These foolish things remind us of... how bloody cold it still is

Fashion works a season ahead, but why do high street shops insist on filling their racks with summer frippery in mid-winter?

FEBRUARY is one of the coldest winter months, a time when you want to be wrapping up warm and repelling chills. Yet it seems my seasonal body-clock is at odds with those of the high-street retailers, for already most shops are abandoning their winter fare in favour of skimpy nylon vests and lightweight dresses. We're all wise to the fact that the entire fashion industry works at least a whole season ahead of itself (there's nothing wrong with being organised, after all) but why is it that shops foist the new stuff on us so soon? We all have an inkling why this seasonal irrelevance happens, but I wanted to find out exactly why once and for all.

Oasis was my first port of call. With clothes neither too racy nor too flighty, I thought they might be able to provide me with some good, sound, logical answers. "Why have you been selling summer clothes so early?" I asked politely. "Actually, it's the spring stock that's in the shops now - the spring transitional stock has been in since mid-December," came the curt reply from Oasis's marketing and PR manager. Pardon me. It seems there are six seasons at Oasis, not my (rather conventional) four: spring transitional, spring, summer, high summer, autumn transitional and Christmas. Alright, but why so early?

"Our swimwear, which was introduced last year, is selling very quickly because lots of people go on holiday after Christmas." And so they do, but why must the rest of us have our noses rubbed in it? According to the Oasis spokesperson it is because we want it this way, especially provincial girls (like myself) who are happy to shiver in their Lycra after last orders so long as we've got a portion of chips and gravy to hand. Hmm.

I did glean a couple of big clues from my conversation with Oasis though. First, that shops often introduce a taste of the new season early, so they can test the water with a design. If it sells well, then they know they're headed in the right direction with their summer collection. A spokesperson for Kookai echoed this: "If the high summer stock goes into the shops early and it sells out, we can re-order it provided there are two to three months selling time left in that season." Fair enough, but by the end of summer the winter stock will be arriving. It's a vicious circle, to be sure.

The second big clue was the revelation that "people are very fashion- educated now" (you don't say) due to increasingly widespread exposure of the shows, and want the trends as soon as they happen. "Customers know that the best styles will sell out," said the Warehouse camp. It seems I have my answer. Plain greediness. You see something and you've got to have it now in a breathless rush to catch up with the catwalks. Does no- one live by the old adage "Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey" anymore? The Kookai spokesperson believes that customers are buying shoe-string strappy gear to ensure they have it safely in their possession but are keeping it in the back of their wardrobes until the weather is more appropriate. Well, everyone likes to be first, but a bit of restraint would be nice. I've resolved to be less greedy.

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