Re-Tales: confessions of a shopaholic

Cleaning House… for Kooba?

imageAfter months of procrastination, I finally mustered up the courage to clean out my crammed closets to make way for the impending arrival of… twins! Yes, I’m expecting not one, but two little ones in January 2010. If it weren’t for the babies, I probably would have never pushed myself to do the deed. But as my friend Cindy said over lunch the other day, “You’re in nesting mode Dara,” to which I’d have to agree.

Case in point: I recently filled up 6 industrial-strength garbage bags with clothing castoffs – most of which I’m donating to Housing Works, simply to make room for the soon-to-arrive borders, as my husband and I jokingly refer to them. Yes, I’m a good Samaritan, despite the countless dollars of hard-earned cash I’ve wasted on designer denim (as if I’ll ever be able to squeeze into size 24 J Brands again), fitted Smythe blazers (they’ll never cover my belly button even after losing those pregnancy pounds) and Loeffler Randall shoes that I’ve sadly outgrown (a common, yet unfortunate pregnancy occurrence).

Perhaps the worst realization to come out of this so-called nesting ritual: having just sold 2 barely-worn Botkier trigger handbags along with a Foley & Corinna Jetsetter on eBay (pregnancy brain clearly prevents me from thinking straight), I’m now in desperate need of an equally stylish replacement bag – something roomy and timeless with an edge that I can tote around long after the twins arrive. Having perused dozens of websites (brick-and-mortar shopping simple isn’t an option when your tummy resembles a torpedo), I finally came across “the one” – this stunning Kooba tote (a.k.a. the “Ryder.”)

One glance at the sultry suede arm candy on and I instantly fell madly in love. While you can’t go wrong with the classic black leather and shimmery metallic silver versions, it’s the rich purple Ryder – a total power color that is sure to instantly spice-up my predominantly black and Belgian-inspired wardrobe, that I’m utterly obsessed with. Another reason why I’m smitten by Kooba’s Ryder tote: this wearable work of art gives me a permasmile just picturing it slung over my shoulder. Other must-have details worth noting include a magnetic snap closure (ideal for deterring pesky muggers), 2 interior cell phone pockets, a sturdy lining and lengthy double straps that sit comfortably on your shoulders (read: no slippage or painful red marks on your skin). But the ultimate pièce de resistance is the funky ‘80’s-inspired triangle frame that’s adorned with punk-infused asymmetrical zippers. What can I say… I’m loving anything with a hard-core rock ‘n roll edge at this pre-baby stage in my life. Guess that’s my way of rebelling. But I digress…

The Kooba Ryder, from what I can tell, also happens to be deep enough for stowing everyday essentials such as my iPhone, wallet, Thermos Intak, Trish McEvoy mini pager and dare I say those dreaded diapers and baby bottles. While you might scoff at the hefty $595 price tag, take it from me – this Kooba arm candy is sure to be a sweet investment.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, getting rid of all my excess crap actually felt rather cathartic. Which reminds me… I happen to have a few more castoffs available on eBay, including a lightweight patent-leather Bulga satchel with multiple pockets. Any takers? Simply drop me a line at

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Filed: Trends

Fashion Junkie in the Press!

Cynthia Cheng of Toronto-based Prospere Magazine, profiled yours truly in a feature story about my passion for fashion, unpredictable career path (from editor-turned-blogger to marketing director) and overall mission in life: to make the world a better-dressed place, one person at a time. Check out the Career Profiles section for more.

Dara Fleischer – Blogger, Marketing Director and Fashionista

Dara Fleischer, originally of Montreal, is a graduate of Ryerson University’s broadcast journalism program.  She has worked in a variety of different fashion-related publications and companies, including LOULOU magazine and Club Monaco.  She is currently the Marketing Director of Beyond the Rack, an online shopping club based out of Montreal.  Dara was one of the earliest employees of the company – the fourth actually, and is the only employee of the company based out of New York. She works out of a home office.

Prior to Beyond the Rack, Dara was the editor and founder of – an online style source for “serial shoppers,” including herself.  It was actually one of the earliest blogs online – before the term “blog” and “blogger” were in the everyday vernacular – and focused on the day in the life of a “shopaholic.”  The site was originally very bare-bones, but was revamped a few years later when it became Dara’s full-time focus.  Though Dara is now working with Beyond the Rack on a full time basis, she still finds time to update the site – it is her baby, after all. What’s very interesting is that though Dara has worked in the fashion industry for most of her career, she did not take one fashion course at Ryerson. Dara’s site also organizes shopping tours – called “fashion safaris

The Beyond the Rack site, which operates similarly to other shopping clubs like Gilt Group, gives members access to purchase designer items at a lower cost short time (ranging from a few minutes to a few days). In addition to luxury products, Beyond the Rack also offers items from more moderate priced brands.  Best of all, unlike other shopping clubs, Beyond the Rack delivers to Canada and the United States. What does Dara think of her job? “When you’re really passionate about something, it’s not a job – it’s not work – it’s something that gives me a sense of pleasure and makes me happy. If I can help everyone look great and feel their best, it makes me smile.”

