This week was all about press shows as retailers launched their Autumn Winter 16/17 collections and after reading my recent post on M&S we were invited to meet style director Belinda Earl, who was interested to hear what we thought of the A/W 16/17 range.
I started the day reading the Vogue review which stated “EARTH-SHATTERING news from Middle England’s retail cornerstone, Marks & Spencer will be joining the see-now, buy-now model for autumn’.
I have to admit I was confused by this, as the whole ‘see-now, buy-now’ thing is indeed big news for high end designer brands who realised that their six months ahead runway collections are all over social media instantly, meaning that 1. consumers want to buy them straight away and 2. the high street stores are able to have “versions” of them available at the same time their ranges hit the stores.
‘See now buy now’, makes sense for brands like Burberry, to allow consumers to instantly buy catwalk looks and ensure their covetable new season collections stay exclusive – but I couldn’t quite get why it mattered to M&S. But it was definitely a clever way to promote their latest in-store range at the press show.
Keen to remain positive and desperate to like the range, I put these thoughts to the back of my mind and concentrated on the clothes.
We started with the “Big Easy” collection which is available in the stores right now. Revolutionary because it encompasses pieces from all of the M&S brands, the collection is minimal, trans-seasonal and indeed easy to wear. Neutral colours, high quality fabrics and understated styling, with a variety of price points there’s nothing not to like – and we did.
Moving onto the the four key looks for the season Belinda explained ‘we want to make the collection more modern and relevant and be more up to date with our consumer and to create a more cohesive message across the store by buying less options but buying more deeply into them, meaning there will be two colourways rather than four, ensuring there will be more stock of the best colours’.
She added ‘we also can’t do these more minimalist styles in poor fabrics, so we’ve worked hard at getting the fabric quality high”.
Ever the realist, I asked- “it all looks great here – but what will it look like for my sister in law in Doncaster?”
Belinda explained ‘We will put elements of each collection in every store, with the key pieces sitting at the front of the store to make a credible impact and bring in newness. Some of our customers in the more local store shop M&S every day, so we know newness is important to them. Our new CEO came up through the stores, he understands the challenges we have and is determined to get it right. But for our customer the go-to is online – with the Alexa range, we saw big interest in shops obviously, but the real, huge surge was on-line. And our best customers shop over both stores and the internet seamlessly’.
Highlights for us included a velvet dressing-gown coat and trouser suit (above – but why don’t they come in navy or black?), great quality outwear, exclusively designed prints and well designed tailoring with just the right amount of detail.
Overall, we feel things are looking up at M&S and they are striving to create good quality clothes that we actually want to wear – but as always we will reserve judgement for when we see them in real life – in that Doncaster store.
As I’ve said before – lifestyle people, it’s all about lifestyle!!