Well I’m back from my fab few days of London chic and I feel as though I’ve been time travelling. It’s so strange to step back into your old life for a little while and see what’s been happening there. Let me give you a little bit of context. As you know, the main reason for my trip was to go to a Selfridges reunion. In 1993, I was one of the first recruits into what they called the masterplan team. Our brief was to make the dusty old Oxford Street store into ‘the most exciting department store chain in Europe by the year 2001.’ I don’t know if any of you remember what Selfridges was like before it was renovated but it was a literal manifestation of Grace Brothers. It was shabby, dark, labyrinthine and no designer brand would touch it.
Because I was part of the new team, I straddled two generations of people, the original management crew and the new recruits. So, the reunion had originally been organised by the old gang who’d asked me if I knew anyone else who might like to go along. When I contacted my later friends, just about everybody said yes which then caused me gave a headache because the original venue couldn’t accommodate us all and so I had to find somewhere for the spillover. Quite how I end up doing these things I don’t know. Anyway I rang around and managed to find a pub that would take us not too far from the other group.
Long standing readers will remember that Mr MC and I first kindled our romance at Selfridges so of course he was keen to come along too. A horrendous trip down started with our local city centre being closed which meant we had to abandon our car 2 miles from the railway station and run – in leopard heels no less. We arrived in London a little too early to check into our hotel so it seemed only fitting that we should pop into the nice little pub next door to revive ourselves. I was surprised to hear Christmas music playing, the first sign of how provincial I must have become, it was after all the 20th November but it wouldn’t happen up here! Anyway how’s this for a Thursday lunchtime:
Lovely amaryllis, lovely wine, lovely smoked almonds
Lovely rarebit with sauerkraut and conte cheese.
It was just what I needed to take the edge off my nervous excitement. I hadn’t seen any of my old colleagues since 2002 and although the original venue was in W1, the one that I had found only 4 minutes away was in NW1 and I knew the ‘N’ in the postcode would cause a shiver amongst the fashion divas! Oh and you may be wondering what I wore for the journey – I was very dressed down which was a good thing given our unexpected jog through town!
- M&S cashmere coat
- Boden cashmere v-neck jumper
- M&S white shirt
- Next relaxed skinny jeans
- Clarks Estate Copper leopard print court shoes
- Boden bag A/W 13
So, we lingered a little too long over our lovely lunch and ended up in hurrying to get changed and ready for the first party which was kicking off at 5pm. Because it was all such a rush, the photos were nearly forgotten and aren’t very good – sorry. I had thought carefully about what to wear. Nearly everyone was coming straight from the office so I didn’t want to look too ‘party.’ In the end I opted for my navy Whistles dress worn with shoeboots.
- Navy Whistles dress S/S 14
- Autograph by M&S shoeboots
- Autograph by M&S navy cashmere coat A/W 13
- Zara Necklace S/S 14
- Selfridges Snakeprint clutch (vintage)
Here’s another shot:
and here’s the dress from a previous post to remind you which one it is (now I wish I had a suntan and shorter hair, just can’t find time to get it cut):
Anyway, it was a fantastic night. We spent an hour with the older crowd of directors and buyers who had chosen somewhere a little quieter so they could sit down and then we moved on to catch up with the mad marketing crowd. Obviously when we first worked together we were in our mid 20s – 30s so it was fascinating to find out how everyone’s life has moved on. There were about 50 of us, roughly 60:40 female:male. The majority of the women and all of the men have driven hard with their careers and have some really juicy retail jobs. Of those women about half have children. Only a couple of the girls have become full time mums and the others juggle like I do. The main message I took from the evening was that not one woman felt as though she’d found the right work life balance. Those who were managing to juggle children and a big career most straightforwardly had only had one child and lived in central London within 15 minutes of their office. The biggest challenge for them was not managing a family, it was other women in the workplace. Apparently the divide between career women with and without children is cut throat and they have to watch their backs constantly.
They also tried to reassure me that retail has changed beyond recognition and just isn’t as much fun any more. During our time at Selfridges we all knew we paid a salary sacrifice just for the joy of working there. Those who were financially driven used it for their CVs but left after a couple of years and doubled their salaries overnight. The rest of us just loved the creative freedom and our brief was to continually ‘astonish’ customers. We reminisced about the £150k budgets for window schemes that didn’t have to include a single piece of merchandise and the shoot I did for the Millennium issue of my magazine that featured transvestites and a lesbian kiss. Although the current owners take the credit for the store as it is now, they inherited all of the work our team did to knock the store down inside and rebuild it, to bring brands like Prada to the UK and to launch nationally with stores in Manchester and Birmingham. Anyway as you can gather, we are all as passionate about it as ever.
Fortunately for me I was too busy talking to drink very much and so I ended the night with a clear head – unlike Mr MC. Unfortunately for me I was relying on him to navigate our way back to the hotel and we ended up walking a very long way (again) owing to his befuddled map reading skills – he was insistent that the blue dot on his phone was going the wrong way!
So, with a new day came a new retail perspective and I was looking forward to meeting up with a friend from my M&S days at the achingly cool Shoreditch House. I have to say that I think I prefer its sister, Soho House, if purely because I’m a West End girl – Shoreditch is a PAIN to get to. But it is quite something, I took a few sneaky pictures whilst pretending to be checking my texts – just for you:
View from the outside
Reception looking in
Reception looking out (even the graffiti outside is suitably beautiful)
The bar area
The breakout area (how very Shoreditch are these guys)
I didn’t manage to take any photos of the restaurant upstairs but the tables overlook a rooftop outdoor pool and people were swimming – in November! The women all seemed to be wearing black one pieces with white swimming hats and looked very retro (and very confident). We had a lovely lunch. My friend is another one who has worked incredibly hard and now co-owns the publishing company she worked for. She agreed with the ‘having one child and living in central London thing’ being the secret to survival at a higher level.
I’m finding that coated jeans are becoming my comfort zone for any kind of smart casual, so this is what I wore:
- Whistles blazer
- Boden organza blouse S/S 14, winter version here
- M&S coated skinny jeans
- Boden Jackie heels
- Vintage necklace
Just a note on the organza top. It has a few bad reviews on the Boden sight because it is quite stiff. I just wanted to say that this is what I love about it – it has structure and so when you are wearing it, it keeps a very defined shape which really helps if you are conscious about the line of your tummy or have a muffin top.
So that’s it – a summary of my little bit of glitz. I came back feeling very unsettled, people kept saying to me ‘ if only you were nearer you could help me on this (insert any really exciting retail project you can think of)!’ However I’m settling back down now – thank goodness for my blog. I’m just going to leave you with one last nugget. One of the girls at the Selfridges do is now marketing director of a very well known, very chic, very expensive British heritage high street chain. She came on to our do from a Stylist magazine party and I was thrilled to see that she was wearing:
A loose black silk blouse; Ash Jalouse boots; a leather biker jacket and……..black coated jeans!