The High Street Comeback Kids
You know those shops you never bother with when you hit the high street? You might be missing out. Here are four to revisit
Mooching around the high street is a rare treat these days – unlike when I was a teenager, when an afternoon scouring the rails of Chelsea Girl and Etam was Saturday’s failsafe leisure activity. Now on the odd occasion when I get the chance to browse, I tend to be a creature of habit – buying the same old (new) things in the same few shops and ignoring all the other stores that I think aren’t ‘me’. Sound familiar? However, it turns out now is the time to wander off piste and revisit some of those places we haven’t set foot in since 1994 – because some of the high street’s stalwarts are enjoying a surprisingly stylish renaissance. Seriously, check out this lot!
I last shopped here during my student clubbing days but the new look, grown-up Warehouse is well worth a gander. The brand relaunched last year with Alisdhair Willis (Hunter wellies honcho and Mr Stella McCartney) on board, alongside lauded print designer Emma Cook, and it’s getting better every season. If you love Whistles printed day dresses but baulk at the price tag, here’s your Mecca. Their 100 percent silk blouses and jumpsuits are fantastic too, and do take a peek at the accessories – Muddy’s Kerry Potter swears by her chic silver leather Warehouse loafers. Meanwhile, we’ve got out eye on these elegant gladiator sandals (below) for high summer, real leather and a total steal at £26.
It’s a common consensus that M&S fashion hasn’t been en pointe of late. In recent years I’ve only ever popped in for a posh ready meal or an emergency pair of knickers. But finally, belatedly and despite its financial woes, M&S seems to have relocated its style groove. We attended the AW17 press day last week and were well impressed (see below). Its bags and shoes are excellent – we loved the snazzy gold disco ankle boots. And while we’re on the subject of surprisingly sexy, we clocked numerous glam party dresses with a twist; navy sequins rather than black, for example.
Meanwhile, it was great to see them also doing the kind of stone-cold classics that you want from good old M&S – these simple wool coats in a range of colours a case in point. And if that’s not enough: M&S beauty halls are criminally underrated. They have a fantastic mix of cult brands, including Nuxe’s body oil and Pixi cosmetics, and own-brand gems. We highly recommend Rosie For Autograph by supermodel Ms Huntington-Whiteley; a rose gold-packaged make-up range (above) which is, shall we say, a ‘homage’ to Charlotte Tilbury’s pricier line!
I spent many a weekend in the ’70s and ’80s loitering sulkily in Habitat while my parents wowed at its interiors amazingness. These days it’s far less of a phenomenon, with Ikea becoming all-conquering and many stores closing in recent years after it went into administration and was bought by the parent company of Argos and Homebase. Despite all this, I recently decided to resurrect the family tradition and drag my own children around the Tottenham Court Road branch. And, do you know what? It’s full of well-designed, well-priced pieces – and unlike Ikea fare, you don’t see them in everyone else’s house too. I bought a rug for my living room and a desk (both below) and also have my beady eye on the bright, graphic cushions and the chic copper fairy lights. Fourteen-year-old me would be horrified but who cares, I’m in my forties and feeling totes smug.
Last time I went into Karen Millen was the last time I wore their body-con dresses to boogie on podiums – ie, back in what my children call ‘the olden days’. Huge in the Eighties and Nineties, the brand parted company with the actual Karen Millen in 2004. It then lost its way as fashion became more casual, with women more likely to jazz up their jeans for an evening out than get trussed up in a frock. Today the brand is in financial doo-doo but change is afoot with a new design director poached from LK Bennett, and a more modern, pared-down aesthetic. Their white shirt game is especially good and a sneak peak at the AW17 lookbook reveals they still know their way around a statement dress.