x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The Instant Expert: Why does affordable fashion live on high street?

This week Katie Trotter delves into the origins and meaning of the term "high street".

Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week Katie Trotter delves into the origins and meaning of the term 'high street' and the industry's huge economic clout.

THE BASICS First recordings of the term "high street" as meaning a retail and commerce site for the masses date back to the early ninth century. The usage is said to have roots in "highway", referring to a main road that connected two towns or cities under protection of the monarch. Thus "High Street" was used to describe the thoroughfares within the town.

THE BARE FACTS According to a survey conducted by the bank Halifax, High Street is the most common street name in the UK. There are 5,410 High Streets, 3,811 Station Roads and 2,702 Main Streets.

IN ITS PRIME The social historian Juliet Gardiner cites the 1860s and 1870s as the high street's heyday, explaining that because of urbanisation, people no longer were able to grow food or keep livestock, and thus former market stalls became shops with fixed prices.

IN RECENT YEARS Although the term "high street" is still used in reference to retail and commerce, its meaning has broadened. It now is used more widely to describe mass-market retail style and affordable clothing.

IF IT'S CHEAPER THEY WILL BUY IT Mass production and consumerism started to gain momentum in the 1960s when Britain became more affluent after the post-Second World War years. With the sudden emergence of teenage culture and as a backlash to the 1950s, little thought was given to heritage or the sentimental, and so the idea of throwaway fashion was born.

WHO'S BEHIND IT ALL? Well, aside from you the consumer, Arcadia Group Ltd is the largest UK privately owned business group of the retailing magnate Sir Philip Green - although technically it is owned by his wife, Tina, via a holding company, for tax reasons. Employing a staggering 45,000 people with more than 2,500 outlets in the UK, and concessions in UK department stores such as Debenhams, Selfridges and House of Fraser, Arcadia owns Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Outfit, BHS, Topshop/Topman and Wallis.

ITS CURRENT STATE? The British Fashion Council, in a February 2012 report entitled Future of Fashion - Strategic Considerations for Growth, says the high street industry is worth £21 billion (Dh123bn) to the UK. That is roughly 1.7 per cent of the gross domestic product, and twice as much as publishing or car manufacturing.

THE HIGH STREET PRINCESS Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and wistful bride of Prince William was once a Jigsaw employee. She chose to wear a dress from the high street retailer Reiss to meet Barack and Michelle Obama at Buckingham Palace. Within an hour the brand's website had crashed and the Shola dress was sold out.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS Despite what we are often told, you don't actually need a receipt to return faulty goods in the UK. However, proof of purchase may be required - a bank statement or even a willing witness.

WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IT? Many brands offer unexpected services one wouldn't necessarily associate with the high street. Uniqlo's staff are trained to do alterations on jeans within the hour for only £1.99 a pair; or, if you spend more than £19.99, alterations are free. Next offers a door-to-door service, meaning any items you buy can be delivered to your home for an additional cost. At larger branches of Gap there are denim specialists trained specifically to find you the perfect fit and wash, and in certain branches of Zara if something doesn't quite fit you can have it pinned in store and sent away to be altered.

 

Let's talk numbers

629.99 The price in US dollars of a Lanvin for H&M tutu dress on Ebay

29.99 The price in British pounds for the popular appliqué T-shirt from the collaboration between H&M and Lanvin

14 The number of wristband colours representing 10-minute slots during which shoppers could select items at the Marni for H&M launch on Regent Street, London, between the hours of 9:10 and 11:35am

14 The number of collections Kate Moss created for Topshop

12 Celebrities including Sofia Coppola and Drew Barrymore who came to the launch party of Marni for H&M wearing the collection

6.5 The only size left of Alexa Chung's leopard-print ankle boots for Madewell just an hour into the sale at New York's Flatiron store

4 The shops that stocked Valentino for Gap

3 The hours it took for Target's website to crash after its Missoni collection hit the web

3 The years Jil Sander collaborated with Uniqlo. Their last collection together was Autumn/Winter 2011-2012