[Free Martini drinks for the shoppers in Magasin Du Nord Store, Copenhagen, Denmark]
"Batzul, where should I shop in UB?" "Where can I find a decent pair of shoes, and will they have it for my size?" "Is it that expensive to shop here?" "Are all these LV and luxury bags, which people are wearing in UB real or fake?" Well, these are one of the common questions I get asked from my expat and repat friends. I will not lie and say I have never asked myself the same questions: seriously, where should we shop in UB - Central Tower? UB store? MetroMall? MaxMall? Grand Plaza?
What People Wear
Mongolia is a tiny country where everybody knows one another, more or less. People, in my opinion, pay enough (sometimes too much) attention to what they wear and what they own. Some people are undeniably gorgeous and really know how to balance fashion and their own style; but some, just do a terrible job at it (i.e.: putting a too white or too brown make-up; wearing a stripper heels, mini skirts and open tops at wrong places; overdressing; underdressing; mixing wrong colors, etc.).
Wrong dressing gives a wrong impression to people; and sadly, Mongolian girls dress too slutty for my taste. Has the time of mysterious, hidden and lady-like dressing out-of-fashion in UB? Surprisingly, I get comments like: Batzul, why don't you wear mini skirts and tight dresses - show your body! [Utterly mortified] I simply says "No, thank you. That's not me".
If I recall correctly, tight slutty dresses were out of fashion long time ago (at least in Europe), and (FYI) what is in fashion right now is: comfy clothes, loose dresses and bright colors.
Where People Shop
It is a common knowledge that most fashionable ladies and guys shop abroad. Even the people who live permanently in Mongolia head to Hong Kong, Europe and USA (no longer China - it has become too expensive) once or twice a year for their annual clothing.
In Ulaanbaatar, however, I, myself, if I really need to buy something (which I rarely do), head to UB store for clothing and shoes. Actually, just Tommy Hilfiger for clothes and 4th floor for shoes. I hate shopping too long, you see, so I'd like to quickly snatch whatever I like, buy it and get the hell out of the place. I am such a dude, I know, even if I look "feminine". It's not about getting a brand clothes. For me, it's about getting few, but a quality clothes - which I believe, Tommy offers fairly, and I am so happy the store is in Mongolia!
But I'd like to say I'm still disappointed at the shopping possibilities and choices offered to Ulaanbaatarers. I hear that Prada is coming next to Mongolia; but seriously, we can't always shop at Central Tower (i.e.: LV, Burberry, Vertu, Ermenegildo Zegna, Emporio Armani, Hugo Boss, Bang & Olufsen) and get luxurious clothes and accessories all the time. Even the international investors complain about the ridiculous shopping choices here.
What We Should Do
I am watching Mongolian Economic Forum 2013, right now on TV (I am home and sick), and I absolutely support the focus on Mongolian Brands. I have been telling over and over again that the only way to boom properly is to start producing and start selling goods ourselves. Unless we reduce the imports and increase the exports, Mongolia will never boom properly. With that being said, as an individual, I always buy cashmere or woolen socks or shoes for my expat and repat friends to support my Mongolian Industry. I have, however, also stupidly bought a Monel vacuum cleaner once and it sucked (haha), but still, I have a faith in Mongolian economic sectors and I believe that we can escape the resource curse if we really try.
My Vision of Future Shopping Street
Every country has a shopping street. In Ulaanbaatar, do we have any? 3th 4rd horoolol? haha.
I always imagined that "Urt Tsagaan" street will be our high fashion street. It's perfectly located - central, with parks to sit and relax after shopping, where restaurants and cafes can also open their business on the street. The best part of shopping is definitely sitting down with a cup of a coffee/smoothies with a friend after long hours of shopping/walking - no? Right now, Urt Tsagaan has become a parking spot, and a place where small square meters are rented out to small business owners.
Why Should We Focus On This?
Since Mongolians are getting richer (ok fine, some people are getting way richer and the rest - not that fast enough) due to the mining boom, people would like to spend their money locally and without the difficulties of going abroad to shop. Shouldn't we focus on keeping the money in Mongolia, not abroad?
I'll leave it to you to ponder.
(ps: it's my hand on the photo. I have been given a free martini, while I was shopping at one store in my beloved Copenhagen city. I wish UB will become as sophisticated and variant as Copenhagen one day!!)