Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

WHO NEEDS DESIGNER? WE LOVE THE HIGH STREET; the Chains Have Come Up Trumps for Those of Us Who Haven't Yet Shaken off the Recession

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

WHO NEEDS DESIGNER? WE LOVE THE HIGH STREET; the Chains Have Come Up Trumps for Those of Us Who Haven't Yet Shaken off the Recession

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Craik Fashion Editor

AS WITH boyfriends, so is it with clothes: sometimes you need distance in order to appreciate what you really have. And that proved to be the case on a trip to Milan: a city soaked in fashion, in all respects other than if you want to buy decent wardrobe staples on a budget. Had I wanted to flaunt the latest Prada coat, I'd have been spoilt for choice. But a mid-priced item that didn't look as though a pig had made it out of its own ear? Hmm, not so easy.

Britain might officially be out of recession but what does that mean to the average person, other than that the bankers can now dispense with that smidgeon of guilt they might have felt about their bonuses and start putting in an order for their new Mercedes SLK? Here in the real world, utility bills are still high, jobs are still precarious and the only thing that feels constant is our need to look half-decent as uncertainty reigns all around.

For most people, designer purchases will still be few and far between this coming year -- which is why it's rather lucky that the high street has surpassed itself this spring. I swear I write this every season, and I probably do, but only because it is warranted. What I love about this season's best high-street offerings is the fact that they are not slavishly following catwalk trends. Gone are the days when chains trundled out poor copies of Marc Jacobs: their karaoke phase is over, and they have found a voice of their own.

"We do check the catwalks, but it's usually just a sense check, as we work about a year in advance and have designed most of the range by that point. At the moment, we are just finishing the Christmas collection," says Nadia Jones, creative director of Oasis. So now you know.

Another reason to be cheerful: this is not a season of embellishment. Try as it might, I don't think the high street does embellishment well: there are some things for which the rigour and workmanship of a designer label are worth paying, and beading and sequins are two of them. Happily, most chains are focusing on sleek and chic this spring: workaday trench coats, simple white shirts, Aline skirts and leather sandals with heels that you can actually walk in. …

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