Crunch time: Gok vs Kirstie

Gok and Kirstie's makeover shows change tack in the economic downturn
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The Independent Culture

It's the battle of two TV makeover stars, both ignoring the excesses of their industries to offer do-it-yourself remedies to the recession blues.

On one side, Gok Wan wants you to sew up old clothes and patch together new ones, recreating boutique fashions with a needle and thread. His tips have helped bump up sales in wool, cotton and other materials in what traders have loosely called "the Gok effect".

In the other corner, Kirstie Allsopp, an adviser to the Tory party on housing issues, who rarely looks as if she's wearing something she has stitched together herself, believes the real savings in these biting times will be made in crafty home improvements. She wants you to spruce up your living room to add value to those homes stuck in a stagnant property market. Both will be sharing their wisdom in a new television series starting this week.

Wan starts his money-saving mission on Gok's Fashion Fix by showing how smart needlework and alterations can compete with the catwalk. The gangly stylist said he wants to "make Joe Public part of the creative industry". He added: "None of us has the cash, but we can still look good."

Gareth Jenkins, deputy manager of the haberdashery department at John Lewis in central London, said: "We've seen a knock-on effect from programmes like Gok Wan's. Our sales are up 14 per cent on the same period last year." And Alison Smith, who runs the Alison Victoria School of Sewing in Leicestershire, said there has been a 20 per cent rise in students in the past year. "Lots of young people see Gok on TV and think, 'I can do that as well'," she said. "He's a big influence, but there are too many home improvement shows and not enough fashion improvement shows on TV."

Allsopp will beg to differ, after spending months being followed by cameras as she refurbished and furnished a tumbledown Devon cottage on a consciously thrifty budget. With a bit of soldering, pottery and glass-blowing, she now walks around it proudly chirruping: "I made that."

Allsopp said: "I want to prove that you can create something unique and wonderful rather than going down the same old mass-produced route "

In the past, she has helped to sell coveted homes, fronting shows such as Location, Location, Location, but for her new project, Kirstie's Homemade Home, she concentrates on the "hard graft" and traditional craftwork that can turn around a property's fortunes.

Research by the Co-operative Bank suggests homeowners across Britain have the same idea, with a collective spend of £4.5bn on home improvements predicted over Easter. Terry Jordan, head of mortgages at the bank, said: "In the current economic climate, with the slowdown in the market, people are looking to make improvements to their existing homes."

So, Gok's fashions or Kirstie's cottages? Whoever has the best bet for beating the credit crunch, by screening both, troubled Channel 4 has guaranteed itself a ratings boost.

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