What’s going on at M&S?

There’s a lot of noise about M&S in the press at the moment. Spring / Summer 2014 saw the second collection launched under Belinda Earl’s reign (note: Belinda’s previous roles were at Debenhams and Jaeger – let’s hope she’s bringing more of the latter than the former with her). She sounds as though she’s in touch with the customer that M&S is aiming for – she’s reported as saying that they might be 40 plus, but they’re reading Grazia. She also has Queralt Ferrer (ex Massimo Dutti) helping her which is promising.

Now persuading M&S to change can be a tough call. I spent 9 months there as a consultant a while ago when they were turning the home department round so I know. As you can imagine, there are huge teams of people all with different opinions, so getting decisions made and stuck to is hard. I think it’s amazing that they’re trying new fashion projects like the Best of British but I wonder if they’ll have the confidence to keep it going. I suspect that with its high price point and the current perception of M&S fashion, it may end up being the victim of a committee somewhere.

Anway two seasons in and the new approach to fashion should be starting to have a storewide effect. This, coupled with the launch of the new website 2 weeks ago ought to make for a significantly improved shopping experience so I thought I’d attempt an outfit project and see how it went.

Night on the town chic

So Mr MC and I are having a couple of nights away this weekend. This would normally (and ideally) be somewhere exciting. In 2011 we went to Ibiza, in 2012  Marrakech and Moscow but in 2013 we embarked upon a pretty big house extension project so didn’t go away because we were busy planning it. This year of course we’re busy paying for the overspend so our destination is…sunny Manchester!

On Saturday night we’re planning to go to a few different bars in the Northern Quarter (for those who don’t know it’s the Manchester equivalent of Clerkenwell / Shoreditch) so I need something new to wear. But – given that it’s supposed to be a budget break – I need to either slip it under his radar OR at least be able to say ‘oh well it’s only from xxx.’ M&S strikes me as a brand that won’t get his hackles up and destroy the mood and so the project begins.

Has the website improved?

Outfit starting point – new jeans/ trousers.

Even though it’s my comfort zone I don’t want to wear black because I know it saps the colour out of my skin and makes me look older so I’m looking for blue.

Opening the website, the new magazine style homepage might be useful if you’re going to M&S.com for random inspiration (unlikely) but isn’t really helpful if you’re task driven like me so it didn’t seem to be a big improvement on the old site. Going from Women’s > ‘jeans & jeggings’ brings up the same random selection that it always has. The photography is mostly as bad as ever although they’ve kept the various sifting options in the left hand menu that help a bit.

What I really wish they would do is sort their ranges out – I just don’t understand which one is supposed to be targeting me and I end up having to tick Autograph, Collection, Limited Edition and Indigo (but never ever Per Una – at least there’s the option to eliminate that). When they launched Collection I was hopeful – it began as a range of simple clothing that had a focus on cut and cloth (ie the total opposite of Per Una) but now they seem to be throwing all sorts of stuff in there. It’s so disappointing.

Anyway, rant over – let’s see where I got to once I’d filtered through to ‘blue.’ Now my mind is open – I just (!) need to find something that will be ok in a bar full of cool 20-30 somethings and to not look like mutton dressed as dog.

Option 1

M&S Collection Coated Jeggings £35

M&S 2014 coated jeggings

I ignored these for quite a while because they’re part of the Twiggy collection and although I have nothing against Twiggy, she’s just not someone I identify with. However I kept coming back to them because I really wanted something coated and they were the only ones, plus I wanted to try a high waisted style. I know jeggings have been around for ages but I’ve avoided them ever since my son’s friend came round one day cringing with embarrassment that his mum had just bought some. Well 2 years later he’s survived and there doesn’t seem to be any lasting damage so I’m going to try them! This is what they look like in real life:

Nikki Garnett jeggings

(By the way I’m wearing everything with a plain white top so that it doesn’t distract from the trousers – I’m not going out like that).

I quite like them. They have a flattering seam down the side of the leg which this picture taken by my 10 year old doesn’t catch but it’s quite a good start.

Option 2

There weren’t any other jeans that seemed to be worth ordering so I moved on to the trouser section. Again you have to trawl through some horrors – they so need to improve the filtering options – but I spotted these ‘modern slim leg jacquard trousers‘ for £39 which looked very like Boden’s Bistro crops but at almost half the price so in the basket they went.

Nikki Garnett M&S crops

In real life:

Nikki Garnett M&S shiny

Nearly but not quite. The fabric just feels a bit cheap. There isn’t much stretch in it at all and it was a bit too nylon shiny. Close up of the fabric:

Blue close

They also came up quite small – size 12 is usually a bit loose on me at M&S but these were snug.

Option 3

Next I saw these spotted crops. Now I wasn’t really thinking ‘Northern Quarter’ with these – I was thinking £22.50 – really?!!

M&S spotted crops

When I unpacked them I was instantly impressed by the quality of the cotton, it is brilliant – smooth, stretchy with a high quality sheen to it. They felt great when I put them on, fitted like a glove but I knew instantly that they were just too cropped. Look –

Spotty crops


I just don’t like that length – I’m 5’8″ by the way but I have relatively short legs – a regular usually fits me.


So having finished my trouser selection (I kept the jeggings by the way and returned the rest), I moved on to tops. I trawled through the whole site and couldn’t find anything, although I might have tried this textured shell top £19.50 if it wasn’t sold out (another black mark for the new M&S site in my book – it’s usually easy to switch ‘out of stocks’ off from the back end of a retail website).



So – on to jackets.  Again I wasn’t very inspired by the selection. I ordered this cropped blazer £35 – it won’t work for the night out but I might keep it – it’s a bit fiddly because it has a hook & eye rather than button but it’s amazing quality for the price.

Nikki Garnett blazer

Nikki Garnett blazer


And finally shoes. Reading other 40-something blogs I’ve realised that there are shoe holes in my collection – hurrah! At the moment they’re cobalt and leopardskin coloured so I ordered these:

Cobalt shoes HT_1_T02_5161E_N4_X_EC_0

I think the problem with the cobalt pair is that they’re so distinctive I was bored of them before I even tried them on if that makes any sense. They’ve been covered in lots of blogs and magazines in the same way that the pink coat was in the autumn which makes them almost dead as soon as they arrive. I also like my shoes to be leather and these, of course, are not. Here they are on though:

Cobalt shoes midlife chic

As for the leopardskin pair, I did like those but they only come in wide fit (why?) and my feet are not wide. M&S can’t be blamed for that (other than not stocking a non-wide version). I just hoped they would fit.

leopard wide fit

So, in the end the project pretty much failed. I have a potential pair of jeans for my night out but nothing else so far, although I am planning to go shopping while I’m there of course – but I will have beady eyed company!!!!!

I’ve just ordered this floral sweat t-shirt £35 from Oasis to try with the jeggings – although I am the woman who never wears pattern – watch this space!

Floral tee - midlife chic


And this navy broderie front top £32.

oasis broderie

Have you had any wins with M&S this season? Maybe there are better choices in store – tell me if you have, I’d love to know.