Make do and mend: The new fashion makeover

Kirstie Allsopp and Gok Wan both used to tell us how to spend our money. Now they've changed tack – with new shows aimed at leaner times. Gerard Gilbert isn't sold
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The Independent Culture

"I've got a new mantra: shop less, wear it more," Gok Wan announces tonight at the start of his new series of Channel 4's Gok's Fashion Fix.

What was the old mantra – "I'll show those two Notting Hill bints how to present a clothes show"? Surely not. Anyway, Gok's new maxim for his female viewers is all about making the best of what you have, and amassing a versatile capsule wardrobe of 24 key pieces. "You don't have to break the bank to look a million dollars," he says, as if the banks weren't already pretty much broken. "Credit-crunch couture is here". Hurrah! In-the-red is the new black.

Gok looks mighty chuffed that he's in step with our more straitened circumstances, although it's taken the television makeover show, with their unwieldily production schedules, quite some time to catch up with the economic downturn. Finally however, nine months into the current recession, they are racing to bring us their realigned versions of themselves: welcome to the "make-do makeover show".

Later this week, also on Channel 4, Kirstie Allsopp will be ditching her long-term TV partner, the effortlessly charming Phil Spencer, and going solo with Kirstie's Homemade Home – a new series in which Kirstie will be seen diving into skips, rummaging through street markets and learning how to sow and knit, all in aid of restoring and furnishing a five-bedroom wreck she has bought at auction in Devon. Sadly, Kirstie doesn't share with us how much she actually paid for this dramatically situated rural ruin, a strange omission given that she's only too happy to price up other people's property on Relocation Relocation.

But then, as Sir Fred Godwin has discovered, a certain well-advised reticence on the subject of money may be returning to social discourse. Nevertheless, I have to wonder if Kirstie is quite the right presenter for the new breed of wealth-sensitive "make-do makeover show". The daughter of the sixth Baron Hindlip, the Honourable Kirstie Allsopp manages to feel relatively class neutral on Relocation Relocation, thanks largely, I suspect, to the balancing presence of Phil Spencer. In fact Phil's earthing of Kirstie's petulant edge is part of their joshing on-screen double-act.

Now I've interviewed Kirstie Allsopp, and liked her, but I do wonder if she isn't a bit exposed on Kirstie's Homemade Home - and that the show's ethos, in her hands, doesn't come across as rather patronising. This may not be the time for someone smacking of privilege to be going round telling us how to improve ourselves. In this Thursday's opening episode, for example, there are repeated glimpses of a particularly gorgeous country house. It's not until halfway through the show that Kirstie reveals that this grand, honey-stoned pile is in fact her parents' home. Her mother and father have been collecting antiques for 40 years, she explains while giving us the guided tour, as if they spent the odd weekend pottering around bric-a-brac shops. Her father, Charles Allsopp, the aforementioned sixth Baron Hindlip, was in fact no less than the chairman of Christie's.

Now before all this begins to sound like inverted snobbery, let me say that Kirstie does come up with some good tips. I'm not sure I'll ever blow my own glassware, but she has the sound idea that, when skip-diving, make sure you do it in affluent areas. The rich have better rubbish – as anyone who has visited a Notting Hill or Chelsea charity shop can attest. I'm not however entirely convinced by her argument that, by recycling other people's cast-offs, we are helping to save the planet. For having delivered this homily, she drives off with her booty in a Land Rover meaty enough to dwarf President Obama's bulletproof Cadillac, "The Beast".

Gok Wan, having spent his youth overcoming obesity on a Leicester council estate, has the more plausible triumph-over-adversity back-story for these dark economic days. But both Gok and Kirstie are latecomers to a genre that has been thriving on television for many years now, away from the prying eyes of TV critics, students and the otherwise gainfully employed.

The time has surely come for daytime TV shows like Cash in the Attic, Homes under the Hammer and Don't Get Done, Get Dom – which are aimed at the sort of economically-inactive audience that is set to become considerably larger in the next couple of years. In Don't Get Done, Get Dom consumer journalist Dom Littlewood tutors members of the public in the art of haggling – and for large consumer items like cars and washing machines at that. Cash in the Attic is fairly self-explanatory (sell your clutter), while Homes under the Hammer is all about how to pick up a bargain at property auctions. This couldn't be more timely, even if it's unlikely that you'll find the likes of Kirstie's impressive-looking Devon wreck. I suspect that takes a lifetime of contacts in the property search game.

Kirstie's Homemade Home starts on Thursday on Channel 4 at 8pm; Gok's Fashion Fix starts tonight on Channel 4 at 8pm