Monday 26 September 2016

Fashion... A girl needs options

Constance Harris

Published 26/10/2015 | 02:30

Top, €8; skirt €12; boots; €23; earrings, €1.50; belt, €3; cuff, €3. Photo: Eilish McCormick.
Top, €8; skirt €12; boots; €23; earrings, €1.50; belt, €3; cuff, €3. Photo: Eilish McCormick.

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, high-street fashion didn't exist in Ireland. In fact, high fashion didn't exist much, anyway. So the Mecca of my dreams was Topshop on London's Oxford Circus, which, even then, was a massive store, full of fashion dreams at bargain prices. To get there (cheap flights didn't exist then), I made a horrendous journey of a ferry crossing and unending bus travel, to a lonely, dawn arrival at Victoria bus station. All utterly worth experiencing (once) for what I got to see and buy.

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Since then, I have tended to believe that no retail experience could ever get my fashion heart leaping in anticipation quite so much. Except, perhaps, each time I see New York's Fifth Avenue again.

However, it recently dawned on me that every time I walk through the doors of Penneys's flagship store on Dublin's Mary Street, genuine anticipation rises up, as I witness a retail wonderland laid before me. I stand on the precipice and wonder, am I up to the task of exploring this vast place? Can I afford not to?

I am not alone in my feeling. Every time Penneys opens a store abroad - be it in Paris, or, last month, in the former Filene's Burnham Building in Boston's Downtown Crossing - they have to organise crowd-control management, as people turn up in their droves; almost too excited that a Penneys store is opening near them. Like the Beatles in the 1960s, or One Direction today, Penneys is hot, and we are mad for it.

Generally, but it's not a rule, the Penneys core customer is aged 35 and under. Which means Penneys need to respond fast to trends and above all, be affordable.

So Penneys's buyers are good. Very good. They know fashion and textiles, they know the acute pleasure of the on-trend purchase, and they anticipate the next as-yet-unthought-of essential fashion need. They are like professional international-sourcing magpies, working for our delectation.

As we head into the Christmas party season, Penneys is unashamed in its offer of winter glamour. It is all about cheering our darker winter days with pleasurable colour and textures. Think cheerful berry-reds and mysterious black, with smatterings of seductive metallic, glitter, Lurex and lace. Then add sumptuous faux furs and cosy, chunky knits, and you have a recipe for winter fashion pleasure.

It's about delicate, perfect ballet shoes, and in-your-face platform heels that Mary Quant would have died for, which create the illusion of super-long legs, when worn with the season's mini dress or flared jeans. Or it's about channelling your girl-next-door and enjoying cosy, oversize sweaters and new boyfriend jeans.

This season, fashion is all about having options. At Penneys, ensuring we can have fashion at an affordable price is the only option that matters. 

Photography by Eilish McCormack

Styling by Linda Conway

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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