When news broke Wednesday that rapidly expanding Dublin-based fast-fashion giant Primark is opening in the former Filene’s building, there was a collective sigh of relief. The retailer will be home to 70,000 square feet of cheap T’s, skirts, and sweatshirts — and a key to Downtown Crossing’s retail rebirth.
But are we settling for something less than we deserve? It will be thrilling to see the historic space occupied, but it will be filled by a company known for $13 sneakers and $3 sunglasses. These are garments with prices so low that they make other fast-fashion chains seem pricey by comparison. I’m not complaining about the arrival of Primark. It will be a fun shopping alternative. But I am kvetching that it will anchor a burgeoning district that has the potential to be sensational. Will a store selling a $10 floral dress with the words “Take It Easy” printed on the front be setting the right tone?
When I speak of Primark with friends, the most frequent question I’m asked is “What do you think should go in Downtown Crossing? Target?” I love Target, but why not dream bigger, even if it is just a dream. I picture a shopping district with Nordstrom, Britain’s Selfridges, Spain’s El Corte Ingles, or France’s Galeries Lafayette. My closet is full of $6 T-shirts. What I’m wishing for is a jumbo store brimming with clothes that will last.