Fashion For All
I take a sip from my champagne flute - will it be the exquisitely embroidered 'Tulip Border' coat (299, a favorite for Ascot, apparently) or the butter-soft, stone-colored 'Jules' leather coat, also 299? Decisions, choices. My personal stylist Libby does not want to hurry me. Why don't we try out some workwear, she recommends, then we can return to the fantastic coat problem? I rely on the piles of disposed of clothing I've currently strewn throughout the plush, velour armchair - there was absolutely a pencil skirt I liked in there somewhere.
Libby, on the other hand, busies herself conjuring up shoes from tissue-lined boxes. Courts or high heels?
You would be forgiven for assuming I'm ensconced in some special Mayfair shop. Chanel possibly? Yves Saint Laurent? Not - I'm at Hobbs. As in the High Street store discovered in practically every British town. This personal shopping service is complimentary, by the method, and ought to I choose to leave of the store having acquired nothing however the Anemone-print scarf curtained around my neck, then no problem.
This year, you see, style retailers have actually set their sights on impressing a new breed of VIP consumer.
She's clever, stylish, immune to the vagaries of patterns and, most importantly, has non reusable earnings to spend on clothing. No, she's not a waifish supermodel nor a rarefied style editor. She's Britain's savvy, stylish, fifty-plus woman.
Personal stylist Libby (herself 54) agrees totally that grown-up consumers are where it's at in terms of investing power.
' Their children have left home and they might well be mortgage-free. These are the women with the time and the non-reusable income to actually engage with fashion.'
And time, it seems, actually is money. The stores' latest fixation is what they're calling 'dwell time'. Simply put, how long shoppers enjoy to invest in store.
And retail analysts have actually understood that we have more of it than our daughter's or granddaughter’s generations. That we'll stay the longest and spend the most money if the stores court us hard enough - and that implies providing more than just clothing.
Contribute to this the fact that there are just more people than of any other group of consumers (the youngest of the 'Baby Boomer' generation turned 50 last year) and you begin to see why we're a buying force to be reckoned with.
To put some hard stats to this spending spree, the nation's age profile is moving rapidly. By 2020, half people will be over 50. That's 13 million women. By anybody's calculation it's a whole lot of mature spending power.
Why, you may reasonably ask, didn't anybody observe the grown-ups prior to now? Good question.
The general agreement seems to be that so concluded was business world in worrying about which apps, sites and social media platforms the youth market were adopting that they simply didn't observe it was the older generations holding the handbag strings. Well, they've definitely seen now.
Keen not to be beaten in the added-extras stakes, John Lewis has opened a whole spa (called & Beauty) at its Birmingham store. Intentionally placed next to the personal styling department, the idea is that the spa will get us in the state of mind to invest some severe money on clothing.
At Marks & Spencer - bastion of the developed buyer - they're likewise hoping that offering beauty treatments will make us feel wonderful enough to purchase that additional set of shoes and, to this end, are checking out Shavata nail and brow bars at their Camberley, Westfield White City and Marble Arch branches.
If you can't wait for Boden to begin opening shops (coming in the next year, they guarantee), then exactly what about hosting a Boden party?
The trendy catalogue giant offers the clothes in addition to scented candles, quite biscuits and fresh coffee. You provide the good friends (and get the commission, too).
So strong is this new love for the mature consumer that even the designer labels have realized they need to get in on the act, falling over themselves to register 'mature faces' for their shiny ad campaigns.
We've seen Cindy Crawford (50) for Balmain and Yasmin Le Bon (51) for Giorgio Armani. On the other hand, Celine snaffled author Joan Didion (81) while Yves Saint Laurent bagged singer Joni Mitchell (72). Goes their logic, which developed wants to see her clothes marketed on teenagers?
The heads of all the most powerful High Street brands are beginning to discuss a new era of 'ageless' fashion - designs that might appeal to a 50-year-old woman but equally to her 20-something daughter (if she can manage them). Elegant materials are crucial and full-grown women are prepared to invest a bit more on jersey, for example, if it feels heavy and lasting. Fashion over 50 is everything about having one or two great, classic pieces per weather rather than 10 more affordable, fast style ones it appears.
Likewise, they concur, slavish commitment to seasonal trends isn't really exactly what this consumer wants.
She might amuse a nod to a trend here and there however she's been buying clothes for enough time to understand what does and doesn't match her and she's not about to pay good money for something just because a variation of it appeared in Vogue.
So exactly what much better time than now to head out to the High Street and buy your summer season closet? You'll discover everyone extremely, really happy to see you.