Last week, valiant M&S made a sizeable effort to reclaim their top-dog place in the UK’s fashion industry with the showing of their ‘Best Of British’ mens’ & womens’ collections, launched to re-focus their fashion offer and to celebrate their three year partnership with the British Fashion Council.
M&S is to be applauded in its attempt to re-group and re-focus, taking as it’s key initiatives, the celebration of home-grown British fashion and sustainability.
The ideas and basis are all there: M&S firmly associated in our psyches with Britain and fair-play British values (check), supporting new talent and home-based industries (check) to produce collections that relay the epitome of modern British tailoring including Scottish cashmere and Yorkshire cloths (check) and with the support and endorsement of the British Fashion Council (check).
Launched to considerable acclaim in the press, the collections have undoubtedly moved the brand forward while remaining true to the M&S heritage roots – less fashion, more conservative with a small ‘c’ and quality middle-England. And, for that, they have to be acknowledged.
It’s a great start. To focus on what M&S really stands for and to meet its customers demands in an age where fast-fashion and trend is seen as king. But, despite the fact I commend our much-loved brand (where would we be if M&S went under?) and understand its need to simplify its message and to restrict the number of sub-brands, I still feel M&S is missing one of its biggest customer demands – the need for cross-seasonal, must-have quality basics.
M&S is all about dependability and the loyalty this generates. Where, for example, is a simplified ‘Best of British Basics’ collection? And I don’t mean designed down to the lowest common-denominator (as most M&S products have been in the past. I laboured over this one readers. I worked there for years in a key marketing role). M&S has the influence, the design talent, the heritage and the kudos to develop a range of ‘must-have’ items that have fashion editors flocking (as they do now to Maje, Isabel Marant and Cos).
Where is the right weight and texture pristine grey (non-embellished) sweatshirt, the three choices of fantastic black trousers that fits just-so, the designed-for-women man’s white shirt, the loose & luscious slub-silk separates (like Lucza’s offer) that every woman would scream to wear? These are all items that have wide appeal and would embrace M&S’s customer. Anonymous and serviceable but above all, with great quality and design at their axis.
M&S should never be about grappling and competing for trends with the rest of high street. The ‘Best of British’ is a step in the right direction for M&S’s new Style Director, Belinda Earl.
But, the brand has enough confidence and power to steer its own course. A range of cross-seasonal items that are great design wardrobe staples (think Joseph, Maje and Marant) would be a welcome addition and a way to welcome back A-list shoppers who may still only visit M&S for food and lingerie.
We’re all rooting for you.