Supermarket Chic - the Fashion Spot
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Join Date: Dec 2003
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TIME WAS when every woman bought her bra and knickers from Marks and Sparks. They may have lacked a little in street cred with their sensible court shoes and mumsy designs but there wasnít a clotheshorse in Scotland that didnít sport at least one pair of M&S pants. Their affordable, reliable lines of wardrobe basics made them Britainís number one clothing retailer. Last week, however, the shopping world felt a shudder as Asda gave itself one almighty pat on the bum. The supermarket chain had snatched the crown for the first time from the high street giants. But not only does Asda now hold first position in UK fashion sales, it has also earned itself a place in the fashion premier league at the same time - a new phenomenon known as "supermarket chic".

The news signals the beginning of something very exciting in the fashion world. Asda began the supermarket clothing revolution in 1990 with George, a very affordable and trendy range of high street designs available straight from the trolley aisle. Asdaís ability to mass produce essential basics for next to nothing caught on immediately.

"George represented great value for money," says Asda spokesman Dominic Burch. "We offered essential basics like a formal white shirt for men at £3. These sorts of prices were unheard of until George entered the UK market."

Realising the huge gap in the market for affordable clothing, rival chain Tesco followed suit and brought out an own-brand clothing range. As sales figures soared and competition increased between the two chains, Tesco launched their hugely successful Florence and Fred line in 2001, a catwalk-inspired range of fashion designs at rock-bottom prices. Now Sainsbury are the latest supermarket chain to cash in on the fashion dollar as they launch Tu, available nationwide at the end of the month. Like Asda and Tesco it aims to provide cheap clothing without sacrificing quality or style.

THE MARKET for supermarket fashion is massive. Tesco is currently Britainís fastest growing clothing retailer while Georgeís turnover has almost doubled in the past four years, making it a £1 billion business. Last year alone Asda shifted a staggering two million pairs of their basic jeans - a snip at £4. You certainly canít argue with their prices.

Both Asda and Tesco report their £4 bargain jeans fly off the shelves every week, along with £1 vests and £5 sweatshirts, often into the baskets of fashion students ready to customise them with scissors and glitter, or by workies looking for something disposable they can filthy up with paint and grease.

Then thereís the convenience factor. Yes, you can top up your wardrobe with cheap and cheerful basics in H&M or Matalan, but you canít pick up dinner while youíre there. In fast-paced modern life, it suits the shopper to be able to grab a pack of T-shirts into the trolley while you do the weekly shop. Supermarkets realise that customers like a one-stop shop.

"Nowadays time is a valuable commodity for people," says Tesco Clothingís Julie McGuckian. "If they are going to the supermarket anyway for their groceries, it suits shoppers to buy other items like music, videos, gifts and clothes while theyíre there."

As well as offering competitive prices, supermarkets have the added advantage of later opening hours - 24 hours in some cases - not to mention massive changing rooms, more staff than city centre stores and spacious shop floors, wide enough to glide you and your friendís trolley through. Faced with the choice of a Saturday afternoon ruck at the sale rail in French Connection or a leisurely late-night stroll round your local hypermarket, itís not hard to see why so many fashion-conscious shoppers are ditching the high street in order to become trolley dollies.

No surprise then that brands like George or Florence and Fred do such a roaring trade. The real revelation is that itís now officially cool to buy clothing from the supermarket shelf. Fashion editors have been aware of this for some time, but trend-conscious fashionistas who would previously have snipped off Tesco Value labels in shame are now cottoning on to the desirability of supermarket fashion finds.

Whoíd have thought it would score points at a party to pipe up and admit you bought your sling-backs from the same place you buy your stripy blue tins of beans?

McGuckian says that women now actually take a certain pride in teaming designer labels with bargain items.

"You might spend a fortune on your shoes, or be wearing a really expensive designer Marc Jacobs jacket, but people love showing off the fact that they only paid a fiver for their T-shirt or found a really unusual skirt while they were in Tesco."

THE IDEA THAT the beautiful people now clamour to wear this seasonís Tesco may seem ridiculous but, after seeing the excitement surrounding last summerís "green dress", anything is possible. The fashion press latched on to a silk chiffon cocktail dress in apple green, designed by Florence and Fred but inspired by a Chloť design. The price-tag may have been only £20, but the quality was impeccable and glossy magazines labelled it "dress of the season". Tesco sold out and a frenzy of e-Bay purchasing and blackmarket trading followed.

"We couldnít believe the response," says McGuckian. "But it proved what we already knew - customers are very savvy. They like a bargain but want good quality fabrics and tailoring too. The Florence and Fred range doesnít cost a lot, but itís not cheap - itís just great value for money."

Both Tesco and Asdaís current collections feature the hottest catwalk looks. Florence and Fred does a range of fantastically tailored ladylike tweed skirts and lambswool cardis in a mix of dusky pinks, chocolate browns and pistachio greens for the chillier Autumn months. For sexy secretary style, pick one of their I-line tweed skirts for the office and spice it up with killer heels for a night out.

Avoid the naff leopard-skin prints and mock croc fabrics that have crept into the range and instead hunt out the 1950s-inspired frill front blouses which could be dressed down with jeans or sauced up with a slinky fitted skirt and round-toed heels.

George continues the 1930s glamour theme in a Fast Fashion range of catwalk rip-offs, featuring faux fur trims, velvet bows and pretty floral corsages. Sprinkle them over a 1940s-style tweed coat by day or wear them with a strapless dress in the evening - sipping a Martini with an unpturned nose and oozing film-star elegance. Florence and Fred have also homed in on the trend for graceful silver-screen sophistication, and hope their ivory corseted prom dress will be a future classic when it appears in shops in October. At £45, it will no doubt make an appearance at a few Christmas parties.

McGuckian is confident customers will be impressed with the range of up-to-the minute items and quality basics: "For people that want to keep up with trends and add bits and bobs to their wardrobe every few weeks, supermarket shopping is a great way of looking good without going over budget."

"There's a fine line between Chaos and Creation"- Sir Paul McCartney
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AlexN's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
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Great. Now people can buy Chloe ripoffs for even cheaper.

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Naturellement pulpeuse
PrinceOfCats's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: The 'other' bit of the south of France
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I'm one customer who won't be stolen away from M&S by the likes of Asda...

Forget Dior - I'm an M&S whore.

-Jamais fille chaste n'a lu de romans
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Ms. Diorella's Avatar
Join Date: May 2004
Location: London
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Originally posted by PrinceOfCats@Sep 10 2004, 02:02 PM
I'm one customer who won't be stolen away from M&S by the likes of Asda...

Forget Dior - I'm an M&S whore.
I totally agree with you, you cannot beat m&s for value and quality. Plus with my grandma's discount card it's even better - m&s is 100's of times better than asda and tesco.

There's something about us I want to say Cause there's something between us anyway
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rising star
JennyR's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: UK
Gender: femme
Posts: 147
If you go to click company index then go through alphabetically it has basically all the shops fall pieces photographed..including Tesco. I may be getting a few things by the looks of it....
(I would suggest looking a new look, marks and spencer limited collection and wallis- 3 stores I don't usually shop at but they probs have my fav things on this site)

"Honey, husbands come and go but the chanel slingback is forever!" Karen Walker
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front row
courtneyjanex's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Glasgow
Gender: femme
Posts: 429
I work for Marks & Spencer's and the 20% discount is very useful!

"I kept saying 'Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me,' because I had to get to the catwalk, but she just kept posing. So I pushed her. It was only a few stairs..."
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