Where Marks and Spencer Lead John Lewis follow

If John Lewis now wants to be fashion central it probably shows how fashion literate British women have become.  Where Marks and Spencer lead John Lewis follow.

John Lewis — the discerning shopper’s favourite store for everything apart from fashion — hopes to rectify that with a £10 million refit of the fashion floor of its Oxford Street store in London that opens this week. Don’t expect the scary or the edgy. This is not Colette, the dauntingly haughty boutique in Paris. But it is the place to come to for all those more accessible labels with flair that form the cornerstone of so many women’s wardrobes. Whistles, Jaeger, Hobbs, Mulberry: well-heeled rather than adventurous.

To be honest, I was in two minds about the makeover. On the one hand, I’m all for making shopping a sybaritic streamlined glossy experience — I’m just not sure that I want it to be in John Lewis.

Marks and Spencer is where I used to get my school uniforms. It’s where I bought my children’s uniforms before they went to senior school and were allowed to express their individuality by buying the same Topshop jeans as everyone else in the class. It has an extensive home furniture department, the most reliable selection of Egyptian cotton, the knowledgable lingerie advisers and it’s still the first port of call when you’re looking for a good brolly or socks.

Both M&S and John Lewis are well respected British institutions

But I fully acknowledge that my ambivalence comes from a very selfish place — my desire to feel as though I’m in undiscovered retail terrain every time that I find myself browsing the old-style fashion floor on my way up to the bed linen. It’s hardly as though I was dredging through a souk in Istanbul, but because no one my age ever seemed to be shopping there, it felt weirdly exotic. But that’s set to change, and if John Lewis now wants to be fashion central for the kind of women who can’t be doing with pretentious, snooty attitudes, but aren’t ready to sink into the saggy embrace of elasticated trousers just yet — except linen ones from Nicole Farhi — then so be it. It’s probably indicative of how fashion literate British women have become. And that’s a good thing.

So John Lewis has beefed up its stock, added low level flattering lighting (although I’m not sure about the dark shiny floors and ceiling — it looks like an executive club lounge) and put some space between the collections. Best of all are the designer collaborations — one-off pieces created by Osman Yousefzada (such as this gorgeous red dress), Philip Treacy, Terry de Havilland, the shoe designer, and William Tempest, with the first of them going into the Oxford Street store exclusively next week. Unlike all too many partnerships between designers and the high street that culminate in disappointingly cheap looking versions of the designer’s original vision, these are high-quality pieces that while not cheap (£250 for the red dress compared with around £600 for a long dress from Osman’s own collection ; £325 for the Philip Treacy hat), represent value for money.


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