M&S Autumn/Winter press show. Have they got it right?
My association with M&S goes back over 15 years. I spent 5 years as Editor of the M&S magazine, then 10 years as Editor of Woman's Weekly, where they were one of our readers' regular top choice retailers. So it's fair to say I've seen them through a lot of peaks and troughs at pretty close quarters.
It's also fair to say, they would seem to be in a pretty low trough right now. With 100 stores closing and profits from their fashion division tumbling, this is not a jolly time for the company that has been a trusted stalwart of our high streets since 1884.
So it was with heightened curiosity, and not a little trepidation, that I went along to their Autumn/Winter 2018 press show. What can M&S do to convince us that they haven't entirely lost their fashion way? That they're still a brand that offers not just quality, but the kind of reassuringly current, but not necessarily edgy, take on the latest looks that we want so much to believe they're still capable of.
In the course of the aforementioned 15 years I've witnessed a huge variety of press shows. Everything from enormous, staged spectaculars in huge venues, to tightly focused presentations in the showrooms above the flagship store in Oxford Street.
This show was neither, though the elegant venue was decked out in the most magnificent flowers. Rather it was a quietly confident, thoughtfully styled, unusually presented (menswear was shown alongside womenswear and lingerie, rather than all separately as has historically been the way) demonstration of M&S's traditional strengths - the ability to produce on-trend pieces that can be mixed and matched in both classic and unexpected ways.
Like putting together stripes, plaid and a bold flash of colour
Or combining metallic and faux-fur with leopard print
Or adding a leather biker jacket to a frou-frou dress
Taken individually, the separate pieces follow the trends of the season without scaring the fashion horses, but styled together in sometimes unexpected, even quirky, ways, they bang the fashion nail far more firmly on the head.
And the accessories were as strong as always
But - and it's a really big but - for all their attempts to reassure us of their fashion credentials, M&S have one major problem they need to sort out. Their stores. However much I want to encourage you to support them, which I really do, I know with sinking certainty that if you've spotted a piece, or pieces in these pictures that you like, the chances of you finding it/them in store amongst the sea of clothes racks, and the confusing profusion of in-house brands, are somewhere between slim and nil.
So come on M&S. You matter to our retail economy. You matter to our high streets. And, as someone who, when I told anyone that I was Editor of the M&S magazine, they ALL had an opinion or a view about what the company was doing and what they should be doing differently/better in order to 'get it right', I can confidently say, you matter to us too.
What do you think of this collection (you can see more of the pieces on the Heydays Instagram and Facebook pages)? Do you shop at M&S? If so, what do you buy there? What's your local store like? And what do you think they should do to 'get it right'? So many questions!
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