By Gillian Armour It's not funny!  Well maybe it is, and maybe that's what's called for - humor in tough times.  This economy is changing the way we do things.  I was sightseeing with a friend recently in San Francisco and we were marveling at the window displays all about us.  A girl can't help but drool at overpriced, luxury label gotta-have-it-can't-afford-it fashion!  And it occurred to me, and I said it out loud "Looking is the new shopping!"

As a certified Personal Shopper, with an established cadre of clients, I shop a lot.  I am in and out of showrooms, boutiques, department and luxury stores on a daily basis.  I make it a point to check trends, to watch customers, to listen to what staff are saying.  I am a retail detective of sorts.  I really do like researching what's happening in fashion at the retail designer level.  And, usually, my first clue to what's happening in the store starts with what's happening in the windows.

In San Francisco we are fortunate to have some of the biggest, brightest and best window designers.  I consider window display an art form and have been a long time fan of Simon Doonan (Barney's Creative Director) who elevated the job of the window dresser to that of window designer!  Creative displays abound year round and entice the shopper inward to discover more.  The goal of all good window design is to do just that - bring in the customers.  But I see a lot of people doing nothing more that window shopping these days and not taking that fateful first step into a store.  For economic reasons I think many of us are stepping off the hamster (shop-till-you-drop) wheel.

Personally I have curtailed my shopping habits dramatically in recent years.  A combination of events occurred that made me stop shopping and start looking instead.  First off I gained some weight and that made shopping such an uncomfortable exercise in trying to look good.  Clothes I thought would suit my body shape no longer did, my size changed and with it the tried and true clothing ranges I bought. I had to shift my choices toward bigger, looser and more comfort.  However, this body change has not dampened my passion for new fashion, in fact, I really enjoy just looking.  I don't have to try anything on, it doesn't hurt my wallet, I can get my fashion fix on and I don't take home a bunch of disposable fashion that will hang in my closet unworn for days!

So all of you who are interested - contact me and we will go on a "Looking is the New Shopping" trip.  You'll get my expert take on the ON and OFF of window design.  It won't cost you much and you won't have to cart around oodles of shopping bags either!  For this San Francisco Personal Shopper looking is the new shopping!

Here is a link to a personal favorite blog on the art of the window display.  Check out Zoe Bradley's Harvey Nichols display at www.zoebradley.com

 www.thewindowdisplayblog.com

www.zoebradley.com