell short from the challenge. That I wasn’t able to visit all the museums in the country that I wanted to within a year’s time frame. It is just difficult when you are working fulltime, when you have other things to do in the weekend and when some weekends (well most actually) you just want to relax and do nothing.


Moi here with a wall size painting  by American artist, Sol Lewitt.

One of the museums I visited last year was the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (translation: Amsterdam City Museum). It is the 3rd most visited museum in the Netherlands after the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.

Here I saw paintings of Van Gogh, Mondriaan, Monet, Picasso and Rothko. There was a collection of UFO-outer space inspired fashion accessories in the 1970s. Also a collection of famous furniture in the 21st century by Dutch and Scandinavian industrial designers. There were exhibits on Photography, most of them by Jeff Wall but there were a few by Andy Warhol as well. I even saw other forms of art, such as in video and audio.

Another special exhibit by Dutch Interior Designer, Marcel Wanders was in the basement. I made a separate entry about this here: Pinned up at the Stedelijk by Marcel Wanders

All in all, it was a great visit, a cool museum. The Stedelijk Museum is located on the Musemplein (Museum Square) in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid beside the Van Gogh Museum.


Vincent Van Gogh painting: Two Peasants Digging. Oil on canvas, 1889. When I was there many group of students were on a tour for their art history classes.



This is from Claude Monet: The House Among the Roses. Oil on canvas, 1925-1926


Left painting is from Jan Sluijters: Bal Tabarin. Oil on canvas, 1907. Right painting is from Pablo Picasso: Seated Woman with Fish-Hat. Paint on canvas, 1942.


Painting from Piet Mondriaan: Composition No. IV, with Red, Blue and Yellow. Oil on canvas, 1929.


Another one from Pablo Picasso: The Aubergine. Gouache on paper on canvas, 1946.


Futuristic electronic music in 1963 by tom Dissevelt: Fantasy in Orbit, Round the World in Electronic Music.



Futuristic Aluminum Jewellery and Spacemen in Romper Suites by Dutch jewellery designers, Gijs Bakker and Emmy ven Leersum, 1970.


I managed to watch a video piece of 'Mutations' which was quite an interesting dance show.


Another futuristic neck piece of a jewellery in the early 1970s by designers, Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum.


Left picture: Dutch designer, Gerrit Rietveld's Witteveen High Chair. Right picture: Furniture by Marcel Breuer and Willem Hendrik Gispen, also Dutch furniture designers.


Scandinavian furniture design by a variety of Finnish (Tapio Wirkkala, Kirsti Irvessalo, Rut Bryk, Toini Muona, Michael Schilkin, Friedl Holzer-Kjellberg, Raija Tuumi, Alvar Aalto) and Danish designers (Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Gunnar Aagaard Andersen, Poul Henningsen and Poul Kjaerholm).


And these furniture are from Dutch designers: Jens Fager, Maarten Baas, Marcel Wanders, Piet Hein Eek and Claudy Jongstra.


Left picture: Hanging Milk Bottle Lamp by Dutch designer, Tejo Remy. Right picture: Rietveld's Red and Blue Chair.

A Dutch visual artist (Paulien Otlheten) took a candid video of a man walking slow motion in Battery Park, New York back in 2003. Unknown to the man and to the artist, the video captured a pivotal moment of the man's life, which was during the bankruptcy filing of Enron and Lehman. The man was a finance laywer.


The video the artist made. I watched it at the exhibit in the Stedelijk Museum.

This is the letter of the Dutch visual artist to the man via the receptionist of the building he entered in the video:


And this is the response the man on the video sent to her:


Now, isn't that just cool?


Film by an Israeli artist, Yael Bartana, with footages in Sao Paolo, Brazil (a group on their wau to a ritual site) and in Jerusalem, Israel (the wailing wall).


A paper boat by Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama: One Thousand Boats Show, 1963.


By French artist, Arman: Colour Tracing. Oil paint, paint tubes, acrylic resin, perspex, 1967.


A Mark Rothko painting: Untitled (Umber, Blue, Umber, Brown). Paint on canvas, 1962. Rothko was Russian-Jewish who migrated to the USA.


From another American artist, Sol Lewitt: Wall Drawing. Acrylic on wall, 2003.


By American artist, Bernett Newman: Cathedra. Oil and acrylic on cotton, 1951. 


I am not sure if this is a mini basketball underpants ring? German artist, Georg Herold: Normal Position, 1988.


Candian photography artist, Jeff Wall: After "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue, 1999-2001


American artist Andy Warhol: Bellevue II. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 1963.


Another Jeff Wall photography work: The Flooded Grave, 1998-2000


A cafe inside the Stedelijk Museum.


You can hear some audio art here inside the escaltor by German artist, Joseph Beuys: Ja Ja Ja Nee Nee Nee, 1970. I thought this one was funny!


The Stedelijk Museum is located on the Museumplein (Museum Square) in the south of Amsterdam.


To finish off the day, I am having here an espresso and bitter lemon at the Aran Irish pub nearby.

Visit Period: March 2013
Destination: Amsterdam South (Amsterdam – North Holland), The Netherlands

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