'A ball gown is your dream, and it must make you a dream... I think it is just as necessary in a woman's wardrobe as a suit. And it is wonderful for morale...' Christian Dior

Sunday, 23 May 2010

There's something about Mary


Ignore the enormous 'Living & Giving' sign above the first rail of clothes you're drawn to on entering and Mary's Living & Giving Shop for Save the Children (catchy title, Ms Portas) could be any other exclusive high fashion boutique on London's effortlessly stylish Westbourne Grove.  Only it's not. And precisely because it's the latest charity-chic shop in the retail guru's drive to get everyone (yep, even you, sloane ranger) erm, living and giving, there's nothing, thankfully, snootily exclusive about it. At its launch on Saturday, the place was awash with people who had heard about it and those who just stumbled across it. The volunteers were friendly and welcoming and the stock, largely donated from designers and fashion magazines like Grazia, was plentiful, making high-end labels accessible to the masses. There was something for everyone. And if all proceeds go to a charity like Save The Children, then all that's left to say is, why hasn't this been done before?

It follows the success of Mary's pop-up shop in Westfield last year and she's also launched one in Edinburgh. I've not checked out that one (it was hard enough going all the way from North to West London in the sweltering heat) but had been looking forward to this opening for some time. Especially after enduring my boyfriend's moans that it was 'just another shop for rich f**ks to spend more of their f**king money.' I was determined to prove him wrong. I didn't get to see Mary at the launch but I interviewed her a few weeks ago for TV Times. 'They’re the most profitable of the Save The Children shops,' she said. 'The one in Orpington is looking fabulous (the one featured in BBC2's Mary Queen of Charity Shops) they’re taking from £900 a week sometimes up to £4000!’ I hope I've proved him wrong. 

As someone whose only hope of owning designer clothes is to buy them cut-price from a vintage shop, or better still a charity shop, the pieces on offer didn't disappoint. Among the rails, I spied sparkling new Chloe, Acne, Betsey Johnson, Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwood, among high street brands like Coast and French Connection. Shoes ranged from Miu Miu to erm, Red Herring as did handbags, save for the emaculate cabinet filled with vintage Chanel handbags (sigh), many still in their original boxes. Oh and this Burberry trench, that failed to be snapped up. I blame the aforementioned weather...

My favourite sighting of the day though had to be the jumpsuit in the window. Mannequin look familiar? It's Erin O'Connor. Well if she came alive a la Kim Cattrall in the 1980s movie, it would be. She was brought in especially for the launch, and when the volunteers told me that the printed maxi jumpsuit (in my size) wasn't actually for sale today (so as not to ruin the window display, duh) I was quite relieved. Not because I didn't think it was beautiful - Mauvette Philips designed it exclusively for the shop - but because it was ever-so-slightly over my budget. So I'll leave that one to the sloane rangers. I just hope, in some way, I haven't just proved my boyfriend right...

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