Exclusive Deal for Fashion Junkie Fans! For your FREE Beyond the Rack membership, plug in the following promo code on the landing page: IHEARTBTR. Happy shopping!

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Filed: Interviews Celebratory Summer Maternity Sale!

imageCalling all Mom’s-to-be!, the luxe London-based line of maternity wear that I featured in this Fashion Junkie Fix (newsletter), is throwing their annual can’t-miss summer maternity sale starting today (Wednesday, June 3rd). With savings of 25% off their regular retail prices, the added weight gain almost seems worthwhile.

Having just perused the Isabella Oliver site, I thought I’d recommend a few spring/summer sartorial highlights you simply can’t afford to miss:

  • this body-hugging Ruched Tank Dress (pictured above – available in cobalt and black, originally $175)
  • this ultra chic Monaco Dress (available in crisp white or black, originally $185)
  • this flirty ‘n feminine Midi Kimono Wrap Dress (available in coffee and insignia, originally $240)
  • this slinky strapless Kelly Dress, perfect for a shotgun wedding! (available in tan and insignia, originally $280)

In addition to the insanely stylish roster of merchandise sold on the site, is also chock full of helpful tips and tricks for building your maternity wardrobe (the maternity No No’s are a must), a slick virtual maternity magazine and informative Style Notes. Also not-to-be-missed are the runway and how-to-wear-it videos, witty and informative blog (written by the company’s co-founders, Baukjen and Vanessa), cool interactive features like this downloadable style widget and my personal favorite: the Socialite tools (a.k.a. Twitter and Facebook fan pages). But I digress…

imageTo take advantage of IsabellaOliver’s blow-out maternity sale, simply use the promotional code ‘summer’ at checkout to receive your discount. Buyer beware: the code only applies to full-priced items (excluding the sale, cowshed skincare and lingerie). Better hurry… you only have until midnight on Monday, June 8th to score all of the fabulous savings. Happy shopping!

P.S. Make sure to sign-up for Isabella Oliver’s email newsletter for even more style secrets, exclusive sales, new collection previews and lots more!

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Filed: Featured Posts, Shop Talk

Sample Sale Alert! Fifth On Main Takes Manhattan!

imageIf you’re fortunate enough to have a job and some disposable income (yeah, right!), you won’t want to miss this weekend’s highly-anticipated Fifth On Main shopping extravaganza in Manhattan.

A soon-to-be launched e-boutique for coveted designer clothing and accessory brands, Fifth On Main will be setting up a pop-up shop in SoHo (on Friday) as a precursor to the site’s highly-anticipated launch later this spring – a genius way for all you fashion junkies to score that red-haute spring wardrobe you’ve been dreaming about before the site’s unveiled to the public.

imageAs of Friday, April 17th through Sunday, April 19th, Fifth on Main will be offering Fall/Winter, Resort and select Spring apparel and accessories at 40% – 60% off the retail prices. I repeat – 40-60% off the retail prices!

Prepare to duke-it-out with other die-hards over the mind-blowing selection of merch from Abaete (I’m loving this one-shoulder dress), Alvin Valley, Brian Reyes, Badgley Mischka, TIBI, Twelfth Street, Carmen Marc Valvo, Catherine Malandrino, Nicole Miller, Rebecca Taylor, Mint by Jodi Arnold, Theory, Chaiken and more! In case you were wondering, all the goods will be priced from $150 – $300 (reduced from $300 – $900+) – a total steal.

Some final words of wisdom: make sure to head over at least one hour before the doors are scheduled to open if you want first dibs on all the best merch. See you there!

  • The Retail Details!

  • Who:  Fifth On Main, a new e-commerce boutique targeting the contemporary womenswear market, launching late Spring 2009.
  • What: Pop-up store holding a Fall/Winter & Resort Sample Sale + Spring Preview Sale, open to the public.
  • Featured Designers: Abaete, Alvin Valley, Brian Reyes, Badgley Mischka, TIBI, Twelfth Street, Carmen Marc Valvo, Catherine Malandrino, Nicole Miller, Rebecca Taylor, Mint by Jodi Arnold, Theory, Chaiken and more!
  • The Goods: 40% – 60% off retail prices!
  • Even more goods: RSVP to and receive an additional 10% off your total purchase!
  • Where: 109 Spring Street, between Greene & Mercer, Soho, New York
  • When: Friday, April 17th 10am – 8pm; Saturday, April 18th 10am – 7pm and Sunday, April 19th 10am – 7pm
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Filed: Shop Talk

Compulsive Shopping Decoded: Warning Signs & Treatment

imageDo to an overwhelming response following last week’s Confessions Of A “Recovering” Shopaholic post (I guess that’s good and bad), I thought I’d do us all a favor by delving a little deeper into the subject by interviewing one of the industry’s leading compulsive buying experts, Terry Shulman.

