Shopping With... Blowing it all away

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Fashion and beauty PR Michael Donovan proclaims himself to be a disciplined shopper - at the start of every season he blows his entire clothes budget in one shopping trip. This suits him because he hates the "machinations of clothes shopping". After 11 years in public relations Donovan knows to avoid the trends that won't last and how to buy "reasonably timeless clothes."

This trip starts off at Harvey Nichols (109-125 Knightsbridge, London, SW1, tel: 0171 235 5000), takes in Donna Karan (19 New Bond Street, London, W1, tel: 0171 495 3100), Nicole Farhi (158 New Bond Street, London, W1, tel: 0171 499 8368) and finishes in the Covent Garden area.

The only other time Donovan buys clothes is when he's travelling. His work regularly takes him to Antwerp, a boutique "shopping heaven." There he adores Dries Van Noten (16 Nationale Street, Groenplaats, Antwerp, Belgium, tel: 00 32 3233 9437) which has its own menswear floor, and a specialist gloves shop, Boon (2 Lombardenvest, Antwerp, Belgium, tel: 00 32 3232 3387).

"I've never in my life had a pair of gloves that fitted, but at Boon the woman just looks at your hand and instantly knows what size you are. There are literally thousands of pairs because it's so specialised; you don't really find shops like that in London anymore."

Donovan works from home in South London, and regularly visits the local shops. He particularly enjoys "ferreting out" specialist local food stores. "The Cheese Block (69 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London, SE20, tel: 0181 299 3636) is brilliant, it has hundreds of different cheeses and chutneys and all that kind of stuff."

And in Nunhead, the bakery J.F. Ayre & Son (131-133 Evelina Road, Nunhead, London, SE15, tel: 0171 639 0648) is a favourite. Also on the shopping list is wet fish shop F. C. Soper Fishmonger (141 Evelina Road, Nunhead, London, SE15, tel: 0171 639 9729) for "tasty fresh lobsters."

One of Donovan's hobbies is gardening. "If you do a job like PR, getting your hands dirty can be quite cathartic!" he says. Unfortunatel:y, with gardening being a lonely pursuit, Donovan's friends just don't have his enthusiasm for shopping at Ruxley Manor Garden Centre in Kent (Maidstone Road, Sidcup, tel: 0181 300 0084). "It's my favourite garden centre," he says, "I've been going since I was a child. It's massive." Homebase in Penge (45 Oakfield Road, Penge, SE20, tel:: 0181 778 0950) makes it as a favourite too. "I go around the shelves thinking 'how have I managed to live without that!'"

Living and working at home has allowed Donovan to spend time making the place comfortable, if slightly confused in it's decor. "I've realised that I like architectural salvage, I like the Thirties, and I quite like chintz too, so each of my rooms are rather different."

Local antique shops provide much of his inspiration. From a salvage shop in Peckham, South London he bought a 1930s gas stove for his kitchen which still has a recipe for cooking lamb chops inside.

But Donovan's best tip for shopping for his home is to scour the pages of the Loot advertiser's newspaper (available at newsagents, tel: 0171 328 1771). "I found an entire 1920s bedroom suite in walnut and maple veneer, for 95 quid," he laughs, "and they delivered it too! Loot is an absolutel:y brilliant way to shop."

Imogen Fox