Fashion News, Opinion peice
By Ashley on March 26th, 2013
After hearing the word on the street – I had the calling this week end to go and check out Regents Streets new premium concept store: & Other Stories, brought to us by H&M and COS retail owners. Unusually, this new store opening had immediate appeal for me – mainly due to it’s reported influences taken from fashion bloggers/stylists as opposed to fast moving catwalk trends (which despite watching Devil Wears Prada, I still feel such a disconnection to – yet love clothes and style with a passion). I guess it’s exactly this anti-fashion philosophy that’s speaking to me, as it’s fundamentally all about individuality and building your own style, style that outlives this season’s flighty offering.
I love that the brands concept comes from the idea of women creating their own look – inspired by many factors including social media and own personal tastes, encouraging personal expression and being dictated to less.
Creative director Sara Hilden-Bengtsson says “Women create looks differently than they did 10-15 years ago. They create their own stories through their personal style and they know fashion.”
Creating the new brand, H&M hired a group of designers to create “stories” as collections, which are edited highlights that sit alongside each other, designed for shoppers to pick and choose from. The collections are diverse in style including a very feminine kooky look to a more structured architectural statement, so styles to suit all individuals.
It didn’t take long to get hooked on-line – with some lovely prints and combinations, enough to whet anyone’s appetite. Disappointing though, to find that ALL the pieces that caught my eye were out of stock (or possibly a reflection that we are all so influenced by current fashion trends, we’re all blindly opting for the same look?). So off I trekked in pursuit of that pink midi dress with slouchy shoulders that hits below the knee for £65…
In the flesh, the store is white, bright and buzzing. On first glance, it did remind me (distantly) of COS – but only in-so-much as this is for grown up’s as opposed to other chains where you immediately know if you’ve entered ‘by mistake’ due to being the wrong side of 25. The striking colours and prints on offer certainly lets you know you are NOT in COS. Greeted with the dazzling rainbow print collection at the entrance makes for quite an impact. Then immediately noticing it’s cool magazine style layout, displaying a collection including accessories and shoes alongside separates – as why wouldn’t you consider what colour nail varnish to put with your fucsia peplum top?
Large price tags are attached to rails, clearly marking out the bottom line – how refreshing! These are premium end clothes (- so clearly not H&M price-tags) but we all need to know if they are affordable, right?
I loved its inclusivity and delivery of this different shopper experience: So much more than the usual retail experience of: here lies the ‘must have’ dresses on offer this season.. With jewellery, ipad holders and separates positioned within reaching distance of each other, I felt my inner magpie tantalised by these edited collections gleaming out of the corner of my eye.
It’s not all statement pieces and unique prints, there’s plenty of wardrobe staples which are fine examples of great tailoring and flattering silhouettes. However this was not what I came for – I was clearly in the mood for getting something far more memorable. So this is where I was left unstuck – the whole notion and website lured me into thinking there would be more diverse and interesting numbers that I would not want to walk away from. Sure I looked twice at a few things and will definately be going back for those metallic plum block heel leather pumps when it stops snowing for 5 minutes, however I left feeling slightly wanting. Where were all those unique or timeless pieces that I was seduced into seeking?
Don’t get me wrong, concept stores that treat women as individuals with their own minds and ideas about fashion is only a good thing. I just wished I’d discovered something in-store or identified with a particular collection in the way I instantly did with the collection on-line, which sells the ‘stories’ more simply and effectively.
Poignantly, & Other Stories ready-to-wear designer – Colombe Campana recognises “(women) know what they want before they leave the house to shop” so no doubt I will be making a return visit until I satisfy my quest to get that pink midi dress my wardrobe is so lacking.