On a busy Saturday afternoon, on every high street from Glasgow to Plymouth, the merchandise from one shop to the next will blur into one. Clothing lines seem to be morphing into each other to the point that shoppers are finding it difficult to differentiate between them. This month's Vogue is dedicated to a celebration of what it would refer to as "high-street bargains" but what most of us would call the general content of our wardrobe. Even within those pages, the same printed satin shirt crops up three times, each with a different brand sewn inside the label. There is one in red, by Top Shop, one in lime and yellow, by Miss Selfridge, and an advertisement for Oasis shows one in gold. When you buy from chain stores, you accept that there are thousands of women across the country all buying the same garment and that exclusivity is something you pay for. But now you must expect to bump into someone wearing the same shirt as you on every street corner.
Fiona Ward, a 32-year-old design historian from Liverpool, is a shopaholic who knows the stock of Warehouse and Oasis inside out. "The problem is, Warehouse, French Connection and Oasis are all aimed at the same age group," she complains. "They have become much more mainstream and safe so they can try to appeal to everyone." For Ward, choice on the high street is limited. "Shoe shops like Dolcis and Saxone are interchangeable." Eventually, clothes are going to become so safe and dull that people will become bored of shopping.
Karen Hendry, the PR and marketing manager of Oasis, does not agree. This season, her shop windows have the question: "Who do you dress for?" emblazoned across them. As she points out, most of Oasis's customers tend to dress up more to go out with their girlfriends than than they do with their male partners.
"It is all about choice and the shopper's own personality and taste to make what they buy look different," says Hendry of the core 18- to 35-year-old customers. "It depends on the look of the season. Everybody looks at the same trends."
This spring, Gucci, Prada and Calvin Klein have provided inspiration for ranges from Morgan to Miss Selfridge, with quirky prints, slim-fit shirts, hipster trousers, synthetic fabrics and buckle and chain belts. Carol Alliston, the marketing manager of Warehouse, says: "Our design team finished this collection last October. They usethe catwalk to confirm their predictions,andtheymaybackupaclothing story if the catwalk reveals major trends - like safari, for example."
The simple lines that have dominated the catwalk for spring have proved easy targets for the high-street retailers. High fashion designers are adamant that minimalist dresses and tailoring require even more skill than usual - an out-of-place seam screams out if there is nothing for it to hide behind. But for the high street, the simpler the tunic or more pared down the shift, the easier it is to copy.
While this is fine for those who follow catwalk trends down to the last stitch, it narrows the choice for anyone who has a mind of their own. Who do you dress for? Calvin, Prada, or yourself?Reuse content