Sunday, 28 April 2013

Fashion Fabulous Edition 3 Launch Party

Last week London’s number 1 independent shopping guide, Fashion Fabulous London launched its new guidebook for 2013....and boy is it revealing! 

The third edition of the consumer guide has singled out and reviewed the top shops in London. What has been described as the shopping equivalent to the Michelin Guide, is a must-have for all shopping lovers and will be my go to item for friends birthday presents for the foreseeable future, well until the next edition is out at least!

Tracy Rose and Russell Rose took on the huge task of compiling the book, taking it upon their fashionable selves to act as mystery shoppers in over one thousand retailers across our great and notoriously trendsetting capital city.  

At LFW there are a few people you spot every season that stand out amongst the chaotic bustle due to their double take factor. It is not a overstatement to say that Tracy has all eyes on her when she enters a show-space or fashion party.  Apart from exuding that intangible something special, her collection of colourful hats, which you could go as far to call sculptures,  have now become a trademark as well as a beacon of her presence.  I was quite appropriate that they should decorate the otherwise monochrome environment of the slick La Suite West on the launch night, which was filled with familiar faces connected with style, including those reviewed in the book.

One of Tracey's wonderful hats

The Book

This year’s Top 200 retailers named in Fashion Fabulous London include new entries from designer-run boutique Antoni & Alison in Farringdon and rising vintage outlet Emporium in Greenwich.

Once again, the West End tops the list of London districts with the most retailers in the Top 200, but new neighbourhoods have arrived in the Top 10 shopping districts.  Shepherd’s Bush, boosted by the presence of fashion destination Westfield London, now sits in the Top 10 ahead of Camden and Islington. Shoreditch has cemented its position as a fashion hotspot by ousting North Kensington from this year’s Top 10. I was personally described that people were so enamored with Westfield, as despite its welcome gimmicks (champagne bar for instance) and range of great shops, many of my experiences have boarded on hellish. Perhaps I need some tips from Russell and Tracey.

The changes in the guide’s Top 10 shopping districts reflect the increasing spread of quality retailers across London. Tracy Rose comments “The West End remains London and the UK’s retail heart. However, we found from our visits across the city that lavish outlets and high-end service is far from limited to the boutiques of Bond Street and Savile Row. We are finding that retailers further afield in the capital are increasingly improving the quality of the customer experience, even in the current economic climate.”

Shops that offered a personal touch to customers were highly commended by the pair. Tracy states, “We particularly enjoy the experience offered by designer-run boutiques, where the customer can meet the creators of the items on sale. Being myself both a fashion designer and an avid shopper, I appreciate how much consumers value knowing about how their clothes were made.” Not only does this provide useful information to shop owners and managers of the aspects that truly go into creating an altogether pleasurable shopping experience for the customer, but it might remind us online shoppers what we miss out on when we decide to give in to convenience/laziness and shop online rather than communicate/shop via the 3D world. 

I do wonder whether a chapter or whole book covering online stores might be the next move for the shopping experts.

How does it work?

Each of the top retailers reviewed in Fashion Fabulous London receive a rating out of 5 shopping bags on choice, service and wow factor.  But what is important is that past marks don't count, so consistency or improvement is necessary if you want to be a chuffed owner when reading your review. Predictably there were changes since the previous, edition, both good and bad. In service, Bond Street’s Prada store lost its five shopping bag rating while Primark on Oxford Street improved on its one shopping bag rating – both now having two shopping bags in the 2013 edition - surprising isn't it!?

What elevates the book from a just being a clinical list of ratings are the entertaining stories that Tracy and Russell have joyfully shared from their various visits. When I chatted to Russell he recounted Tracy's less than favorable experience at Alexander McQueen store, which really showed up another shoppers competitive streak, a feeling of envy which compelled her to snatch a shoe from the authors grasp . And I am sure Russell won't mind me saying that he doesn't exactly scream Camden, so I was tickled by his personal experience of the notoriously 'alternative' hub, and in particular Cyperdog. Anyone who has visited the multi sensory store will raise a smile when imagining Russell's wonderment when entering the raver's haven for the first time.

 Talking to Russell at the launch

Russell Rose comments, “We hope that this year’s guide will be the perfect companion for fashion-lovers looking for either high-end or high street shops. Whether you’re looking for shoes or handbags, we’ve taken the leg work out of finding the best stockists.”

Ok, so there is any argument that like most experiences that are critiqued, things can be personal and subjective, and that someone elses opinion may differ from Tracey and Russell's - but there is no denying they know their stuff. In my opinion if their hard work reviewing shops for these mini style bibles spurs shops to  improve, and more importantly help to eradicate those unpleasant 'Pretty Woman' type experiences, they can only be a good thing! 

Fashion Fabulous London will be on sale from 30 April 2013 at leading retailers nationwide including Harrods, Selfridges and Waterstones, and online from Amazon.

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