Whether religious or not, Lent is that perfect time of year, and a decent length of time, to challenge yourself to give something up or try something different. I’ve been thinking of trying vegetarianism for a while now and while I could have easily done it, after Christmas, as a New Year’s resolution, it could've felt a bit like jumping off a cliff edge, after the indulgence of Christmas, and I wanted to give it a proper go.
Lent is perfect, being in the middle of February, you feel mentally prepared and can block off the next 6 weeks as you countdown to Easter.
Christians traditionally abstain from animal foods in remembrance of Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and with Vegetarianism and Veganism growing in popularity, it felt like the right time to give it a go.
A few of my friends are vegetarians, so I’m going to tap them up for recipes and advice. I’m going to put some Quorn in the fridge for those days I may need something meat-like. My main worries are getting bored and also feeling hungry quickly after meals. I also don’t want to pig out on carbs or turn to sweet things to fill me up. I think I’m going to have to be more organised with my meals and less lazy with the snacking.
If I lose loads of weight and feel like a bag of bones, I’ll think about stopping. But, the main driving force is, it’ll be healthier for me and for the environment, and I want to take more vegetarian options into my everyday and maybe find a few things that I will enjoy and carry on eating. I’ll keep you updated.
See Part Two - here
French beauty company, L’Occitane, opened their huge - the largest in the world - new flagship store on London’s Regent Street last night. This isn’t just another standard branch, it’s spacious, has a luxurious yet homely finish and even has a Pierre Hermé macaroon counter to boot. It feels like a cross between an airport lounge and a store. It’s definitely somewhere you could happily spend time in.
Left - Upstairs at L'Occitane Regent Street February 2018
Anyway, chatting away, somebody mentioned their boyfriend had come into the store previously and was looking for hand cream. The sales assistant said it was upstairs. As he went upstairs another sales assistant came over and said, “You’re looking for hand cream?”.
Mind reading is a skill that modern retail needs. Clearly, the sales assistant, downstairs, had radioed ahead. Not only is this great service, it’s also a form of human cookies - the chain of information your internet journey/history leaves behind allowing brands to track your movements and also recommend appropriate stuff.
It’s not magic, it’s just clever data, and I, for one, don’t mind having things recommended for me or being reminded I looked at something previously. You can clear your history every now and again if it becomes annoying.
What this shows is a linked up journey in a physical store. The customer is looking for something and rather being lost somewhere on the journey or not finding what they want, the sales links became strong and would obviously have more conversion in sales with the added bonus of wowing the customer and making them feel they had received great service.
Right - The flower filled ceiling installation from above inside the new L'Occitane Regent Street store
This is what physical stores need in order to compete with online: sales assistants quickly talking to each other, directing the consumer and having that want to please and fulfil expectation.
I understand many stores are too busy, some of the time, for this type of individual attention, but many luxury brands can offer this type of service if the sale assistants are motivated. It’s about a personal, human touch, which in the future we will miss from online shopping and something that can become a physical store USP.
‘Human Cookies’, as a concept, would definitely put new meaning into a physical store’s customer journey.
There’s something wildly indulgent, no, scrap that, ridiculously indulgent about a white Mackintosh. This option is part of a limited-edition collaboration with Maison Margiela and the Scottish rainwear specialists, Mackintosh.
Trust the house of Margiela to offer something impractical yet extremely desirable. One part lab coat, one part asylum, this will mark like crazy, but you’ll wear those marks with pride and it’s all part of the 'process'.
They are limited to only 250, with each one featuring Margiela’s signature stitches at the back and individually numbered.
Left & Below - Mackintosh X Maison Margiela - £1865
Forming the heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia, in Southern Italy, is home to the Massa Company. Still family owned and founded in the last 1950s, the Massa Boutique is one of Southern Italy’s premier fashion stores offering the best in ‘sprezzatura’.
A young Francesco Massa began his career as a dressmaker with a few basic tools: scissors, sewing needle and thread. He opened a small tailoring shop in Martina Franca and quickly became a trusted local outfitter for the gentlemen of the time. Eminent people of the city quickly demanded the gold hands of a Massa custom-made product.
Today, they sell men’s clothing, footwear and accessories. Located near Corso Messapia in Martina Franca, and online, Massa Boutique is strong in Italian brands including Ferragamo, Etro and a Tod’s online shop.
