Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

In which I am suddenly of interest

There are only three women in senior management positions on the British High street - Belinda Earl at Jaeger, Kate Bostock at M&S and Jane Shepherdson who joined Whistles from Top Shop. Shepherdson has engineered a buy-out from the Icelandic firm Baugur which hit the iceberg of the Icelandic financial collapse.

The under 25s with jobs and no mortgages, still living at home, continue to shop like it's 2005, but the over 40s are thinking much more carefully about how we spend, and it is to us that fashion is now looking. Shepherdson says:

"It's an exciting time. For years, there hasn't been anything to separate what 18-year-olds and 40-year-olds are wearing. We've all been buying the same things. But now there's a polarisation. There are things now that girls are wearing - like wet-look leggings - I couldn't possibly think of putting on. That's great, I think. Because what it's forced us to say is, what is anyone else going to wear?"
. . .
So what does a grown woman want? "It's the same, in a way," Shepherdson insists. "We want fashion. That isn't going to go away. We want to wake up and feel there's something new we want to wear. We don't want dumbed-down stuff. Classic, basic and understated is not the way through - if you look at something like that, you think 'No, I've already got it'. What you really need is something like a new silhouette to act on."

The day after Shepherdson sealed the new deal, she did what many women do when feeling good - she went shopping, bagging two pairs of Fendi shoes in a lunchtime. In fashion, the emotional and personal is also professional opportunity. "I love this obsession with shoes," she laughs, looking down at the pointy ChloƩ ankle boots she's wearing under Whistles jeans. "We haven't had a chance to get into it at Whistles, but we are soon. The thing is, you can wear quite plain clothes, but all you've got to do to make it sexy and glam is put on a fierce, aggressive pair of shoes and it completely modernises it. And I think that applies at whatever age."

I think she is right about one thing. If we are going to spend we want it to be special. No duplicates, few safe classics. No half-hearted purchases. You have to feel the love.


Geraldine Ryan said...

I so agree. I hate spending money on "classic" clothes that no one notices I would make a useless Parisienne.

Anonymous said...

And for men? What is left for us in shopping terms with all this turmoil.. To old for Top man tat. Not skinny enough for All Saints. Too Young for M&S. Not bland enough for Reiss, not enough moeny for Dolce, Armani etc

What is the male version of Whistles?

Deja Pseu said...

Exactly! I've been applying the "love it" yardstick to my purchases lately, and have been making darn few of them. There's just not that much out there right now.

StyleSpy said...

Amen. Does it make your heart sing? If not, leave it on the rack.

mq, cb said...

I read this yesterday as well and taking it to heart since I am also suddently of interest, I went straight to Whistles' website to see what was on offer. And guess what this season's "most wanted" item apparently is?

Saggy-bottomed belted peg trousers with a dirty great bow on the front. They're £95 and new in. In case you're tempted (and deranged), here's the link:

Ms Shepherdson is going to have to do better than that if she wants my £95.

Linda Grant said...

Hmm. Nothing there to tempt me away from Jaeger.

greying pixie said...

I think the trick is to tread a careful path between the two extremes. Sometimes it is necessary to spend money on a few classic pieces, eg. a black polo neck sweater, thermal underwear, etc. How can a wardrobe work without them? I resent having to do it, but know that it is necessary, just as a dry cleaning budget is necessary.

But time has taught me not to impulse buy any more. Now if I see an interesting piece I try it on, then come back later to buy having slept on it. I believe in destiny in these cases - if it's still in the shop tomorrow waiting for me then it's for me!

And I like the saying that I think I read on your blog - don't buy it in the sale if you wouldn't buy it at full price.

Linda Grant said...

I slightly disagree. The sales are times to buy items which are out of your price range and have come down into it, even if it's close to the top of your budget.

mq, cb said...

The sales are when I buy better basics (i.e. the very best cashmere (probably bought in July) and good underwear that ordinarily would be too expensive), and designer shoes. They're ridiculously priced but come down to everyday prices in the sale. Sales are not a time to experiment with your taste though.

Back when I was young and full of energy, my friend and I would scope out what we liked beforehand, try it on and then haunt Harrods when they started pricing up for the sale a few days before it began. We would decide what we wanted on the basis of the pencilled-in sale prices on the back of the regular tags. Then, we would plan our route through the store to the desired item on the opening day via all the back stairways so that we wouldn't get stuck with the crowds in the main halls and lifts and we could beat out the Undeserving.

I had a lot more time back then. Now I get an email saying, "X is going on sale - 20% off!" and I end up buying designer heels at half-past two in the morning whilst waiting for client comments on my document. Of course this is why I can afford designer heels so I mustn't grumble.

debra said...

Ha, until I read this I was feeling slightly bad about buying the yellow print dress from Whistles ... it's slightly too expensive for me, a poor public sector employee, BUT it makes me snigger maniacally evry time I open my wardrobe door

Anonymous said...

'The under 25s with jobs and no mortgages, still living at home, continue to shop like it's 2005'.

I realise ASOS is doing well, but I am unsure if it is more about priorities than economics. Most young people move out of home around 18 and once passed higher education if they don't have a mortgage (unlikely) then they are renting, and if you're in London your rent is going to be a lot more than a mortgage (ie. your rent is often over half your salary + then the bills so you're permanently skint). So I think its just a question of priorities. Young people would rather go without food to buy the latest clothes, as you get older your priorities/responsibilities change and although you still have the same passion for new clothes you actually start to care/have responsibilities for other things and try and find more of a balance.