Bicester Village on the edge of the Cotswolds is a discount shopping mall with a difference. It's like a mini Bond St meets The Trueman Show, chocked full of wood clad, designer shops, set in a pedestrian street that wouldn't look out of place in Niagara on the Lake.
In short it's actually very pleasant, if slightly unreal, as teenage son observed, 'I bet it never rains here.'
To be honest, I am not a good sale/outlet shopper, as many years in the fashion industry have made me suspicious of marked down merchandise. It usually means its faulty or a real dog (horrible fashion term for an item no-one wants) or old stock. I have visited Bicester regularly since it opened and apart from the odd homeware or baby item, have never bought anything.
Recently however Bicester seem to have taking things up a notch, adding more shops and hosting events such as a pop up shop featuring the Young British Designer Collective. So in the interest of research, I decided to give it one more try, taking along the teens and my seventy-something mother, to see if there was something for everyone.
Expectations were high from the teens, as teen son in particular likes a label and a bargain. I was a little over excited about the Marni shop that had opened since my last visit, and teen daughter was on a mission to bag a bargain in Jack Wills, so the pressure was on.
We left Mum to wander at her own pace and set off. We started in Marni where I had to tell the teens to 'leave me alone as I might be a while.' I wasn't disappointed and had I had the odd £5000 to spare, I could have bought loads. The discounts were quite significant, which of course being Marni, still didn't make it cheap, but definitely slightly more affordable. The fact that it was previous seasons stock really didn't matter, as Marni is not trend driven. It's more about loving the print or the shape and keeping it in your wardrobe for years. I did buy a dress and am happy to say I bought it because I love it, not because I felt I was getting a bargain, but of course the discount did help my decision. (I am not going to share how much I spent as that would be vulgar, and anyway middleagedad might read this!)
We moved onto to Jack Wills where teen daughter found some skinny jeans marked down from £80 to £20, a fact which she quoted several times over the weekend. Of course I was happy too, as I resent paying Jack wills prices, ok the quality is good, but one pays a huge premium for the logo and the back combed beautiful sales assistants.
Next was Fred Perry, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, where teen son picked up a polo shirt, boxers and a smart shirt for his forthcoming school prom. Again he was seriously impressed with the mark downs and declared he would be 'Swagga' in his new purchases.
We stopped for a coffee and settled in for a spot of people watching. Even if you don't intend to spend a penny, I can thoroughly recommend a trip to Bicester, even if its just to have lunch in Carluccios or Villandry and watch the world go by. The clientele are totally fascinating, wannabee WAGS, Nancy Dell'olio look alikes, would be gangsters and their molls, beautiful families head to toe in designer labels and hoards and hoards of stylish Japanese tourists. The world and his designer clad wife shop here and aspirations are high.
We left happy with our purchases, (although mum declared it wasn't for her, despite a visit to Jaeger) and all decided it was worth another visit. It seems the secret to shopping there is not to be swayed by the thought of a bargain but to stick to the brands you really like and try to shop for timeless classics that won't date.
I will definitely be visiting Marni again, but may well try to go on my own or with friends next time, as several hours are needed to do it justice. Anyone fancy a day out?
Check out the website for a list of the brands and details of how to get there.
50 Pingle Drive