My recent visit to the M&S Company Archive, Leeds (see my previous post) has left a lasting impression on me, a sense of pride for a brand that has travelled with me throughout my life and a reminder that at the high street end of fashion, where so often it's about compromise, M&S puts value first - both in terms of price point, the finish and ultimately the longevity of a garment. Their vast archive collection proving a rich source of inspiration for their in-house design teams, often reworking classic pieces for the modern form.
I was invited by M&S to take my learnings from the trip and see for myself how the strive for value feeds into their current collections. For me there's no better way to experience this than stepping in-store, to soak up the colours, textures and cuts of Spring/Summer 2018. After all "fashion isn't downloadable" so says José Neves, FarFetch fashion/tech founder. Strange to hear that from a global retail mogul whose fashion business model is solely online, but I totally get it, you can't truly experience fashion without touch, which is why I use online for convenience but go in-store for the fully immersive experience.
My shopping rules-to-self are simple: know my wardrobe gaps and only buy what suits my body shape. Sounds boring and believe me I've learnt the hard way, but by sticking to the drill I no longer have a rail of ill-fitting, unworn clothes; I can throw a look together in seconds and whether buying new or preloved I'm far more considered in how I shop.
What makes my wardrobe work well are my season-on-season key pieces. Those perennial classics that never seem to date. Yes I may well yearn for a tiered, ditsy print prairie maxi skirt or an acid yellow faux fur coat but focusing on that all important 'glue' that holds everything else together, is always my focus. Without that brings wardrobe meltdown!
With a shopping list titled 'seek core classics' I took myself off to M&S Marble Arch (Oxford Street, London) not with the intention of looking for the current must-have-colour or print clash (resist, resist, resist) but with my radar on red alert for great tailoring and value and whilst browsing/touching/inspecting, repeatedly asking myself "how many times I can style this piece?". Another rule-to-self.
High on my list was a blazer. At this time of year my collection of coats suddenly feel heavy and cumbersome and it's a blazer (and trench - more to post on that v soon) that becomes my spring cover up. The choice is wide and varied - 91 to be precise if you search online at M&S - from double-breasted, gold buttoned 80s inspired; to longer length single breasted; to patch pockets, edge-to-edge styles in a whole host of strong colours.
But it was this cornflower blue, M&S Collection single-breasted blazer (T590565J, £55) that immediately caught my eye. Unlined making it less formal, the linen mix giving it that distinctive relaxed look (which, btw, is OK), square patch pockets adding a nod to 'nowness' and the overstitching detail found me internally shouting "OH YES!".
BBC weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker was right - isn't he always - it's been a cracker of a week so here's the blazer styled 3 different ways. Always a little test I like to play to prove any garments worth in my wardrobe. This one wins with flying colours! Which is your favourite look?
Sponsored post - Thank you to Marks and Spencer who provided me with a gift-card, as part of a paid project.
PRELOVED: Ted Baker tee and Stradivarius cotton button-through skirt both Oxfam finds.
NEW: M&S Collection blazer (details above, I'm wearing a size 12); ASOS pearlised pink flats; H&M sunglasses and M&S earrings. Brooch, 35 year old beloved Miss Selfridge bangle and knickers model's own.
PRELOVED: handmade silk dress; cross-section quartz earrings, bangles and tan leather belt all Oxfam finds. Dorothy Perkins wedge sandals Cancer Research UK.
NEW: M&S blazer (details above). Gold domed ring and knickers model's own.
PRELOVED: Barbour Breton tee (one careful previous owner Liv Purvis); Dorothy Perkins trousers and Accessorize bag all Oxfam finds. Clarks 'artisan' suede sandals The Blue Cross. Yellow bangle Cancer Research UK.
NEW: M&S Collection blazer (details as above); Accessorize white enamel and gold hoop earrings (£6, available in a selection of colours). Lips: Revlon 'fire and ice' No 720.
Photo thanks to Lisa Le Grice.