April saw an eclectic mix of stories and events populating the news. The usual high street articles were interspersed with beautiful design at Dior, new exhibitions and uplifting body confident stories.
Everyday sees yet another fashion business on the high street collapse. April 1, saw the announcement that Pretty Green, founded by Liam Gallagher, had fallen into administration. Blame has been placed on challenging retail conditions and House of Fraser’s fall into administration. The department store was said to owe Pretty Green more than £500,000. However, within a few days the brand had some good news. JD Sports, one of the few high street stores still prospering, had bought the struggling company, stating their intention to keep open the flagship Manchester store.
JD Sports has more reason than most to be happy with the retail business. As well as acquiring Pretty Green, and offering £90.1 to buy Footasylum, the retailer pre-tax profits rose by 15.4% to £339.9m in the year to February 2, with revenues jumping 49.2% to £4.7bn. Their Executive Chairman, Peter Cowgil, declared: "The business has stayed very much in tune with the millennials and [the subsequent] Generation Z.” Experts on this matter made a few interesting points, all of which other high street stores should take note. Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, said: "These results show that standing out in a crowded market with exclusive products, a unique proposition and placing the experiences at the heart of the store is a winning formula in today's digital age." Whilst, Jane Sydenham, investment director at Rathbones, explained: “They're not just trying to have as broad a range of products as possible at the cheapest price."
In more high street news, Primark opened its largest store in Birmingham. At 161,000 sq ft over five floors, and four times the size of its original Birmingham home, it begs the question: can a store that size really survive for long when there are so many other department stores are going out of business? With the relative uniqueness of no online presence, plus cheap fashion, this sort of clear business model has kept them afloat whilst so many other high street stores are failing. Not sure I’d fancy finding out what all the fuss was about though?!
Back to a time when retail shopping was beginning to move towards the more casual experience we enjoy today. This month saw the opening of Mary Quant at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum. An early pioneer of the destination store, Quant was most well-known for colourful tights, PVC raincoats and, of course, the miniskirt. Her innovative designs and ability to create a fun shopping experience guarantees that this exhibition is sure to be a hit. You have until February 2020 to see the designs of one of the most iconic fashion designers of the ‘Swinging Sixties’.
Having only just written a piece on Create and Develop about creative rip-offs, it’s no surprise that another example of this less than ideal trend has crept into the news already. Fast fashion favourite Forever 21 have been accused of posting on their Instagram account, an image of the work of an anti-fast fashion artist. Without any hint of irony, the brand had chosen to post a piece of Elizabeth Illing’s art, which aims to highlight the environmental impact of fast fashion through quotes from consumers who don’t shop sustainably. In a statement to the BBC, Forever 21 agreed that their use of it in was in bad taste. I’m just surprised that they didn’t get round to creating actual garments with these quotes plastered all over them!
Back to Manchester, a city brimming with retail businesses, and a more uplifting story emerged about an eight-year-old girl inspiring others to be more confident. Freya Ingham had heart surgery at the age of just two and said that she used to feel ashamed of the large scar on her chest. Today, however, having begun dancing and modelling to boost her confidence, she no longer feels embarrassed and hopes to inspire other children to love their scars. Having modelled for both fashion weeks in London and New York, Freya is showing everyone how beautiful we all are.
With a sell-out exhibition at the V&A, Christian Dior are on a high. April ended with a spectacular Dior Cruise show in Morocco, with collaboration across several African artists. Held in El Badi Palace, an historic palace dating back to the 16th century, Marrakech’s artists and culture greatly inspired the ‘Common Ground’ collection. Cultural appropriation is a very sensitive issue in fashion, so it was a risky move on the part of Dior’s Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. And yet, her designs appeared to be clearly appreciative of the work they were exhibiting.
Her close collaboration with Anne Grosfilley, an anthropologist specialising in African textiles and fashion, who was consulted on the entire collection, as well as with a number of other talented individuals, illustrated a humbler approach to this beautiful collection, than many other designers could hope to achieve.
Even as the high street continues to disappear and fast fashion creates ever more environmental issues, a collection like this shows that there are still those gems in fashion that keep us all coming back for more.
About Our Author: Katie Calvert's background is in fashion and textiles with a first class honours degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion and experience in trend, PR and events. She decided to take the plunge back into education in 2015 to complete a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Using these newfound skills and her love of fashion and culture, Katie has been freelance writing for over a year.