Alice Jones: Combining Jesus and a leopard print minidress

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The Independent Online

What do pink lacy thongs and faux Navaho ponchos have to do with Jesus? It was with this spiritual question that I found myself grappling in the unlikely, overlit surroundings of a former HMV store on Oxford Street this week.

Here, on Wednesday, Forever 21 opened its first London store, in a storm of fringing, jelly beans and hysterical queuing. An institution in New York and LA, with 480 stores worldwide, the American chain offers fast fashion on a neon shoestring. New trends stalk straight off the catwalks and onto its buckling rails daily. Nothing costs more than £40. It's Primark on speed – and, as such, is set to be embraced by bargain-loving Britain.

There's one slightly odd thing, though – and I'm not talking about the tribal print leggings. Should you buy one of their Harvard crop tops, you'll take a Bible verse home with you too. Printed on the underside of their neon pink bags is "John 3:16". It's there because the founder of Forever 21, Don Chang, is a born-again Christian. Soon perhaps John Lewis will print a chapter from the Koran on the back of their receipts, or we'll find Buddhist mantras printed on the foil of our M&S ready meal. It's a buy one get one free whether you like it or not. In buying that leopard print minidress unaware shoppers are somehow also buying into the shop owner's religious beliefs. "The bag is simply a statement of faith," says the company. The parallels with "For God so loved the world that he gave his own begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." are hard to fathom, though. Is this the gospel of pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap? Or simply a sermon on patience for the fractious customers queuing, endlessly, at the tills.


This time next week, the Edinburgh Fringe will be in full swing. With 961 shows on the programme, you could, if you were a glutton for punishment, watch comedy around the clock. Or for a flavour of its highs and lows without leaving the sofa, you could just watch Show Me The Funny. ITV's X-Factor for stand-ups, offering one circuit slogger a live tour, DVD deal and £100,000 prize, is formulaic but for fans of the genre, it's a must. Aside from some silly tasks and an old-fashioned insistence on observational comedy, it's fascinating to see experts unpicking the mechanics of jokes and to spy on the dog-eat-dog envy up close.

Putting stand-up on television is a tricky art. Until now, the default setting has been to film slick live gigs in front of thousands of pliant fans which bear about as much relation to a real comedy night as Michael McIntyre does to Michael Jackson. As the hapless jokers on Show Me The Funny prove, live stand-up can be knee-grippingly, knuckle-chewingly unamusing. It's the jeopardy that makes it so much fun: the lead balloon lows make the highs – when an arrow-sharp heckle or a punchline hits the mark – so much more electrifying. They might not have planned it this way, but it's ITV's willingness to show us the unfunny that has me gripped.


I made the mistake this week of booking a Ryanair flight while half asleep. Like driving or operating heavy machinery, it's an activity for which you need your full wits about you. Potential penalties pop up at every click – £1 for a confirmation text, here, £89 to buy an "official guaranteed cabin bag", there. Mysterious "administration" and "web check-in" fees materialise out of the ether. Even when you've paid, you're not out of the woods. Should you forget to print your ticket, you face a £40 charge at the airport. And if you leave a detail off your online check-in, that rises to £150.

I stupidly clicked to add 15kg of luggage, piling £40 (or half the fare again) on to my booking. Realising my error, I instantly called Ryanair and asked for a refund. "Not possible," I was told after 12 minutes of hold Muzak (at 10p a minute). "Why not?" I asked. "Because that's how Ryanair works." Indeed it is: this week the company announced quarterly profits of £138m. Sometimes, though, I wish they could be a little less ruthlessly efficient.