I watched a TV programme on Thursday night about shopping in the “noughties”. It was discussing the idea that during the 00’s there’d been a shopping revolution of sorts in the UK, when suddenly everyone who’d previously only bought “designer”, started shopping on the High Street too. Kate Moss was happy to design a collection for Topshop, Giles for New Look, Jil Sander for Uniqlo… even Coleen designed a collection for George at Asda, which would have been un-thinkable 10 years previously. The decade was about wearing your expensive designer handbag with… basically anything – your look no longer needed to be head-to-toe designer to be “en Vogue”… And to me London has been at the epicenter of this revolution.
It started me thinking about whether it had been the same in other fashion capitals of the world, which are ever so good at doing “designer” but to me, not as successful at the lower end of the market. I love the Via del Corso in Milan, Avenue Montaigne in Paris… Barneys and Bergdorf’s in New York – the same as I love Bond Street and Sloane Street in London, but where’s their Oxford and Regent Street equivalent?
The fact that Topshop has opened in New York, speaks volumes to me, as there was definitely a gap in the market for such a store… And this is the same gap that I notice when shopping in many cities of the world. How many pictures are there of Olivia Palermo and Whitney Port (yes I am obsessed with The Hills and The City – and yes, I know I’m too old!) wearing Topshop, as though it’s the coolest thing in the world – they don’t seem to be able to get enough of it. But think about it – where would we be without being able to pop into Warehouse in our lunch-hours to grab a glittery number for that evening, for example? We are so lucky to have the likes of Oasis, River Island, Topshop and Urban Outfitters (I could keep going)… And I don’t think we realise it.
Ignoring our current exchange rate situation as a reason not to spend (and if in the US, forget buying brands such as Abercrombie and Polo which are obviously very well priced compared to at home) – if you want a decent going-out dress for say £100, how easy is it to find one? As I’ve found that on the whole everything’s either expensive or horrendously cheap – there’s very little on offer in between and their “High Streets” are practically none existent. In the UK, whether I’m shopping in Liverpool or London, if I want to spend £50 or £500 on a handbag I have choices. And in a way I feel like I’ve been spoilt by how much we have on offer as when I’ve been away recently, I’ve been tempted to buy very little.
This however hasn’t always been the case – as I used to LOVE shopping when I went away… I’ve been going to Munich every summer since I was born, due to my father’s business. When I was younger I would break my neck to buy “early” birthday presents there (it was usually July and my birthday isn’t until mid October), as everything seemed so different compared to at home. There’s a shop called Loden Frey (www.loden-frey.de) that I remember going into (a kind of Liberty/Fortnum & Mason/grand “old school” department store type place) and being beyond excited at the prospect of getting, among other things, a pair of navy blue woollen culottes and a white sailor style blouse with a big navy blue bow (this outfit seemed so chic and stylish in Munich, yet when I got back home I felt like a maniac!). My friend Kate who was with us called her parents to “send more money” as the store was not at all cheap and she wanted early birthday presents too – her birthday wasn’t until the end of March the following year! My mum would always go mad for their jackets and come home with new purchases (several of which she still has to this day – as they were so expensive she won’t part with them… I have tried to remove them from her wardrobe many times, but they always seem to make it back in somehow!!).
Something else I bought in Munich… (People reading this from my year at school will remember this one) was… are you ready?? Ok – deep breath… A white shell suit covered in a luminous scrawl and a matching top and skirt – because it was the exact outfit Monica Seles won Wimbledon in, back in 1993 (I was a bit tennis mad at the time)… I spotted it in a department store and I had to have the whole ensemble “as an early birthday present” of course (gosh I sound like a spoilt brat!). Well, when I got on court (back at school) for the annual summer tennis tournament, did I think I was the “coolest dude” on court or what (most other people just wore their school gym kit…)?? The whole outfit was complete over-kill but it had the desired effect as I won the tournament (I was ok at tennis but I think because I was channelling Monica I couldn’t NOT win – even though looking back it was more likely that I blinded my opponents so they couldn’t see the ball, with my “dazzling” white outfit!!).
Maybe for me, shopping when abroad seemed so much more exciting back then because of my age (for the above “ensemble” I think I was 12 at the time). Or was it because there was less choice at home than there is now (as it was “pre the High Street” as we know it!)? It was probably a bit of both – but when I was recently in New York for example, I barely bought anything… apart from the day that I went to the Patricia Field shop (owned by the stylist from SATC) and spent a small fortune (it’s like being in a giant dressing-up box – I loved it! Have a look at their website www.patriciafield.com – but be warned, I bought my sister a white gold “Carrie necklace” on-line and the shipping costs from the States were extortionate – and it barely weighed more than a fruit fly!!)… Aside from that, really I only bought make-up, which for US brands was bargainously cheap (my mother and sister did get some Abercrombie stuff but only really because we had to go in to check out the models on the door)!
So for me New York, Paris etc… they’re fabulous cities to shop in if you’ve got some cash to spend… but I believe there’s no-where like London for bridging the gap between the likes of Primark and Prada (and if you’re looking for something more one-off there’s plenty to choose from too). So as we begin this new decade of the “teenies” – I wonder what the next 10 years will bring for us shopping and fashion-wise… probably a move to more ethical shopping, even more on-line shopping? Who knows – all I know is that I still hope there’s a bit of “sweetie darling” fabulousness in there somewhere…!!