Fashion's clean-up campaign

In the US, Banana Republic stands for affordable quality. This week's opening of its first UK store might signal the end of throwaway fashion, says Gemma Hayward

Affordable fashion has recently suffered from unprecedented bad press. The Primarks of this world, in particular, have been accused of pioneering the type of cheap-as-chips fashion that has become commonplace and therefore nothing short of boring – not to mention ethically questionable. Whipping up an unnecessary amount of hype around store openings and offering items heavily influenced by catwalk prototypes, at prices that are as scandalously low as the originals are exorbitant, they have changed the British high street beyond recognition.

The good news, however, is that this situation looks set to change: the budget-retail landscape is growing up. True, there may still be stores out there hanging on to the bell-sleeves of their gypsy tops as if their very existence depended upon them, but, for the most part, the look is now less fussy and even, well, refined. Thank Cos, the brand owned by Swedish company Hennes & Mauritz, for this sea-change, which will only be enhanced by the opening later this week of the UK's very own Banana Republic, also on London's Regent Street. The mood, then, is sophisticated and serious rather than whimsical and teen-focused. As these other stylish shops show, classic, well-designed clothing doesn't have to cost a small fortune. And there isn't a frump in sight.


Reiss is the place to shop for all those looking for something for a special occasion. Or just nip in on a whim and instantly fall in love with a simple jersey top with chiffon covered buttons, say. It's true that the prices are high compared with those of the competition but both the design and the quality of the end product is worth any extra cash. This season find tailored jackets and prim pleated skirts and the range of accessories to go with them has recently expanded too. (top, £75, skirt, £89, 020-7473 9630)


Whistles started life back in 1976 as a small boutique in London's Marylebone selling the work of bright young designers including, most famously, the then little-known Helmut Lang. It has since evolved into a fashion label in its own right, with 30 stand-alone stores and 38 concessions throughout the UK. Renowned for producing a quirky collection, with extra attention paid to the finer details, the store is filled with gems like this navy jumper with a modern striped bow (£85, 0870 770 4301). Now, with the former Topshop brand director Jane Shepherdson in control, anticipation has already set in for the arrival of the autumn collection in a few months.


It's not as well known as its sister company Jigsaw, but Kew has come a long way since its launch 5 years ago. It has becoming increasingly popular online and produces three seasonal mail-order catalogue's a year. This season's relaxed mood and understated colour palette of navy, grey and shades of brown with a flash of red will doubtless be well received by the brand's loyal customers and interested newcomers alike. These wide-leg trousers are the most chic in town (vest, £18, trousers, £62, 020-8487 2001,

Banana Republic

America has long been in the thrall of the Gap-owned Banana Republic, and the company's first European flagship is opening in London. As well as carrying the entire men's wear, women's wear and accessories collections over three floors, the store will showcase the new Monogram line – billed as a collection of "wardrobe builders and statement makers" – read: the best of Banana Republic but in limited, and therefore more desirable, editions. So what should the savvy consumer snap up first? The smart choice would be this sleeveless trench dress (£95, 020-7758 3550), a classic with a fashionable twist if ever there was one.

Massimo Dutti

Spanish brands such as Zara and Mango are a favourite among shoppers on the British high street, but it is Massimo Dutti that is currently enjoying the limelight. The store is smart in appearance and offers all the basics that anyone could possibly need in surprisingly high-quality fabrics. This trench coat with a funnel neck would be a particularly wise investment. Massimo Dutti is also the place to visit for all those interested in the season's trends, but who'd rather not have them shoved down their throats. (£140, 020-7851 1280)


The simple silhouette offered by COS is a firm favourite of the fashion follower. Shift dresses and cropped boxy jackets like this grey one (£79, 020-7297 0040) all feature the signature loose cut which is really most becoming. Fingers crossed there will be more stores opening up soon.

sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor