Wednesday, 22 September 2010

British Style

Having seen this amazing window display in Brighton recently, I was in the mood for a bit of red, white and blue. With London Fashion Week nearly over, the media is yet again saturated with images of our patriotic style icons and fashionistas, but it's nice to look at some of the traditional elements that have barely gone out of fashion, such as the bowler hat and the Union Jack. I was drawn to this shop window because it represents those elements in a simplistic way, but with a quirky touch remeniscent of Rene Magritte by giving the hats the illusion of floating on air. The Union Jack in interiors (which is what the shop sells) has gone from strength to strength in recent years and now adorns cushions on almost every sofa, as well as more high-end Vivienne Westwood rugs and wallpaper.

I used the red, white and blue colour clash in my outfit because I have always thought it worked well together, even without the direct use of a flag into the mix. I added chequered black and white leggings, which my dad instantly associated with a chef, but which I more readily link to the punk movement with its deeply British beginnings. So, all in all, it's a very British outfit (including a red waffle cardigan from one of my favourite charity shops) for a very British-centric week in fashion.

Friday, 10 September 2010


With winter fast approaching, I figured that a new hat was utterly justifiable this week. As you can see, I didnt't approach this half-heartedly, and plumped for one of River Island's new animal wooly hats (following on from the success of their panda hat last year, they decided to continue the theme for 2010). My rabbit hat consists of ears, nose and tail attached to some very soft black wool, and similar designs based on bears and dogs are also available. This one was my favourite because it looked cheeky and also gave a nod to the Spring/Summer mini trend of lace rabbit ears seen on Lady Gaga et al.

Hopefully it will come in handy when the weather gets a little colder and less wet!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Retail Therapy

Apologies for the long gaps between posts at the moment - I've recently started my new job and it's been good fun but very time-consuming. The great thing about doing a very physical job is that it does feel rewarding and obviously means you're keeping busy and getting a bit of exercise, but it does mean that my social life outside of work is based largely on napping or watching telly. Subsequently the blog has come second to my beauty sleep, or the exciting world of painkillers and muscle gel after a day's heavy lifting. Yep, it's really glamourous in retail!

The brand (which I'm not going to name) is not particularly fashion-conscious, but I still feel like I'm learning a lot about what people choose to wear day-to-day, and how adventurous they're prepared to be. For some older women, wearing their first pair of leggings since the 1980s is a very big step, but one that I have been actively encouraging. They look really great in a basic colour like navy or grey, and can just be chucked on underneath a big jumper or a tunic quite effortlessly. However, a lot of the more mature women often panic about the 'mutton-dressed-as-lamb' effect, with major trends seeming impossible and alien. Obviously fashion can be taken too far, but adding one pair of leggings in a plain colour is not going to turn you into a cougar, and I think it's a shame that so many women are reticent to live a little with their wardrobes. The kind of basic, smart/casual clothing we stock is designed to make dressing easier, as most items in stock coordinate with each other and can be layered according to the weather or events of the day. We aren't trying to catch anyone out here or put them in something that is too outlandish.

I've also learned how men and women approach shopping, and was surprised to realise that men can be easily coaxed into buying a whole outfit when they've only come in for a new jumper; any advice is more gratefully received by a man, as if you have given him some secret code to style, whereas women will snub suggestions more confidently and tell you that they have already got seven blue skirts and don't need more. Some men will quite happily be dressed from head to toe, and will visibly relax when you tell them you know exactly what to put with their new purchase. Before I worked in clothing retail, I would have assumed that men would be completely focused on the task in hand (like some kind of quasi-hunting instinct) and only ever pick up the item they came in for, with women being more pliable. I have discovered it is quite the opposite.

Lastly, a very mundane and bizarre aspect of my job is known as 'standardising'; I assume it's a common retail practice, but one I am unfamiliar with. It basically entails making the shop presentable, but the level of detail is something I wasn't prepared for - hangers must be perfectly straight and the metal heads at the same angle as the wooden frames. Each hanger must be equally spaced on the rail, and all fixtures must be straight. The floor must be hoovered at morning and night, even if there's no visible debris, and all glass shelving and mirrors must be polished whether you can reach them easily or not. This means that often fixtures will be cleaned that cannot be seen by the public, and spacing hangers will be a job that is spread out across the day. I do think it is brilliant to see the shop looking immaculate, but I also find it nonsensical to prioritise straightened hangers over replenishing stock or serving customers. When I go shopping, I don't expect every store to resemble Primark on a Saturday morning, but I'd rather see a well-stocked area than a tidy but sparse one. The gaps between hangers do not keep me awake at night or cause me to boycott a shop, and nor should they.
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