Susie Rushton: Where's my M&S of yesteryear?

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Among the very few items in my wardrobe that have made it past the 15-year mark is a navy-blue spotted blouse, very plain but well-cut, with short sleeves and a neatness about it that could be the work of Comme des Garcons or Margaret Howell, but isn't. It's from Marks & Spencer.

The last time I wore it, the fashion editor of this publication stopped me as I walked past her desk. "Nice blouse, what is it?" she appraised, breezily. She wasn't surprised at all when I told her the object of her admiration was something I'd bought in M&S decades ago.

Everybody remembers the golden age of St Michael when it sold perfect v-neck lambswool sweaters in lovely shades of moss green and dark blue. It also mastered classic (if rather soft) tailoring, the sort of cottony basics now monopolised by Gap, and used decent fabrics, leaving competitors like BHS to churn out garish florals and shiny synthetics.

Of course that was before the fast fashion revolution, when the only youthful rival to M&S was Tammy Girl. Now Britain's biggest clothing retailer wants to keep up with the trend-churners, but it also has to dress its core constituency – a group of women in the 60-plus age bracket whose numbers will only grow as our population gradually ages.

M&S fashion is an easy target, but this summer its wardrobe malfunctions have threatened to bring the retail juggernaut to a halt. At the shareholders meeting last week, elderly investors attacked new CEO Marc Bolland for failing to cater to their needs. Bolland, who insisted that Brazilian-style knickers were boosting flat sales, met his match. "The garment I have got on is 25-years-old. This is what we want," barked one shareholder to wild applause.

Now it seems that M&S is jettisoning the celebrity faces – Dannii Minogue, VV Brown, Lizzie Jagger and Myleene Klass – who were deemed such a successful marketing strategy over the last five years. Only Twiggy and Lisa Snowdon will remain, and then probably only in-store.

So where will M&S go next? Despite criticism of the TV ads, nobody actually wants to see the sensible face of M&S in its marketing. But before Bolland and his team roll the dice once again and try to find a suitable new face for the brand, they would do well to look at the shop floor.

The collections have become too slavish and cheap-looking, resulting in the mish-mash of bohemian styles and too-bright colours that hang on the sale rails I can see as I pass my local store each day. Customers are "buying once, but buying well" at the moment – not a phrase you think of when you see, for instance, an egg-yolk yellow tunic that would look good on nobody, not even the slender, fashion-conscious young women who surely wouldn't be caught in M&S anyway.

There are other stores who are elbowing into the market that M&S isn't serving. Visit Cos, or Banana Republic, or Gap, for the some of the classics you remember from the store's better days – or, if you can, simply reach into the back of your wardrobe for a piece of vintage M&S.







Definitely no place for (the) definite article



Of all the rounds in the pub quiz, the part that taxes me the most isn't a question at all: before anything else, you have to come up with a team name. The name has to be funny, timely and fitting. The quizmaster usually gives you about two minutes to think of one, and that's exactly the moment I'll try to sidle away to bar or lavatory.

Last Sunday's naming ceremony was instructive in an entirely new way. We were about to settle on The Malakas, when a new team member, a woman of some style and charm, shook her head firmly. I thought she might be objecting to the use of the friendly Greek term for onanism, but it was the other part of the name that bothered her. "We can't use the definite article," she announced.

It wasn't the first time this month I've noticed an insider-ish preference to drop the t-word. Eels, the band, avoid the prefix, and sound all the cooler for it. Core Club, an impossibly exclusive New York private member's club does the same. Ditto, our sister newspaper, i. One of the swankiest residences in Piccadilly, Albany, had the definite article banned in its founding rules, and use of its proper form of address has long been seen as a snobbish test of a man's knowledge of London. So why, then, does it sound good to drop the "the", other than as a linguistic trick to trip the unwary? That's a question I need a bit more time to answer.







We're all going on a trawl through the internet



How many other people spent a wet Sunday afternoon in July slaving over their laptop trying to piece together a summer holiday? A lot, I reckon. And plenty of people, like me, must also have experienced Rough Guide fatigue – the sensation of tiredness that overwhelms the independent traveller as you cross-check flight times, sweat over cancellation policies and try to interpret the grumpier comments on TripAdvisor (Are Mary and Jim from Stockport freakishly picky about shower curtains, or is the hotel's bathroom actually "beyond appalling"?)

For the first time in a decade, Britons are returning to package holidays and rejecting independent travel, a sector that has boomed in the internet age. A new survey by Mintel shows that while the travel market in general is still struggling in the recession – with holidaymakers taking fewer trips – the package sector is showing a slight recovery because consumers are reassured by the predictability of how much an all-inclusive trip will cost. A majority also report being fed up with the time-consuming research that must go into any serious expedition.

I agree with all that, despite being a fairly adventurous traveller. And yet, and yet. I still don't want to spend my holiday in one of the world's top 10 most touristy destinations, with tacky-looking hotels and air carriers. That said, there are exceptions to the norm, and I think smaller but well-promoted companies that specialise in packages that allow a degree of flexibility, and take holidaymakers to less obvious destinations, could clean up among the growing numbers of disenchanted ex-backpackers who are desperate to escape Britain in July.        

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The truth about kids on holiday

Rosie Millard
 

August catch-up: Waiting on the telephone, tribute to Norm and my Desert Island Discs

John Rentoul
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home