Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Continuing with my theme of talking about "hero" brands, how could I not dedicate a post to that great British institution,  Marks and Spencer?  Where would we be without it? (Apparently knickerless, if we are to believe the statistics!)

My first recollection of M and S having an impact on my life was via a photograph taken of me when I was about three. I was sitting on the front door step of our house wearing the most amazing navy and red trouser suit. The jacket had red and white stripes and the navy flared trousers had a vent in with the same striped material. Oh, how I loved that trouser suit - I thought that I looked the bees knees. 

I think that my desire to personally style people first revealed itself in M and S. The joy that I took in rifling through the boxes of bras and matching my Mum up with the bra size that she was after -what a sense of achievement!

As a teenager it was a Saturday treat to eat a prawn roll on the bench outside M and S in Nottingham and to have a whole bag of cheesy balls to myself was heaven. To take home a bag of their butter popcorn was beyond dreamy.  A Saturday night treat was to eat crumpets, angel cake and chocolate crispie cake whilst watching the Generation Game on TV.

I came home from a holiday once to find that my bedroom had been totally re-decorated courtesy of, yes, you guessed it - M and S. The range was called "Chelsea" and included matching bedding, lampshade and bin, no less. So 1980's! My first "beauty" range was from M and S - Wild Iris matching soap, bubble bath and talc - I can still smell it now.

As a sixteen year old in need of a Saturday job, I refused to work anywhere else apart from M and S. I badgered them until they relented and gave me a job - in the lingerie department no less.  At £1.94 an hour as opposed to the £1.50 that WH Smiths were offering I was positively rich (and the bonus was that the prawn sarnies in the canteen were only 10p!)

The nylon uniform left a lot to be desired. It was distinctly uncomfortable and unflattering on the puppy fat. However, it was fun to watch the men come in on a Friday morning, buying a "little something" for the weekend. I often wanted to ask them whether it was intended for their wife (as opposed to their lover) but never did.

On into the student days and as a treat on a Saturday, my housemates and I would share a box of profiteroles. So much more delicious than whatever else we lived on for the rest of the week.

When travelling around the world, the delight that my friend and I experienced on discovering M and S in Singapore was incredible. M and S on the other side of the world! As I recall our £10 budget for the day didn't permit us to actually buy anything but we had great fun looking.

My first work suits came from M and S plus shoes and of course the endless supply of tights that were required. And so on into adulthood proper - our eldest child's first babygros, presents from friends, presents to friends (even as recently as yesterday!) and here we are now.

When training as a Stylist, I was told that it wasn't possible to style anyone out of M and S - they were wrong. It is, and I have, with great success.

M and S feels safe, people have grown up with it, they understand it and what it stands for. There are great pieces to be found in Limited Collection, Autograph and in their suiting range. Since the demise of many high street shoe shops, M and S has upped its game and it is possible to find directional footwear at a really good price. Great if you don't want to invest too much in a look that might only last a season or so and also if you want shoes that come in half sizes.  My clients are often amazed when I tell them that pieces that I have are from M and S and I think that many have returned to shop there.

What always amazes me is that whichever client's wardrobe I may be working with, they all, without exception, have an M and S hanger in there somewhere. I can tell from the distinctive style that they are from around the mid 1980's, probably when most of my clients were still living at home, which means that they have probably travelled with them through many house moves and still they have hung on.

So thank you M and S - you have played, and still play, a big part in my life and I for one still love your prawn sarnies and am even happier now that you have started to stock diet coke too.