bond street: a miser's guide

London's swankiest street is enjoying a revival, as new designer shops move in. But what can it offer the ordinary shopper? asks Annalisa Barbieri
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donna Karan opened her new store in London's Bond Street with a rather swanky "opening" party a week last Thursday. Karan invented the "body" (as in that thing with poppers) and her collections are always mentioned in the same sentence as Nineties stuff such as "capsule collection", "working wardrobe", "clothes for real women" etc. Then we are told that her shirt bodies cost a couple of hundred quid, jumpers several hundred and some "evening" things thousands. Karan is not alone in making ludicrously priced clothes, it is just the way in which these sky-high prices are casually dropped into newspaper articles containing the aforementioned stock phrases that mystifies me. I know lots of real women but none that could afford these prices.

But let's stop slagging off poor Donna. She is just an excuse for me to go down London's Bond Street - enjoying a much-hyped revival of late as a clutch of new designer shops open their doors there - to discover the difference between investment dressing, real bargains (and there are some to be had down this swanky street) and things that cost so much that only the brainwashed part with money for them.

Marks out of 10 have been awarded for: GSE - General Shopping Experience (service, ambience); BF - Bargain Factor; and IDR - Investment Dressing Rating.


The shop to go to if you want matching shoes and bags, hideous applique slippers (pounds 85.95), and slippers with diamante heels (pounds 89.95). Bear in mind that if you are stupid enough to pay this much for slippers, the rest of your bed-time wardrobe, and your furniture, had better match up. Could be expensive. GSE: 2 (bring sunglasses for all that sparkle); BF: 3 (cheaper than flying to the Middle East to buy slippers); IDR: 2, unless you plan to bag the milkman.


Desperate bad taste - at a price. I managed to get the price for one thing before fear got the better of me and I had to take my palpitations outside. An example: tweed skirt and jacket suit with leather sleeves, pounds 930. GSE: 4, assistants attentive but suspicious; BF: 0; IDR: 0.


Not cheap, but a good place to buy your own fabric and make up the designs you see in the rest of Bond Street (not copy, be "inspired" by): pounds 21 per metre for velvet; pounds 65 p/m for rose print (very in) silk crepe, and pounds 135 p/m for silk mix devore. GSE: 5 (overheard: "you're the first to see these, madam"); BF: 5; IDR: 6.


Award for most unpleasant shopping experience in Bond Street. Huge appliqued rose on jumper, pounds 398; ghastly patterned silk shirt, pounds 500. Market stall- style at designer prices. GSE: minus 450; BF: minus 900; IDR: 0.


Fantastic. Cobra & Bellamy concession offers wonderful watches from pounds 35, cute amber cross at pounds 15, big perspex-with-sparkly-bits rings, pounds 18. On the jewellery stand: huge amber-coloured bracelets, pounds 14.95. Sheepskin and feather scarves (must-haves for winter), from pounds 39. In lingerie dept: Jane Woolwich full-length silk nightdresses which, if you have the figure, could double up as evening dresses: pounds 299. Jackson very soft-textured velvet scarves: pounds 49. Definitely visit the Fenn Wright & Manson concession upstairs, which offers some of the best buys: brown or milky coffee short-sleeved brocade dress, pounds 125; fake fur brown short coat, pounds 249; GSE: 9, you could spend all day here, no fancy bits but no pressure either. BF: 10, you can get some real finds. IDR: 9.


An unbelievable experience, like visiting a really rich person's house: smooth stone stairs, dark, cool walls, weird arty bits of furniture, candles, nice smells and whale-like music. The staff make waiting on you an art form and, at these prices, they need to. Satin evening purse, pounds 295; leather "everyday" purse, pounds 175 (will you have any money left to put in it?); belt, pounds 150. Upstairs: unbelievably awful cashmere blue jumper (it's soft but other than that it could be from C&A), pounds 525! Short shawl-collared coat that wouldn't look out of place in Top Shop, pounds 1,200; gorgeous dark green suede full-length coat, pounds 2,200. GSE: 10, this is how some people live. BF: 0; IDR: 5 - if you choose carefully and don't get blinkered by the name, you can shop well.


The cheaper, more casual arm of Karan, but some things are still ridiculously priced. Kid's T-shirt, pounds 25; umbrella in cord case, pounds 49; men's nylon jacket, pounds 500 (bad); men's cords, pounds 89 (good); women's jeans, pounds 50 (very good). GSE: 6; BF: 5; IDR: 2.


Anna Sui fake fur collar and cuffed coat, pounds 495; Anna Sui geometric nylon top, pounds 95. Both good buys. GSE: 0, like entering an upmarket dentist's surgery with clothes; BF: 7, really good potential if you can look past the ghastly stuff; IDR: 6.


Dead swanky with some awful clothes (PVC tartan-sleeved coat, pounds 995) as well as some really expensive clothes (sequin skirt, pounds 1,095). But a YSL tuxedo suit for women is pounds 1,300, which is a bargain, because you will wear it until you fall apart. The men's clothes were the biggest surprise: shirts from pounds 45; fleece top, pounds 65; jackets, pounds 295. GSE: 4, intimidating. BF: 9 for men's, 0 for women's; IDR: 10 for the tux, 5 for everything else.


Joint fantasticness with Fenwick. Interior designed by John Pawson (did Calvin Klein shop in the US); Jigsaw shows that high street stores can offer you slickness too. Great bargains: padded gilet, pounds 59.95; pompom scarf, pounds 38; suede desert booties, pounds 69; big cardigans, pounds 60; cream wool shift, pounds 89; leather trousers, pounds 185. GSE: 9, beautiful, simple and effective interior, friendly and far from frightening assistants; BF: 10; IDR: 6.


A real surprise. There were some high prices, but the style and quality were, I think, worth it - some prices were comparable with the more expensive end of the high street. Beautiful mock croc shoes in brown, pounds 125; floaty scarves, pounds 59; choc brown jacket, pounds 425, and trousers, pounds 195 (but you would wear them for years); patterned hem jumper, pounds 125. GSE: 7; BF: 4; IDR: 9.