x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Designer purple or chain-store black?

'By all accounts, this year's sales are the best ever, with supersized reductions on designer labels.

When it comes to sales, everyone has their own philosophy on what to buy.
When it comes to sales, everyone has their own philosophy on what to buy.

I ran into an old fashion friend of mine in Paris during the new-year celebrations. All sorts of industry types seem to be moving here. Kate Moss, no less, has just acquired a penthouse that is a baguette's throw from the Chanel flagship near Trocadero. I blame the movie Dans Paris, which stars Louis Garrel, the floppy-haired, French version of Robert Pattinson, for triggering interest in apartment-living in the French capital.

I hear fashionistas are frantically booking apartments rather than hotels to stay in during the pret-a-porter collections in March. Just like Moss, my friend is bored of staying at The Ritz when she's in town dressing her clients, who include the Black Eyed Peas and Cyndi Lauper. The last time we met, she was heading up the special-bookings division of a leading Manhattan model agency. Now she is a stylist. Correction: a celebrity stylist, a profession that seems to have come a long way in a short time.

I often wondered how Rachel Zoe became so rich so quickly when all the stylists I knew who dressed moody actresses went broke, having forked out a fortune on dry cleaning bills for borrowed designer clothes that ended up trashed. Most have since given it up because of the stress involved with divas/designers. Now I learn that this idea of styling is so 2006. These days, celebrity styling is about product endorsements, not frocks.

Sure, agents initially nurture the image of a rising star then - bang, boom - they pull in lucrative contracts, by which point clothes become incidental. Take Fergie, the bombshell Black Eyed Peas frontwoman. Since my chum took over her wardrobe, she's gone from being a hip-hop pop star with a car-crash sort of style - although admittedly in a band that was at No 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for a record-breaking 26 weeks- to being a globally renowned red-carpet hottie with a multi-million-dollar Avon contract.

Watch out for her at the Golden Globes, where her debut film, Nine, has five nominations and you will see what I mean. But I digress. The most impressive fact I learnt from my fashion chum was not about what Fergie will wear on January 17 (without giving too much away, it could well be Marc Jacobs or Dolce & Gabbana) but something that effectively turned my what-to-buy-in-the-sales philosophy on its head.

Yes, it's still sale time - and it happens all over again with the Dubai Shopping Festival on January 28 - and by all accounts this year's are the best ever with supersized reductions on designer labels, which is great because when it comes to sales, I am a frightful label snob. I make a point of always going to the Burberry sale. The great thing about a brand like this is that you can't go wrong, even in a sale. Funnily enough, though, this Paris trip I came away almost empty-handed.

A long-sleeved purple stretchy top, which, to be honest, looks more like Versace than Burberry and is a size too small, did serve me well throughout my stay in Paris, which was freezing. As we chatted - Fergie's stylist and I - she commented that my top was "very purple" and how purple was "very now" (meaning, in fashion terms, it wouldn't be very "now" for much longer). The thing is, I assured her, purple is a favourite of mine. Buying it had nothing to do with me queuing for more than an hour (in the rain) to get into the (very exclusive) Burberry sale and being determined to come out with something - anything. And the only top that fitted was, miraculously, purple.

Sensing she had touched a raw nerve, she revealed that the perfect little black blazer she was wearing (over a pale silk lacy slip dress and black brogue bootees) was also a sales buy. Was this from Azzedine Alaia or Comme des Garçons, in which case, a wise purchase indeed? No, it was from Uniqlo, the Japanese brand famous for being cheap but not much else. "I saw. I liked. I bought," she said.

I found myself yanking around her collar for the label to see if it was one of the limited-edition Jil Sander collaborations, in which case my only-buy-designer-in-the-sales philosophy would still ring true. It wasn't. "You can pretty much adapt anything to fit the season" was her parting tip, spoken only as one who inhabits a world of smoke and mirrors with limitless access to freebie designer clothes can.

Loosely translated, this means disastrous sales buys or chain-store bargains can be teamed with Chanel clogs/Chloé capes/Dior tutus or whatever is the big thing for 2010.