As Founder of The Shulman Center For Compulsive Theft & Spending, Terry shares his personal experiences and provides thoughtful insight to questions that could help you (or those near and dear to you) to get back on the road to recovery.

FJ: Can you tell Fashion Junkie readers a little bit about your background and why you decided to establish The Shulman Center?

TS: I’ve been an attorney since 1992 and a certified social worker and addictions therapist since 1997. I have been in recovery from shoplifting addiction since 1990 and started C.A.S.A.—Cleptomaniacs And Shoplifters Anonymous in 1992. I have always been interested in addictions since my father struggled with alcoholism, gambling, and overshopping. In working with members of my support groups as well as with private counseling clients, there was a lot of money issues, spending issues, stealing issues that were not being addressed in a specialized and serious-minded way.

FJ: What kind of services do you offer at The Shulman Center?

TS: I offer professional, specialized counseling in person here in the metro-Detroit area as well as by phone. 90% of my counseling clients are phone clients. I am also set-up to do phone or video-conferencing through SKYPE. I am the author of 3 books—on shoplifting, employee theft, and compulsive shopping & spending—and offer my books as helpful tools for education and change. I direct persons to resources (books, support groups, counseling, financial services, etc.). I write articles and do interviews both in print, on radio, and on TV to educate the public. I put on seminars and speak at seminars or trainings on theft and/or spending/money issues. Finally, I do private consulting with individuals and companies about theft/spending/money issues.

FJ: How do you know if you’re a compulsive buyer? What are the typical traits/warning signs?

TS: The traits are similar to most addictions/compulsions but include:

  • stress or emotional turbulence related directly or indirectly to shopping or spending;
  • trouble managing debt, paying bills, etc.
  • an increasing preoccupation with shopping/spending which results in changes in sleep, eating, productivity, schedule management
  • arguments over money/spending with friends or family or significant others
  • a loss of control over one’s limits, repeatedly breaking of promises to stop or reduce shopping/spending
  • lying about what you’ve spent or where you’ve been, hiding purchases, opening up secret accounts, stealing to get money to buy things and/or pay off debt
  • increase depression, anxiety, guilt, remorse, low self-image and esteem
  • a pervasive feeling of pressure that something bad is going to happen

FJ: What types of people are most at risk?

TS: All people are at risk of becoming compulsive shoppers/spenders but some more than others, including:

  • young people (who tend to be more image-conscious and peer group conscious and more impulsive and naïve about financial management
  • persons with previous or current addictive-compulsive behaviors (there’s a tendency to switch, replace, or transfer behaviors)
  • persons who are image-conscious, perfectionistic, control-oriented or persons who tend to give gifts to others excessively to win love, buy approval, attempt to avoid abandonment (co-dependents)
  • parents with children (may overindulge their kids out of guilt for not giving them enough time/energy/love)
  • persons with poor impulse control or with ADHD or OCD
  • persons who frequent stores a lot, watch TV a lot, or are online a lot (open to more frequent advertising and messages and triggers/temptations and access to goods)
  • persons who grew up either materially or emotionally deprived or persons who grew up materially spoiled or overindulged

FJ: I’ve read that people who suffer from compulsive buying disorder exhibit similar traits to that of a gambler or drug addict. Is this true and why?

TS: Yes, all addictions are similar in that “one is too many and a thousand is never enough.” Once you’re hooked, you chase that feeling of exhilaration and there’s no prolonged satisfaction. The gambler—whether she wins or loses keeps chasing the high; it’s not really about the money. Same thing for the shopper or spender—it’s no longer about the thing bought or the thing spent on; it’s the feeling of satisfaction, calmness, euphoria, completeness the shopper/spender feels for the moment.

FJ: Does the saying, “once an addict, always an addict” also apply to a compulsive buyer? Assuming this is true, what are the chances of having a relapse?

TS: I’m not dogmatic about this but tend to agree with this conventional wisdom. The interesting thing about some addictions and recovery such as with shopping/spending, sexual addiction, co-dependency, workaholism, and overeating is that we are not shooting for sustained and complete abstinence (one day at a time) as like with alcohol, drugs, shoplifting, gambling but, rather, balance and manageability. Recovering overeaters need to eat and find a new relationship to food and their bodies; sex addicts need to find a new healthy relationship to sex and sexuality; co-dependents need to learn how and when and how much to help or give to others not stop completely; workaholics need to learn balance with work, etc. So, compulsive shoppers/spenders need to learn what they are really shopping for, identify and begin to heal their core issues/wounds, and develop a rigorous recovery program of support, accountability, honesty, and filling up of their time in a healthy, productive and self-affirming way.

