At least a few designers out there are pragmatic enough to realise that if they adhere to a signature style, they will not only please a loyal customer base, but will also drop in and out of fashion in its more ephemeral guise, thereby regularly attracting new consumers into the fold.
With this in mind, I found myself enjoying the tranquil environs of Margaret Howell's central London store, where women of style with a leaning towards no-frills fashion have shopped for years and never been disappointed.
I was in search of sandals. Since the mid-Nineties, when the celebrated stylist Melanie Ward sent out the humble Birkenstock onto Helmut Lang's catwalk, silencing the Paris fashion establishment if only for the fact that they were flat and anything but haute, I have worn these with pride and with everything from oversized jeans to a little black dress. They are, it almost goes without saying, probably the most ugly footwear in the world. Yet, more than a decade on, they're also ubiquitous. Their opposite, however – the barely-there, strappy affair with a paper-thin sole – seems too fragile an option anywhere but the beach. Margaret Howell to the rescue, then, with a sturdy design in functional black, white or (pictured) brown with silver hardware (great!), in soft leather so they won't need to be broken in (also great!) and with a supportive but not hovercraft-effect sole. True, they have the whiff of the geography teacher about them, but that suits me just fine. If I was really committed I might even wear them with socks. Grey ones.
Oh, and while I was there, I tried on a perfectly simple linen dress – like a long, V-necked vest. It couldn't be plainer but both shoulder and neckline are perfectly judged, it's slender enough to be elegant and just long enough (falling to mid-calf) to be fashionable now. Like my new shoes, it's also timeless. Who could wish for anything more?
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