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Essential shopper: New Collection

Essential shopper: New Collection

It's the land of a thousand brands, but its exterior is unbranded, at least in English-language signage. New Collection originally opened in 1995 and since then has almost doubled in size, now extending to four floors covering 2,220 square meters. It’s part of the ever-expanding Ming Wuoy Group, which also owns Pedro’s down the road and a host of other stuff.

New Collection, hailed as Cambodia’s first department store, glistens amid the growing clutch of upmarket stores dotting the swank end of Sihanouk Boulevard.

A sign that says, “No Bodyguards, No Weapons,” is testament that riffraff, whether wealthy or not, is not welcome. And discreet Mercs parked out front give a hint of the clientele the store aspires to attract.

Little glass crypts inset in the front of the building pay homage to the store’s essential stock in trade: expensive stuff that used to be called ‘labels’ and is now called brands: Mont Blanc, Versace, and Armani Exchange.
Inside it’s a mad maze in a hushed, carpeted, airless atmosphere, polluted by the cloying scent of musky toiletries. It’s easy to become disoriented, if not downright lost.

To complicate matters, you can walk through a store display featuring mannequins to find another little corridor and ramp which connects to a sister store next door, The Luggage Gallery.

This is stocked with brightly coloured luggage made of lightweight space-age materials, with price tags for carry-on bags around the $400 to $500 mark. Brushed aluminum Zero Halliburton briefcases are here for a mere $1,044 and as the sales gal quickly stresses, the briefcase is “good quality.”

Indeed “good quality” is the mantra here. It reinforces the notion that shoppers don’t buy super expensive labels just to be wankers who drop bucks because they can; customers are discerning, recognising good quality for what its is.

And indeed in many cases this is true: a lot of the stuff is made to last. And as with most upscale department stores, good buys can be had during sales. At the moment, quite a lot of good threads at New Collections are knocked down by 50 per cent, making them a good addition to the wardrobe.

Surprisingly there’s also a lot of cheap stuff scattered through the store: men’s sports shoes at $11, women’s shoes at $4, ‘name’ jeans from $25 to $35.

These low-cost items nestle in nooks and crannies next to nooks and crannies displaying women’s clutch bags priced around the $900 mark.

Recommended mostly for those suffering severe retail therapy withdrawal.

Not recommended for those who question whether it’s ethical to drop the equivalent of a garment worker’s annual salary on a silly frivolous bag.