FJ: What are some of the treatment options for a compulsive buyer… do they really work?

TS: As with any addiction-recovery treatment strategy, success is measured one day at a time for the rest of one’s life. Some factors that add to a successful outcome are: competency of the therapist/treatment program, commitment of the client/patient, strength of the support system, medication management (if needed), degree of honesty, avoidance of triggers (negative people/places), change of lifestyle, consistent support group attendance, ongoing interest in reading books and literature about this particular subject as well as personal/spiritual growth in general, and an acceptance of recovery as ongoing rather than looking for a “cure” or endpoint.

FJ: I’m embarrassed to ask, but I have to… what are your thoughts about the movie, Confessions of A Shopaholic? Do you think Isla Fisher’s character (Becky Bloomwood) was portrayed in a realistic manner?

TS: I’ve seen the movie twice since it came out and have recently read the book as well. Of course, the book and movie are not intended as serious docu-dramas so, no, they don’t portray things realistically for the most part either in actuality or tone; things are dramatized for laughs and comedic effect. However, there were aspects both in the book and in the movie that gave a glimpse of what many “shopaholics” experience: anxiety, distraction and shame over debt; dishonesty in relationships which cause problems; humiliation; denial; attempts to minimize or excuse debt; excessive hoarding; lying and hiding and sneaking to avoid paying debts or to avoid discovery by others of the problem; a lack of ability to focus on one’s higher talents and callings; the larger familial and cultural pressures to shop, spend, and uphold an image; and many unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop shopping/spending. So, in sum, the character in the book/movie played by Isla Fisher was mostly for comic effect but did have some moments of pathos and distress that shone through.

By the way, The Shulman Center is given a small credit at the film’s end for permission to use “Shopaholics Anonymous” for the name of support group.

FJ: With retailers’ aggressive markdowns due to the depressed economy, it almost seems justified to be a “serial shopper.” What are your thoughts on this? What can someone who suffers from compulsive buying disorder do to stay away from the so-called “danger zones” (e.g. sample sales, deep in-store discounts, etc.)

TS: One of my favorite sayings is: “you have to spend money to save money.” People with a shopping/spending problem still need to avoid the deals because they are still shopping/spending with money they usually don’t have, driving themselves deeper into debt especially when using credit cards and accounting for interest, late fees, etc.—a deal isn’t always a deal in the end. Also, what about the time, energy, and focus lost on shopping/spending on deals. You feel a momentary victory, then what? Disgusted. Running out of space and hoarding is another problem. Arguments with others about the spending and clutter kill relationships. And, in the end, nothing we can have or own (money or things) can really fill the void and make us happy. Find other creative, fulfilling and inexpensive ways to spend our time and connect and be productive.

FJ: What do you think of the growing phenomenon of luxury “flash sale” sample sites or online shopping clubs such as and These sites have garnered a cult following for selling deeply discounted designer apparel and accessories for a limited period of time to their members.

TS: I can understand the appeal: we all like to belong to a club and feel we’re a part of something exclusive, somewhat below the radar, and who doesn’t like a great deal?! Still, what are the costs ultimately and do they outweigh the perceived benefits. Many shopaholics, once they get well, report they can’t believe how crazy, misguided in values, and out-of-control they were. The newfound peace, meaning, and self-esteem they discover are priceless.

FJ: Can you recommend any other associations, books or websites that compulsive buyers can turn to if they need help?

TS: Besides my book “Bought Out and $pent: Recovery from Compulsive $hopping and $pending” and my website, I’d recommend Debtors Anonymous meetings and “Shopaholics Anonymous” meetings online at I’d also recommend the counseling work of Dr. April Benson out of New York and her new book “To Buy or Not to Buy.”

FJ: Are compulsive buying tendencies highly correlated with any particular socio-economic demographic?

TS: As stated before, anyone can become a shopaholic or compulsive shopper/spender. I’ve worked with rich and poor alike (those who shop for Chanel to Shabby-Chic). One of the ironies is that, with the fledgling economy and almost everyone tightening their financial belts, there’s been a corresponding increase in compulsive shopping/spending both among the newly afflicted as well as those previously struggling; not only are the bargains hard to resist for many but just the stress and complex emotions related to the economic woes and other related losses and uncertainties make many even more vulnerable to trying to escape reality and soothe themselves through shopping/spending which makes things even worse and, of course, a vicious cycle continues until a bottoming out financially or emotionally or both.

Do you suffer from compulsive shopping? Share your stories with the Fashion Junkie community.

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Filed: Interviews