Get off the Philippe Starck sofa and go to Harvey Nicks? Not if I can help it. Catalogue shopping reaches the beau monde. By Melanie Rickey
IF YOU'RE one of those people who secretly wish that glossy magazines doubled as handy mail-order catalogues - and, let's face it, who hasn't dreamt that Marie Claire's 101 ideas could be magicked instantly into the wardrobe - then The Book is your dream come true.

It is glossy and glamorous, and has the feel of a magazine. It even has a few pages of designer interviews mixed in with fashion shoots, but the bonus is that it really is a mail-order catalogue.

The Book was invented by a group of people well versed in selling clothes to customers in the comfort of their own homes. All have worked on the heavyweights in the industry, such as Freeman's and Littlewood's, who have already entered the high-fashion arena with specially designed diffusion lines - such as Vivienne Westwood's range of T-shirts and Whistles' offer on suits that are significantly cheaper (and less desirable) than those in their shops.

The Book is different because it is aimed at solvent working women who know their way around the upper echelons of the high street. Ben de Lisi is there with Betty Jackson, Whistles, Paul Smith Jeans and Jasper Conran. From the high street Karen Millen, Warehouse and Diesel make up the ranks and there are even a few pieces of covetable silver jewellery from Guess and Dinny Hall.

Everything featured in The Book is now available in the shops, which leaves a choice. Do I wait 48 hours for my new Jasper Conran suit/ Karen Millen embroidered jumper/ Diesel jeans, or do I schlep to the nearest town/city to buy it? The answer is obvious: staying at home is usually a far better option. What is more, according to a recent report from the Henley Centre, by the year 2020 all shopping will be done from the home or office anyway, so why not start now?

You may have seen a sneak preview of The Book already. A mini version came attached to the 10th birthday issue of Marie Claire, which is out now. It has only 26 tantalising pages. When the real thing becomes available to the public for pounds 5, on 28 August, there will be 288 glossy pages full of fashion shoots by top photographers, and trend advice from the Marie Claire fashion team to reel everyone in.

Lucille Lewin, owner of Whistles, is intrigued to see the results.

"Mail order is an exciting medium to reach people who can't ordinarily make it to our shops, and it's all very seductive; everything looks great," she says.

Lewin has chosen her looks of the season, including a velvet bias-cut evening dress (pounds 175), a beaded crochet cardigan (pounds 125) and a silk camisole (pounds 55), items that, like the rest of the merchandise on offer, are easy to "read" without the need to touch and feel the clothes.

The Book is sure to appeal to working women who know what they look good in, but who generally have little or no time to shop. Men also get a look in, and it will prove doubly useful for those forgetful moments we all experience. A Post-It note left stuck to a desired item 48 hours before a birthday could work wonders.

For a copy call 0800 3 288 488