Suiting brands include Lardini, Zegna and Isaia and the name of Massa remains synonymous with quality and style.
Left - Shirt - Barba - £107.81
There was a time when prestigious shopping centres, usually out of town, could pick and choose - ‘curate’ - its retailers. Those deemed too low rent, not literally, weren’t given house room and everything was perfect in these sanitised high-streets.
Well, things are changing, we’ve heard many ‘Death of the Mall’ stories, but ultimately visitor numbers and footfall is dropping and they need/want to stay relevant.These shopping centres need bodies and lots of them.
So, it’s interesting to see how Primark is now being heralded at shopping centres that before wouldn’t have given such a large space to this affordable retailer.
Left - The extension of Westfield White City includes John Lewis and Primark
Bluewater recently announced a huge new Primark after it said it was the most requested brand from its visitors and Westfield White City’s new extension contains not only a John Lewis but a Primark, which was missing from the original lineup. Manchester’s Trafford Centre enlarged to accommodate one and, soon, Primark will be seen as an anchor tenant much like John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.
What Primark brings to a shopping centre is a constant lifeblood of customers. With no online option, people have to get out there and physically go into the stores and this will have the knock on effect of making the whole place busier.
It’s an interesting time for shopping centres. Without something distinctive or ‘destination’, many will end up with large holes as retailers trim their retail footprint. Argos is moving in with Sainsbury’s, many of those BHS stores remain empty and with retailers such as New Look and M&S closing stores, there aren’t many big retailers to take their place.
A few years back, when Littlewoods and C&A disappeared, M&S was expanding and Primark was taking big units as it was growing so fast.
New shopping centres, such as ‘Coal Drops’ in Kings Cross, will take a different approach from the bigger is best attitude of shopping centres previously. Even the wording ‘Shopping Centre’ sounds a bit dated. What should we call them? Not ‘Town Squares’, hey, Apple!
It’s going to be about design - Thomas Heatherwick has designed Coal Drops - and discovery, with retailers many people wouldn’t have seen before. It’s about selling cool and constantly changing to keep up with this. It’s never ending. You need events, social media and a siren-like call to constantly remind your customers what you have to offer.
In America, their shopping centres are important because many places didn’t have much before it. Without the shopping centre there is no hub or heart to the town or city. In the UK, we’ve had High-Streets for centuries which have evolved constantly and also a street culture which is ingrained within our society. Admittedly, less prosperous places will see their high-streets struggle, but then maybe shops with be replaced with homes or other ideas we’re yet to even think about.
Shopping centres need to start thinking about what they stand for and question the future of shopping and retail. I think just ignoring it and ploughing on will speed up their demise.
Straight off the back of London’s LFWM and a look around Florence’s Pitti Uomo, the smarter jacket shape for AW18 is what I’m calling the ‘Slouchy Norfolk’.
It’s a longer jacket with a distinctive waist, and rather than the rigid and thick tweed of the Edwardians, this is more relaxed, unstructured and modern.
Oliver Spencer showed his with matching trousers in a handsome micro checked fabric, while Danish brand, Hansen Garments, featured the Norfolk’s signature waist belt and multiple pockets in a soft flecked material.
You’ll be able to wear this as a light coat and, also, instead of a smarter jacket during autumn and early winter.
Far Left - Oliver Spencer AW18
Left - Denmark’s Hansen Garments
Below - Classic Hunting Norfolk Jackets
We’ve all been there: you get back from the shops and they’ve left the security tag on. The alarms never went off and you’re left with a veal-coloured piece of plastic visibly hanging from your prized purchase. You’ve now got the task to remove it without creating a giant hole in the cloth, or, annoyingly, having to venture back to the shops to have it taken off.
Worry no more, as it’s actually a style statement now. Thanks to South London’s cheeky Oiboy label and LA’s Palm Angels, those security tags are the new must-have.
Wear it with pride and channel your inner Winona Ryder even though you’ve paid for it. Just be wary of those suspicious looking security cards and let’s just hope you don’t get a crescendo of alarms everytime you visit the shops.
Far Left - Palm Angels AW18
Left - Oiboy - 'Stolen Goods' Sweatshirt - £45
Below From Left - Oiboy - 'Stolen Goods' Cap - £25, Oiboy branded security tags