My McQueen and me
Deirdre McQuillan shares her fashion editor’s insight into how to be a savvy salesshopper – and snaps up a hard-working classic Alexander McQueen jacket for €105
Irish Times fashion editor Deirdre McQuillan wearing her Alexander McQueen jacket, a sales bargain at €105. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
T he sales are among us, shoppers. In fashion terms, this is a quiescent time with the autumn/winter collections previewing, new-season deliveries making their first appearance and spring/summer stock fading in price and desirability. Many store buyers are now, however, talking about “seasonless” clothes as climate change confuses; summers that are wet and cold, winters wet and mild. So what are the worthwhile sales buys, the savvy investment pieces in the midst of the holiday season?
Experienced sales sleuths follow six maxims:
1. Go for the good stuff, for something that will last.
2. Something that fits perfectly – uncomfortable shoes will remain so.
3. Something that can be worn winter or summer.
4. Something that will fit in with your existing wardrobe.
5. Something desirable that was beyond your means before.
6. Something that transforms the way you look or feel. And all for a fraction of the original price.
As a fashion editor, you’re besieged daily with details of the latest reductions – “sensational” sales offers usually followed by a profusion of shouty exclamation marks. It can create a kind of immunity. One this week, for instance, was offering 20,000 items now on sale (“Shop Women. Shop Men” went the somewhat ambiguous headline) from an online designer brand company appropriately called Farfetch – 40 per cent off Marni, a Helmut Lang crop half price. Now where would you begin?
This season, plagued by bad weather and austerity, has been a disaster for retailers. On a sales recce with real bargains in abundance and up to 70 per cent reductions, customer numbers were few on the ground and there was little of the usual scrum around the discount rails. There’s no point in cruising for high-street buys at a time like this; the real pickings are to be found at the higher end, where there is better value.
I hardly ever head to a sale with a specific target in mind, the sole exception, if you’ll excuse the pun, being for shoes. The best of the shoe bargains were those offering the new Roger Vivier-style flats with pointed toes now coming into fashion (Fitzpatricks had them in black or nude patent for €149, down from €249) and black leather ankle boots, a chunky pair by Prada at Brown Thomas were €289, down from €585, and Zanotti’s sleeker versions were €335 down from €570, both of which would be stylish winter or summer buys.
In Arnotts, Buffalo has cut the prices of its high tops (popular because of their leg-lengthening qualities) from €160 to €80, while LK Bennett’s zebra-striped stilettos would give any black outfit a lift for €115 (down from €345).
In Brown Thomas, one-off buys worth the initial outlay included a sleek, updated Burberry trench called “Stonehenge”, down from €995 to €695. It wasn’t the classic double-breasted number, but a slimmer, single-breasted version without gun flaps or epaulettes that came with two belts, one dressy, the other plain. A sexy Stella McCartney tuxedo, another familiar staple and a collector’s item, was €495, down from a hefty €1,280. With tweed back in fashion, a Dolce & Gabbana multicoloured tweed skirt (with pockets), at €195 down from €450, could be teamed with any solid colour top, cardigan or jacket in any one of the colours and look fresh for either summer or winter.