Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Last dress a day under £100

Did anyone see Sir Phillip Green on the news talking about closing 250 stores? As owner of the Arcadia group it is hardly surprising that BHS, Dorothy Perkins, Topshop and Wallis on the women's side won't be affected by the current economic downturn. Topshop is probably the strongest performer followed by Dorothy Perkins with BHS and Wallis undoubately languishing.

There is no doubt that retailers will look to cut costs with stores shutting, product line shrinking and staff being made redundant. Those stores with a global presence like Zara and H&M will ride it out better than most with their strong performances in emerging markets. Also Zara and H&M are in the right price bracket to weather the storm.

The fashion pack favourite Topshop is surprisingly only a small player whose has only made a small dent into other markets. It can survive off its Oxford Circus store alone I suspect but it will be interesting to see how the store fairs.

But these are future considerations so lets make the most of its current offerings to select a great party dress. I have to admit I struggled as a lot of the items were poor quality, too short and often garish. I went for a black dress. I know, cop out but really the best I could find on the basis all of the selections have been on piece and an attempt at reusing after the parties have long gone.

This Boutique dress should tick the boxes of elegant, the right length and easily work in the future on many an occasion. Why methinks it will last well into your advanced style twilight!

Oh go on if it is party party garish you want I will make one other suggestion! If you are of a weak disposition when it comes to screaming fashion then look away. Just think of it as doing my bit for saving a nation's retailer.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A dress a day under £100

Often the simplest least expensive dress is the one you value the most. I bought a black long dress in my early 20s from Miss Selfridge and it lasted 15 years with a once or three times a year wear during the festive season or an unexpected formal do. It was plain as plain. Very simple just like today's pick from H&M. When it gave up the ghost or rather I knew its shelf live had passed I probably sobbed!

I don't think you can go wrong with sticking with simple, almost obvious (a black shift dress that is) when it cost £24.99. H&M are having a moment, clear collections, my favourite being the conscious collection, well organised shops, some attempt at better customer service but really not so important as good stock levels, which always makes life easier.

You won't win prizes for originality but you will feel smug and if you use the going out shoes and accessories you already have then you deserve a making do badge!

Monday, 28 November 2011

When men fall...

Yesterday I felt numb all day. Specifically around 11ish when a BBC Wales friend texted me to say Gary Speed was dead and it was just going to be announced by the Football Association Wales.  I know I'm a fashion person but I have a great interest in football. My PHd if I ever get round to it will be on football and fashion.

Really was my response because I couldn't take it in, Gary Speed dead at 42. How could I? Only 3 weeks earlier I had bumped into Gary Speed and his wife in Knightsbridge partaking in a spot of shopping before they went as invited guests to the Strictly Come Dancing studio to see Robbie Savage perform. The point of this minute encounter is the politeness and charm that Gary exuded. After all I had only met him a couple of times through work in my radio days and as a 'fan' of his. Let's not pretend there has been an abundance of good looking Welsh boys playing football because there hasn't. Most of my girlfriends including me had a crush on Gary at some point. On his last ever match for Wales which if my memory serves me right was against some one like Romania, he was the one everyone clapped off and it was very difficult for me to interview him with his top off! 

Speed's untimely death represents the third public announcement of death that has jolted a nation (and I don't just mean Wales, the whole of the UK and the male population as well). The suicides of Isabella Blow and Lee McQueen touched a fashion loving nation but because of their work, their lifestyles it was almost as if their suicides were brushed into a ridiculous sphere called the 'curse of the creative'. For too long suicide has been aligned with bad behaviour, tortured creative genius, escape from justice - all manner of excuses rather than the cold hard fact that mental illness like the common cold is a disease, a disease that can affect anyone.
Because Gary was a charming man, a straightforward person on the surface, a man who had it all in buckets, no one can comprehend the how or why. On paper the evidence say success in a nice way. Good club football player, looked after himself, played well with no malice, well liked by all and a lovely family man.
The opening paragraph in Henry Winter's article on the death of Gary Speed in The Telegraph is a testament to his stature in the man's world of football. It is this man's world that has been shattered by an easy going member of their club.

Now perhaps we can talk and discuss suicide and its effects without the labelling, without the cries of 'selfish', without any further pigeon holeing. Let's face it Lee McQueen didn't kill himself because he was a creative genius, he was a man in pain, grieving for his mother and struggling with his grief, but he was a man who did suffer with depression. Isabella Blow had long been troubled by her family circumstance, her fall from grace when she became person non grata in the fashion world. Her coping mechanisms weren't there. She suffered from depression.

Depression is not necessarily a vice like grip on the person, some suffer from it all their lives, others have experienced a bout of depression but recovered very well. Some of us never experience it but may have had anxiety or panic attacks. But it is about time it stops being talked about in hushed terms, treated as a 'mental' condition when the body and mind as a whole are physical organs. Health is health. I don't know any family or circle of friends who don't know someone who hasn't suffered from depression or being 'down'.

Suicide is a by product of being unwell not of madness. American blogger Sister Wolf has suffered with the fact her son Max committed suicide and a recent post outlines new developments on understanding suicide

The fashion for labelling people and typecasting suicide needs to stop. We all need to reach out and take time with people. If the recent economic crisis has taught us anything it must be that we should value people more and wealth less. We are rich indeed if we remain on this earth and connected with others. We are best dressed with kindness and caring. If it takes the death of a quiet man to unite us in understanding this then at least something good has come of anguish and pain.